The world is made of glass. It is fragile, harsh, and filled with light. At least that was what I believed, until the day the world shook. This was the day that I fell into the darkness.
When I was little, my father tried to explain the ways of our little world of glass to me. My father said, “The world is fragile, and people in it are even more so. You need to stay in the light. Every now and again the world will shake, and you may find yourself falling. However, you need to find the strength to stand up and continue on. If you don’t, you will die in the dark.”
“What is the dark?” I asked him.
“It is a part of all of us, but do not fall victim to it. Do not let it consume you.”
I told him, “I won’t.”
I was in high school when I began to feel the darkness within me. It slowly gained strength inside of me as it bled into my thoughts. The darkness consumed me and I fell. Why is this happening? What is happening? I was slowly losing the peace that I had built in glass. I wanted to stop the destruction of the glass walls that surrounded me. All it took was once and my whole world shook. It hurt. This sweet fall into the darkness hurt.
I awoke inside a tunnel. Where am I? I didn’t remember how I had gotten here or even who I was. The tunnels were at least twice my height, but narrow in some spots. A faint light flickered in through the ceiling, a light which ricocheted off of the opaque glass rocks that lined the walls and illumined the tunnel. My feet splashed against the water on the floor with every step. My mind screamed at me to keep moving. I needed to find a way out of here.
Wait. I heard the sounds of splashing water coming towards me. “Is anyone there?” I desperately cried out.
A woman came towards me. She called out to me and asked, “Are you new here? I haven’t seen you before.”
“Yes. Where is here exactly?”
“This is the dark. Everyone that falls into the darkness has to pass through the tunnels.”
“Pass through? Is there a way out?”
The woman didn’t answer me, but looked over my shoulder at the tunnel. Her eyes looked dead and glazed over like she had been here too long. Then the women turned her haunted stare to me before she decided to speak again. She instructed me to follow her through a series of tunnels, and then she stopped in front of a large archway. Inside was a large cavern with 30 people varying in ages running around the space, preparing to eat, or asleep in their makeshift beds.
“This is where we live,” she told me as she pointed to a small cot in the corner of the room. “We need to stay together in the dark. As long as we don’t try to leave the tunnels, we will be safe.”
As time slowly began to pass in the tunnel, she began to tell me about her life. She told me that everyone in the tunnel called her Marie and that she didn’t know what her real name was. Before the darkness had come into her life, she had been married with a newborn baby. “It started small,” she told me, “I had begun to hear things—voices. They told me things—that nobody loved me and that I couldn’t be a good mother—and eventually I started to believe them. My whole world just started shaking, and then I ended up here. ”
Over the next few weeks, several others shared their stories with me. Each tale was strikingly similar in that each person began to listen to their own darkness. This was right before their glass worlds began to tremble, and they ended up in the tunnels.
I asked Marie if anyone had ever gotten out of the tunnels.
She whispered to me, “Some people just disappear. On occasion, we will find one of their bodies in one of the other tunnels, but most we never find. It’s like those people vanished. That is why we try to stay close to the group.”
She then began to tell me about the door.
“Door?” I whispered back at Marie.
“No one here has opened the door. We have all come across it, but it scares everyone. Anything could be on the other side of it, and we don’t need to push our luck. Do you see that man over there on the right wall, near the fire pit?” She gestured in the man’s direction.
I nodded at Marie. Her voice dropped in volume and she looked around to see if anyone was listening. She said, “We call him Sam. He went looking for a door—a way out of the tunnel—with his buddy, Tyr. Well, they certainly found a door, but Sam refused to go through. He said that the door had claw marks on the front. Tyr, though, opened the door and went through. We haven’t seen him since.”
“So then the doors are our way out of here?” my voice rose in excitement.
“Shhhh! No!” Marie cried out.
“No! Do not go near the door,” Marie pleaded. Her eyes were wide and frightened.
“Why?” I asked her.
“We have found some of the poor souls that have gone through those doors. Everyone seems to have to battle their own darkness when they enter. So many people have lost this battle. We found Molly about three miles away in the south section of the tunnels. She had been strung up there for weeks before someone found her. Just no! Don’t try to find a door. Please!”
“Alright. Don’t worry, I won’t,” I reassured her.
But soon, I broke that promise. I had grown restless of waiting within the tunnels and caverns and longed to see the light. I followed one of the larger tunnels almost aimlessly, before I came across a smaller intercepting tunnel. The smaller path was less bright, but not dark enough for me to miss the deep gouges on the glass rocks covering the walls. I remembered what Marie had said about Sam seeing marks near the door he had found. I turned down the new passageway, hoping that she had been wrong about the doors. As I walked through the tunnel, the sharp pitter-patter sound of my shoes hitting the ground was the only thing that I heard. I stopped walking abruptly when I came upon a door. The door called to me. Uncertain about what to do now, I stopped. What was going to happen once I opened it? Would I be able to get out of this place?
Gathering my courage, I opened the door and stared into the abyss. Before I could turn away from the black, the black of the abyss stared back at me. Screaming, I ran out of the passageway back towards the others. I could not stop or look back for I knew it was coming after me. I faltered for just one second, and I looked back at the darkness chasing me. It pounced on top of me with its claws digging and slicing into my fragile skin. I slid to the ground with blood dripping down my arms. Suddenly, the darkness and the tunnel were gone.
As my vision blurred, I saw my father. He was screaming, “STOP! Sarah, don’t! Please stop hurting yourself! Someone help me!”
Sarah. That was my name- Sarah.
My eyes fluttered open, and I winced as bright light shined into them. I groaned with pain and exhaustion. Looking around the room, I could see the shiny glass tile typical of hospitals, machines spread out all around me, and my father sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. His clothes looked crumpled like he had slept in them. Noticing that I was awake, he stood up and walked towards me. He grabbed my hand and squeezed it.
“How are you? The doctors said that you may feel sluggish for a while,” he asked.
I was silent for a moment before answering. I told him, “I. . . I’m sorry I got lost in the dark.”
Our eyes met and his held mine captive with a stare. Tears were forming in his eyes as he told me, “Hush. I am just glad you found your way back. Stay with me. Don’t disappear into the darkness again. Please.”
The “please” was little more than a whisper—a soft cry of despair.
In the corner of my eye, I saw the encroaching darkness rising again. I pushed it back until it faded into the backdrop of my thoughts. With my voice strong, I promised, “I won’t.”