The last thing I saw was a man hurrying toward me.
I moved to get out of his way, but he followed my steps until he was right before me, a glint in his vermillion streaked eyes. Seconds later, he pulled a tube out from his jacket, he flicked his wrist and launched a few tablespoons of clear liquid through the air and onto me.
Pain followed his crazed stare, a flash of boiling agony seeping into my flesh and sending me into unconsciousness almost immediately.
When I was a child, my parents took me to an underground cavern as part of our vacation to the desert. We journeyed down flights upon flights of stone steps, delving thousands of feet below the earth’s crust. Once there, we were awestruck by massive stalagmites and stalactites clinging to the damp cave walls like bulbous tumors.
After our photos were snapped, the guide announced that, for just a moment, the lights illuminating the tour would be shut off. According to him, it was an opportunity.
“Most people will never experience true darkness in their lives. There’ll always be a light on nearby, or stars above to help us find our way. But here – none of that exists,” the guide said, a grim smile stretching across his pimpled cheeks. “It’s safe to say that all of you are about to be in the darkest place on earth.”
With that, the lights were snuffed out.
Blackness enveloped us all.
Unable to see my hand held just inches from my eyes, I’ll admit, the darkness was eerie. Unnatural.
I was more than relieved when the bulbs flickered back on, bathing us in warm yellow light once more. Uneasiness clawed at me for the rest of that trip, and from time to time in the years that followed.
Now, I see how ridiculous I really was, fearing something as innocent as a cave.
I am awake now, I’m sure of it. I can feel starched sheets rustling against my skin. I can smell acrid antiseptic cloying the air, almost tasting it on my tongue. And at my side, I can hear a voice – a doctor – explaining something terrible to me.
I can feel my lids lowering, rising, the faintest feeling as my lashes lightly brush my cheeks.
Yet, no matter how long I keep my eyes open, only darkness swims before me.
A warm hand takes mine as a muttering of sympathies tries to blot my train of thought.
But all I can do is chastise myself for my past foolish beliefs. A cave, where a light switch is only a few feet away, is nothing. A life of eternal noir and nothingness, however…
That is the darkest place on earth.