A Wish in the Dark
I awoke and found myself dangling from a rope, not knowing where I was or how I got there. The rope was wrapped around my backside like a seat, and I was holding onto it with my left hand. It was dark and dank, but there was a little light coming from above. I looked up to see that light shining down from an almost perfectly circular hole, maybe twenty feet up or so. Gripping the rope tighter in my left hand, I reached out to the side with my right and found purchase on some rounded, but slick stone. Looking up again, I realized I was in a well.
“Hey!” I called out. I waited for ten seconds and repeated myself. Twenty seconds counted away and I heard nothing but a trickling sound from below. My eyes had begun to get accustomed to the darkness, and I could just make out the reflection of some water. I looked back up and estimated by the angle of sunlight hitting the side of the well, that it was probably early evening. I sat there, gripped the rope in both hands, balancing myself and thought for a moment. I figured I was here for a reason. My clothes were dry, so it is not as if I had fallen into the well. My muscles ached a little, so I must have rigged this up so that I could go down. But why? I was not carrying any food, so it must have been something that wouldn’t take long. I thought for a moment longer, but no additional ideas came.
Very carefully, after gripping the rope tightly in both hands, I lifted myself up a couple inches and then let myself bounce back down on the rope. It gave a little, but not much. There was no other length of rope, so I could not belay. Trying to imagine the rigging mechanism for the rope, I reached out again with my right arm and using leverage on the wall, pushed up. The rope went down a smidge. ‘This is going to take a while,’ I thought.
I worked a little while with my right arm and then switched off and lowered myself for a little bit less with my left arm. With every inch, I could see a little more of the bottom of the well. With a moment of what I thought was ingenuity, I decided to climb the rope to create a couple feet of slack. Then, I hoisted myself up with one arm and wound the rope around me with the other, bracing it under my left arm. This way, I was able to use both arms to push myself downward, though I felt slightly less stable. I was anxious to get to the bottom to see what I would find.
The further I went, the more slippery the rocks were and was therefore more difficult to push myself downward. A couple times, when I attempted to push myself downward, my hands slipped on the slick surface, and I almost fell out of my makeshift seat. The rock wall at this depth had a slimy growth on it. While I rested for a bit, I scratched at some with my fingernails. It didn’t come off very easily. I patted my pants to see if I had brought anything useful with me. I found a lighter in my left pocket. Flicking it on, I looked at the stuff on my fingernails. It was dark green and had the consistency of mucus. I held the lighter closer until I could feel the warmth on my fingertips. The green ooze seemed to draw itself away from the flame, as if it were alive.
I spread some of it between my thumb and first finger and pulled them apart so that the goo stretched across them. I brought my fingers closer so I could see it more clearly. It was quite peculiar. I could see minuscule granules in the slime that were moving back and forth within it. Putting the lighter even closer, the slime retreated and exposed the particles, which at once sparked and turned to puffs of bluish smoke once they hit the air. The smoke also had a musky, but slightly sweet smell. It reminded me of something, but I could not quite put my finger what that was. I wiped the rest of it on my shorts, fascinated.
Curiosity set aside for just a moment, I began, more quickly now, pushing myself down and down until my shoes were touching the surface of the water. I spun around, lighter in hand to see if I could see anything of significance down here. The green substance was a lot thicker at this level. I had gotten quite a bit on my hands in the last ten feet or so. I didn’t want to imagine what those granules could do to them. I pushed all the science fiction scenarios from my head. I still could not imagine why I was here in the first place and where here actually was. I reclined back on the rope and reached down with the lighter to the surface of the water. It was hard to believe, but the water was only about a foot deep. I shimmied my way out of the rope and wedged it between a couple stones. The water was thick and unconscionably warm.
I bent over and felt around in the water for a couple minutes with my hands but could not find anything that seemed of any importance. Standing up, I sighed. Was all this exertion of energy useless? It couldn’t have been or else I would not have started down here in the first place. I pocketed the lighter and looped my hands into the rope and let my head hang and thought for a long while in the darkness. And then I thought some more.
I opened my eyes when something occurred to me. I looked up. It was full dark now. I grabbed the lighter in my right hand and flicked it on. Then with my left, I grasped a handful of the goo from the stone wall and, holding my hand like a fist, held it over the lighter and squeezed. One long strand of the slime dripped down toward the flame. As it got closer, the slime turned to liquid and the granules became exposed. They began to spark and puff into their bluish smoke, slowly at first, but then more rapidly. As the sparks and puffs feathered closer to each other, I began to see flickered images within them. I moved closer to the wall so I could grab more of the goo. I flipped the switch on the back of the lighter to increase the size of the flame.
In the staccato images, I began to be able to make out a little boy with white-blonde hair. He was playing with some toys. I couldn’t see his face clearly. I grabbed more slime and squeezed it over the flame. He was racing some cars on a track. Then the images started to move. It was like I was watching a movie on a screen of smoke. I grabbed more and more ooze. The images changed to another scene. The boy was being pushed on a swing. I could see his mouth moving for the pusher to push him higher.
I squeezed again. Then I saw the pusher. It was my dad. And the little boy was me. The image changed again. I grabbed more. I saw my mom and me driving up to Pennsylvania in her little MG sports car. Just the two of us. I vaguely remembered that day. Here it was in full color. I was talking and she was listening. If only this substance had audio. The images changed again. I grabbed for more, but then thought of another idea. I held the lighter up to the wall.
The goo fell away in rivulets. The images became frenzied across the wall. It was like watching an entire bank of televisions about my life. I laughed at some. Cried at others. I was down in the dark until well into the night. And then one of the images caught my attention full on. It gripped me as if in a vice. I couldn’t tear my eyes from it. Tears streamed down my face.
The little 8-year-old boy…me…I was sitting at a table in a restaurant with my older brother and sister, my mom and stepdad. I was eating pancakes. I didn’t have to watch any longer to know that I wasn’t able to finish my breakfast that day. That I demanded I take them home so I could finish them. And that by finishing them, I would be able to show my parents that I was, in fact, a very good boy. And that if I could just prove that I was good enough, then maybe, just maybe, my parents would get back together. And I would never again find myself in the dark. Afraid, alone, and unloved.