[Bottomless, 851 words, Genre: Experimental]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
Jed looked up. There was light there, up the top. He remembered falling sometime ago, what it felt like to fall. That feeling of vertigo, that feeling of weightlessness. The fall. He had never hit rock bottom, he was not sure if the pit had a bottom. If he had not reached out and made a grab for the wall to stop himself from falling, he could have kept on falling continuously. He looked down from his current position, all he could make out was darkness. As he climbed higher he got closer to the light at the top. With each foothold that he got, things became clearer and clearer for him. Occasionally he would see people free falling past him as he made the climb towards the light. They went hurtling downwards towards the darkness. Was there a bottom? He did not want to find out. Free falling at this height would only produce speed, and the true rock bottom was bound to make the body go splat.
He remembered falling. Before he had reached out and grabbed the wall. But he could not remember where he fell from. It’s as if, as he fell, his mind grew more clouded with darkness the less apparent the light at the top became. Screams would occasionally rise up from below him. They sent a shiver down his spine. There was something eerie about those screams. They didn’t sound human. Jed supposed the darkness down there would change you, make you less human. A human was blind in darkness, functioning on a level without light would change you, make you an abstract representation of the human form. Jed thought that some would find it beneficial to live in the darkness in that way, the light at the top did seem to sear the mind.
Jed found an alcove in the pit, a place where he could rest and not have to strain his muscles. There were others in the alcove, tucked away. There were four of them there. They had lit a fire of their own and gathered around the light that it produced. They saw Jed and welcomed him to take comfort in the heat of their fire.
Jed thought he would question them, to see what they knew, “So do you know what’s at the top?”
“The top!? Are you mad, you’ll go blind up there.”
“I just want to know, what’s at the top?”
“We were all up the top at one stage, but we’ve all fallen far. We don’t want to remember what’s up the top.”
“Not that that’s a bad thing,” one of them explained, “we like it here. Not too dark, not too light. We’ve found our happy medium here. The screams from below tell us that we wouldn’t like it much further down, but if we went further up, we’d all go blind.”
“Blind.” They all added their agreement.
Jed rested there for the night, taking comfort in the group’s fire. They passed a bottle of whiskey around to each other and stared into the fire. They channelled their minds into the flames and each of their thoughts, their personal stories, could be seen in the blaze. They just had to look into the fire at the right angle. They all fell asleep in front of that fire.
Before the others woke, Jed pulled away from the rest of the group and out of the alcove. He had to keep on climbing. He found the next foothold, secured his position and hoisted himself up. With that step and the next, all he had to do was repeat.
One man fell past him, down the bottomless pit. Jed had a secure enough position. He jutted himself out from the rocky surface of the wall and grabbed the man’s hand. He helped the man find a hold on the wall. Jed did this because he had questions, questions about the top.
“I have to get back, I have to get back.” The nameless man kept on repeating himself.
“Why? What’s up there? What’s at the top?”
“I have to get back, I have to get back.” The man kept on repeating himself. Jed looked into the man’s eyes. He had gone blind. The blind man then grabbed Jed’s leg and tried to use Jed to climb higher. It put a strain on Jed’s muscles and Jed felt himself losing his grip on the wall. He kicked out at the blind man, who gave a fight, but Jed’s relentless kicks eventually threw the blind man off the wall. The blind man let out a scream as he continued to fall into darkness.
Jed thought; maybe those other people had it right. Being at the top could make you blind, as could the pit of darkness at the bottom. They had found a happy medium, why couldn’t he? Do you really have to know what’s at the top, to know that it will turn you blind? Jed climbed back down, back to the alcove, where he had met those people who had shared the warmth of their fire.