- Vol. 03
- Chapter 02
Image by Philipp Keller/Stelzer Group/EMBL
ENDONLY BLACK. Whether I shut my eyes, or not, it makes no difference. Tiny flickers of thought come and go, through the warm fuzziness of an enforced lie –in. My body is tongue and grooved into a mattress, at half tilt. Ready for launch into the void. This ‘buried alive.’
A distant female voice echoes across space and time, the first anchor of recognition. Faint. There, little one. But I am not little, am I. Not for a long time. I blink, can do that. Do it again. But still a sea of emptiness. The voice comes in ripples, Be strong.
Don’t be afraid.
Fires are raging inside. A bead of sweat breaks free from the necklace fresh made on my forehead. It rolls over the bridge of my nose, then slides down my cheek, melting ice on ice, and heads for the corner of my mouth. I issue the command. ‘Tongue catch.’ But like every other part of me, my tongue has gone on strike; chest rising and falling to an automated concertina rhythm, the accompaniment to a nearly played out epic. I don’t know why my overreached breathing doesn’t hurt. Below the neck, I feel nothing. No sounds, not even a beating heart. Only your voice, now, again, this time with cutting clarity, my long – gone mother. HOLD ON, you say. BE STRONG. I close my eyes against the encroaching night. And there, on the screen of empty, suddenly, something. The light spot from a pin hole camera. I squeeze my eyes tighter, giving my full attention, more attention than I’ve given to anything, ever. And, I watch it magnify, a searing afterglow, like I have stared directly into the sun with no protection. Flashes at first, just one frame every few seconds, then another, and another, until the image becomes a constant, with shape. I can’t make out what.