Darkness is here. It bulges and it swells, encompassing everything in its wanton fury.
It wraps and it swirls, it breathes and it sighs. There is no escape from the dark.
It's pitch dark around me; no light penetrating the deep abyss of the dark.
My eyes cannot adjust, no matter how long I wait. I feel around and I grasp at nothing.
I stumble and I fall over objects that aren't there as I wander alone in the black.
I pray for a respite, but I know none will come. I reach for a light or a candle, but my hands find only empty space.
I hear a crash and something shatters, and I realise I've knocked over a lantern as I feel the still warm liquid pool in between my toes.
I cry out, but no sound can pierce the veil that surrounds me.
Have I gone blind, deaf and dumb? I don't even remember when it was that the lights went out.
Where am I? Am I still at home, dreaming some uncouth dream in which I am dead?
I expected the wailing of lost souls, for if I truly am dead, then this must be Hell.
I expected to hear discordant tongues and harsh accents of horror. I expected to see a storm that swirled forever in the darkened air where no time was.
So said Dante as he began his own journey through Hell. I expected to meet Charon the boatman and be taken to a distant land where time did not exist and no light shone.
Surely, this cannot be Hell, nor can it be Heaven, as I see no stairway, no Pearly Gates.
So I have come to the conclusion, that I'm trapped in some sort of waking dream; a nightmare that I cannot even see.
And so I walk, slowly and cautiously; avoiding invisible hazards that I feel will jump out at me and smash beneath my feet at any given moment.
For how long will this continue? For how long must I wander blindly through this blackened fog?
And suddenly my hands find purchase. Some kind of metal, cylindrical and cold. Fixed at points that I cannot find as I run my hands horizontally and vertically along.
Bars. Prison bars, keeping me here, in this unknown void.
My mind tells me that I'm calling out for help, though no sound finds its way to my ears.
Minutes I spend, standing and yelling. Minutes pulling at the bars of my mental prison.
Minutes turn into hours. Hours, it seems, turn into days. Standing, pulling, screaming.
To no avail.
And lo, an apparition? Some figment of my tired imagination? There, a man. So he stands, out of arm's reach.
So close, yet so far away as my screaming and exertion intensify. What is he doing? He just stands there, looking at me with those unseeing eyes.
Even as I watch, he shifts. At first only minutely, leading me to believe that this is yet another figment of my mind.
A trick. Yes, a trick. For this cannot be... His shape, it shifts.
No longer a man; smoke swirling from his body into some nightmarish being with eyes as red as ruby, and claws as sharp as a blade.
He stands, contorting constantly and the smoke seems to become him. Bent over slightly, the fire in his eyes burning brightly as he - no, it - erupts into some evil cackle, shaking him bodily from head to toe.
What force of evil is this, pray tell? Now he approaches, slowly, silently, determinedly. My hands I pull away from the bars as I take a hesitant step backwards.
The bars themselves do nothing, as it disperses into mere wisps of smoke and re-forms on my side, inside my prison.
Ever onward it presses, ever backward I step hoping against hope; praying that I don't stumble as I retreat.
My prayers are left unanswered as I slip on the aforementioned lantern and its spilled contents on the floor.
I lay now, flat on my back staring at this creature. The black smoke seeming to be a deeper black than the pitch dark backdrop.
An arm, it reaches towards me, elongated claws searching for what I deem to be