A dream in the absence of briana – 2

5:55 a.m.

Nighttime, pitch black.  I’m alone in what I’m certain is an Olympic size swimming pool.  Any water has long dried away and been replaced by sea of black nothingness.  I sit by myself on the chalky floor of the shallow end.  I don’t know how I know this.  My eyes are locked in the direction that I believe should be deep water, though in the blackness I can see nothing.  As the lids of my eyes seal themselves shut, night vision emblazons my imagination.  From an aerial perspective I see myself squarely in the sea of emptiness that spreads infinitely in all directions.  It’s a dulling fear that was sharp before and now closer to a feeling of indifference that finally reveals to me that time is slowing, that my seat on these cracked tiles in this barren wasteland could be permanent if I so choose.

Convinced I must make movement, I pull myself to a standing position.  Causing motion in the vacuum stirs up an ashy wind and I’m reminded of death, uncertain as to whether or not I sense it swirling around my ankles.  The echoes above me ignite a nervous current throughout my bowels and I am aware by sound that the ceilings are very high, if they exist at all.  Pointing my body towards what I believe to be the deep end, I begin to slowly push through the darkness.

The wind turns treacherous and starts howling like a sick and rabid dog.  I envision airborne battles being fought above my head.  On the backs of my eyelids I see slain angels falling from a screaming sky, slamming violently into the ground and flailing around me as I cautiously step from one tile to the next.  The slope to the deep end arrives sooner than I expected.  It’s slick and I slip twice, using my hand to prevent my body from crashing against the ramp.  The wind wraps around me so closely now that I fear I am being crushed in the palm of an invisible giant.  When I reach the bottom of the pool I am knocked to the ground by a crushing burst.  Face down I flatten myself on the floor to give the wind less of me to torment.  Like a crippled tortoise I inch through the dark using my hands above my head to guide me, dragging my face through the powdery chlorine that sits like scattered dust on the floor, ten feet below the surface.

When the pads of my fingertips finally press against the sidewall of the pool, the wind temporarily relents and I am able to rise to a sitting position, pressing my back tightly against the wall, trying to become a part of it.  Moving laterally I claw above my head for the hanging rung of a ladder I only hope will eventually exist.  The wind begins again, pressing me from all angles, giving a glaring indication that there is no direction to lean for safety.  There will be no walking in the deep end.

A smooth metal rung, cool and slick touches my fingers.  It is recognizable to me from my youth – swimming underwater, eyes closed, reaching for the ladder that will lead me to much needed oxygen, allow me to breathe again.  The wind is roaring so loudly that my face clenches, wincing at the screaming gales as they rip past me, rip into me.  Raising both hands above my head, I wrap shaky fingers around the chrome base of the ladder and suck in a breath of wicked wind.  Part of me is afraid I will be blown off the ladder, but mostly I am terrified that the ladder will lead to a nowhere greater than my current state.  It takes all my strength, but I heave myself onto the ladder, forearms aching and hoist myself up, shimmying several inches with my left hand and then several inches with my right, before rising high enough to get a footing.  The wind is shrieking.

Inch by inch, I continue my ascent, being blindsided and rocked by unannounced airstreams.  Several times they nearly blow me off the ladder, once leaving me clinging by only four fingers.  My body blows sideways, but I don’t let go because the darkness has expanded my imagination to include a five-mile descent into the mouth of a rocky chasm beneath me, should I let go.  After what seems like several hours, my biceps turn into knotted fireballs.  I finally feel a curve in the two chrome pipes that serve as supports to the rungs and I become excited, but only temporarily.  Groping further, I find that the ladder leads directly back into the wall of the pool.  My painful journey has ended in futility; I am still submerged in a vault of nonentity.  I cry exhaustedly, first because I know I am much too weak to support myself any longer and second because I know there is no one to hear me.  The tears are quickly spattered and sucked away by the uncaring wind…as I hang.  The currents come with more force.  In them I begin to hear screams.  I prepare to leave the wasteland, resigned to a disassembling concern; I no longer fear the abyss, I only need to leave here.

Eyes closed, I reach to the wall, stabilizing myself from the powerful gales that tug unremittingly at my arms…at my legs.  I no longer remember how far I have climbed, more importantly, how far it is to the bottom of the pool, if there is a bottom, and how I ever got here.  Even in the supreme blackness, my eyes are tightly shut to prevent the wind from further stealing their vitality, which I believe includes my ability to dream.  Without sight and with the only sound being the earsplitting shrieks of the wind, my sense of touch is all have to guide me.  In one last desperate attempt, I swing from the ladder.  The grainy concrete wall is rough to the left of me, and to the right it doesn’t exist.  Instead, I feel what seems to be a door, loosely banging and cut into the wall of the pool.  An enormous unexpected gust suddenly yanks me down.  To save myself from falling, I overcompensate and heave myself upward, swinging towards and then through the door, falling three feet onto a tightly packed dirt floor.  The door slams shut above me.

