Darkness is all I can see. It has it’s own depth and weight. I blink a few times to make sure my eyes are open. Yep, they are open. Without the precious sense of sight, my other senses become heightened. I hear nothing except the rhythm of my own breath echoing off the space. This strange sonar gives me a sense that my prison must have some height and depth. I hear no natural sound. I am not outside, or even near to an outer wall. A cave? I hear no water dripping or trickling thru fissures in the earth. No mustiness lingers in the air caused by the constant presence of mist and dampness. In fact, I smell nothing at all. If I am underground, it is not a natural structure.
What am I laying on then? Oh, yes. I’ve just noticed I’m laying down. Strange. Complete darkness is so very disorienting. The floor is smooth like granite except, wait a minute. What are these? When I move my hands metallic clinks echo throughout the chamber. The cold, oval structures appear to be interlinked. Chills cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end as I recognize the shape: a chain large enough to anchor a ship to the bottom of the sea. With the same hand, I follow the links, the size of my palm, toward me to find their origin. The chills shoot through my body as I find the chain is not attached to my wrist by any kind of strap. It is growing from or was implanted there! With a gentle tug, pain shoots up my arm. An involuntary cry, the mixture of physical pain and rising panic, escapes my throat. Quick inspection reveals the other wrist in the same condition.
Momentarily incapacitated by fear, I evaluate my situation. Giving in to the panic will get me no where. Breathe. Just breathe. Get a hold of yourself. Chains have two ends. So, let’s see where the other end is. Yes, by now I have resorted to referring to myself in third person plural. You find chains coming out of your wrists and see how long you hold it together! With plans to investigate by way of crawling, I flip over on my stomache. Gripped by horror again, I gasp as pain shoots from my feet up my legs. I suck in air thru clenched teeth, willing the pain to subside. I try to control my trembling hand as I slowly, carefully, reach down to inspect. Though motion shoots fire through my body, I must confirm what I fear to find. Identical chains protrude from both ankles. With as little pain as I can manage, I scoot up, put my face on my knees, and succumb to all manor of deep despairing emotions. Time means little in complete darkness. I vacillate between why I am here and how I came to be at such a miserable place and condition. When I cannot reason the answers, I wallow in despair until it circles back to the questions of why and how.
A gentle touch on the crown of my head startles me out of my black revelry. So focused on my thoughts, I had not heard anyone approach. I look up, expecting to see only blackness. Instead, I find myself squinting at a man. My eyes had grown so accustomed to the dark, it hurts to look where any light exists. He is not holding a light, but he seems to be lit by daylight. It is strange. The light is radiating from within him. He is not gleaming or glowing. It’s like soft warmth in his being that needs no light. Instantly I notice his eyes. They are old with wisdom, filled with more knowledge and understanding than one human being should possess. His face holds an expression of peace that frankly, makes me want to slap him. As I consider if I should think this, he chuckles, shakes his head, and begins to sit along the wall. I gasp, afraid he will fall. He looks up with concern as he rests comfortably on a ledge I apparently did not see before he began to sit. Maybe it was a trick of the shadows.
“Hi.” I smile sadly as my eyes meet his again. This is not how I would have expected to greet the King of the Universe.
“Hi.” The warmth of his voice washes over me. I close my eyes and listen to it echo.
Glancing around I see my burdens are four round weights, roughly two feet in diameter, at the end of a five-foot chain. Etched in each weight is the name of an affliction I carry.
I look back at him with concern. He returns my concern with sadness. Unable to stand the distance any longer, I stand and gather up the chains to protect myself from pain as much as possible. With my head down I lean into the weight, bear the pain and pull with all the strength I can muster. The cavern is filled with the screech of metal on the floor. White hot pain courses thru every cell as sweat beads across my forehead.
“Please don’t,” he urges through gritted teeth.
Desperation in his voice causes me to look up, but I don’t stop. With each step, pain surges up each arm, each leg. Muscles spasm. With each stab of pain, I can see his face twitch, the muscles in his back, arms and legs convulse. It’s like looking in a mirror that transforms your reflection into the most precious person you can imagine. It is worse than any pain I can feel.
“Please stop.” He whispers again.
With relief for both of us, I drop my chains. There is still so much distance to cover. Still so little has been accomplished. Frustration sets in. “How do get there? What am I supposed to do? I can’t go anywhere when I’m weighed down like this. And it hurts. It hurts so much.” Tears fall, only now do I realize they have been falling thru the entire struggle. I turn my wrists over to show him where the chains enter my skin. They are now bleeding and bruised.
“I know,” he says and turns his wrists over, “the scars never really go away.”
I laugh through tears and cock my head to the side, “That’s not the same.”
“No?” He looks up from his wrists with just his eyes and wrinkles his brow. “Child, I did this for you.” Indicating toward the weight I claim as mine with a slight head tilt, he continued, “Those burdens I will take, when you are ready to give them up.”
“But I have asked you so many times to take them away. They are still here.” Tears run freely down my cheeks. This is a touchy subject, and we both know it. I turn away and begin running my fingers over the etchings in the weights.
“Sometimes giving me your burdens doesn’t mean they disappear. I will make ALL things new. Your scars, like mine, may have been made by horrific circumstances. But I can transform them into something beautiful. Let me have it. Let me do it.” These words are said with the gentleness of love, the authority of a command, and the want of a beg.
Tears still streaming down my face, “I do. I will. But I can’t promise I won’t steal them back.”
He stands. At the sound of his movement I jump, but I have no desire to run. After all, where would I go? He puts his hands on my shoulders and turns me to face him. With a rough hand on either cheek, he wipes away my tears. Forcing me to look into those wise old eyes he tells me, “I know. So until you are ready to give them up again, I’ll be here with you. Waiting. When you are ready, I will take it all over again.” He smiles. It brightens the whole room.
