There is no change here. It’s been so long since you knew the warm feeling of the sun; the sensation of it has drained, taken away by the dampness that seeps into your bones here, so deep it can never leave. You don’t feel the cold brush of snow against your cheek anymore; there is no snow here. You dream sometimes, in between lingering, paralyzing periods of fear; you dream of a voice, soft and gentle, whispering your name, pressing icy toes against your leg. But here, the only voices are repetition and monotony.
There is no time here. Somewhere between the stalactites and the stench of rotting animal corpses and the skittering sounds that creatures make against the craggy walls, it loses its meaning. Maybe it’s been weeks. So long since you’ve seen the sky. If you press your hands deep into your eyes, for a split second you see bright violent blue stars, but recently those have begun to disappear. Maybe it’s been months. So long since you’ve seen the light. You hear everything, but there’s a darkness so consuming you think it might not be darkness, but rather a void. Maybe it’s been years. So long since you’ve seen. There should be a caveat to that, you know— so long since you’ve seen some specific thing. But down here, you can’t see anything, so it ends there. Maybe it’s been a lifetime. So long since you knew what seeing was. You think you remember a time when eyes had a purpose, used for more than being gouged out and consumed; you hear rasping breaths always, and aren’t sure if they come from your throat, coaxed out by pain. You can’t know how much time you’ve been here for; there is no way of
There is no escaping here. You’ve tried to crawl along the rough stone floor, but every time, you end up at a ledge. Bats fly ahead, and you think you might’ve had wings, once. You remember being high in the sky, seeing puffy white wisps of breath out of a window; there was a word you knew for those shapes once, but you’ve long since forgotten it. You feel exhausted. Things with too many legs to be anything good now crawl freely on you. You’re all beings of stone now, and it’s a relief to feel them teasing your skin, the first touch you’ve felt in so long, even if they’re just using your body as fuel.
There is no you here. You are somewhere else. Floating high above the agony and the darkness, in a place where a voice, soft and gentle, whispers your name. They’ll find you here, you think, someday, when they decide to go exploring just like you did. Your smile will be bright, bleached bone thanks to your many-teethed friends. So nice of them, to prepare you for Death, all pristine and new.
(You think, therefore, you are—and so, you are not.)
Emerson Gray, a disabled genderqueer creator living in Saint Louis, Missouri, has been previously published in the Eunoia Review and Neon Mariposa Magazine. His piece “Life of an Ophelian Girl”, as seen in Crabfat Magazine, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He can be contacted on Twitter @Emerson_Gray_