Several moments pass before I realize that silence again reigns.  There is no longer wind.  There is no longer blackness.  I am in a hollow between the foundation of the pool and the earth that houses it.  The room moves forty-five degrees and takes shape as I sit and my eyes re-adjust to the dimly lit cave.

As far as can be seen in each direction are loosely strung lanterns, rustic and hanging from a drawn wire, nailed into boards at infrequent placements to support the makeshift lighting.  From the dirt I peer into the esophagus of the cave that wraps around the pool.  Just out of the light’s reach are red eyes staring back at me, and then another pair, and then another.  The hollow beneath the pool is the home of giant rats, big as cats, and they are watching me.  They are waiting.

A spray of nervousness discharges in my stomach and I become momentarily excited that I can again feel.  But without conscious direction, my feet begin stumbling away from the hungry red eyes.  More have gathered; they are like paired lasers and I begin to feel like captured prey as they burn into me.  Slowly edging backwards, I realize that I am no more familiar with what is behind me than I am with that which is vaguely visible and threatening.  While trying to keep one eye on the rats, I glance back in the direction my feet are carrying me.  What I find instantaneously eclipses my fear of the rats.

On the wall of the dirt hollow, next to the door where I dropped into the balance between hopelessness and my private purgatory, is a giant window, maybe ten feet wide and ten feet tall.  It is a window that views into the side of the pool, the empty pool that spat me from it’s intestines…the black pool with the resident evil that licked every drop of water away, leaving only a dusty chlorine residue.  Much to my horror, the pool is no longer dark, and no longer empty.  It is brimming with the clearest blue water I have ever seen.  Sparkling chisels of light cut through the water and window and spill out of the glass and onto the dirt floor around me.  I am excited by it, want to be in it, have forgotten my journey through darkness.  Stranger still…the pool is not empty.    It has been transformed into a giant aquarium, and it is full of life.  It is full of people.  Legs are clumsily scissoring buoyant little boys and girls to and from each other.  Their movement transfixes me.  I step closer to the window.  What has become of the charcoal room where I was incarcerated by the screeching wind and sheltering my mortality as I crawled along the great gorge of solitude?  Who are these children?  How did they come to exist?  Ten feet above I can see a shimmering expression of families and faces gathered around the edge, safeguarding their babies as they frolic like fledgling tadpoles.  A pale boy in red swim trunks crashes through the surface of the water and is momentarily encased in tiny bubbles, sinking in slow motion until he hangs in front of me.  Our eyes meet, though I know he cannot see me through the window.

I press an open palm to the glass and instantaneously it is all gone.  Like a quarter-fueled stag film, hungry for more change, life expires from the moving portrait in front of me, challenging me to recharge it or may it exist only as well as I can remember.  The radiant window dissolves and is reduced to a lonely frame around a lifeless square of black glass.  Now darker in the pool than the hollow I am in, the light from the hanging lanterns create a mirror of the glass, reflecting my unrecognizable face back to me.  Visible in the glass now are scratches and nicks, which I later learn are claw marks. The swimming boy is gone.  I step away, surprised and concerned, wondering if he will drown, if the wind has taken him.

When my hand drops from the cool glass, light and motion are again activated and the pool becomes re-animated.  The boy is further away from me, paddling towards a ladder that is dipped below the surface.  He reaches it effortlessly.  Unlike me, he hoists himself without difficulty, without the adhesive tongues of a torturing wind pulling him the below the surface.  He rises from the depths into waiting laughter and ambition, light and affinity.  Time, it appears, has not been lost.  Rather, it seems as though my predestined role as a bystander was merely suspended and then explicitly defined as permanent.

9:11 a.m. (I wake)

Dreams are becoming more like me, more like my life.  A chasm is widening between anyone else and me.  I see others, can’t find a bridge.  The thresholds between night and day, conscious and subconscious, kinetics and paralysis are melting.  On all sides lurks the impending warfare of solitude.   Deterioration is overcoming my ability to think clearly.  Things I do to preoccupy myself aren’t working anymore, don’t matter.  I’m so afraid that fear has become an issue in its own rite.  Has my life become a spectator sport that no one else is watching?