Metathesis - June 1996
The Tinderbox - exodus
(page 7/9)

The Tinderbox

Doors do not shut in the dark, they reverberate that hollow ring, and echo and echo. It is not that I care, I just cannot see the steps. You know the steps, they should be here to lead me down, to guide me. Hell, I could fall and break my neck, or maybe, I could break my neck and fall all the way to Hell. It would be ironic. I just know that I should not be here. What am I doing here? Damn it is so dark. Matches, matches. Any in my pocket? No. What is in my pocket? Nothing, which is what could happen. Life loves irony. I hear her laughter, and she is not laughing with me.

I feel the walls. To the back of me they are woody slightly ridged and hard - like wood should be, not like that cheap chipboard shit. Incredible the crap I am thinking. This is serious! It is so claustrophobic in here, maybe the walls want to hug me and put me to bed. Bed, that is what all this darkness reminds me of - dreaming. I slip into sheets of inertia and... have nightmares. My shoulders ache - definitely numb in there - and my feet are dead, yet I am starting to sweat.

I hazard a step forward. I stumble, I fall. I do not note the weightless quality of falling in the dark because fear is foaming in my mouth by now. My poor heart, all that sitting around and pulsing, perhaps you are glad for the excitement. I cannot say the same for the arm I fell on.

It is cold down here, my face feels it, my feet also, and my arm is rioting with pain. I could die here a few feet away from all that cold, cold money. Gold lasts a lifetime - I don't.

Something crawls on me and I get up - hastily - and bang my head, hard. I see stars, I see galaxies, I see the veins inside my eyelids. It hurts so much I am not even sure if the tears are real. I am crouching now, no-one mentioned crawling.

"Hear that, bastards, what is this - a bloody warren?!"

No-one answers. I am humble, I am a little ashamed. My echoes answer me and when the acoustics dull only my pain remains. I hear mind your language, quite clearly just above the throbbing in my skull. Voices inside my head, I want to laugh but I do not, I just crawl. And I feel things, so I move faster.

Are my eyes getting better or is it just my imagination that is improving? I can see a distance. Is there light at the end of this tunnel? How far have I come? Shit, I think I am stuck, something in my face. Feels like cobwebs and my nose just found mama spider - unfortunately for her so did papa hand. So pleased to meet you, let's get acquainted now. Ouch! I am free. Hey, the walls are like an octopus down here - maybe they are - anyway on to things less cold-blooded and multi-limbed, like me for instance. Hello, feels like the tunnel ends here, but what begins? I am tired, my back hurts and the palms of my hands are embedded with grit and bits of things that are best left in the dark. Want so badly to stretch and scratch. There is a conspicuous bump on the back of my neck waiting to erupt. Wait! This is it! This is the place where coldness has an odour - and the stench is killing me.

Something heavy slips from me and hits the fingers of my left hand. I shrink back hurting myself again - all over this time. It tingles, it itches, I am all rips and discomfort. But I cannot lie on that stony, rank, hardened pith. Things that I cannot see live there and they may be feasting on my blood this instant. That red, sticky stuff pounding in me so hard if I could only see to verify that it is coming out of my pores with the sourness of my sweat. The box. The tinderbox - a source of light, confound the memory that has all the selectivity of those who would spite me. But I care not. The box is warm with my heat and hurt which blazes in me, droning on my nerve endings, declaring that I am alive - just in case I had forgotten.

Strike it up. Success first time. Depends. I howl and blink. I have blinded myself. Mercy! I cannot see, it is all whiteness. Hurry! Why, I did not believe I could breathe so raggedly. I must stop and calm down - or my throat will become sore, like my lungs are. Mmm. I can smell that oily heat, that greasy glow. That breathing is so loud and so heavy! It is not mine! I can feel it, my breathing is slow and smooth - I can feel the ribs against my skin and they ache when I exhale. It's not me. I cannot see anything... with my eyes squeezed shut. I cannot move. I cannot. I do not want to. I can feel hot air - breath - on me. It warms my face, it feeds my face. Odourless. My eyes peel open. They feel burned back. I cannot feel my eyelids and my eyeballs are scalding with glare.

I sketched a dog once, just its outline not much detail, I never could draw properly. In fact, Lisa said it looked like a crow, but it was a dog. I knew its outline you see. An outline is the first thing I see, great furry tufts of canine outline. Teeth and claws come later. And I can see myself so clearly on my hands and knees, blinking away blindness. The heated panting perhaps softening the awed terror etched into my features. The flame flickering, refusing clarity, even at this moment. My breathing becomes so shallow that I cannot feel my ribs rubbing anymore. And I feel something else - deep down - the absence of fear. It has gone and apathy is here, filling the gaps of a shaggy. rabid outline, making me see shadows, making me gasp in awe.

Well, well, the hounds of hell,
Coming round the corner,
They know me so well.
Farewell my mortal shell.

That a dog could have eyes as big as saucers.

exodus