James’ skinny legs ached as he laid down in bed.
I hate pain, he mumbled.
He wished his mom had not run out of medicine.
James sighed heavily as he realized the light was still on.
Sitting up, he rubbed his knees, his thighs, his calves.
It hurt deeper than his muscles… it ached in his bones.
He rose, turned on the closet light, and closed the closet door… except for a crack.
This should help, he thought.
On his way back to bed, he hit the wall switch, shutting off the overhead light.
James sat upon the edge of his bed.
Raising one leg at a time, he got into a prone position once more.
He grabbed the covers and pulled them over his 12-year old body, and up to his chin.
He glanced at the small amount of light streaming out of the closet onto his carpeted bedroom floor.
James was afraid of the dark; he was afraid of what lurked there.
His dad, a preacher, had told him, “Son, there is nothing in the dark that can hurt you. Just turn on the light in your life and the darkness will flee. It cannot exist where light is present.”
He tried to remember that, but thoughts of his favorite subject at school, science, conflicted his father’s teachings… What about black holes? No light can escape in a black hole…
Aauughhh… he groaned as he reached for his aching legs. Why do my legs hurt? I wonder if mom is right and this is just growing pains?
His thoughts trailed off to growing bones, light and dark, heaven and hell, monsters in the closet. Was any of it real?
He laid as still as possible, hoping the pain would go away.
As he finally fell asleep, he dreamed…
ALL WAS BLACK
JAMES COULD NOT SEE
BUT HE HEARD GROANING
A DEEP, DARK GROANING
WHO’S VOICE WAS THIS?
IT WAS GUTTERAL, AND PAINFUL TO HEAR
HE TURNED TO LOOK BUT COULD SEE NOTHING
ALL WAS PITCH BLACK
NO LIGHT WAS PRESENT
THE PRESSURE WAS IMMENSE
THERE WAS TREMENDOUS PAIN
HORRIBLE, BLOODY PAIN
IT ATE JAMES ALIVE
THEN HE HEARD ANOTHER VOICE
IT WAS CRYING
NOT JUST CRYING, BUT SOBBING
TEARS WOULD HAVE BEEN GUSHING
COULD HE HAVE SEEN IT
JUST TREMENDOUS SADNESS
LIKE THE WEIGHT OF TEN THOUSAND HEARTACHES
UPON A SINGLE SOUL
STABBING THE MIND
SLICING THROUGH THE WILL
CRUSHING THE SPIRIT
ENDLESS FRICKIN’ SOBBING…
HE COULDN’T STAND IT
THE MOANING PAIN
THE SOBBING PAIN
THE DUAL VOICES IN THE DARK
THEN JAMES HEARD ANOTHER VOICE
THIS ONE WAS SAYING SOMETHING
THE VOICE WAS ANGRY
SO ANGRY THAT IT WAS SCREAMING
SCREAMING… NOT FAR AWAY
BUT IN HIS EARS
BOTH EARS AT ONCE
THAT DAMN YELLING
THIS SCREAMING HURT HIS EARS
IT FRAZZLED HIS MIND
HE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND
HE COULD NOT MAKE OUT THE WORDS
ALL AT ONCE
MOTHER FUCKING VOICES!
SHUT THIS SHIT UP
JAMES THEN REALIZED
THE VOICES WERE CHANGING
THEY BEGAN MELDING INTO ONE
AND THE YELLING BECAME MUTED
THE SOBBING BECAME DISTANT
THE GROANING REMAINED
IN THE DARKNESS
HE HEARD ONLY THE GROANING…
THEN HE BEGAN WAKING UP
And he recognized that the groaning…
This incessant painful moaning…
… was his own voice.
James opened his eyes and saw the light from the closet.
He blinked, twice.
Hell is real, he thought in awe.
Hell is real, and it is within me.
James realized, not with words, but with thought and experience…
The bottomless pit is the endless darkness of the black hole that exists within people…
Every bad thing, every painful thing, every sadness, groaning and moaning ache, every single wave of anger and threshold of what a person can endure, or feels to its extreme, is hell.
A personal hell.
Hell is a state of being, he considered as he rubbed his aching legs once more.
Perhaps heaven is also real, he thought.
James finally understood why he was afraid of the dark.