Four letters. Latin root: Poena. Means torment, suffering, penalty, or punishment.
Rack a thesaurus for every synonym you can find. Pile them up high until you've got enough to build yourself a ladder to the moon.
You still know nothing of this word.
Because for you, it's just four letters on a page--but for me, it was a state of being. Most of it, I can't recall--the human mind is merciful in that way. But what I do remember extends far beyond anything I have ever felt, or, I pray, ever will.
Muscle clenched. Bones trembled and strained. Tissue felt as if it had been lit aflame.
At some point, I found myself biting down on something--a rock, a stick, a metal rod--I have no idea. I felt like I was being flayed alive--externally and internally. I begged God to kill me. I pleaded with my dead mother to make it stop. Several times throughout it, I blacked out.
I had no idea what time it was when I woke up. I only knew that every inch of me ached--it felt like I was hollow, like I was made of brittle glass and the act of standing would make me crack and shatter.
I groaned and sat up. Then, without another thought, I proceeded to vomit up that morning's breakfast on the floor next to me.
When I was finished, I crawled my way up to my feet and stumbled toward the exit.
Where I vomited again.
It took me several minutes (and at least a dozen more dry heaves) before I reached the elevator; it took me another five minutes to figure out how the switch worked. By the time I returned to the basement, I was starting to feel more stable (though still dizzy, and still aching). I managed to get upstairs, where I found my aunt in a bathrobe making herself a sandwich.
"Th'hell have you been?" she asked me as I stepped into the kitchen.
"Out," I said, wiping my mouth and hoping she wouldn't notice the smell of puke.
"Whatever. You got the mortgage covered for this week?"
"Working on it," I croaked, my eyes straying toward the clock. Six o'clock--had I been down there for four hours?
"Don't you have school?" she asked.
I steadied myself against the wall and peered at the window past her. It was a gray, misty morning--oh, crap. Oh, holy crap.
It was six a.m.
I'd been down there for over sixteen hours.
"Yes," I rasped, then stumbled up the stairs to get a shower.
"If you're on drugs, I'm calling the cops," I heard her shout behind me.