I keep going back; the chasm pulls me in every time. I don’t do anything when I’m there, just stand and stare into the black pool of nothing. Something in the air envelopes me and I’m stuck. It happens every time I visit. I never leave feeling any different but I always find myself going back. Why? Nothing changes but I still go regardless.
Stay you need us don’t go don’t go worthless without us we need you and you need us don’t go come back always come back never leave for long nothing without you.
The voices echo repeatedly, filling my head. It’s so difficult to understand them as they all talk at once; each voice is so distinct yet they blend as one. I don’t know where they come from or if they even exist. Every visit is like a dream but I never know if I’ve woken up. The voices stay with me; for days they fill my head, whispering words of disgust and desperation. Going back replenishes them yet I can never stop.
Been away too long too long come back this is worthless go back.
Sitting on the train, they talk to me once more. I’m doodling a rough sketch of the place, trying to ignore them. It’s been months since my last visit and they’re growing impatient. I’ve been determined to win, but I can’t last much longer. I look around the carriage hoping for a sign that someone else has heard them, but it’s always the same: only me. Only you. I turn back to the window and watch the trees merge from the speed. I hum to drown them out, ignoring the stares of the other passengers. Earphones don’t work, I have to feel the vibration of the music for it to help. There’s only so much your ears can take when your music plays at a volume of 100.
They’ve been around long enough for me to know how to live with them. Sometimes they’ll leave but that longing always returns. The chasm screams to me and I give in. Give in. I don’t even remember how I found it. I’ve been going there ever since I can remember. I think my mother took me as a child. She died when I was seven and never mentioned it to any other members of our family. It was our secret…I think. The memories are never clear. I try forcing myself to relive that first visit, but the voices just shout and tear away my focus. Sometimes, I see fragments of that first encounter.
“Mammy, where we going?”
“Not long now, sweetie. Almost there.” My mother hugged me tight and carried on walking down the path. Her face is a blur but I remember the feel of her arms around my chest.
“Is it that place you go to?” My voice sounded small amongst the foliage.
“Yep, that’s it.” She smiled, I think, but I could sense something was wrong.
The wind blew through the trees, creating a howl that sent a chill down my back. It looks the same now as it did back then. The pathway a patch of worn ground, made by the other victims I guess. I never saw anybody else there but I somehow knew I wasn’t the only visitor. Only you only you ever only you. Twigs snapped under my mother’s feet as she continued as if on autopilot. It looked like any other forest we had been to. The sun shone between the leaves above and I hid my small eyes in fear.
“It’s ok, sweetie. We’re here.” I turned my head and saw the cliff edge. “It’s yours now. I’m sorry but it’s yours.” I felt a dampness on the back of my neck as my mother rested her head against mine. My eyes were fixed on the edge.
I don’t remember leaving or if I saw anything different to what I see now. The memory fades in and out constantly as I fight the voices to visualise it. I’ve only ever seen my mother and myself react to it. I never had the chance to ask her if she heard them too.
“Ticket?” I jump in my seat. “Sorry, love. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
I pick up my bag. “It’s okay, sorry.” After I fumble around for a few minutes, I present him with my ticket. Make him go go make him go. He nods his head and smiles, satisfied.
“Thank you, love. Have a good day.”
“Thank you.” I smile in return and watch him make his way down the carriage. My head falls back onto the cool window pane and I close my eyes. Come back go back only you only you. The voices have made it difficult to sleep but they do allow me to rest sometimes. It’s as if they want me strong but can’t leave me alone long enough to sleep peacefully.
Images of the chasm fill the inside of my eyelids and I jolt myself awake. Go back come back. I ignore the voices and continue to hum, anything to avoid listening to them. I can feel the eyes of the other passengers boring into me, but I ignore them and fall back into the memories of the chasm.
