“It’s difficult, yes?” the voice was saying. It seemed too close by half.
Still, he couldn’t pull his eyes from the darkness that swam and plummeted before him. His vision was locked like the tide to some vacuous moon; his body felt stuck at an unnatural forward angle – that permanent feeling of taking a step and not feeling the stairs soon enough.
“So much had to be given, but that’s faith, isn’t it? The belief that sometimes you have to give and never really know if it’ll matter. Walking with your eyes closed into the darkness and telling yourself that if you open them you won’t be worthy to see the light…maybe you never were.”
William opened his mouth in some weak attempt to talk – to ask a question. But what? What the fuck would he even ask?
Life felt like some crazy, drug-fueled dream. Like he was running a temperature of a hundred and six with a belly full of mushrooms and LSD and everything that was happening – and everything that had – was just some fucked up manifestation of a mind that couldn’t parse reality.
“But look now,” the voice was saying. “Just look at it now…”
The tone of the voice struck him like when you see a face in a movie and your mind is trying to place who it is and where you saw them and then, later, while you’re in the shower you suddenly realize who and what and where.
Words replayed in his head as the owner of the voice offered him a card for someplace where the stay is out of this world.
William found himself feeling far too much like a pinball – the drop having begun with a briefcase and everything that happened after being little more than plastic paddles and rubber knobs moving him this way and that. Every movement met with an obstruction to shift him over and up and then down. Each one trying to catapult his trajectory into the gaping mouth that now stared back at him.
“Of course, no one ever wants to believe that the blood is going to be their own. Maybe that just makes it easier to tell the other people bleeding that it’s for the best. But then, one day, it was my sister. You get that feeling. That fear. The doubt. You see the cost and you think that perhaps you were wrong, yes? You think that, now that the cost is yours, perhaps it is a price paid in folly.”
William heard a sound in the darkness before him – though less a sound than it was a distinct lack of sound. As though before him was some empty place that was now swallowing the world around it – light and sound and time and who knew what else.
“Now Dira,” the voice said, “that was a believer. Came before you did. Went through without so much as a stutter in her step. Not a word. No tears. Nothing.”
The absence of all grew somehow larger, darker. It seemed to William as though it was rising now, spinning up and out and around. He felt his heart beating, so hard that it hurt, but so slow that each pulse seemed to send his body shaking for several seconds before the next one struck.
“But none of it would have mattered if not for you,” Kayro said. “You can slip all the bread you want under the prisoner’s door, sneak in as much water as you can find, but none of it matters if you can’t open the lock.”
William’s mind swam. His vision shifted to waves of black and blacker still. He felt the world around him reverberating like he was suddenly living inside of a painfully overactive subwoofer that played nothing but one heavy note over and over again. Each one sent his senses fluttering. He felt his skin rippling like water from a concussive blast.
He saw lights blinking in and out. In and out.
For a moment, the thrumming ceased and it felt like a fuzzy picture slowly coming into focus. As it cleared up, he saw what looked to be strangely colored lines and hazy mounds. Those sharpened into what looked like rivers or canals perhaps, but they seemed somehow displaced by the now crisp lines that were set in contrast.
A haze of melting colors gave way to a cityscape of parked cars that sat with flashing lights. Horns screaming where heads were now set to rest. Bodies set like broken mannequins littered the streets that were so obscured that he only knew they were black from his experience of driving on them in some other life.
Fires rose and fell from broken windows where the remains of random bodies were set like Christmas ornaments in a terrifying tree of metal and concrete.
Here and there a figure moved with lengths of purple dangling from open abdominal wounds while they shambled on in some state where they either didn’t know they were in pain or else were in so much pain they could no longer articulate it.
Regardless of the given state, each face wore eyes that were wide and wild. Mouths open like people who, with their dying breath, were still trying to scream.
“Do you see it now?” Kayro asked as William’s mind reeled and tried to process the nightmare that was playing out in his mind. “Can you see the way it looks at you?”