I wrote this over the span of a few days. It might have even been started yesterday, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I guess it began life as an entry, but somehow changed into a short story. All mistakes within are my own.
It was a black like blindness, black on black so severe no shadows were discernible. To close one’s eyes was almost a gift, for the thought of seeing the black truly was far worse than only acknowledging it behind eyelids. It was such a child’s way of thinking, but somehow it was less threatening to keep eyes sealed shut than to openly stare into the void.
I would stumble around in that encompassing dark, on and on. Endless was that wasteland; everything and nothing. At times I would rush forward madly when fear fully took hold. Like a clammy, unrelenting grip, it would choke off any thoughts of bravery, any thoughts of escape. There was never to be one, nothing but this, and it made my mind scream. Flee, said the base of my brain.
An animal in a trap I would struggle, facing the dark for once if only to find a light. I would become so enamored with the idea of something bright, something that shined.
Insanity. Eyes wide, yet nothing to see. How cruel it was to stare into nothing. No matter how much I would force my eyes to take in my surrounds, no matter how much I secretly begged for sight, it would not come.
By then I would be clouded in an aura of fear, you know, that bestial stink that we can all detect. And I always think those things lurking are going to smell it. They’ll scent me from that pathetic, lonely fear and come running. Come like a pack of hounds, and here I am the fox let loose, free from the captor but not really. Death’s still coming, and on swift, tattered wings. So I run. Blindly.
I’d fall finally, over and over, a victim of my own terror. But then I could only ask had I fallen? Had I really? So disorienting, this. How could a person tell? I must have gotten up again, because I’m walking, I’m moving, right? I must have done this a thousand times, but so gone has it made me I can’t remember anymore. Trip, fall, get up, until they all blur together, grey fading into black. Nothing good, nothing bad. Nothing lost, nothing gained.
But god where am I? Have I made progress, or am I still back at the start with only seconds to my worthless name?
I know that I don’t go on forever. I know that sometimes I must stop, a heaving, sobbing mess, for once glad of the dark to shield me from those who would laugh. And they always laugh when the light is on, for what is my misery but a joke?
Then it comes. Sleep, the only-ever embrace. In a dream anything can be real, and any nightmare can befall you. But sometimes…. Sometimes it’s okay. Sometimes I dream that everything is okay; the bitter winter ends, and I drift into a perfect, dewy spring, if only for a moment.
I was told once that sometimes a moment is all you get. Maybe those dreams are that moment.
No one ever told me that that moment would be the greatest of agonizes. No one thought to tell me how evil it would be when it was all gone, what it would be like to wake up in the darkness again, realizing it was nothing but a dream within a nightmare. Sometimes you just can’t recover from something that cuts that deep.
But it doesn’t matter now, none if it does. Not that black, not that feeling of desperation or that lust for vision.
It’s just me now, me in this room with that chunky mahogany desk. I don’t even remember getting here. I can’t tell you the moment when I saw a light and raced toward it, or when I noticed there was an end to this labyrinth. I know not what happened, only that I am here and the light is not overpowered by darkness. Dim, it is, but it is strong. It does not flicker. There is no place here for hesitancy.
The wait is not long, though in reality perhaps it is. Years of black seem to corrode any sensations of time.
All of it is strangely familiar.
There are stacks and stacks—disorganized heaps of crumpled, yellowed papers—each page so thick they could be called parchment. Not only is the desk eaten up by these documents, but the bit of floor as well. Two pens lay haphazardly in the chaos, one black, one red.
But it’s the business card that ensnares all of my attention, so out of place, so tidy in its little corner. I pluck one from the holder, bending it idly between my pale fingers. I bring it close, frowning. It’s printed on thick black paper, the edges rimmed in gold like those expensive glasses you see at chintzy parties. The letters too are gold, rising up from the black so that I can feel the letters when I brush over them with my fingertips.
Confused by the words, I flip it, hoping it will suddenly make sense. But no, the back is blank. Typical. I tuck it into one of the pockets of my coat, vaguely noticing that it is my favorite one. I have no idea how I came to be wearing it.
I notice then as well, that my hair is long again, trailing well past my waist in wavy locks. I rub the strands between my fingers, perplexed. I had cut it off in a fit of rage, yet here it is again like a painful reminder of my lack of self-control in the face of my own anger. I always did have a short fuse. But I don’t have long to think on it.
I can feel the air being displaced, that primal, animal sensation—tickling at the base of my skull— telling me gently, that I am no longer alone.
“I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.” It’s a commanding voice, yet soft. One that would caress you as it simultaneously bludgeoned you senseless.
