Saturday, April 19, 2008

When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you

Or the text version for those poor souls at work unceremoniously robbed of sound card goodness:

There is no light. There is only the darkness, thick, almost palpable, perfect. I have insisted on being in the front of our tiny line as we creep along, although I’m not sure what good it can do. Finn has stopped crying. He had been screaming for so long it became background noise, the steady undulating cries playing the rhythm section in the orchestra of madness up above. But he has stopped now. Did I mention the darkness? It is suffocating, like being coated in inky black jello, we cannot walk through it so much as wade through, arms stretched out, stumbling over tiny wet imperfections in the floor. The sounds of chaos fade as we make our way forward, but into nothing, vast insurmountable tracts of nothing. Time passes, but I cannot tell how much. We walk. Sometimes we stop to take breaks. I doze off, but no one wakes me. I can’t tell if I’ve been sleeping for minutes or hours. Sometimes Finn cries, and Colleen gently, urgently shushes him. He calms so easily in this dark, as if he realizes that here, in this black, his tiny cries disappear too. No one says much of anything. Our voices feel faint in our own throats, small, unknowable. When we come to a fork in the tunnel, or a branch, or an offshoot of where we travel, there is a brief, tremulous query. The answer is always the same. We do not deviate. It seems to make the most sense to go in the straightest line possible, but there is no way to know if we have simply walked down dozens, maybe hundreds of diverging tunnels. Most often, there is no way to know if we have come to a fork other than to literally walk into it, cursing softly. My fingertips have been rubbed raw, the skin trailing across what must be miles of tunnel walls, and still I cannot bring myself to lift my hand, not even for a moment. Floating here in this impossible silent dark, the cool rugged concrete tunnel walls are all that seem to ground me, to hold me to the very earth. It is insane, but I am afraid that without this touch I will simply float away, disconnect from the group, from the earth, from myself. So we walk, and I grind the tips of my fingers off just to be sure I’m still here. When I die down here, I think crazily, they’ll never be able to identify me. I have no fingerprints. I try not to remember that there is no they anymore. We continue to walk in silence. More than anything, I long to reach out and hold my wife, my son, but I can’t do it here, in this darkness. Too recently has the touch of flesh meant only disaster, only horror. To feel flesh beneath my palms without seeing their faces? I cannot bear the thought. We walk alone. We sleep, huddling as close as we can, no one daring to make contact. Hawthorn moans slightly in his sleep, and I am up. That sound, the moaning. I wonder if a man can live long enough to forget that sound. From the gentle rustle of clothes, I hear that everyone is up, afraid. Even Hawthorne is awake. We sound tired, but too afraid now to sleep. Wordlessly, one by one, everyone begins to stand, and again we walk. I cannot help but notice how like them we must seem now. Slow. Arms hungrily outstetched, not for blood but for light. Oh how I long to see light again! Any light, no matter how faint would be a blessing. I feel thirsty for it, parched of retinal stimulus. For a moment, I begin to believe that my need to see something, anything in this abyss is causing me to hallucinate, and for a moment longer, I am grateful for it. It is not a hallucination. Ahead, at the very ends of the earth, as distant as a tiny sun, there is the faintest prick of light. I turn my head, but it remains fixed. I close my eyes, and for the first time in days, there is difference when I open them again. Light. The others see it, and we pick up our pace, walking faster and faster, chasing that tiny stationary light. For a crazy moment, I think that Hawthorne is moaning again, and then the light winks out, then reappears, then winks out. Hawthorne is not moaning, and something is coming for us.

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