*A fictional response to a powercut.*
Light. Then, nothing. An electrical snap and darkness folds around me. Instantaneous, uniform, enveloping… punishing, the light snatched away in a…what is the opposite of a flash? A sump? An implosion? A thwuck?
My senses strain. To touch, to feel, to smell, to see… to hear. Yet there is nothing. There is only absence. An unnatural stillness. A silence where the body plays the lead part in the orchestra. Breathing, too loud. Blood fizzing and popping through my ears. The rustle of fabric as I struggle to control my urge to twitch. To freak out.
The silence closes in on me like a predator. The darkness does nothing. It merely is. Smug, all-powerful, crushing. A bully to beat all bullies. Together, they are nothing personified. No – bigger than that – geomorphic, catacylsmic, universal. Yes, that’s it – they are the universal nothing. A nothingness. The nothingness.
I am scared. I no longer trust my body. All it tells me is that it is neither cool nor hot. My muscles refuse to move, locked. There is nothing to taste but the salt in my saliva, and as for smell, well, whatever that is, logic dictates that it must be me. Perhaps the signals from the senses are somehow trapped between nerve ending and brain.
I wonder if I am paralysed. I wonder if I am still attached to my body at all. I wonder if I am dead. If I am part of the nothing.
But is it really nothing? I feel stupid even asking the question. Of course it’s nothing, Listen. Even the voice in my head is nothing. Tiny, insignificant, too small and feeble to ever reach an echo of another thought. There, it drifts off into infinity….
The nothingness does nothing. Says nothing.
I am, by nature, inquisitive. Imaginative, sensitive, impatient… melodramatic, even. Yet I cannot imagine this nothing. And then I realise… this nothingness – perhaps it is only nothing because I do not want it to be Something. I try not to want. And yet. There. It starts. A thought hatches and starts to uncoil like a snake in a basket. The nothingness starts to change. Subtly, almost imperceptibly. But enough for my new pair of snake eyes to see. To taste on my tongue. To hear in the pressure behind my ears. The nothingness is evolving, forming patterns. And yes, there is something, maybe, hidden – or cloaked – in the world outside my head.
Shh-hssh-shh-hss. I am confused as to whether it is the snake in my head or the nothingness outside that starts to hiss. I hesitate. The world – for I am convinced it still exists – indeed, I must believe, or I will fall into basket and never climb out, of this I am sure, is not silent. It is the sound of static, of electro-magnetic pulses. Of rhythyms and organisms beyond my understanding. White noise against a wall of black. An impenetrable tangle of noises and frequencies.
The noise triggers something in my vision, and I see snow. And floating orbs of purple and green and yellow and red. It is magical – no longer scary.
But then I imagine the source of these sounds. I imagine the insects and moulds and bacteria, inexorably destroying my body, my room, my house, my world, from the inside out. I imagine the radiation soup my brain is frying in – my bedroom, like most, a living, bleeping faraday cage of information, ubiquity and always-onness. The static shriek of earth as billions of machines screech at each other the desires and emotions of standardised instruction sets of bone and muscle, encased in fat and pressurised just so, so that we cannot escape to the stars or the depths, but spread ourselves and our ideas like a virus across the blue and green and white and red. All tending to brown. To dirt.
The dancing field of colour becomes outlines of tickboxes and thumbs and faces and logos and avatars and photos. And all the things I will never see, never own, never feel, never think. I try to blink, but the icons are inside my head, not out there.
I find myself longing for the darkness again. I cannot find my ‘off’ button. I do not want my brain to be always on. Always connected. Always in the way of a thousand billion streams of information, lies, likes and dislikes. My snake turns on me, dancing to someone else’s tune.
I am lost. An explorer across the stars, marooned in a human hell that they could not wait to die to build. And I am afraid. So afraid.
I try to remember childhood platitudes. ‘The only thing to fear is fear itself’. And ‘that which does not kill me, makes me stronger’. And I understand with a heart-crushing certainty, that I am alive – that I must fight.
And I realise that the answers are in me. I am programmed for this. I am a biological machine with almost endless capacity for self-deception, but my prime directive, my reason, my soul, my will, is in my genes. In my instinct for survival. I must find shelter. Or build one. I must find food. I must find others like me.
So I will build my hut, my cave, my island. I will learn to walk in the dark, or in the chaos of the light. And I will eat the static, and learn to like it. I will eat the bugs and the waves and the science and the fiction. I will find my blind and deaf companions. And I will teach them to read again.
And I will not fear.