A Dark World
by Cara May Gorman
I was met with a burst of cold air as I left to go home after a full 8 hours of work. The air was sharp and I felt its bite even through all my layers of clothing and two huge wool scarves. It was a 12-minute walk home, but as the cold wind bit at my cheeks and whipped at my skirts, it seemed like it would be endless.
It was almost midnight, and the streets were still and empty. It was strange to see, and felt almost surreal. I contemplated this as I walked, my head down, my chin nuzzled in the soft grey wool of my scarf. I watched the patterns made by salt on the sidewalk as they passed slowly under my feet. As I looked up at the edge of the sidewalk, I noticed a cat crossing the street up ahead. A strange cat—no, was it a dog? The creature had short little legs, and moved with a roll rather than walking or prancing like a cat or dog. The animal stopped as I got closer and stood staring straight at me. An opossum. It stood, or sat, or hovered on the sidewalk under the surreal yellow glow of the streetlights. He didn’t belong there. I felt as if I were in some sort of weird enclosed world—there were floors, artificial lights, and a ceiling through which the dark night sky couldn’t penetrate.
I shivered as I watched the white triangular face of the opossum steadily. His dim, closely set black marble eyes strained with a frozen stare back at me. He looked like a stiff little barrel. His body was covered with patches of brownish gray hair, and his long rat-like tail followed him, swaying and shivering in delayed unison with his body. I continued to watch him as he rolled in a slow scurry back across the street. I slowly turned and continued my journey home, no longer thinking of cold or the salt marks on the sidewalk. The night felt like a dream. I wasn't out in the real world—this was some internal place. The opossum wasn't there either—the hard streets and sidewalks rendered smooth and bare by the yellow-tinged darkness were somehow placed there by someone, separating us from the external world of infinity. This was simply like a temporary, miniature model in the plans for the real world. The strange scene stayed in my head—that street corner, the small trees that seemed artificial in the yellow glow, the opossum—and I was unconscious of everything else as I continued to walk. The places passed every day went by unnoticed—the Laundromat, accompanied by the warm smell of laundry detergent and dryer sheets; the little bench in the churchyard that seemed to attract the strangest beings of the town; the numerous hair salons with the windows displaying mannequin heads sporting their fashionable wigs; the small pubs with their dark windows, neon signs and muffled music. The walk was soon over.
I trudged upstairs to apartment 3, slipped off my Birkenstocks and opened the door. I walked into the familiar new-agey smells of incense, tea, good food and spices—the kind of smells that bring back childhood memories of visiting my mom’s macrobiotics friends. The housemates were asleep and all the lights were off. I stumbled to the bathroom, shedding my coat and scarves on the way. As I brushed my teeth, I remembered that I had forgotten to stop at the pharmacy. How frustrating. I had no pills left. I felt a tinge of fear, but told myself it'll be fine.
I opened my bedroom as quiet as I could so as not to wake Jon, who slept in the room next to mine. I could see hear his even breathing as I passed his open door. Jon was usually happy, animated, and very funny. He had a wild imagination though, and was easily paranoid.
I got into bed and lay thinking, still amusing myself with the interesting interaction with the opossum. Soon, without realizing I'd fallen asleep, something woke me, and I opened my eyes. My room seemed strangely small, and with the yellow glow from a street light pulsating through the window, it only seemed to get smaller. But there was darkness. I couldn't focus on any of the objects in the room—they were just patterns and swirls continually disappearing underneath my feet. My eyes groped the darkness, first slowly, then quickly, furiously, violently.
"Jon, Jon, wake up, come here... I need the light."
The light was bright, and I could see for a moment Jon's alarmed face, but the darkness persisted as it slowly, hesitantly at first, proceeded to engross me, enclosing me, pulsating, from behind. Everything became monochrome to the yellow incandescent light. As if trying to find a way out, my eyes continued to frantically search the room, back and forth, right to left, pushing hard, hard to the left, threatening to spin around into my head, and then ripping away, flying to the right again, just to be violently pulled back to the left. I tried with all my strength to fight the darkness that weighed heavily on my head, my eyes, my right eye... the darkness was spinning, trying to engulf me from the right. My head tried to turn with my eyes to the left as the darkness chased them but I forced my head back, trying to focus, focus… in front of me I saw Jon's face; a white triangle staring at me, getting farther and farther away, more and more fuzzy. I began to whimper, my mind, confused, no longer attempting to control my body, no longer trying to hold onto reality—I was being pushed, pulled, forced into another world, a terrifying world. The darkness was more and more furiously hammering, over and over, in a stiff, wide, repetitive gesture, getting wider and wider, the yellow glow getting dimmer and dimmer. I saw Jon's staring face, the white triangle, steadily cycling back and forth, steadily fading into the dark. Then I was spinning, falling, down, fast, fast into a black infinite tornado, a familiar tornado, and I felt an uncontrollable scream rose from deep inside. Sobbing, falling, falling, I called, right before I was gone, "Jon, Jon, I'm gonna have a seizure..."