START. I plunge my spear into a school of fish drawn to the torch hanging over the edge of the boat somehow failing to connect, I stumble losing balance momentarily. The trip has been unproductive so far and the salty mist, which has been growing steadily for the past half hour, stings my nostrils and forms a milky film on my exposed skin. This is usually a sign of an incoming storm seeing as it is the rainy season, so I decide to return to the stilts empty handed.
I gaze at my dark reflection in the jet black water, distorted with every paddle. Once the fires become visible over the horizon a light rain showers down in gentle waves from the darkness overhead. My reflection is now lost in the thousands of droplets pounding the surface joining the massive churning ocean life force. My father will surely be disappointed in my failure to provide but I am certain my mother will be grateful for my return.
As I approach the stilts I sense the hustle of families preparing their dwellings for the incoming storm, cold winds are picking up now. Waves crash against the supports, most of which are haphazardly constructed using debris: occasionally waves surge so high they flood our rooms and destroy possessions. We had very little to begin with and now that storms are becoming more frequent we have even less. Elders tell stories about a time when our ancestors lived with great comfort and wealth on vast plains of fertile land. Such a thing seems impossible when an endless acidic black sea is all that surrounds us.
I tie the canoe’s guide rope tightly to the ladder leading up to my family’s home, when I climb up I find them huddled around the cooking fire. My mother is the first to see me enter from the darkness “We are so thankful you have returned in good health son, the sea has become very rough” I nod absently and position myself close to the red hot fire, steam rising from my drenched clothes. “No fish today, not a single one approached the torch” I lie, casually pushing aside the soaking wet hair glued to my face. My Father smirks “That's strange, not a single fish eh?” he knows my skills with a spear are meager and makes sure I know it damn well. “Nope. I’m going to get changed, let's hope this storm calms come morning” I end the discussion abruptly and walk to the bedroom leaving the fire’s warm glow.
Hanging up my clothes weighted from the rain, water drops absorb into the creaking floor below my bare feet. The flimsy walls of the bedroom creak and shudder with every deafening crack of lightning. Blinding light pierces through the seams dancing across the room in violent spirit. I collapse into my bed. Warm fabric surrounds my shivering body, scorching warmth penetrating my frozen core. Melting into the thin mattress, mildew zing feels like a thousand hands holding my aching frame in the sun. Slave breath, every tortured creaking exhale spreads warmth across my back like an army. I am high above the bare feet and bloody ground. Planes of glass shards and thistle for miles in rotation. Every burst of white hot needle point pain is transfered to me softly through calloused fingertips against my skin. I drift and sway between order and chaos; Riding the pulsating waves of light from behind my eyelids until death. This void is patched early.
ESCAPE: I am awake now-I leave the lunatic in bed waiting eagerly for me tonight. Rain is still falling, lighter now, the sun diffused by the dark grey sky. Attempt met with objection. My family remains asleep, I stop and listen, recognizing their individual inhale exhale loops. Comfort in repetition but pain too. Days don’t add up. Time is what I sense now but my time is what I remember and fail to forget.
I go outside to the covered deck to view the fading storm, resting my arms leaning on the smooth railing enveloped in vapor. The frigid air makes me shudder and my bare feet sting against the frozen wood floor. I take a moment to reflect, Storms it seems are becoming more common and intense in recent times. Violent storms are not uncommon this time of year, but the amount we’ve experienced recently is worrisome. I try to avoid the worry and distract myself when I feel a familiar sensation taking hold and pulling me out of reality again….
DESCENT. Raindrops play their familiar tune as I sway between consciousness levels, here my actions are automated and regular. Feeling like a foreigner in my own body, I grip the railing to steady myself as rain drops continue to pound and echo within my cavernous skull, my ears ring and I descend out of physical experience. Petals of dry light echo through my being, hollowness in the familiar darkness of the null. Frigid waves of stabbing emptiness pulsate from my core touching every cell. My stomach weighs me down with a dull stabbing pain. I cannot stop this. I feel hollow and cold. My grip tightens on the railing, white knuckles shaking. I fight to keep my eyes open but I am pulled back - My eyelids wedge closed tightly and I lose sight. Light dances across the darkness in waves, cascading and frothing like the sea, enveloping me. Suddenly I am in the boat surrounded by black sea in all directions. The sun is naked and hot against my skin, frantically I scan my surroundings, lacking direction. I begin to panic. The sun is still beating down, the heat is overwhelming, my breathing accelerates as I spiral into hopelessness. “I am going to die” The phrase repeats itself in my head until I begin to utter it out loud with urgency, increasingly pained and shrill with each repetition. The acceptance of death is not a prerequisite for passing, as I have realized with so many before. I frantically run my trembling fingers through my oily hair, tugging at my scalp and feeling its movement against my skull. Sweat prickles my skin as the heat increases with my anxiety, the sun tortures me, he shimmers across the sea mocking me with beauty. Flat and reflective like a mirror as I hyperventilate. I dip my quaking sweaty hand into the water, it is cold and jet black. Please, it looks so serene. The water calls me, I lean over the edge of the canoe and plunge in headfirst without a second thought. I am immediately relieved as I swim deeper and deeper into the darkness, until I can no longer distinguish whether I am moving up or down. My limbs thrust into the spatial void, feeling the displaced water against my skin. I inhale and the freezing liquid fills my lungs, my whole chest caves inwards and stings as if hornets line every fold of my lung tissue. My body convulses but my mind will not shut off. End this pain! I cannot accept that this is the end, I am going to die! I scream only to inhale more water: stabbing pain again. Struggling in the darkness, my death eventually arrives after a small eternity of anguish. In this life, your body holds you like a mother's arms does her child, only she clutches a dagger, so eagerly waiting for you to fall asleep so that she can seal your fate in blood.
LIGHT. I am projected back into reality, emerging to the gentle sounds of my family waking. Covered in sweat and salt I lean against the railing panting, trying to catch my breath. With the storms, these sensations have become more frequent and sporadic. I feel a dark mass radiating from the back of my mind, shredding through spongy soft tissue with its needle tipped extremities, poisoning me. I let out a sigh and wipe the sweat from my brow staring out across the water, jet black, I can’t help but think about the disturbing vision. The rain is still falling as I head inside, my family is yet to leave their beds. I sit at our small kitchen table and study the wooden surface. Worn smooth from years of use, thousands of meals and discussions resonating in the wood planks, a silent audience to our lives. Though I feel that I have lived another life altogether, that my identity has been suffocated and mutilated beyond recognition.