APROXM: SHORT STORY

THROUGH A NIGHTMARE, DARKLY

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PREFACE: Yeah I've got a dark nightmare for you: reading the whole way through. Don't feel bad if you aren't willing... I wasn't. Just uploaded the wretched things.



A stairway spirals further and further into the horizon, expanding beyond the boundaries of petty human construction. It is an obelisk, yet it really isn't. It is an obelus of sorts, but not yet.


Ascending this spiraling stairway is not an adventure, nor a journey, nor a quest--It is drudgery: the mere task of placing one foot in front of the other is one best reserved for those more aptly built and trained, yet it is I alone that must climb.


Beyond the stairway looms floating obelisks, suspended in space by sheer imaginative pressure and force. There are no clouds nested in the blue of the sky, no stars permeating the blackness of night, and no sounds emitting from the usual buzz of nature. Instead, the background channels both existence and non-existence, as if it beckons those who dare to observe itself a riddle or a maze. One might declare the sky to be a mixture of paint swirling ad infinitum, but I myself may simply say that the background--the sky, the heavens above, to be bleak and without characteristic. One may say the same of the ground for there is none--the platform that plays host to the stairway finds itself suspended beyond the human idea of foundation and earth.


Along the steps are various gates, but I am unable to venture further than the first for a foreboding knight blocks the path ahead. His plated armor emits only the most piercing black, with no sheen or glimmer present. Indeed, I must control myself lest my eyes find themselves lost permanently into the blackest of abysses belonging to the stalwart guardian. Along with the dark tone of the armor is an equally dark blade with its handle gripped fiercely. The tip of this weapon finds itself buried not farther than three inches from where my own two feet find themselves cemented–perhaps in fear or worse. This blade is buried in the same way one's heart is buried when dreams are ripped apart or perhaps it is more like when one buries another's dreams.


There are no eyes that present themselves from the knight's void crested helmet, and as such, no emotion can be rendered. Peering into the cold recesses of the knight's visor instructs miniature musicians inside my ears, whom begin to play harrowing suites with no real chorus and no real rhythm… but menacing all the same. I cannot approach for I know the outcome of such folly. In essence, this gatekeeper is no challenge to me for there is no scuffle that can possibly exist between he and I. Any attempt of battle I theorize has my body separating from itself with the extreme presence of blood flow in all directions.


This knowledge of a swift death is not purely speculative. Some days find myself visiting this same Lovecraft-ian hellscape again and again, with my thoughts daring to hypothesize that I may finally ascend the stairs that beckon me so. Other days see myself forgetting the existence of the bleak world I so often return to. I need only to take a few steps in the real world before I remember each ripple of sound emitting itself from my shoes in the stairway obelus universe, for the ground appears to be marble and indeed sounds as such, every step a commandment, each approach a declaration. These commandments and declarations hold as little water as a poorly constructed dam collapsing upon itself, because I am fully aware of how hopeless a battle (or rather, lack thereof) with the black knight can and will be.


So I do nothing. I can only face his armor and envision not a man but a killing machine, one capable of securing the remaining stair steps from being disgraced by my wandering, and so I find myself returning from where I strode only to return again, repeating the exact scenario where my own mortality stays my feet.


Blacker than the deep recesses of the human mind, fiercer than the might of an infiltrator finding himself beleaguered by the enemy, the knight expresses every form of negative and aggressive emotion without lifting a finger. What sustained cruelty and sinister aptitude lie behind his cold and dismissive plating? Why assume this figure is a male at all, when he could very well be she? But perhaps even gender is an assumption past the limitations of human thought, for I suspect there lies not a human inside this dark shell but an abstract idea. An idea, so dedicated--so cancerous, that it may fester and infiltrate even the most noble and pure. Imagine the rushing of a river, with its poignant blue drained as if a serpent sank its fangs and drank not the water but its emotion. This knight was the embodiment of darkness, yet protection.


Why both darkness and protection? Should we assume the guardian is evil? It is either protecting what lies beyond the stairway, its railing so crystal bright--its steps glimmering as if in mockery of myself, or it is protecting myself from the idea lying heavenward. No matter how much I dedicate my mental synapses towards the knight, there is nothing to come of it, however.


A gut feeling resides inside my tightened chest--I must climb the stairs. I must. I must. I must. Yet how does one visualize their own abdomen being split in two as a blinding blade both severs and unites the connection of life and death, one's vital liquid escaping in a mad ox rush to escape and free themselves of the imaginative Alcatraz? It is an impossible thought, and one cannot hope to even imagine the pure and unbearable pain that would accompany such actions. I understand, then, in the moment, what commands my grounding.


What once was soundless suddenly invites itself to play part in an orchestra of howling winds which begin to pervade the surreal landscape around me. There exist no snow capped mountains in sight, nor ground at all--are the winds ricocheting off of the floating obelisks in the same way a bullet rips itself from its man-made home and bounces off an obstacle towards an unintended target? Maybe I have it all wrong, and I truly am the intended target of the winds.