A blink and suddenly he’s there, though I hadn’t seen him cross the room. He must have come from the door behind my chair. Suspiciously, I turn my head slightly, eyes darting as far over my shoulder as possible without being overly conspicuous. I only do it as he busies himself with getting situated in his chair. When he looks up at me with a saccharine sort of smile, it’s too late; he’s missed the action. I suppress my own grin, which is easy, considering how quickly I find myself disliking him.
It always seems to be instantaneous like that. I also had someone tell me that I have good instincts, and to go with them, always. Whether that itself is due to instinct or the rare compliment, is anyone’s guess.
All I can say is that everything about this man is unsettling. There is something undeniably wrong about him: the way he sits; poised, disciplined, the way he has his hands interlaced, a signet ring twinkling from one of the fingers, the unwavering, overly-indulgent smile, the crisp corners of the suit, the gossamer strands of hair that are too-neatly pulled back from his face.
He’s trouble. Trouble wrapped perfectly in elegant paper.
Yes. You have much to hide, don’t you?
My lack of response doesn’t seem to deter him. He merely inclines his head slightly, voice too silky to possibly be real.
“I believe you know why you have been brought here.”
So I was brought then, was I? Did I not find this place on my own? Curious.
I shrug noncommittally, still not keen on speaking. I go through bouts of talking in daily life, but more often than not I cease communicating entirely, as though it is too much effort for my numbed mind to form the proper words. It sends most into a mood of intense irritation. But this man is not bothered. Not at all.
“You have spent an inordinate amount of time in the dark.” There’s a pause; his once-over is meticulous and nearly makes me twitch due to its intensity. I feel like a tick being eyed by a pair of tweezers. Any second I will be ripped from my livelihood.
If I have a livelihood.
“I presume this is…ah…a bit of an adjustment for you.” That smile again. It makes me want to die. “Would you like a cup of coffee? I can make it exactly how you like it.”
I shake my head, but only once. I hide the twinge at the corner of my mouth by grinding my teeth. I always did enjoy this game.
“It’s a delicate matter,” he states. “You have all the time in the world to make it.”
“Not really,” I argue lowly, my voice crackling from disuse. I can’t help the sarcastic grin this time.
“No, not really. Sounds much less intimidating when said that way though, doesn’t it?” His head tilts slightly, like he is waiting for a response.
“For a dealer of souls, you’re not very organized,” I say finally, sighing, eyes roving over the paperwork he seems to have neglected for years on end.
“Procrastination. Tool of the wicked, I’m afraid. I do indulge the inclination more often than not.” For a second he seems through, but then he seamlessly continues: “For a self-proclaimed sinner, I find your discipline to be rather. . . disappointing.” He seems to taste that word, savoring it.
I bristle, but don’t answer.
“That you should end up here is questionable. I see little to warrant it.”
“Then you don’t believe apathy to be a sin?” I question, unconsciously raising an eyebrow.
“Oh, it is. But your life was lacking in years. There was scarcely time for it to become truly developed, at least enough to show what you were to become.” Sugary, bullshitter smile again.
Anger is welling up. I can feel it, like a poisonous wave rising in my stomach, toward my heart, then to my mind. I know I’m about to drown in it, and my words will be twice as biting. The words flow like a flash flood, just as brutal and indiscriminate. I must have been waiting to say them all my life.
Again, the stab of familiarity. I feel so rehearsed.
“I have never been old enough for anything,” I say bitterly, nearly spitting the words.
How I have wanted to confront him. I know that now. I’ve been waiting and waiting for this. I’ve pined for it above all else, to tear into him, to take a pinprick hole and create a monumental gaping cavern of vulnerability to shove every last word dripping with vitriol into. I would disembowel him if I were able.
“I am not old enough to know. ‘Live and suffer awhile, and you’ll see,’ they say.” I can’t help but sneer. “You people define wise as by years. You automatically assume that each of us must be repeatedly beaten on the skull with our mistakes to fully comprehend and learn from them. I don’t need to be stupid to learn how not to be stupid. Watching idiots like you is lesson enough, I can promise you.”
I eye him defiantly. He seems to have no interest in halting my declaration, though his slight smile does nothing but spur me on. Patronizing, that’s what his look is to me, and I can’t stand it, won’t bear it. Anything but that. Anything but so-called ‘shrewdness’ borne of nothing but pure conceit. They won’t strangle me into submission with that one any more. I’m far past young and naïve.
