A long time ago, at Niagara Falls, I dressed in yellow oilskins, walked behind a tumbling wall of water, and knew I was close to the edge. Back outside, everything changed and beside that brightness of grass and rock, water screamed like shorn hair as it tore down the precipice. Have you been there? Have you walked to the end of the world, stood at the edge and peered into the starless, foam-speckled darkness that beckons below?
The deed leaves a bleakness dangling at the end of your wrist. Silent, you fear to dip your toes into an icy bucket of fire. Sun through dark clouds: a candle illuminating the scene. You cannot see your breath, but you know that it hangs there on the air before you. A spider web of smoke strings its impenetrable cloak between you and reality.
An animal urge to surge and run makes your muscles twitch but your feet are trapped in sand as crazy glue binds your limbs and banishes flight. Beads of sweat pearl on the upper lip and below the eyes. There is a melting at the temples’ edges where the short hairs tense and prickle. Now your back is on fire. Sparks fly from your hair as you prepare, Roman Candle in this unlit bonfire’s gloom, to explore a subterranean cave of unknowing.
The walls around you slowly congeal and your sweat flows thick then dries. Your toes sink back into their frosty oblivion. There is no movement from your knees down. Your fingers stiffen and arthritis steals movement from inflamed joints. A voice inside your head tells you to punch the emergency numbers on your frozen cell phone, but wisdom is drowned in the mind’s dark urgings and your fingers cannot respond. You sense that this will not bring the beginning of the end. It will be the continuing of the same, torment without end, until a century of centuries stands in your mind like a single day. Eternity stretches before you with its long, dark, endless winter night: no stars, no sun, no moon, no spark, no hope, just this eternal cold that suspends all motion.
Within you, an animal rages carnivorous against the bone bars of its cage. It can see you; it can sense you; it can smell the atoms of fear that rise from between your toes and flow out of your armpits. Your own nostrils flare and stiffen and you too can smell that fear; you can taste the bestial desire that flesh holds for fresh torn flesh. A black velvet band binds your eyes and pulls itself tighter and closer across your chest. Your heart is a stone thrown into an icy pond. Down, it plunges, down and down, and as it descends it bumps the bodies of other beings locked there in the deep pool of your chest.
Somewhere in this Arctic night there is a shuffle of white pads. Sleek feet move across the snow. The polar bear’s snuffle is a whimper of hope that the end will come swiftly in the bright light of midnight descending, all red in tooth and claw. You shiver. You bite your hand. You quench your chattering teeth and hope they do not wake the nightmare. Yet still you sense it drawing close with an acquiescent dragging of slow feet.
The illusion, the dream, the nightmare, the chimera, the dragon that dwells in the depths, the ice cold sucker of souls that emerges in a sudden gasp of bated breath, the red hot air that flees from the anthracite when the door of the dream world flies open and the devil dances on the hot coals of his promised hell and condemns your ice to melt in those sinister flames.
Your pale face floats through the gloom: yellowed teeth, frail lips curved, a Cupid’s bow that will shoot sweet darts of poisoned love, dry mouth, desiccated words, sounds that form into sinister sequences, their meanings misunderstood, false hope dangling by its neck from a choking rope, the bare words pacing, naked bears across a chain of dancing memories strung out like good times, past and dead, and dangling stiff from their skeletal chains.
Your flightless fancies flit through a darkness of despair, as awkward as auks, as clumsy as penguins stranded in zoo cages far from their native seas, as meaningless as the dodos, as dead as the ashes lying cold beneath the crematorium’s fire.
A sudden bucket clatters down the well. But there is no water. This ice will not melt. These desert sands may burn your feet but they will not warm your glacial heart. The manner of your third or fourth coming brings forth no nourishment.
A mirror grows from a spider web on the wall. Face to face, the present and past are ambulant tenses that foretell no conditional. There is no future, let alone a future perfect. A dislocation of infinitives stretches into the infinity of an invisible futurity.
To be: and now you are permitted to see the depth to which you will descend. Now you see yourself sinking lower and there is only one exit. A rope and a beam appear before you; a tin of Ant Trap; the silver tusk of an open razor; that bottle of pills; that steering wheel, one twitch of which will veer you into the path of that passing truck; that bridge which crosses into the fog and ends half way across the river; the mystery and madness of that final plunge into an even longer night.
Or not to be: lips move and promise an end to heat and cold. Here, they say, is darkness without memory; here is sleep bereft alike of nightmare and dream; here is oblivion; here is the cessation of strife and struggle; here is peace.
If you take that step, you leave your present hell and enter into another hell leaving behind you family and friends to suffer without you in their own living hell.