Sometimes the darkness and I sit under trees and try to become enlightened. Or, well, I do. The darkness looks at me sitting cross-legged under the tree, and it says, “I am already endarkened.”
I close my eyes and try to breathe and be still.
The darkness roams around the trees. I hear its claws scraping against bark. Then I feel the trunk of my tree vibrating, and I hear small branches snapping and leaves shaking. It is climbing the tree I am sitting under.
I say, “How am I supposed to become enlightened if you won’t leave me in peace?”
The darkness hisses from the branches above me, but the noise stops. I think it has settled down.
More time passes.
I sit with my eyes closed and I feel a slight breeze and I feel the trunk of the tree against my back and I feel the dirt beneath me and I feel the sap running through the tree and the worms moving in the earth and the birds flying through the sky and then there is no me, there is just the tree and the dirt and the sap and the worms and the birds and the sky.
“Worms are going to eat you one day, you know.”
I open my eyes and look up above me, and there is the darkness in its gatorskin, its red eyes peering down at me through the branches and leaves.
I say, “Yes, I know, and that is okay.”
The darkness flips over, and I am reminded that it is not really a gator, that it just borrowed a gatorskin, and that there is nothing inside the skin, nothing to weigh down the branches until they break and fall on my head. There is nothing there but an absence of light.
I am full of light.
The darkness hisses again, its words pointed at the sky.
“Do you want to know how I became endarkened?”
I am full of light and nothing can touch me because I am everything, and so I close my eyes and I say, “Yes, I would like to know.”
The light disappears, and it takes the tree and the birds and the worms and the sky with it, and suddenly I am small and alone and afraid in a dark nothingness, and I am empty, and the emptiness hurts. It hurts and it hurts and I curl around the pain, but it doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop.
“Let me show you,” says the darkness.
I open my eyes, and I scream.
Sometimes the darkness and I scream in the night.
I am nothing and the ground is nothing and the sky is nothing and the lack of things stretches on and on into infinity. I scream and I beat my fists against the nothingness but I can’t feel it. I can’t even feel my fists. I am closed in and there is no way out, no way back to the tree and the worms and the birds and the light. My heart hammers in my chest and I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe and I’m shut in and it’s dark and I’m alone and I’m nothing, and I scream.
Bones close around my wrists. I hear a familiar hissing, but there’s something else behind it.
“You can breathe. Idiot.”
I am not alone. The darkness is here.
My hands are shaking and my legs feel like water, but I can breathe if I try. I focus on breathing, deep and slow, and my heart rate slows down.
The darkness is sitting cross-legged in front of me. I look at it. It is not wearing the gatorskin. It is not wearing any skin. This is where it lives. This is where it wears its real self, its gray bones and its red red eyes.
Its voice is a hiss like the gatorhiss but it’s not the same. It speaks again, and there is death in that hiss.
“Welcome to the endarkening.”
It stands up, its finger bones still on my wrists, and it pulls me up with it.
I feel dizzy and my vision goes gray and blurry. When the gray blur clears and the world steadies I see the darkness standing in front of me, and behind it is a vast darkling plain.
The darkness drops my left wrist. My skin prickles where the gray bones had been.
It says “Come on” in its hiss of death, and it turns and stalks off into the nothingness, still holding my right wrist, dragging me along behind it.
Sometimes the darkness and I talk about nothing.
“Where are we?” I say.
“What is this place?” I ask.
“This conversation is very one-sided,” I observe.
The darkness stalks ahead of me, one skeletal hand still wrapped around my wrist.
The darkling plain has grown trees. And rocks. And a horizon. These things were not here before, I know. Before it was a vast nothingness.
“Why are there things here now when there wasn’t anything before?” I…query. Query is a nice word.
The darkness stalks some more, and I stumble along behind it. I am tired. I want to take a break. I want to catch my breath.
“Don’t make me get querulous,” I admonish.
The darkness stops suddenly, and I bump into it. The gray bones are hard and smooth and cold.
