What you see in the dark

I read a story once about a guy who lived down a well. Not the whole time, just
sometimes, when it all got too much, when the world started to crowd him, when his
girlfriend said something he didn't understand, and off he'd go, disappear down the
well till it was better and he found himself again.

Sometimes it took three days or more.

I always longed for somewhere like that when I was a kid, when my mother was living
my life for me, thinking my thoughts, telling me how to behave. I wanted somewhere
to go, somewhere to be me, to be happy. That well was my happy place, only I never
knew it was there.

I've always loved the dark, I like the cold, I prefer it when it's damp. It's just
the way I am and the idea of living down a well appeals. I'm a well sort of person,
I suppose, which may be to say I'm a bit unwell. I don't know. You tell me.

You always do.

There's a kind of darkness I like. There's no escape, no end, no seams, no shape,
just a blackness winding itself tighter and tighter round my body till I can hardly
move, hardly breathe, till it's on top of me and beneath me and round me and in me.
It's like I'm dying and watching my death from life, or my life from death. I find
that dark sometimes, when I'm not looking for it, just before I go to sleep. I have
to travel a long way to get to it, my body has to float and fly to get there. It's
sweet, just me and my mind, and for once my mind isn't telling me what to do.

I love that darkness, I feel like it's home. There's no sorrow there, no worry, I
can relax into my bones. But every time I go it seems further away. I think one day
I'll lose it forever. Well, not forever, because it'll find me soon enough when I'm
dead. But you know what I mean.

Which is why I'm thinking about the well.

Is my darkness down there, do you think? I really need it to be.

I killed something today. A mouse kind of thing, not a mouse, but like it, running
round the garden in a tight-limbed panic which irritated me as much as it scared me.
It had a black nose and its body seemed to ripple as it ran. It looked more
frightened than me, but I was the one with a spade in my hand so my fear won. I
don't know why I did it. The back of my head hurts, right where I caved his in. I'm
scared to cough in case there's blood like the stuff that pooled around his head.
It's very dark, blood, like it's oozing out of the soul, from somewhere we're not
supposed to see.

I buried him. He looked up at me as I scattered the soil on top of him, and I can
see those eyes now, they're still open, still staring, staring through the dirt and
the weight and the dark, staring up and into mine, and I want to say I'm sorry but I
don't think I am. Not really. Not for him, anyway, although I shouldn't have done
what I did.

You see? If I was down a well it wouldn't have happened. That mouse would still be
alive, feeding its family, kissing its wife. Do mice kiss? I'd like to think so. The
way that me and Amy kiss, holding each other tightly, like we mean it, only I really

Hmm, that's ambiguous isn't it? Only I really do. Is that only except or only alone?
There's a question to ponder in the solitary darkness of a well. There's a question
that would take a long time to answer. But that's good, isn't it, because if I stay
there long enough, if I sit quietly, not moving, not breathing, I'll become the
well, it'll become me, and if I'm well I won't be unwell, and that will be a good
thing won't it? Not that I am ill, but that somebody said it. Somebody who doesn't
know me.

I'm well, I am.

Amy said she loved me. Why did she have to say that? She said she wanted to kiss me.
Why did she have to say that? She wanted to put her tongue in my mouth but my mother
cut my tongue out years ago so we won't be able to do that and if she can't kiss me
she won't love me and if she doesn't love me she must have lied to me and if she
lied to me she must be kissing someone else and if I was in a well I wouldn't be
able to see it but I'm not so I do. And it's not what I want to see.

I'm beginning to understand it now. You can't see anything in a well. If you're well
you can't see. I can see everything so maybe I am not well, after all. I do feel a
bit strange. Right now there's a brightness in my head that's making me dizzy. I
don't like the feel of it, not at all, it's probing into places I've never looked,
not even when I'm on my own, on my journey, in the dark of my dark. It feels like
there's eyes all around.

You see, the dead mouse isn't the only thing that's staring at me today.

My head's expanding, pulsing with a light which beams from my eyes and my mouth. I'm
sure everyone can see. I'm like a beacon, a false beacon, enticing everyone to break
themselves on my heart. I'm seeing too much, too much that shouldn't be there, that
shouldn't be gone over. That's not the way it's meant to be.

There's a bed, two people, one with her arm draped around me but she doesn't move,
she doesn't move, Amy doesn't move any more, her eyes, open eyes, staring into mine,
and there's more of that dark, dark blood pooling around her and the side of my face
is aching and I need to find a well, a dark hole to hide until it all goes away,
till it goes away and comes back, and it fits and it makes sense and I know what
I've done and I know what I've been.

It may take three days or more.

I want to say I'm sorry but I don't think I am. I'm not well, you see. There's no
sorrow down here, only darkness.

Tom Conoboy has been published in a number of journals and ezines, including
The Harrow, Eclectica, Reflection's Edge, Mad Hatter's Review and others.

2007 Underground Voices