21 Mar Launch Feature: Creative Writing – Evie Patterson – Diremption
I never fell asleep fast enough. By the time my eyes began to close, the screams would begin. The sounds of crying in the distance, of voices piercing the night air in a symphony of anguish. Sometimes music would drown it out, other times it became a game of distraction, hoping to find some train of thought that would take me away from the suffering. Falling asleep was, without failure, the closing of the cage around my mind. Locked in the turbidity of thought, I was exposed to the raw nature of my own mentality.
It had always been this way. For as long as I could remember, the moment the lights went off around me, a lamp would be lit far in the darkest reaches of my mind. So frequent is the discussion of the fear of the unknown, of the shadows that surround our worlds and realities. The darkness, however, never really bothered me. The dark was quiet and still. It offered the excitement of the yet to be understood. This promise of adventure was a promise of a future.
It was the light that truly frightened me. Not the external kind which chases away the shadows and brings comfort through revelation, but the raw, uncontrolled light that pierces through the darkness and blinds. Soaring past the purpose of illumination, it cuts deep and exposes the mind’s eye to excruciating reality. Taking what is known, and amplifying it beyond what the human mind may be able to handle.
With my eyes shut, my sight continued beyond the closing of my lids. Taking me far away to the darkest corners of human suffering where it could be found languishing in broad light. These sounds and images echoed through my very essence, pulling from me an endless compassion wracked with the desperation of inability to succor. I did not know these faces, or these names, and yet they emerged through the darkness like unbidden memory.
Calloused and alone, my mind often made its way through this sea of suffering to whatever bank lay beyond in the hopes that sleep would bring relief. I could feel the spiraling removal of my senses, being pulled forward through the unknown. It was the landing that I looked forward to. The moment my consciousness yearned for. The stillness that would shroud me in isolated sleep.
This night, however, was different.
There was no cessation of thought. Instead, sensation heightened and the expanse through which I found myself pulled fluctuated. I could now see in crystalline clarity, feel my skin prickle with an unnatural chill. The screams, too, were gone.
My feet found their landing on the edge of what appeared to be a long wooden path which extended into the distance and out of sight. One step revealed the presence of splinters, and yet I found comfort in the ability to feel. I welcomed the brief pain as a reminder of awareness and a warning of mindfulness.
The path continued onward, ending abruptly upon a threshold covered in a draping. Compelled to know what lay beyond, I brushed aside the curtain and stepped into a darkened hallway, the wooden flooring continuing through.
Warmth filled the air and brought a comfort that breathed through me. No longer splintered, the wooden floor stretched out before me as though freshly laid. The hall, softly lit by an unknown source, ended with a single door.
Taking a deep breath, I moved through the hall with remarkable ease. I moved with the grace of a body fully awake. Upon reaching the door I found no handle, or hinge. Carried by my momentum, I stepped forward and through to what appeared to be the top step of a descending stair.
A gust blew up toward me, carrying with it a curious mixture of herbs, spices and smoke. Uncertain of what lay below me, I hesitated for the first time. I did not want to turn back to the hallway behind me, and yet the stair leading to darkness below me for once did not offer me the thrill of curiosity. There was something different about this darkness, something more imploring, and it was this that kept me at a halt.
In this moment, a sense of recognition vibrated through my very being. I had been on this step before, though my knowledge of when was as clouded as the space below. Like the comfort of a familiar voice, this echo brought my foot down to the next step, beginning my lengthy descent. With every step, the familiarity within me grew and with it, the beseeching of the air around me.
With a final step, my feet landed on what felt like a flooded carpet. The water seeped between my toes, chilling me to the bone. A luminescence was dappled across the space, scattering dust through the air in soft light beams. The source was a mystery to me, though I was grateful for what comfort it offered.
Looking around I found myself in what appeared to be a basement. The cold of the flooded floor provided a sickly juxtaposition to the warmth in the air. Four wooden columns divided the length of the room, revealing a shadowed wall to the right of the stair.
The blaring of a deep sounding horn suddenly cut through the air. Its breath continued through the space, almost as though traveling as its own entity. Louder, then softer, then louder once more. It began to double upon itself, continuing until becoming part of the atmosphere.
I stepped toward the columns, now hearing a rumbling pulsating through the horns. Stepping past the columns, all went silent. The floor, suddenly dry, radiated a fire-like heat. I could feel my breath and heart beat quicken as though some primal instinct had been alerted. A warm light caught my eye to my left, bringing to my attention an archway newly appeared in the wall before me.
I moved to the opening and, like the moment of a severe awakening, found myself blinded by a piercing light. Taking a moment for my eyes to adjust, I peered through into the glittering room beyond.
Five wooden steps led down into a golden alcove. The walls, floor and ceiling sparkled and radiated the blinding light. Treasures of all sorts were scattered throughout the room, glinting, and emitting their own glow.
Despite the warmth and light offered by this gilded refuge, I felt no desire to step down into it. The space, along with its light, presented an assurance that was almost alien to me. Not from a lack of trust, but from a lack of need to remain. The alcove was what it was, and what it should be. Nothing more, nothing less.
At this moment, I found myself turn away from the arch and return to the silent room before. In doing so, a new archway appeared, this time to the right of the first. This one did not emit light, nor did it seem to be much of anything.
Dark and simple, standing before it presented no immediate reaction. I stepped forward, allowing my foot to pass the threshold and onto what felt like a wooden step. Though nothing could be seen from the room behind me, my entrance somehow allowed a faded light to pass through, casting it across the steps and into the chamber.
Like the golden alcove, this chamber had five wooden steps. Unlike the other, however, these were rotted and broken, allowing for jagged edges and splinters to mark the descent down to a dust and dirt covered flooring.
I carefully made my way down to the cold ground below, noticing as I did the collection of broken and diminished treasures which littered the surrounding stair. As I gathered my bearings, I looked forward to find a long passage which stretched forward, turning the grey surroundings into a black unknown.
Where the golden room had inspired no sense of need, this tunnel for some reason did. My toes curled in the dust and dirt, sending soot up onto my legs and arms as I cautiously stepped forward. Like the echo of familiarity before on the descending stair, I somehow knew this tunnel. I knew this space.
Inching forward I began to leave what little light had followed me. Like an invisible threshold, it could not project past a point. I stopped here as one would on the edge of a cliff. Instead of surveying the footstep before me, I turned as if to say goodbye to the steps I’d left behind. They had brought me to this place, and it was here that I would leave them.
Taking a final breath, I slipped into the awaiting darkness, shrouded in the mystery of the depth of my own knowledge. Without sight, I knew I walked in my own steps, and without light, I knew where I was going.
From the Editor:
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