Escape. It’s the only option. An all-consuming goal.
Someone once told you glass was a liquid. It just moves very slowly. Imperceptibly. You jump, hearing it shatter all around you, the shards tearing at your naked flesh. If glass was liquid, why does it rip and tear and cut when one dives into it?
Before you realize you’re on the other side, someone is covering you with a blanket. Maybe it’s to retard the burning sensation you still feel. Perhaps it’s to conceal your nakedness. In the heat of the moment you scarcely realize what’s happening.
Then there’s the screams. Someone’s calling for help. Calling your name. You spring up, ready to dive back into the inferno.
“Sir! Stay here!” Someone in a uniform is shouting at you. “We’ll get her out!”
“Get your fucking hands off me!” Your fist connects with a jaw.
And you’re forced to the ground. Something cold and metal and biting is fastened to your wrists. Someone is holding you down. You can still hear the screams, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
“Geoffrey! Please! Help me!”
Your eyes open to pitch blackness. The desert night is frigid cold. Yet heat radiates from you. Your dark skin shines with sweat.
Slowly, you sit up, rubbing your bare arms. The scars stand out in stark relief to the rest of your skin. Sometimes, you’re convinced they glow upon your flesh. Tattoos, neither requested or wanted.
You pull yourself from the bed and fetch a glass of water. It helps wash away the heat. Your body temperature matching that of the chill outside. The idea of trying to sleep again is terrifying. You sit down to meditate.
Focus...breathe in...breathe out…
Focus...remember that Emptiness is everything...all is Void…
The main point of such exercises is to still the mind. To focus single-pointed on one thing. Sometimes it’s nothing; just the sensation of breath. There are instants where it’s a single, simple moment. This time, it’s a kaleidoscope of memory.
“Why is he in cuffs?” Lawrence MacAleister’s voice is asking. The heat has been replaced by a cold that rivals the airless void between stars.
“For his protection; he tried to run back in,” someone answers. “He hit one of our officers.”
“You idiot!” Lawrence snorts. “Do you blame him? I’d have done the same thing. Take those things off him now!”
The cuffs are released, which allows you to relax your arms. Not that it matters. The one thing you would’ve focused your strength on lies in ruin before you. Nothing matters anymore.
“Geoffrey,” Martha’s voice speaks to you across a chasm of torpor. “Geoffrey, look at me.”
There she is; regal and compassionate. Her severe blonde hair and striking blue eyes make her the second most beautiful woman you’ve ever known. Despite the affection she’s lavished on you as one of the family, you’ve always felt unworthy to meet her gaze.
“Geoffrey, what happened?” She asks.
You want to tell her. You want to tell her how you tried to go back, but the men in uniform stopped you. All you can do is shudder and sob. If your own father was here, he’d beat the holy living out of you; men do not cry. For all the words you want to say, only two come out;
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry…”
Martha wraps her arms tightly around you. She rocks you back and forth, like a small child, encouraging your tears. Every so often, she coos in your ear;
“Shhhh…it’s not your fault.”
You open your eyes again. It’s gotten closer to dawn, but it’s still dark. Disgust pulses through your frame.
Why do you do this to yourself? Do you think if you relive the nightmare enough times it will change? Would Martha and Lawrence blame and hate you, like you think they should? Would you have been able to go back in? Would it have ended up being you screaming through that dull roar?
Speculative questions and no answers. Only nightmares and constant reevaluations of something far beyond your power to change. You sicken yourself with the practice.
In front of you, on the mantle, is the black lacquer box you received. With a heavy sigh you stand up to inspect it. For the first time since receiving it, you open the lid. The contents of the box cause you to shudder.
What’s in Pandora’s box?
Obviously something you were never meant to have…