Chasm of Memories

One moment I am sound asleep in my bed. The next, I am sinking through my bed and plunging into the floor, as if I am made of water, or nothing at all. Then my stomach leaps out of my mouth and the rest of my body plummets through a dark chasm as black as night, everything around me made of whispering shadows.

Photo by Vadim Balakin

I try to scream, to let out the panic and terror locked inside, but no sound comes out. I can only hear the stinging whistle of wind as I fall through warm, humid air and pounding, roaring waves of hysteria streaming out from my heart.

I try to twist and turn so that I can face down, presumably the direction I am falling, but suddenly I am paralyzed. My limbs refuse to move, my fingers won’t twitch, and even my eyes are glued open to prevent me from blinking. I am seized with terror and disbelief, but all my efforts seem to make my situation worse. I am forced to wait in suspenseful agony for my back to crash onto the bottom of this chasm that will eventually come.

Aware that I have been falling for a dangerous length of time, every fibre of my soul expecting to reach the end of the chasm as each second ticks on, I try to calm and focus my thoughts. If they are my last, I want them to be of the joyous, peaceful memories of my early youth, reminding me of a better life I once had. But my memories are forcefully teared out of my mind, ripped to shreds and tossed carelessly into the wind, floating into the shadows, never to be seen again.

I try to let out a strangled scream, reach out my hands to grasp through the darkness, search my mind for my lost memories, but to no avail. I feel myself melting, everything that made me me dissolving into the mist that begins to gather.

As droplets of water start stinging my face, my whole body is racked with tormenting pangs of panic and hopelessness, one stab for every droplet. I am not unconscious nor is my identity fully shredded, yet, but with every passing second, every growing mist, I feel myself begin to slip away, against my will.

The mist grows thicker into fog. The blackness dims, until the chasm is a murky grey. I can still see nothing, but suddenly my ears pick up dull cracks of thunder, growing louder as I continue to fall, though not as rapidly now.

Fresh claws of panic clutch me as a streak of lightning flashes across my eyes, engraining its harsh line into the back of my head. I try to close my eyes, but they still wouldn’t move. I am forced to endure many more flashes of lightning, many more piercing shrieks of thunder, while helplessly tumbling through the fog.

Rain suddenly pours through the fog, rolling down my skin and soaking through my pyjamas. Their gentle coolness shock life into me, my senses flooding back into me. I let out a gasp at the sudden change in temperature and blink rapidly as raindrops settle onto my eyelids and turn my body so that I am falling feet first, eyes focused on my bare feet, hoping that the ground will eventually appear through the pervasive, grey fog.

My memories are still gone.

And yet, I feel like dancing for joy. I have my voice back, my ability to move back, and I have no doubt that eventually, my memories will return as well.

I am still falling, but it is smoothly shifting into a gentle drift. The storm has quieted to a gentle curtain of rain, but the fog is thickening, though I would not have thought that possible. Soon, I am horrified that I can’t even see my feet, and as I continue to drift down, the fog creeps further up my body so that it covers my waist, then my shoulders, and finally I can’t see any part of me beyond my neck. I feel like I am beheaded by the swirling, grey fog.

Suddenly a smell and a sound cause me to freeze in my inspection of my surroundings, and I stop breathing, though my heart is thudding furiously. The smell of humid, mossy air and moist fog mixed with a fatal plunk of a body falling in water brings one memory back: the worst day of my life. The day the fog grew so thick that my mother, crossing the pond via a narrow land bridge, miscalculated the width of the bridge and fell into the water, never to be seen again.

She was presumed to have drowned, since she didn’t know how to swim, but all searches for her body proved futile. The best swimmers in the village could find nothing, perplexing us all, since it was a small pond, and not that deep.

But as terrible as that was, it wasn’t what made it the worst day of my life. Because when I came home from school that day, I was greeted with the news of both my mother and father’s deaths, one from a tragic accident, the other from the war.

My shattered heart had never been mended.

Needless to say, I feel myself cracking while I am forced to relive that horrendous day. First the screams, then the sloshing of feet on the mud, then the shouts to get the village’s best swimmers.

I can still see nothing through the fog, but I can imagine what it looks like, and I wish I can’t. It seems to suck away my life, because no matter how hard I desperately try to return to what has to be the real world and escape this nightmare, I can’t. I’m stuck.

Time drags on, and eventually I hear the wails of my little brother and me as we returned from school, saw the messenger sent from the front lines, and found our parents gone. Not gone as in gone to do the laundry, or gone to the war, but really, truly gone. Forever.

I remember that day distinctly, clutching my little brother with all I had left in me. I remember holding him closely to me, burying my tear-streaked head in his curly haired head, brushing my fingers across his soft cheeks, vowing to myself to never let him go.

Most of all, I remember how my soul rocked with grief over the loss of my parents, how I never had a close relationship with them. I might have been able to deal with their deaths if we had been closer, but now that they were gone, I’d never get the chance.

I didn’t want to make that mistake with my brother.

Even now, as these painful memories flit by in my mind, tears layer my skin, mixing in with the mist and fog. My fingers clench and unclench as the raw feeling of hopelessness and grief washes over me, again and again. I understand that famous saying only all too well.

You don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

Suddenly the drifting stops and my bare feet touch the soft, muddy earth, gently squeezing through my toes in soothing squishes. I remember what I had always missed about the foggy, humid, swamp I used to call home. The fresh air, cool and wet earth, peace and quiet except for gently lapping water. But now everything is tinged with pain and sadness.

I try to walk, see if it will help me get back to the orphanage in the city, but I can’t. I am riveted in place, forced to soak in the thick air, but it is no longer quenching, somehow. I do soak, instead of sulk.

I never appreciated my home, much less after my parents’ tragic demise, but I do now. I am almost grateful for whatever is giving me this step into the past, giving me a chance to see all the reasons I have to love the things in life so often taken for granted.

The mud suddenly starts to slide, but this time, I know what will happen. Slowly I start sinking into the wet earth, my eyes closed in peaceful anticipation. I do not panic. I breathe in one last breath of the country air, and then I am engulfed in the muddy earth.

It doesn’t last long, for soon I am back in the darkness of the chasm, falling. The air is dry now, whistling past me harshly, drying all my clothes, all my tears. My limbs freeze and I find that I can’t even mutter to myself anymore, but this time, my memories are gently peeled away, to be kept safely until I needed them.

But one memory has been left behind. A warm feeling blossoms in my heart as I feel myself emerge into its time and place, into my most beloved memory.

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