Once my mother relinquished it to me, life became lonely. It was never something I enjoyed, but there’s a strange comfort in the routine of it. The voices drain me so often, but they’re familiar, they’re all I know. I’ve tried to take my friends there, to reassure myself that I wasn’t insane. But it only made me doubt myself further.
“Why are we here?”
“Can’t you see it?” Not her only you just you.
I walked to the edge of the cliff and stared down at the writhing darkness. “That.” I pointed my figure at its centre, desperately hoping for some sort of reaction from Sarah.
She squinted her eyes and looked over the edge. “Oh, I see it.” My eyes widened in hope. “The view, right? It’s beautiful! Now I know why you love coming here!” I sighed as she sat on the wet grass and continued to stare over the edge. I don’t know what I expected. Something told me it was a scene meant for only me, but I had to test my sanity. I had to try and share the experience, talk about it to someone! But it didn’t work. It was so bizarre to me, to see her smiling at the sea of black below us. I prayed to see the view that greeted her but the darkness remained the same.
Sarah would go back with me a few times but it never affected her like it did me. There were so many times that I wanted to tell her what I saw but my throat would swell and the words would choke themselves down. We’d sit in silence, enjoying each other’s company but with an air of uneasiness that we wouldn’t acknowledge. She’d take a basket full of delicate little foods and keep me company. I could feel the worry she carried, feel the hope she felt that perhaps eventually I’d talk to her. But she thought it was a place I’d go to think; most people think that, even now. Sarah never realised that the place wasn’t an escape but the cause of my pain. As she lay on the ground, I’d stare with wide eyes as I’d watch the tendrils climb the cliff and onto her skin. She never reacted.
During our last visit together, the voices began to scream.
No more not her not her don’t bring her only you only you or we take her.
They filled my head with a vicious buzzing that vibrated against my skull. Sarah grabbed my shoulders and shook me hard making it worse. I couldn’t stop screaming. The same words repeated itself over and over, the phrase: “We have to leave!” The tendrils grew, surrounding us until we were in complete darkness. I choked on my words as the tendrils slipped across my throat. I could feel them crawling around inside of me. They tore through my skin and filled my head. My vision started to blue as the blackness grew. The tendrils latched hold onto Sarah but she never even flinched. They darted across her skin, piercing into her limbs. But she didn’t react. The only things I could see were Sarah’s bright, blue eyes, framed by the black that consumed her. They started to dim to a dull grey as the tendrils poured into her sockets, filling her insides.
But Sarah never reacted, only looked at me with growing concern.
The carriage shakes, taking me out of my mind. I sigh in resentment; the memory was a nice distraction, believe it or not. No distraction only us only us go back. The trees continue to blur into one and shift into the image of the chasm. A black mass ran parallel to the train. It always pulls me in, taking shape in anything I see.
“Excuse me?” An old man wearing a tweed jacket bends over the seat next to him, stretching in my direction. “Are you okay? Don’t want you falling asleep and missing your stop now, do we?” He smiles.
“I’m fine.” You’re fine fine fine only fine with us. “I’m actually about to get off. But thank you.” He nods his head and turns back to the paper in his hand. The voices make it difficult to connect with the real world, so I often find myself caving in.
My friends are obviously concerned, they can see I haven’t slept. They mistake it for insomnia but I’d rather them believe that than think I’m insane. How do you explain to people that you have a secret place you go to to scare yourself? How do you explain that you hear voices? You can’t. You can’t. It’s not normal, I know that. I hate myself for it but there’s nothing I can do. I can never resist. Never resist.
A disembodied voice announces my stop and I slowly rise, pulling myself to the door. Come come come to us. I stare at the red lights surrounding the ‘Open’ button and forget what they’re for. I struggle to remember what it is I’m supposed to do but before I panic, a hand brushes past me and completes the job.
“Rough day?” The same husky voice that greeted me early continues, “Are you sure you’re okay?” The old man’s eyes crease with worry.
