There are places, zones of despair, slinking, wet miserable alleys and back streets, corners of abandoned buildings, spots of pooling darkness; fluidic as night, where the stars flow among black channels roaming an abyss deeper than midnight. Most will never know of such places hiding in plain sight. Pedestrian creatures whose busy lives distracted by the minor apocalypses of daily routine go about their petty existence without a thought of what lies right next to them. The unknowing ones, sleepers of time, trivia artists whose only delight is the boredom of family life. Couch potatoes, mindless and passive, shifting in a sea of death like happy campers oblivious of the deadly hues of this dark zone of madness. I know, I was once like them…
Sometimes I wish I could go back to sleep, enter that safe harbor of mindless simplicity as if all this had not happened. It would be so much easier. But there is no return for creatures such as I. None now, none ever.
When did it happen? When did I slip into this strange void in between things, suddenly awaken to this insidious existence? Time? Time had nothing to do with it. Time’s an illusion like everything else. The casual violence and sex no longer bother me. Like others I’ve found such rituals and bloodletting to be beneficial if only for a solitary night. The oppressive atmosphere of the zone offers no reprieve or deliverance from our secret knowledge. Condemned by our own curiosity we wander among each others dreams like forlorn ghosts of a forgotten world.
I met her in one of the lesser known clubs that seem to come and go in the shifting reality of the zone. The first time we met neither of us was really interested in conversation, but the knowledge that we shared a secret complicity allowed us to enjoy the evening in silence. No one bothered us, and left each other to our own misery. Her eyes had that inner darkness that speaks of unreal dreams and visions. Most of us slept little. We all knew what happened when one shut one’s eyes.
Her name was Sarah. Her skin was pale and tattooed. She had short frag hair, shaded cotton snow, jet streaked filigrees dangling down like seared tears from a dark angel; edged and boyish it was razored against her scalp giving one the impression she’d seen too many old cyberpunk movies. And, yet, there was something that seemed right about it; like it matched something in her, a ghosted presence surfacing from a haunted inscape that like a fungus touched the deep-rooted curse of the land we inhabited. I was tempted to start up a conversation. But as she glanced furtively at me from time to time I could see that conversation was the last thing she wanted from me.
Our eyes met and locked. Communication. Does anyone really know what passes between flesh and flesh in such moments. A knowing almost magnetic, an intensity that seems to distill time, softening its edges so that whatever is real seems to fall away leaving this unreal afterglow. Not so much meaning as a melding of two voids. We both knew. Nothing had to be spoken. I got up and she followed.
© S.C. Hickman (2021)