Reaching for the Light

A single ray of light shines in the sewer of my life.

The water around me is foul beyond stench, and full of things that nip, suck, and bite, plundering my blood by the droplet.

These chains chafe my wrists, scraping my skin. The rust enters my bloodstream, making my impending death lethal and slow.

They’re heavy as well, and to a starving man, they weigh too much to keep my arms up or moving for a long time.I try to spit, but they’ve given me no water either.

I focus on the light.

“I belong up there. I belong in the light.”

The dark and silent cell mocks my feeble affirmation.

The light, dim as it is, hurts my eyes. Squinting doesn’t help much, but I see a small opening. It is just big enough for my fingers to get through.

You can touch freedom. It is just within your grasp.

I want to, more than anything, but the rational aspect of me tells me it’s a trap.

If you put your fingers out, someone will stomp them, or worse, cut them off.

The ray of light brightened, as if to say, I won’t let that happen. Come on, don’t be afraid.

And so, against everything in me screaming in fear, I reach up.

The light finds my fingers, and then they’re outside; I can feel the firm ground.

There’s a breeze, and warmth from the sun. 

I close my eyes, and picture myself sitting outside, sunning like a lizard, watching people interact with their world, free, happy, busy, and loving, the evil of the day content to rest unseen in the background. I find myself grateful for everything, even my solitude, basking in the sights and sounds around me.

Already, my thin, shaky arms grow tired.

A small clink from the chains tries to call me back from the reverie, like a parent whose willful child has wandered too far past an unseen boundary.

And like a willful child, I ignore the call, determined to stay in the light as long as I can.

The darkness can wait.

I leave it no choice, but it is patient. The fetid air shifts, as if the darkness smiles now, indulgent, content to let the consequence of the danger manifest itself to teach the wayward child.

The darkness does not understand the human will.

I don’t know how long I stood there surrounded by filth, but the light faded, and gravity’s laws soon exacted their cost. I was forced to release my infant grip on the surface above me.

Tomorrow, I may see the light again.

The air shifted, wafted over me, as if the darkness was angry now, carrying my scent to the things that nipped, bit, and sucked.

There will be no more tomorrows for you.

I heard them coming, gibbering chitters echoed, and splashes stirred the foul water.

          They seemed larger when they struck me, voracious, fierce, faster than before. 

          My instinct to flee was useless; these chains now anchored me to the spot where the light had shone.

          I was bleeding, and on my knees from the pain and poisons that flooded me.

There were tears in my eyes, and as I laughed the vermin went into my mouth and began to choke me from the inside. 

         The darkness had its way, took its time with me, but as I lost my sight and voice, and my heart was made prey to the vermin that consumed my flesh, the light appeared in the distance. 

        Come on. Don’t be afraid.


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