By Robert Stanhope
I closed my eyes and opened my mind.
I tried to access the neurological freeway.
The ramp was closed to traffic.
I followed the orange detour signs.
A left turn and then another
Into a dimly lit valley of my cerebrum.
A storm was brewing in the distance.
Flashes of light lit my unknown route.
The road suddenly came to an end.
The only exit from the valley
A ladder to the left, a door to the right.
Or, I could have turned back.
The top of the ladder wasn’t visible.
The door was chain locked.
The return route had turned pitch black.
I chose to climb the ladder.
Each step to the next rung was stable,
The flashes above brighter.
My legs began to burn as I climbed,
My hands remained firmly gripped to the rails.
Blue, orange, and white flashes,
An eerie shadow and an ominous growl
A pit of fear formed in my stomach.
A pair of eyes appeared with a bright flash.
I had climbed too long to turn back.
I had to face the unknown shadow.
The growl became a constant.
Everything was suddenly pitch black.
The darkness drew silent.
The shadow grabbed my arm and threw me.
I was tossed deep into the darkness,
Helpless, screaming, and fearing where I might land.
I began to feel weightless, as if in space.
Motionless as I came to a sudden stop.
The bright flashes no more,
Just pitch black, the night starless.
As my heart raced, I tried to calm down,
Talking to myself and counting through deep breaths.
My chest throbbed as the void began to close.
The pitch black world turned to anxiety.
I screamed to break the silence.
Not a sound, not even my voice.
I felt as if I were being buried alive.
A great weight crushed my body.
Then a light appeared beneath me.
An opening to what appeared to be a large tube.
I began to fall with great speed into the tunnel.
Brighter and brighter, the light glowed.
A blinding white flash in a freefall,
Nothing to grab to slow my rapid decent.
I could hear myself screaming,
A heat mounted as I went deeper,
I was burning up in the core of my brain.
I awoke buried in sand up to my neck.
At first, I noticed a few mischievous children,
Forming a circle around me with an evil grin
On their faces, all with the same maniacal laugh.
Their numbers grew and grew
Casting a shadow over my face.
Darkness returned to my world.
The children were still laughing.
I could no longer see their faces.
Sweat formed a puddle around my neck
Rising to touch my bottom lip
I couldn’t move an inch as I tasted
A salty liquid coating my tongue.
I began to drown, surrounded by children
Laughing as I gasped for fresh air.
The liquid engulfed my mouth,
The children’s laughter ceased.
I was dying in a pitch black world.
I jolted from my bed, gasping for oxygen.
I turned and saw the time on the clock.
It was 5:22 in the morning.
I reached for my cell phone.
I had my oneirologist on speed dial.
A groggy voice came from the speaker.
He questioned, “Pitch black again?”
Then a child began to laugh.
Writer and photographer.