One thousand five-hundred thirteen days.
Thirty-six thousand three-hundred twelve hours.
They all merge together like lagoon into sea.
It’s dark. Things crawl in the night, over the stalactites. Sometimes beady eyes glow from the shadows.
But it’s all shadow here. Hard damp floor, sure, but the only light is from the fungi that grow in the deepest tunnel. That’s where I stay. Come out come out wherever you are, the voices at night are loud. I know it's night because for dinner the pulley descends with milk along with the bread and beans. It doesn’t taste all that fresh.
Of course, haha, perhaps I’ve gotten it mixed up over the past four years, my mind tangled as the cobwebs. Are they cobwebs? Some have spiders. Maybe they’re just webs.
Down I go, on hands and knees. Ah, there are the fungi, pulsing like jellyfish.
A voice like dead child laughter.
On the wall, tallies, oh beautiful tallies. How would I stay sane without them? I take the rock, it’s chalky on my palm. One more crooked white line in the stone. One thousand five-hundred fourteen days.
To sleep—if you can call it that. The mushroom night lights.
Voices voices, louder and louder. A rising orchestra! And—
How did I get here? Well I was only a boy. Am I a man now? It’s hard to tell. I don’t think so. To be a man, one has to do something, don’t they? I am merely here. I doubt I’ll ever truly grow up.
I only wanted to hold it. The animal. Don’t touch it! It’s alright, I’ll be fine. Into the cellar to soothe the beast. Kaleidoscopic eyes, big eyes. Lots of arms—what was it? Sort of purplish in color, then green, then blue, veins of silver, so pretty. Pretty creature. Tormented creature. Locked down all alone. It’s okay it’s okay. Hush now. Oh, you’ve got my leg? No let go.
The pain, flashing and blinding, shooting up to wreck my nerves. I screamed and screamed and crumpled like paper, folding in. The creature was gone. But it was there and it’s still there, I can feel it now in this cavern, writhing about in me.
Took me away after that they did. For my own good. Drugged, I think. I was real groggy in the cage on the truck bed.
Stay here. Like they gave me a choice. Maybe they’ll be back. With welcome human faces, instead of food buckets reeled down. That would be nice. Though I do believe I’ve forgotten how to conversate. Funny what isolation does.
My name? I cast it away, year two I believe. Names don’t last long when there’s no one to say them. I am me.
Living in the dark is not all bad. I’ve learned not to trust my eyes. Eyes are overrated anyway, always tricking you. The blackness makes life simpler. But I see my tallies.
Susurussss. What’s that? Ah, hello, again it’s you.
What, I look different? Ridiculous, we are one and the same. Different looking sure, but we share the same goals.
Yes, let’s escape from this place in the dark. Into the light, boy, you know you want out. Follow me, my rhythmic lights will carve the way. Forget your mind which holds you down and think of sweet retribution. I’m hungry, let’s go feast. Mmm. The smell of flesh is sweet, no? Of course it is.
You think you’re out and think I’m in?—laughable!
We are one and the same.
Ah. Morning, perhaps. The jangle of the pulley. I wonder who’s job it is to work it. Doesn’t sound very entertaining.
Something’s wrong. Anxiety prickles my skin like fleas. Head hurts. It’s dark, very dark, even darker than before.
Where are the lights? The fungi have extinguished.
What day is it? The wall, oh the wall where did it go? I feel, but I cannot see it, only the dustings of charcoal. Did I smudge it?
What day is it? Wrack my brain. Nothing. Bits and pieces of remembrance but they slip away like a mother’s hand in a crowd.
What am I? Who am I?
Where? Still in the cavern. The floor is colder, but it’s the same floor that it was before I closed my eyes.
Yes. I can live in the dark. Just silly lines they were, anyway. I don’t need my name. I don’t need the tallies.
Many twists and subtle turns, taken blindly, a habit. The food is still warm. How thoughtful.
I think I like it better cold.
Ah, what will I do next? I could count the tallies.
Down again. The tunnel is thin and brushes my worn clothes. I hope I don’t get bigger. It would be quite troublesome.
But where are they? No light no wall, darker than black down here, what happened? No blinking lights to greet me? What did I do what did I do?
Do I deserve this? I don’t know. Probably.
No of course I don’t. But who’s to say what’s right or wrong? There is no God down here. Not a one. Maybe down here I am wrong.
What day is it? My memory slips—let’s see.
Oh right, they’re gone. Ha ha. I remembered. I’m getting better. Now if only I could recall the day.
How old am I?
I don’t need a name or tallies, but time? Time is very important. I could use the sun. But there is no sun here. No moon either.
If I look at the darkness long enough will stars appear?
One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen—
Dammit I blinked.
What’s that? A stirring in the darkness. Above me or around me I cannot tell.
A benign calling. Yes. I’m here.
Oh. The noise is inside me. Well that solves that.
Retribution? No I’m not sure what you mean. I’m not much of a retributory.
I don’t need light. Honestly. But if you could give me my time and my tallies I would be most grateful.
Ah! A flickering. The fungi alight again—oh. Not the fungi. That’s me. A wavering reflection in a glowing pool above. Shifting colors. Silver veins.
It’s still black in here, despite the light. How odd. Reach up? I don’t know about that. I think I’m fine where I am. Are my tallies in there? They’re very important to me, I hope you didn’t steal them.
You stole my time didn’t you? How cruel. Oh. If I reach in will I find time? Okay fine you tricky bastard.
It feels like ice but is smooth and liquid as any water, though why doesn’t it gush out? My reflection ripples as my finger brush the surface, whorled skin mirrored back. My hand submerged now. All I feel is cold. A bubble bursts the surface, splashing down on me. I laugh. Slick tendrils around my hand. Familiar and soothing.
Come. Let us feast.
Pulls me in. This water, if that’s what it is, is strangely breathable.
Escape, we shall go. Yes yes.
But will I get my time?
The sun the moon the stars. Equilibrium. Calendars and clocks—yes.
Oh. Well alright then.
Humming bubbling a faint buzzing in my ear. Pain, ripping through. Bubbles cascade from my mouth. Peace then. Clarity.
We rush toward the surface.