“Have nothing to say to that? So you have been here longer than I have, were born before me. I hardly can see how that would be my fault, though come to think of it, in this world it would appear that everything is my own doing. That I was born at all seems to be yet another vicious slap to the face in retribution for some past wrongdoing! What have I ever done to you?” I ask angrily, heat rising on my cheeks, strength burning through my veins as adrenaline worms through my body.
My hands are beginning to shake. I can feel the stickiness to my palms, the result of both nervousness at being pressed to state my case by my own anger, and due to the raging sea of injustice I always feel at my own situation. Selfish? Of course. Guilty? Never.
“I have waited and waited and waited!” I’m nearly hysteric now, though the transition to it is hard for me to see in such a state. “I have done nothing but what was done to me, an eye for an eye! They were deserving of punishment. God doesn’t do it, so why not me?” I say to him breathlessly. “There is no justice. And there is no good or evil but that which is against me. Damn everything else, damn the events outside of that! They are not only out of my control, but not worth the effort.”
It’s quiet for a moment. I am steamrolling through every mental speech I have had with myself, snatching up the best material to throw in this man’s face. I am excited by my own fury, since it has become so rare in me. I feel alive, like something sensuous, instead of cold and long past dead. I will make this man understand, even when all the others did not. Even if I have to verbally assault him with it.
“It is not the apathy that brought you here. Your brand of apathy is not of interest to me,” he reveals, his voice softer than ever. “You said you knew why you were here.” He leans back further into his chair, eyes flicking to his own hands, which still lay curled upon the desk in that prim manner of his. “So tell me why.”
“You have nothing to say about what I’ve said? You’re going to choose to ignore it? Change the subject?” The flame in me is incited and will not die out now. Again I feel the sensation of supreme injustice washing over me, lapping at my sensitive skin with an acidic burn. “How dare you,” I murmur quietly. “All of you. How dare you turn me away when all I have done is listen to your inconsequential bullshit and pat you on the back as you sobbed like weak children. No one did it for me!” I add bitingly, coldly, like a vice of metal to a throat and just as pleasant. “No one ever did it for me,” I repeat almost pitifully, feeling something akin to sorrow mix in with everything else.
He leans across the desk, shortening our distance, which at this moment seems vast. “It must be this way. The injustice is not there for those who choose not to see it.”
“But it’s what they want,” I answer, irritated with myself for how I make it sound so much like complaining. “It’s not fair if you don’t want it too.”
His look changes. I can see that he’s taken a deeper breath, as though preparing for something. I’m frowning, trying to stave off any crying, crying which is a useless side-effect of going too long without emotion.
“You want it. I can see it. You want it more than anything, but know you are not to have it, either by fate’s hand knocking it away, or even your own. So you gracelessly choose to throw it in the face of humanity like a petulant child who did not get the toy they wanted for Christmas. Your lack of dignity is laughable. Nothing you have said to me makes me feel the slightest twinge of sympathy for how your life has turned out up to this point.”
In his first show of genuine emotion, he irritably grabs the forgotten red pen and scratches relentlessly onto a piece of paper I hadn’t noticed was in front of him.
“Congratulations,” he drawls tonelessly.
His eyes seem black as a beetle’s carapace as he straightens in his chair, allowing the low light to play tricks. I know that when the meeting started they were light in color, though I can’t seem to recall just what color.
“You are everything you never wanted to be.”
He slides the paper into a plain brown folder before tossing it so that it flops down in front of me with a shuffle of documents.
I’m not sure what to think, though I acknowledge that the meeting hasn’t gone as I had wanted it. He was just as patronizing and emotionally stunted as I had expected. There was to be no understanding from him. How could that possibly come as a surprise to me? My pulse begins to quicken, though I do what I can to hide my outrage at his complete disregard for the mess that is my worthless life.
His last words echo in my head as I stare across at him. I fight down an urge to reach across the table and grab him by his starched collar.
A smile finds it’s way to his mouth again, that secretive Mona Lisa sort. Like he knows the answer to a mystery that I don’t.
All I do is glare at him, endlessly.
“I’m afraid your application for death has yet again been declined.” It’s a full-on smirk now. “22nd refusal, if memory serves.”
Confusion must cloud my face, because now he is grinning in a way severe enough to be called wolfish.
“Better luck next time, I should hope.”
And with a twisting, tearing sensation, the world fades around me like a dripping watercolor, the brights blending into ugly greys and blacks that smear the walls. His figure remains pure, so clear from everything else, in fact, that I can see the perfect saccharine grin again even as all else falls around, sloughing off into a blob of ruined colors.
Without mercy, I am plunged back into my fathomless world of black.