“Thank you. I just haven’t slept…forgot how to open the door.” I sigh. I couldn’t sound more stupid, could I? Stupid stupid stupid yes stupid. I carefully step off onto the platform outside and, surprisingly, don’t fall.
“Hey love,” the old man shouts, “everything will be okay.” He smiles at me, waving. “We all have dark days you know. But they’re only temporary.” The doors close and I watch him return to his seat. Temporary? If only he knew.
I turn back to the steps leading from the station and continue my journey. I know it so well by now that I don’t have to think to get there. My legs follow the path my mothers had years before, stiff with an unwanted purpose. Yes come back back come back. I look towards the ground, willing my legs to stop. I hate myself for doing this but there’s never any other choice. It’s become an instinct, a need. Once I cross over the last concrete step, I make a sharp left turn and am swallowed by nature.
The wind howls around me like a warning. I let my arms hang by my side and brush against the rough bark that’s guiding me. If it wasn’t for the eventual destination, this could actually be a beautiful walk. The sky is fragmented by the leaves above, leaving pools of light to fall around me. The smell of wet grass is relaxing, I feel it bend under my feet. There’s no one around but I can hear distant voices from the town past the station, they keep me grounded in reality. I walk harder, with more purpose. I just want this over. Never over never over. I take a deep breath and break through the bushes leading to the chasm.
It’s waiting for me. The black vines frozen in place from my last visit.
They begin to squirm as I walk closer.
I stop. Keep going keep going come closer. I stare as they’re reanimated by my presence. They slide back over the edge, wanting me to follow. It looks like it’s grown darker but I know this is a lie. Another illusion they create for me. When I’ll leave, hardly any time will have passed. Don’t leave never leave. I close my eyes and take another breath before stepping forward. Here I am.
The grass grows brown the further I walk. The air starts to feel thick, tightening my chest. Nothing makes sense here. My mind fills with the voices, my head burns with their words. Smoke climbs over the edge of the chasm, swarming around my feet and crawling up my legs. I stay planted in my usual spot.
Behind the smoke, the tendrils return. They creep along the ground, struggling to find me. Once they make contact, there’s a sharp pain that tears through my whole body. I grit my teeth and close my eyes. A strange warmth crawls up my torso, consuming me. They prod me continually, curling around my hands and feet. They’re vicious today. Gone too long too long.
My knees bend and I fall under their grasp, the dead grass crunching from my weight. They grow wider, wrapping around my neck like a snake. I struggle to breathe, but instinct makes me scream. No noise exits as they pour into my mouth. Eyes wide, I cry silently. Gone too long too long too long. Visions of my mother and that first encounter race across my mind. They know how to hurt me, what to show to make me ache. My blood turns to ice at their touch. I can feel them inside, exploring every inch of me. My muscles spasm as the unwanted entities wander around my body, feeling their way through cartilage and bone. There’s no way of rejecting them. Fighting just leads to a more painful struggle, so I take it. Hands clenched, I tremble.
I open my eyes but all I see is darkness. The tendrils have managed to seep through my eyelids and into my sockets. Tears fall down my cheeks but I compose myself. I could never win so why would I try? The swarms of tendrils flow with me as I shake from the fear. I let go of the memories they begin to eat away from me. My mother’s face flutters, she’s only a blur. My hands fall limp at my sides and I fall. The grass cushions my head and I close my eyes again. It’s been too long. Never leave for too long never too long.
My feet feel numb on the walk back. The buzzing lingers in my head as I routinely tread back to the station I’ve come to loathe. The light seems to avoid me as I walk between the shadows of the trees. There’s a loud silence alongside the irritating voices, making it difficult to think. As usual, the train pulls in as I get to the gate.
The carriage shakes but I feel nothing. I hear nothing. The voices dull to barely a whisper, satisfied with my visit. I feel the ghosts of the tendrils under my skin, flowing through my blood. I stare at my reflection in the window. Black eyes stare back, a grin widening on my unfamiliar face.