I stepped in a puddle and sank through to somewhere else. There was no sun, no moon, no darkness or light just an incessant glare like a pearlescent lightbulb on a dimmer switch. Panicking, I felt about with the intention of clutching the first tangible object and not letting go; I found nothing. This could be Limbo? I mused. Or perhaps, San Bernadino on a good day? But, with no discernible up or down, no left, right or sideways, I did the only thing I could; I got out my phone and sent a selfie to Facebook. It was just a case of waiting for replies.
Without a breath of wind, the galleon slid into the heaving fog dispersing not a ripple. Only the ship’s ensign, an empty circle black on white, fluttered in the rancid air. A nationless ship on a nameless sea and only me to sail her. Limbo our voyage, redemption our goal.
The water chilled as it killed. Frozen in place by the quick-freezing lake, each star seemed to hang in a limbo of thickening mists though their twins in the sky kept on shining. And I wondered then, as I hugged myself tight, would it be the same for me?
In Winter Stills
There is a path off a road off a hillside off a dream, a path where all the silent ones go to sleep. I followed it once without care for myself. This is where it led.
The snow fell in relentless cascades obliterating my footprints so I might’ve stepped through a thickening fog that congealed around my feet. I would’ve said I knew the way home with my eyes shut, Sooty, my dog, barking at my heels, the same. Neither of us felt the incline nor subsequent slope. Neither of us realised we stepped from grass to mud to asphalt and back again. All was deep snow, so deep, I picked Sooty up in my arms and ploughed a lone furrow through that white onslaught. It affected us that coldest of days, my dog in my arms and my hopes in his senses.
We came across them as shadows on the road to limbo, the true source of the endless snow. They stood there as indifferent shapes against an indifferent background, as unaware of what I was to them, as they were to me. The only definite in that scene was the cases they held in smudged hands, the sums of all their endeavours packaged to be carted away into the forever.
I stared at them for the longest time unafraid, for they meant me no evil, one can tell such things when they’re forced upon them. They appraised me, wondered if to invite me on their march to another place, a silent place. I might’ve gone with them too, fallen succour to their impartial gesturing if Sooty had not growled his discontent.
They vanished into the snow as though enveloped by an avalanche that never quite reached my feet. They disappeared into infinity taking everything they’d been with them. I already cradled my everything in tiring arms, so turned around and made my way home.
I never reached it, but still I try.
Had the sea swallowed the moon or the sky swallowed the sea? The world was wrong, jumbled, shaken up and poured back out.
“Have faith,” said the voice.
I looked this way and that but was so unsure.
“Purgatory,” it whispered.
I didn’t believe it, so continued eating my crisps.
Like chameleons; indistinguishable, life and death.
Caught in the middle of a mild nowhere, I strained at the cuffs of my shirt. I’d roll them up over my elbows, then almost as fast roll them back down again. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t hit a happy medium.
An old lady watched me with interest from a park bench, her amathyst eyes gleaming in the wan light. They were unusual for any person, but even more so on she.
“What’s the matter,” she said and smiled.
“I just don’t feel right.”
“Like your not quite there, tepid, washed out?”
“Yes,” I replied, “that’s it exactly.”
“Same here, young man. I’ve been sat on this seat for an age waiting for the ducks to come back, but they never do.”
I took a look across the stilled pond its waters unmoving almost frozen to a perfect glasslike sheen. There were no ducks; no trees; no reeds; no sky; nothing but the lady on her bench, the mirrored surface and me.
“Do you think they’ll ever come back?” she asked.
“I honestly don’t know.”
“Hmm!” she huffed. “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”
“Must be,” I agreed, and went back to tugging at my sleeves.
Neither here nor there, not gone nor ghost, I lingered. Drifting over traffic jams, sliding through sidewalk melees, the world and I collided in shades of almost, wafts of could but won’t. The threshold between up and down was locked, and so I remained liminal. I count the hours still.
The fog surrounds, consumes me. Everywhere I turn is the same, vaporous and unusual. But in the midst of the roiling grey, I smile. It is an obscure smile struck from a peculiar thought. For although I have no bearing, no compass point with which to secure my sanity, I feel the strange release of the burden to do so, and revel in the freedom availed to me.
I wonder to myself if this is what limbo feels like? And if so, how long shall I remain here? Then, I ponder over how I should return if it is not. For if this is what it feels like to be eternally lost, then I never wish to be found again. Yes, to be lost in forever. Could there ever be such sweet release.
Through shadow and night,
As light does battle with shade,
I claw at the boundaries of life.
It is on these borderlines that such struggles take place.
But there is little to distinguish between these two worlds of variant greys.
There is no definition where definition is sought.
And so the traveller walks the limbo line in his own personal purgatory.
Mine is no different to any other’s,
Or so I imagine.
But the exquisite solitude is unmistakably my own.