Has it been a week? A month? A year? In the darkness, time blends together. It becomes something unreal. All that remains of it is distant, meaningless memory. My world has become one of sound, smell and touch. Dreams tether me to the past where I still see things. Maybe they are glimpses of my past, from a time that feels distant and foreign. When I am awake, I am not sure if those dreams were ever real. Perhaps they never existing outside my mind and dreams is all that they are, all that they will ever be.

Sometimes a voice different from mine talks to me. We don’t know each other’s name, but we both have no need of names. We never call to each other. We speak into the darkness, only hoping to be heard. Their voice is rough and pain, but when it echoes through this dark, cold space, it is like a soothing balm, a tether back to my own self so I don’t lose myself completely here.

The voice does not remember where it came from, why it cannot leave. Just like me, it is here, not knowing why. Like me, it was chained to these rocks, unable to leave this place.

Often I let my hand glide alone the grooves and ridges of the cool rock and sometimes my hands touch a thin throbbing thread when it skitters by. I don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. It is wet and cold as the stone it traverses, but I can perceive its life-force. It reminds me of my own.

I often try to remember how I arrived here, what happened between the dreams of the past and the unending now. I only remember the feelings. Judgment. Hatred. Disbelief. I cannot recall if those were my own feelings, but their essence still lingers in me.

The voice sometimes tells me of other places, devoid of this complete darkness. Of towering constructions, so overwhelming in their beauty and size. Of fearsome creatures, equally impressive. Their hot, gushing blood, their wails. The voice goes quiet. I don’t know how long before it reaches my ears it again.

I dream of those places, of giant structures made of beautiful white stone, reflecting the bright light of the sun. Are they my own memories or do they belong to the voice? I dream of many creatures, different but not unlike myself. In my dreams, they are everywhere and I want to touch them, hold them, but I am tethered. They are always out of reach. They don’t see me. It is possible they think I am not one of them. Maybe I am not even real to them. I wonder that about myself sometimes.
The more I reach for them, the more the tethers hooked into my back pull me back. They tear my skin, but don’t break the bones. They bend and stretch them, they crack, but they never ever break. The tethers pull me into the dark. This is when I wake.

I remember hoping for an end to all of this, but I am scared that the end is just more unending darkness. It scares me. When I am scared, I know I am not dead yet. I don’t want to be scared. I don’t want to be alive. There is no hope.

My heart. It is pounding in my chest. A never-before heard sound. The other voice hears it too. I can hear the voice’s fear. It mirrors my own. At first it is a dull thud, something felt rather than heard. It becomes louder, turns unmistakably real. The sound enters my bones, shakes my flesh. My own shape vibrates.

Dust and debris falls down on me from nowhere. Tiny pieces of stone clatter over the floor. I am not afraid; I am not hopeful. I just savor the new sensation. It does not matter whether it is good or bad. Just that it ends the unending monotony of the dark. The floor and the walls are now shaking. The rocks shift back and forth all around me. The darkness is filled with the booming noise, the shrill shriek of the only other voice I’ve known for so long.

The noise crescendoes, a gut-wrenching sensation. A sudden pain; a burning sensation like sharp blades thrusted into the soft sockets, where I remember my useless eyes to be.

It is bright. Brilliantly, shockingly bright, overwhelming and terrifying. Something has set aflame my eyes, but I don’t close them at first. I welcome the blinding pain. Memories flood back in this single instant. When it becomes unbearable, I close them, but the light still shines bright red through my eyelids. I cover them with my hands and the pain ebbs slowly away. I want to see it again; I want the light to touch me again, so I carefully move my hands. I am scared that the light is gone, it returns. It is beautiful. Suddenly there are voices. They are so different and alien. But also loud and full of life.

“We found some,” the first new voice calls out. “Turn off the main beams, periphery lights only.”
“How many?” The second voice says.
“One.” is the reply. Silence. Something scrapes along the ground. Footsteps?
“Two,” the first voice says “We found two! Bad shape, let’s get two RST units here in here right now!”
More steps, faster, some moving away, some moving closer.
“Can you hear me?” The first voice says. It is close to me. Does it speak to me?

I slowly open my eyes, still hiding them behind my eyes. The light does not hurt anymore. It is warm and red. I see shapes and form, soft and indistinct. Slowly, they come into focus. I can see myself, my legs, the ground I sit on, the hands in front of my face. Nothing looks like I remember it.

“Sir, can you understand me?” the voice says again, louder, and my eyes try to find the source. A sea of red strange shapes forms into a person. My eyes find the face. It has a beard, full and thick, long hair, and eyes, dark and probing. It is looking at something. Looking at me.

I don’t recognize the face, only notice the warmth that pours into me, fills a void I had forgotten existed.

“You are going to be alright, sir,” the man says. He kneels down in front of me. “We’ll get you out of here.”

He touches my shoulder with his hand, and I recoil. Something grips my heart and the shapes and forms lose their meaning. They are threatening to me. I can’t breathe. I am drowning.

The man says something, but I can’t understand him. Every syllable scares me, makes me want to disappear into the familiar dark again. Another touch, a sharp pinch on my arm, followed by a gentle burn. The darkness finally returns.

“I am sorry I have to do this, but you can trust me,” is the last thing I can perceive before I dream again. I believe him.

Note: This First Draft was part of NaNoWriMo 2021 – 30 First Drafts in 30 Days

📷 ‘First picture of a Black Hole’ by Bengt Nyman

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