He kisses me on the forehead. I whisper, “Take it,” and I start giggling. His laughter is deep and full, filling the room with joy. With each breath the darkness surrounding us grows lighter. The sharp burning pain in my wrists and ankles has replaced the dull, bearable ache of healing. The weights have turned into balloons, each a different color. The chains are now strings. They are still attached to me, but the pain is substantially less. On each balloon is still written an affliction, but there is also hope, possibility, change, and potential written there.
I find myself alone in a dark desert. The moon is high above somewhere, but he’s covered his face behind clouds. In front of me is a cliff so sharp, so deep I fear even to approach it. Something, perhaps the curiosity of childhood that prompts all of us to take just a peek into that scary closet, prompted me to step forward, toes right on the edge. A few stones bounce down the canyon wall. Bounce…bounce…bounce…into forever. It’s cold here, but I am only frozen by the fear of stepping off the edge. I’m told, heard a hundred times, that if I take that step it won’t be air, but somehow my foot may meet solid ground; that some faceless someone may catch me at some point. When I look down I only see black abyss that threatens to swallow me in nothingness. A violent wind swirls up and around me from Down There. Scrambling from the cliff’s edge, my pulse quickens. Hands scrape along sandpaper ground and begin to bleed. Blood mixes with sweat as I find myself enclosed in a glass box, isolated but not alone. Familiar faces mingle in the desert darkness. The glass isn’t quite glass, but more like a mirror. I see my reflection, but also see them. It’s like my reflection is out there with them, but the real me is stuck in this box. They glance my way from time to time. Some of them smile. Some of them wave. Some only notice when they bump the box, and move on their way with no expression at all. Loneliness grips me with fear that it will last forever. “Help me!” I scream over and over. In frustration I bang my hands on the walls to get their attention, leaving bloody handprints on the looking-glass. It gets their attention. Instead of rushing to my aid, their bustling stops. Their silence confuses me. “I don’t know what to do. Why won’t you help me?” When I look in their eyes, I understand. They look at me with sadness motivated by pity. They can see these walls have no doors, and they dare not break the mirrored glass. So they keep their distance. It’s safer this way. I steal a glance toward that terrible ledge, knowing the nothingness beyond, and realize this is a decision I must make on my own. Suddenly the cliff and desert is gone. All I can see are repeating images of myself, covered in bloody handprints. I am stuck in a world full of images of myself, but totally alone. Frustration, anger, and loneliness overwhelm me as I sink to my knees on the cold unfeeling rocky ground. Time passes. There is no wind, but heat like that of a fire begins to warm my face, but there is no crackle of burning wood or roaring flame. I raise my eyes, and am mimicked by a thousand reflections. Slowly I get to my feet. It’s hard to tell direction in this four-walled funhouse. One of the walls is warmer than the others. I can hear someone breathe on the other side. It doesn’t sound quite human. As I listen, it’s as if this person’s breath gives permission for the rest of the world to continue to move and have its existence. This is oddly comforting. I put my hand on the warm pane but can only manage to whisper, “Is someone there?” When no reply comes, I listen to the breathing a while longer. Partly in frustration, partly just to listen, I sink to my knees again, with my still-bleeding hand on the mirror. I bow my head and press it to the wall, giving up. The warmth rushes into my body from the top of my head, through the core of the bone, all the way to the tips of my toes. I take a deep breath as the glowing heat comforts me. Then my hand feels the glass begin to tremble. When I lift my eyes, glaring light blazes around me. The mirror once again becomes crystal glass. Once my eyes adjust, I can make out a figure standing outside my box. The light and warmth is coming from him. The moment I notice him, he raises is hand and I can see that his is also badly scarred and bleeding. His wounds are much worse than mine. He places his hand opposite of mine on the glass. The instant his blood makes contact with the glass, it seems to melt away and my own palm begins to burn. Startled, I gasp and pull my hand away. Upon inspection, not only is my hand uninjured, it is completely healed. When I looked back at this gleaming man, my glass box totally melts away and he stands suspended, as if on some invisible floor, over the canyon which I had refused to accept. I look into his face, knowing what he is asking, all the while fearing the question. He just looks back at me with an expression that defines love. Before this moment love and understanding has not existed completely on another human countenance. Though I have no choice but to love him in return, I remain on my knees. I will no longer look down into the abyss. I will keep my eyes on his. We will take this step, this leap together. I’m just not sure I’m ready yet. His smile says he will wait. It’s not dark anymore. I’m not alone.
Her many legs methodically dragged her swollen abdomen along the smooth cool cement floor. Surely somewhere in the distance would be an ideal site to build a safe home for her family. Ahead she could see some promising structures. Her body informed her that time was running out. Suddenly a shadow flashed over her and was gone, along with it a violent earthquake, moments later, another quake and repeated slower thuds. BOOM…BOOM…BOOM. Instinctively she knew whatever this was, she needed to find shelter. She gathered all the strength in her legs and pulled her encumbered body toward a large structure. Almost there, a large being blocked the light. A shadow covered her small frame. Though she moved as fast as she could, her burden hindered her otherwise quick reactions. The light grew darker as she realized the gigantic creature intended to crush her. In the space and time of a snap, she thought of the children she carried, her own life and survival, and pushing harder to escape the destruction of them all. In the next second all she knew ended in darkness. As her body was crushed, the burden she carried was not destroyed, but released. Hundreds of her offspring scurried in as many different directions. A few of them were killed with her, but many more of them were propelled into a new wonderful, dangerous, fascinating world. Though not identical copies, they will go into this new world as similar imitators of their mother. Instilled in them, down to their similar genetic code, are instincts that will guide them through lives which imitate that of their creator. Thus out of the death of one, sprang the lives of many for generations.