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It’s been raining all day. I’m walking as fast as I can — walking, not running, and there’s no shelter for me in sight. I look up to the grey heavens, illuminated by a brilliant flash of lightning and for a moment, I wonder. The moment passes and I continue my stroll. I’ve been here before, I realize. Before stands a practically endless row of houses; houses of different shapes and sizes but from where I stand, they all look dark and empty. The rain intensifies yet my pace remains steady. I keep my hands tucked underneath my arm pits as a way of keeping myself warm but a voice inside my head tells me warmth is the farthest thing that I am going to get, considering where I’m headed.
As I continue my descent in what appears to be an apparition of purgatory, I see shadows on every wall and roof. They have faces, vague and without true form. Without really knowing, I get the strangest feeling that they are what I am about to be and that my fate will find me sooner rather than later unless I move faster. I try to run, but my movements are clumsy. The ground is slippery beyond belief and each step I take only increases my fear of falling face first into the cold, wet earth.
More shadows emerge and my heart beats a little faster.
They gather like mist, growing larger and larger as they extend phantom arms my way, their grip as firm and cold as death itself. I flail my arms in a futile attempt at escape. I even scream at them, although my words are lost even to myself. As I run screaming and crying, I spy something bright up ahead. It must have been very far; it was no larger than a speck yet with each step it seems to grow larger and larger. I cannot, to the best of my ability, make out what the brightness is. And then suddenly, I can see clearly.
It’s a bright red door and the only hint of color in a backdrop of grey.
I hurriedly reached out for the doorknob and I realize up close that it’s made of gold. A red door with a golden knob, a queer thought if I ever had one. As I fling the door open, the sky explodes with the brightest flash of lightning I had ever experienced, as if responding to the sea of carnage that had enveloped me for as long as I could remember. This house, as with all the others, was completely deserted. The furniture was old and covered with dust. The tapestries were stained, but with what, I could not identify. A rancid smell filled the air that made me want to gag right then and there. And everything was dark.
Am I in purgatory? Or was this the reality of hell?
A glance at the window was all I needed to know that there was no way out. The shadows, only vaguely human from what I can tell, now danced in a morbid fashion, twisting and turning in most unnatural ways. With my only exit barred, there was no other place to go but up. After a short flight up the stairs, I encounter yet another door. It was made of wood this time, and heavily damaged by the look of it. Cautiously, I take a few steps forward but a soft murmuring coming from inside the room fills me with dread. I hesitate for just a brief moment, but then I remember the shadows. I enter the room.
She was lying on a bed of blood, rose petals colored red and blue covered the floor. Her face was intimately familiar. The fear had left me and in its place came intense curiosity. I walked over to her side and knelt. Her hair had covered most of her face and I notice for the first time that she was naked. Who was she? The question drilled into my head as I fought internally, demanding an answer from myself that I knew I could not come up with.
Was she a mother long dead, whose face time had erased from memory?
Or perhaps a lover long gone, whose touch yet lingers without invitation.
Maybe she was no one.
Sadly unfulfilled, I get up and survey my surroundings. With the exception of the bed and the rose petals, the room was empty. Its white walls remained pristine and virginal and the woman, whoever she was, lay lifeless where I had found her. I start to walk away when a sound, barely more than a whisper reaches my ears. The fear returns. I quickly turn around and to my surprise and utter disbelief, the woman was gone.
I then woke up one Tuesday morning to the sound of my alarm clock. It is true what they say: the night is dark and full of terrors.
-Ayrton Christian Braga (BSBA, USC)
Karbun: The Sixth, the Base, the Diamond.
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