It doesn’t say anything. I want it to say things. I can think of so many pretty ways to describe saying things.
It turns its skull towards me. Its red eyes burn.
It hisses at me.
“Do you want to lament? Do you want to moan? Do you, perhaps, want to gush?”
I look into the red eyes, and I know that by “gush” it means “spout fountains of blood”, so I say “No, I don’t want to gush.”
It turns and jerks me forward again. No rest for the verbose, I suppose.
The darkness says, “We are in Reality.”
The darkness says, “It is what lies behind everything you see.”
The darkness says, “Your human brain cannot handle Reality, so it has created images for you to deceive yourself with.”
“I am going to destroy those images,” the darkness gushes.
Sometimes the darkness and I walk along the edge of meaning.
I look up at the trees that aren’t there, and I think.
Everything wears a skin. These trees are a skin that Reality wears. The darkness wears all sorts of skins. The worms and the trees and the sky and the birds and the dirt, from before, those were all just skins.
I look down at my arm. At my skin.
I look at the gray bones that the darkness is wearing, and I think maybe that the bones are just another skin.
Is the darkness beyond the treeskins real?
I remember the graveyard, and the darkness saying that it would flow always and cover all things.
Its grip on my wrist tightens. It speeds up, and I have to walk faster to keep up.
I don’t feel a breeze, but the branches of the trees are moving slightly. I think they’re waving goodbye.
Sometimes the darkness and I visit strange new worlds.
“Where are we?” I ask. “Is this Reality?”
Perhaps my images have been destroyed, and there was always this brightness and beauty in the world. I just couldn’t see it, because I had imagined a dark monotone world for myself.
Maybe I like dark and monotone. Maybe that’s who I am. I feel itchy here, with the bright blue sky and the vivid green trees.
I use my free hand to scratch the back of my neck.
The darkness releases its death grip on my wrist. I look at it. It is still wearing the gray bones.
Surely this isn’t Reality? This is no home for the darkness. This is a home for laughing children and clapping fairies. This is a place past death.
“Is any of this here? Is this place real?”
The darkness ignores my questions. I sit on a nearby bench. The bench, at least, seems to be real.
“I thought you were going to destroy my illusions, not take me on a nice vacation.”
The darkness looks at me, finally. It doesn’t say anything.
It just barks.
Sometimes the darkness and I wander through colorful utopian landscapes which become oddly dimmer and foggier as we proceed.
I have deduced that when the darkness barked at me, it meant that we were not in Midnight Hollow anymore. And certainly we appear to be on a yellow road.
I wonder if maybe the darkness is a wizard, and we are passing through its curtain. This isn’t Reality. This is the borderland between Illusion and Reality.
The darkness is still wearing the bones. They look dark yellow in this light. Its eyes burn a deep dark red in its dark yellow skull.
It notices me looking at it.
It barks at me again.
Sometimes the darkness and I bark at nothing for hours.
I follow its bones through the grass. I feel like we have been walking forever. Everything was dark, and then there were some trees, and then there was the bright happy place, and then now…
Now we bark.
The darkness just kept barking at me, so I started barking back. This seems to be the way we communicate now.
I am thinking about how its calcaneus bones look dark yellow against the lighter yellow tufts of grass when I smell barbecue.
Is there someone else here? Is there a cookout going on here in the borderlands? I wonder if the winged kittens will be there. I miss them.
I look at the darkness and bark an inquiry.
It looks back at me. It hisses, “Be quiet, fool.”
We walk, and the barbecue smell grows stronger.
Sometimes the darkness and I follow the smell of barbecue through suburban streets the color of blood.
We arrive at a giant blue pig.
The darkness stops walking. I stop too. I wonder if maybe I should ask the darkness what’s going on, or where we are, or if I should maybe bark at it again.
I think I will bark. I am so tired of asking questions. Barking is a nice change. Barking is, I think, the most logical response to this situation.
I bark. It rings out in the silent red neighborhood.
The darkness glares at me. It hisses an angry wordless hiss.
The pig oinks.