Black RoomBy: Jasinda Wilder
I open my eyes to utter darkness.
Where am I? Dear god, where am I?
I cannot see a thing. Nothing—this darkness is blacker than anything I’ve ever known.
I can feel nothing, hear nothing, and I am aware of nothing.
No sounds, no smells.
I cannot even hear my own heartbeat.
There’s just…nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. No one.
Not even me.
Who am I? My mind is a total blank.
I don’t understand…where I should be there is only blackness.
There is no breath. No sense of being. No fibers of awareness. Only darkness.
There is only darkness.
I feel my lashes resting against my cheek; the first sensation.
I am awake.
I am; the second sensation.
I breathe in, a slow exploratory breath. I blink again just to feel my eyelashes sweep like the flutter of moths against my face.
And then, a tiny, dancing flicker of light appears. Orange and yellow, wavering side-to-side, jumping upward, then going still. Only the flame, though, no candlestick, no details revealed in the dim pool of illumination.
I stare at the candle flame. Involuntarily, I reach out for it, and discover that I do in fact have hands. And a body. The stiffness and tingling I feel in my hands and legs becomes an almost-painful pins-and-needles.
I feel the heat of the flame. But now it is no longer teardrop shaped. It has become a dim small orange orb, nearly dead, as if starved for oxygen. The candlestick reveals itself, but I fear to touch it, fear to lift it higher. What if the flame goes out? I’d be left in the darkness again, doubting my existence. So I merely stare at the flame and gently bend my knees, then flex my fingers and wiggle my toes.
I’m lying down; the third sensation.
I begin to move cautiously, testing the limits of my motion, testing the strength in my limbs. I stand up and feel dizzy, but more from the disorientation of near-total darkness than from physical weakness.
Questions begin to bubble deep within my consciousness, but they are too weak and too deep to rise to the surface. The questions barely even register, and that’s fine with me. I have so much to do to simply rediscover myself in this place of darkness.
I’m standing upright now, firmly balanced on the heels and balls of my feet. I’m aware of something warm underfoot, warm but not hot. Cool, but not cold. The floor is not carpeted, nor is it made of marble or tile; it’s just…a floor. A solid presence underfoot, featureless yet reassuring.
Once again I reach for the candle flame and my fingers brush through the flame. It is hot, and I jerk my hand back. Of course it’s hot—it’s a flame. I reach for the candlestick but, instead, I grasp hold of something thick and cool and round—the candle. The flame illuminates the white wax, some of it melted and dripping down one side. I lift the candle up, but I can see nothing beyond the tiny pool of light—only more darkness.
I turn around, but I can see no evidence of the couch or bed I was laying on mere moments ago. I step out hesitantly, but feel nothing. I can see nothing. Maybe there never was a bed; maybe I had been lying on the floor? But it doesn’t feel that way. I don’t know for certain. My memory is fuzzy. Each moment now seems unique, as if each thought, each second, each sensation is its own entity, separate from the one before. As if…
I don’t know. My thoughts won’t coalesce.
It’s as if time does not exist here. There is no forward or backward, now or then. There is nothing but…now. Only now.
I try to corral my thoughts, but it’s like trying to hold water—impossible.
My thoughts are just out of reach and I cannot quite grasp hold of them with any real firmness or understanding.
There is only now.
So, in the now, I take another slow, questing step. Not forward, because there seems to be no forward or back, either. No directions, only…here.
Another step, cautiously. A third. With confidence, I take more and more steps, perhaps as many as a hundred, and then I fetch up against a wall. The candle flame flickers, dances, gutters, and I hold my breath, remaining absolutely still. It jumps up once more, and dances merrily. I breathe out in relief, blinking my eyelids, curious about what lies in front of me. The wall, like the floor, is cool but not cold, warm but not hot, featureless but real nevertheless. I touch it, running my fingertips over it. It feels slightly pebbled, as of paint over drywall, perhaps. It’s just a wall, but it’s something.