It's black. I try to stand. My limbs scrabble against nothingness, trying to get hold of something, anything, to no avail. The darkness bores into my head, filling my mouth and nostrils. Fear follows close behind.
What's wrong with my eyes? My ears? What can I do?
There's nothing I can do. Confusion joins the darkness. I shudder. There is not a sound to be heard. I wait, huddled, floating in the inky blackness. Then they come. The voices. Whispering, all around me, yet always behind. I turn my head. Still behind. Always clinging to the back of my mind. The whispers grow louder. One moves closer. My arms lash out, warding the whisperer away from my head. It leaves. Two more take its place. My neck begins to ache. I can feel them grabbing at it, trying to find a way to get at me.
My stomach lurches. I am falling.
Which way is down? Where am I falling to? Why?
The darkness swirls around me as I fall, spinning toward an unknown ground. But I cannot escape the voices. They follow, spiralling with the darkness, but now they scream at me. It is my fault. I did it. They know I did it.
Did what? What's my fault? Why won't you tell me?
The screams continue. Accusations of unknown deeds cut through my body. They are getting closer. I can't move my arms, exhausted from fending off unseen tormenters. The helplessness gnaws at me. My muscles turn to stone. Blood races through my body, to no avail. They laugh at me, my vain struggle.
Go away! Just leave me alone! Please.
Water pours from my face. They taunt me. Real boys don't cry. A chill grabs hold of my body. They scream in my ears now. They have me. Pulling on my body, they stretch me. Unseen, forgotten and unknown. In this expanse of nothing, I'm being drawn and quartered. By voices. My arms and legs are being pulled. The stone begins to crack. They pull. Heat stabs into my arms, but still I can see nothing. No fiery glow of the inferno in my muscles. No spinning stars join the pain.
The chill is gone. But it has taken my bones with it. They laugh again, they taunt. My body is buffeted by phantoms of an unremembered past. Bouncing around like a tattered rag doll. I lie prone, unable to move. Still falling.
The walls return, fading back into view. Sensation returns to my body. I feel the carpet against my feet and collapse into the comfort of tactile sensations. Cowering against the wall, I shiver. Blood flows, searing after the cold. My stomach welcomes me back. I crawl to the toilet and retch. Slowly, normality returns. I drag myself up from the cold tiles and stagger to the couch. The TV goes on. I hear my sister talking on the phone behind me. Past a door, it is only a whisper.
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