Friday, December 31, 2010

The Walk

You are walking, on your way somewhere or other. You are a busy person, with lots of things to do and lots you want to see accomplished. 

Today is another day full of things to do, with nothing particular or unusual about it. You are crossing the street between a small parking lot and a many-storied contemporary condominium building, moving between cars and around other people automatically, effortlessly.
    You step onto the opposite curb, automatically, effortlessly. Your feet orient you in the direction your business lies. The bank is three blocks ahead and one to the left.
    And then it’s dark, and you are gasping for breath. Your body is shockingly, suddenly cold; it knocks the breath out of you. Your limbs feel strange and heavy and as you desperately inhale another little mouthful of water you realize it’s because you are floating, floating in icy dark water, pulling and thrashing your limbs around in panic. It is completely dark. You can’t see yourself, your own body at all and for a moment you are struck with a deep, irrational fear until you realize you can hear the sound of your own gasping breath and therefore you are still in your body. You move your head left to right, in the total dark, hair whipping like cold little ropes, and there are no little points of light in the dark, no hints, no reference points to provide you perspective or allow you to see what you are floating in.
    You can’t see anything around you and the cold has weakened your limbs and you are certain that you are about to drown, that you will inevitably and very soon be unable to keep yourself afloat, and in panic, in the dark, you begin to reach for something to hold onto, anything; after all, moments ago you were crossing 23rd street toward West Grand and you must have fallen in to some reservoir under the sidewalk, or you’re stuck in a pipe or a utility tunnel, there must be some explanation for this, and some stray chunk of the world above, something broken loose in the little catastrophe that sent you down here, that you could grab onto and maybe pull yourself up… so you thrash your arms wildly in the dark, kicking harder and more desperately to keep yourself afloat, turning and reaching, and it becomes harder and harder to breathe, exerting yourself like that, and you realize with terror that it takes all the energy you have left just to stay afloat.
    Suddenly you freeze, in the dark, and the noise of your thrashing, which you did not hear, settles down to the relative stillness and quiet of your floating, scissoring your legs steadily below you, which you do hear, now. The cold water, which is still very cold but is no longer such a shock, laps gently against you.
    In this moment of calm you can hear that the sound of your body in the water doesn’t stay with you, but carries away and disappears like sound does in a park; wherever you are, in the dark, you are not confined. It is impossible to say how large, but you are certainly in a large space. Maybe, you think, there is an edge, an end to the water, a shore to climb onto.
    In the dark there is no way to ascertain what might be the correct direction It’s possible that it might take you a long time to find whatever shore may be there. Taking a breath to calm yourself, you begin swimming.

 (written by request of Shayna Yates, as a script for a collaborative one-page comic. It may yet appear. Shayna's work is extravagantly displayed on her own website, Go there.)

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