The World Through Darkness I See
By G. Howell White
“The world through darkness I see!” he bellowed, ragged voice raging into the ebony void that stretched before him.
There was nothing else.
He bled, slowly, his life waning to a close. This his body knew; this his mind refused.
This his soul fought.
His grampa had passed on stories of the dark place to his father, almost eighty years ago it had been now, and the young man hiding in the shadows of the next room had listened, enraptured.
They had spoken of an endless night and the madness it could bring, of an ancient path, an invisible entrance in the forest, time inconceivable, meaningless, and the near certainty of death.
They had spoken of creatures in the void.
Thanking the gods on high that he had escaped with only broken bones and a cane by his side for the remainder of his days, Grampa had sworn never again to seek that place. Father promised his silence as well, and the secret was lost to time and memory.
Floating in front of him now was Grampa’s face, aged and lined with the ruination of long life. He saw his father, decades gone, working the land. He saw the rolling hills and woodlands of youth, the years of war, and the return to his home of old. Stars stretching forever above a placid infinite sea. His wife. His only son.
“I see!” he roared, sending his voice into the black; dim echoes taunted him in response.
He inhaled deeply, purposefully, knowing the pain it would bring, but clawing for awareness of being, of self. His lungs filled, chest expanding outward in agony-filled spasms. Shattered ribs moved, compressing and grinding nerves between splintered bone and muscle.
The lights came.
They exploded across his vision in bursts of electric white and purple, fiery streaks of red and green and blue, before fading once again to black as he exhaled. The afterimages were there. They were real. He was real.
Light meant hope.
Light meant life.
A skittering of claws in the dark; a portent. There were indeed creatures here, beasts he could not see but which came, stalking him, biding their time, to feed slowly on his flesh, burrowing, to drink of his blood.
There were no other sounds, save for the fine rales of breathing from his fractured chest and the incessant pounding heartbeat in his ears. How many hours or days it had been he could no longer fathom. Time was meaningless here.
Grampa had been right about this place, and father so in never mentioning it to an imaginative young boy. For death waited patiently, eternally, as it always had, to take advantage of the weak, of the old.
On this day he was both.
For ninety-one years he had roamed the Earth, fearless as in youth. Then came the day in the forest when he had ventured, alone, inquisitive, down an ancient path … and the Earth had swallowed him whole.
And in the darkness of this cave he would end his days.