Clasping my ears allows me to listen in to the singing of the sky before I begin to shiver for the winds carry dropping temperatures as gifts, yet the guardian of the stairway continues to stand stalwart and true to his or her or its cause. Hairs on my arms and legs begin to straighten as the chill in the air drops lower and lower, beating me into submission. I fall to my knees to obey the wind's command, for it has issued me a blizzard. What once resembled a cloudless atmosphere… is still cloudless, yet impossible snowflakes descend from the heavens and fall onto my visage--first, gentle, then hurried. Snowflakes become snowballs and snowballs become snowbullets, each one pounding into me with the force of a boxer's uppercut swing. Yet here he or she or it is, sword buried into the marble floor and face not to be seen, the guardian dares not move, just as the snow dares not make contact with him--her or it.


Further and further, I am buried. My contact with the world loosens as my vision fills with both black and white, and then nothing. Howling winds are sealed in an instant with the packing of the snow dome that becomes my grave--my tomb, more apt. I breathe one last breath, and find myself gone and back again, back in the warmth of my blankets and comfort of my pillows. Staring upwards, a ceiling fan twirls in usual fashion. A window pays tribute to the sun and sky above. A door creaks as all doors in all homes do. A computer whirs, inviting me over.


Business as usual, and it will not be the last.

===========================

THROUGH A NIGHTMARE, DARKLY, REVISION (2017)

A stairway spirals further and further into the horizon, expanding beyond the boundaries of petty human construction. It is an obelisk, yet it really isn't. It is an obelus of sorts, but not yet.


Ascending this spiraling stairway is not an adventure, nor a journey, nor a quest--It is drudgery: the mere task of placing one foot in front of the other is one best reserved for those more aptly built and trained, yet it is I alone that must climb.


Beyond the stairway looms floating obelisks, suspended in space by sheer imaginative pressure and force. There are no clouds nested in the blue of the sky, no stars permeating the blackness of night, and no sounds emitting from the usual buzz of nature. Instead, the background channels both existence and non-existence, as if it beckons those who dare to observe itself a riddle or a maze. One might declare the sky to be a mixture of paint swirling ad infinitum, but I myself may simply say that the background--the sky, the heavens above, to be bleak and without characteristic. One may say the same of the ground for there is none--the platform that plays host to the stairway finds itself suspended beyond the human ideas of foundation and earth.


Along the steps are various gates, and normally I would be unable to venture past the very first of them for a foreboding knight once stood guard, disallowing any and all passage. Once a terrifying titan, he now, instead, laid against one of many risen crystal stalagmites, his blindingly black blade now buried in his chest. As I approach his corpse, the realization that I have been granted access to the verticality beyond this point is alarmingly nerve wracking, inducing a heavy wave of anxiety and fear across my bones.


Gathering what little strength I possess, I begin the ascent. I climb. I climb further than the clouds may claim dominance, if any existed. I climb higher than the stars have meaning, if any appeared. If the world around myself could be described as a paint spillage of magnificent hues, it now took on the role of pure abyss: blacker than the depths of one's secrets, more haunting than the release of one's trigger. My eyes must remain fixed upon the steps I take for even a mere cursory glance into the horizon beckons for my very sanity--and indeed, these crystal steps provide the only source of illumination within these hallowed planes, save for the minimal handful of obelisks persisting amongst themselves.


Ascension bears new meanings as the spiraling stairway twists and emphasizes surrealism in its multi-layered directions. It is north, then it is east. It is left, then it is right. Throughout the infinite darkness of a nightmare is a sole individual trudging through a diseased stairway, and that individual is beginning to feel exhaustion in his footsteps. Nevertheless, I persist, for the notion of a descent, after coming this far, is laughably refusable. The idea of continuing on forever is shattered, finally, when I reach the very peak.


As one last footstep climbs, I observe the immediate vicinity: nothing. In a flash, it's absolutely nothing. The purest of black that defined the surroundings around me vanished in an instant, leaving behind a blinding white in its place. Deteriorating at an unfathomable pace, the stairs began to crumple upon themselves, degrading into dust and echoes--then they, too, vanished, and I realized that I then was atop a single, uncolored, intangible platform, with absolutely zero discernible characteristics besides the solidified fact that I was standing and not falling.


As if to answer a question of concern for what lies within the newly lit environment--a question asked by no one--a single object sprung into existence before me--at first, a glob of indescribable colors--then, it metamorphosed into a picnic basket. Hesitation struck me as naturally as any other hindrance, but I chose to ignore the warnings and I cracked open the lid, revealing a sandwich of deli-meat and vegetation, two slightly bruised oranges, and a bottle of wine coated with slowly melting ice.


There was a pause in the air of absolute nothingness: I made no action, no attempt to do anything, for the longest while. Then, I knelt. I sat. I took hold of the prize: and I ate it, staring into nothingness, pondering absolutely zero thoughts. I ate, and it was good. For the first time, in a long time, I thought nothing.