I’m sure it’s not a shock to anyone who knows how much I actually write that this site isn’t the only place where I post my rambling keyboard journeys. In fact, I have a whole collection of places that I can contribute content to, simply because it gives me multiple outlets for multiple emotions. Oh yeah, not to mention the sites where I can write things anonymously that would sink any future political endeavors like an 80,000 pound lead boat anchor – or as I like to call them, “the fun stuff”. I’ve ventured out a little here on this site from time to time and dabbled into deeper topics, but I’ll be honest – I want this to be the playroom. On the same token, that’s not at all being honest with you or myself.
So, as an exercise in self-expression on an honest level, I went and grabbed something from one of the other sites I write on and decided to share it here. It’s a far cry from stories about being attacked by an emu or the time I shocked my balls in a misadventure in manscaping, but if I want either of us to take me seriously as a writer – you’ve got to have a well-rounded pool of examples. Besides, I already hinted on the subject matter in one of my last posts, so you might as well see where it came from.
BEHIND THESE BLUE EYES
“Fucking stairs…” I grumble to myself as I ease old joints down the last of the winding steps, thankful for the flat ground I’ve reached. The air in this place always reminds me of fishing when I was a kid. My dad would buy these little Styrofoam containers of nightcrawlers and there was no scent quite like worm dirt. Somehow clean and dirty at the same time. Memories of wiggly, slimy things ricochet around in my head as I approach the door at the end of the passage leading from the bottom of the stairs.
Calling it a “door” always seemed like an understatement. I mean, granted – that’s exactly what it is, but its sheer scale deserves a word stronger than door. Egress? Gateway? Portal? “It’s a fucking door,“ I chide myself – to myself. My voice echoing through the tunnel in front of the door elicits a growl and the rattle of chains from the other side of the opening.
They are awake. They are hungry.
Fumbling for the keys, I’m mumbling again. Mostly complaining about how many locks there are on the door and how I have to dismantle them one by one. Some are easier than others. Some require me to pull the door closed tighter, and some require me to lean on it to get the tumblers to align and the bolts to retract. All the while the jingling of my keys is making them more and more agitated. They know that on the other side of that door lies freedom, and destruction, and all the lament and sadness that they feed on.
As the last bolt retracts, the door creaks a few inches forward on tired hinges. The chains stop rattling.
This is the point I always have to steel myself for. It never gets easier and I’m not naive enough to think it ever will. My hesitation just fuels their tension as my sweaty palm lays flat against the door in anticipation of swinging it open and coming face to face with them, and that anticipation is palpable.
“This was your fucking idea,” I remind myself.
As the door swings into the pit, the smell goes from clean earth to something rancid and wrong. Fruit that’s been left in a hot car for a week. Sweet decaying flesh tinged with something burnt. The light from torch I’m carrying fights a losing battle against the oppressive darkness of the pit, and melts into the room just far enough to illuminate pairs of eyes staring back at me. A collection of cat-like eye shine. A pile of broken amber glass.
So many eyes.
My first steps carry the light further to reflect off of the steel bars of the cages and chains. Anything that reflects light catching it and sending it back. The effect is comforting. A tiny confirmation of the security I’ve worked so hard to establish. As I move to my right, across the row of cages, the eyes all track me in unison. Their ticking and twitching synchronized to every one of my steps. I’m the gazelle wandering aimlessly across open ground at the edge of a watering hole, the predators with their hunched shoulders lurking in high grass.
“Good morning, gentleman,” I say, my voice answered by a chorus of uncoordinated, low, guttural growls. Bones rattling in throats letting me know that despite my hubris – I’m on the menu. With a falsely confident stride I spill the light further into the pit, and their shapes materialize against the contrast of light and shadow. Coiled muscles bunching at twisted joints. Scales glistening with every flicker of flame. Huge, powerful, lethal, and seething hate. They may not have been built for their bonds, but their bonds we built for them.
The shine of eyes is matched by the gleaming of thousands of bared, needle-like teeth as a dozen mouths snarl at the same time. Thin lips drawing back to radiate evil intent for the stupid man that’s bold enough to stand before the beasts. I can literally feel their hate pouring over me like heat from a dying sun.
I smile back. My own personal snarl of sorts.
You see, I didn’t kill my demons from my past – I caged them and buried them behind this door of self-assurance. I want them to know who slipped those chains on them and whose bloodied hands built their cages. I come down to this pit and stand in front of them as much to remind them that I won, as to remind MYSELF that I won. I puff my chest out at them and hammer my fist against my sternum and scream in their faces. They can occupy my memories, but they will not determine my future. I didn’t vanquish my demons, I OWN them. These little trips to the pit are my victory march.
And there we stand – eye to eye, snarling and panting, hating hard.
I turn my back to them, hearing them lunge at their chains. The bars of their cages rattling against their hurled bulk, but holding. I casually walk back through the door and meticulously re-engage all the locks. The exercise in self-assurance completed for the moment. Sometimes I just have to see them to remind myself that they are real, they are alive, and they will still fucking decimate me given even the slightest of chances. It’s comforting to see the chains. It’s fun to see them struggle.
The real trick is remembering that behind these blue eyes: there be monsters.