You are an Abyss

Image of Gus Eberlein

Gus Eberlein

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Do you ever wake up, but hesitate to open your eyes for just a second? I find myself more and more often despairing at the thought of opening my eyes upon waking. Fear of darkness abandoning me.

Optophobia, I think, uh, is the word for that. So.

But the fear subsides soon enough, and I'm able to once again thrust myself forth into...more darkness. This darkness is different though, as it's not manufactured. My abyss is empty and unlit. I stand up from my cozy spot on the inconceivable floor. I look up at the equally inconceivable ceiling and sigh. To exist in this abyss is to survive without thinking, to continue without understanding. Kind of boring. Very safe, though.

The phone rings, like it does every morning. I turn my head to the right, as my attention is caught by the faint ringing and small glow of a dim red light emanating from the phone. I hesitate. I really don't want to pick up the phone. God, I hate that phone. Every day I pick up that phone and every day I'm reminded of a hellish reality wherein my sentience is nothing but a toy to the greater universe. Every day I pick up that phone, and my life is once again spent. I'm tired of picking up that damn phone. Christ, it won't stop ringing. Do I have to pick it up? Is the only way to end its ceaseless mockery of my incompetence to buy into its ruse?

I break into a dead sprint. My conscience attempts to push me backward, but the rings, growing louder, compel me toward them. The phone rushes into view. I dive out, lunging for the receiver. In one swift movement, I grab it and place the apparatus against the side of my head. Before the other end begins its typical frustrations, the silence fills my senses. I see nothing, but my eyes are darting around. I hear my heart beating in my ears. I hate this.

It starts quiet at first, but the screams from the phone soon crawl into my ears. It is the usual, but it is still disturbing. The screams louden, and the audio quality warps and distorts the words they say. I am frozen. I recognize the screams as my own.

For hours, I stand there, enduring pain vicariously. For my own sake, I ought to put this phone down. I ought to set it back on the receiver, then destroy the phone. Then this would all be over. I could break out of this routine. I could free myself of wretched chains which force me to bear witness to my own pathetic existence.

The screams stop all of a sudden. No warning. No indication that they would. Right, they do this every morning. What was I thinking? How could I destroy this phone? I place the receiver back down and carefully set the phone back on the...well, there is no table. I just kind of fix it in place. Poor thing. If I destroyed this phone, I'd have nothing else in this abyss. This phone is the only thing that reminds me who I am and why I go on. Sure, the screams are gut-wrenching. My stomach churns at the thought of why they haunt me. But it's better than nothing, right?

After mindlessly staring at the phone for, oh, I'm not sure, a week or so? Anyway, after I do that, I like to unwind by waiting for the door. Oh, yeah, I guess I also have the door. The door falls from the sky after I stare at the phone after I set it in its place after I listen to the screams after I run to pick up the phone after I contemplate not picking it up after I open my eyes after I wake up.

A thunderous crash startles me. Yeah, there it is. I whip my head around, the door a good ten feet behind me. The phone is kindly illuminating my view. Good old phone.

The door towers over me, encompassing more and more of my field of view the longer I stand entranced by it. The door, wooden and rotting, is almost impossible to make out. I take a step toward it. An aura of anxiety rushes over me, filling my body. My extremities tingle. I take a step away from it. The abyss itself feels like it's cowering away from this awful portal to some unknown realm.

This stupid door. What gives it the right? The phone and I spend all our time here, and the door just shows up uninvited, announcing its presence, and demanding reverence. If you ask me, that doesn't seem very fair. It's just a door, after all. It doesn't deserve any respect. The phone is reliable, at least, and an honest, good friend.

One day I'll just walk up to this door, ignoring its warnings, place my hand on its doorknob, and walk right through. One day, I'll do that, I suppose when I've lost all hope, dignity, and sense of self-preservation. The door clearly means business if it can make me feel so lost and empty just by stepping toward it.

I take my step forward once more. At once, the blood drains from my face. An invisible force pushes me backward, but I muster courage to hold my ground. My hands are shaking. An incomprehensible and inarticulable panic circulates through me. The feeling is vile. I want to vomit. My eyes are locked on this abject door. I want to run away, crying, screaming; I want to save my poor, trapped soul from the tyranny of this terrible door. Why must I be so cocky? Why must I tempt fate by approaching something that clearly wants nothing to do with me? God, I really do deserve to suffer like this.

I make a vow—that, from now on, I will never disrespect phones or doors ever again. I swear. I bring my foot back to its original spot, and the overwhelming trepidation sees itself out of my being. I feel eternal gratitude toward the door for its mercy. Truly, I am in its debt.

I repeat the process of stepping toward and away from the door for...not sure, a couple more weeks? Maybe one day, I'll take a second step—until then, though, I have to dance with this door.

After however long it's been, the door at last dances with me. Thank goodness. I was getting a little tired.
It creaks open, slowly and ominously. Dramatic, much? Silly door. From behind it, several copies of myself walk out. They just keep pouring in. Each of their faces has been replaced with some puzzling mess of blurry lines. Every time I think I can make out a feature, it's replaced in my vision by fuzzy disturbance.
The clones encircle me. A good dozen of them, I'd say. They've cut me off from my precious phone. I am sad. The door shuts behind them.

The arrogant mimics stare me down. I'm not afraid of that door, or anything that comes from it.
Robotically, in unison, they raise their right hand toward me from their sides. Join us, they say.

No, no, I won't! I shake my head violently. Leave me be! I don't want to go with you.

We will save you, they say. We were you, once.

You know nothing of me. My pain is my own. And I refuse your help. You will leave. Now.

We will ask you only once more. Your life does not have to continue on like this. You wake and you think and you suffer and you pain and every day is the same yet here you are. Refusing to change it. Will you never break free?

My eyes are fixed on the ground, but I strain them up toward the face of the one directly in front of me. Their outstretched hand beckons me. It seems friendly. I look at its face. For just an instant, I think I can make out my own face among the blurs. I'm smiling. I look carefree. Authentic. But the blurs return quickly and I am unsure once more of whom to trust. Myself or...my selves.

I remember the phone and the screams.

I...I'd rather be at peace than take a risk with you all, I say. My legs are shaking. God, I am pathetic.

Very well, the clones solemnly declare. Their utterance echoes through the abyss.

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Abigail Haworth · ago
This was a wacky and wild ride, and I'm here for it. Loved the ending.