10 October 2009
No! I wanted to shout!
But the weakness was too much. My arms felt like empty rubber hoses for a moment, and then they felt like nothing at all. I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t feel me.
The blackness rushed over my eyes more solid than before. Like a thick blindfold, firm and fast. Covering not just my eyes but also my self with a crushing weight. It was exhausting to push against it. I knew it would be too much easier to give in. To let the blackness push me down, down, down to a place where there was no pain and weariness and no worry and no fear.
I kept pushing against the black, though, almost a reflex. I wasn’t trying to lift it. I was just resisting. Not allowing it to crush me completely. I wasn’t Atlas, and the black felt as heavy as the planet; I couldn’t shoulder it. All I could do was not be entirely obliterated.
It was sort of the pattern of my life – I’d never been strong enough to deal with the things outside my control, to attack the enemies or outrun them. To avoid the pain. Always human and weak, the only thing I’d ever been able to do was to keep going. Endure. Survive.
It had been enough up to this point. It would have to be enough today. I would endure this until help came.
I held the blackness of nonexistence at bay by inches.
It wasn’t enough though – that determination. As the time ground on and on and the darkness gained by tiny eights and sixteenths of my inches, I needed something more to draw strength from.
I felt myself slipping – there was nothing to hold on to.
And then, though I still couldn’t see anything, suddenly I could feel something. Like phantom limbs, I imagined I could feel my arms again. And in them, something small and hard and very, very warm.
That spot of heat in my phantom arms felt so real. I clutched it closer. It was exactly where my heart should be. Holding tight the warm memory, I knew that I would be able to fight the darkness as long as I needed to.
The warmth beside my heart got more and more real, warmer and warmer. Hotter. The heat was so real it was hard to believe that I was imagining it.
Uncomfortable now. Too hot. Much, much too hot.
Like grabbing the wrong end of a curling iron – my automatic response was to drop the scorching thing in my arms. But there was nothing in my arms. My arms were not curled to my chest. My arms were dead things lying somewhere at my side. The heat was inside me.
The burning grew – rose and peaked and rose again until it surpassed anything I’d ever felt.
I felt the pulse behind the fire raging now in my chest and realized that I’d found my heart again, just in time to wish I never had. To wish that I’d embraced the blackness while I’d still had the chance. I wanted to raise my arms and claw my chest open and rip my heart from it – anything to get rid of this torture. But I couldn’t feel my arms, couldn’t move one vanished finger.
The fire blazed hotter and I wanted to scream. To beg for someone to kill me now, before I lived one more second in this pain. But I couldn’t move my lips. The weight was still there, pressing on me.
I realized it wasn’t the darkness holding me down; it was my body. So heavy. Burying me in the flames that were chewing their way out from my heart now, spreading with impossible pain through my shoulders and stomach, scalding their way up my throat, licking at my face.
Why couldn’t I move? Why couldn’t I scream? This wasn’t part of the stories.
My mind was unbearable clear – sharpened by the fierce pain – and I saw the answer almost as soon as I could form the questions.
All I wanted was to die. To never have been born. The whole of my existence did not outweigh this pain. Wasn’t worth living through it for one more heartbeat.
Let me die, let me die, let me die.
And, for a never-ending space, that was all there was. Just the fiery torture, and my soundless shrieks, pleading for death to come. Nothing else, not even time. So that made it infinite, with no beginning and no end. One infinite moment of pain.
It could have been seconds or days, weeks or years, but, eventually, time came to mean something again.
Three things happened together, grew from each other so that I didn’t know which came first: time restarted, the morphine’s weight faded, and I got stronger.
Though the fire did not decrease one tiny degree – in fact, I began to develop a new capacity for experiencing it, a new sensitivity to appreciate, separately, each blistering tongue of flame that licked through my veins – I discovered that I could think around it.
I could remember why I shouldn’t scream. I could remember the reason why I’d committed to enduring this unendurable agony. I could remember that, though it felt impossible now, there was something that might be worth the torture.
This happened just in time for me to hold on when the weights left my body. To anyone watching me, there would be no change. But for me, as I struggled to keep the screams and thrashing locked up inside my body, where they couldn’t hurt anyone else, it felt like I’d gone from being tied to a stake as I burned, to gripping that stake to hold myself in the fire.
I had just enough strength to lie there unmoving while I was charred alive.
Pressure on my fingers. It was harder not to answer this voice, but I strayed paralyzed.
Through all this, the racking fire went right on burning me. But there was so much space in my head now. Room to ponder their conversation, room to remember what had happened, room to look ahead to the future, with still endless room left over to suffer in.