Darkness Ahead

Hundreds of thousands of masked travelers have trudged along this long dark and dank tunnel and approaching four years we have kept on moving on, through the mud and the vile slime, the vermine and the decaying bones of the dead.

We don’t all agree on everything but we are of one mind, we all want to live and all somehow, somewhere traveling through the same dangerous tunnel, though it seems to get bleaker and bleaker with every step. There are cracks in the walls of the tunnel and the cracks seem to be growing more common and expanding, letting fetid water seep in and drip on the bare necks of the travelers but they keep moving ahead, unswerving in their goal to get back to the sun and the life-sustaining warmth that it gives.

We all want this to end, to walk in the high grass, smell the blooming jasmine and to lie down in a field and watch the clouds overhead and realize that the darkness is such a waste of time and that time is a precious commodity that can never be regained. It feels like we have been on this bad path forever, that our foundation is being dislodged, brick by brick, and that the memories of better times become more distant and dimmer and unattainable while most of us can’t even gauge how far we have walked.

People have gotten old, many have fallen ill and many have died, some have fallen prey to panic and fear, many have fallen in love in spite of it all and had babies who have been born with no knowledge of anything other than the tunnel.

It’s not easy but most of us have found a way to keep our sanity and our spirits even if it feels like we are walking deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth to a destination that none of us can predict. It is so frightening and it just seems like it never took so much energy just to travel a few miles and we are all so very weary and want only to sleep without worry.

The children ask us where we are going and why they can’t turn back and have their lives back. We have no answers but try to console the children with words of hope because sometimes that is all we have left. We aren’t that worried about the children because they are strong and they adjust and they have an unbending will to enjoy life. For that reason, we have to keep our own heads high so that the children are free to live without the worries that we all harbor not so deep below our fragile surfaces.

You can hear the footsteps splashing in the puddles as the people plod ahead in this river of darkness, understanding that there really is no turning back because to reverse course would mean that we have given up on the children and we can never do that.

We talk, a lot, and most of us try to stay away from blame and white hot anger, though most of us feel it eating away at our souls. There are many loud and angry discussions with no resolutions or acceptable answers. We try to maintain some sense of normalcy but it is not easy to do when you feel like your old world has ended and you haven’t seen the sun and smelled the forests and the flowers or seen the eagles sore for so long and may never again.

There is dancing, though not very much and the sounds of laughter seem more remote but we keep trying to lighten it up, often unsuccessfully while people seem to be smiling less and less and worrying more and more. It’s like nothing we have experienced before and nobody has a manual to tell them how to react.

But mostly we don’t understand why this has happened and why it seemed that one day we were essentially civil, trying to deal with our differences and literally, the next day, everything had cracked wide open with people rushing to one side or the other to avoid being sucked into the fissure, while the tunnel was relentlessly filling up with water that could drown us all on both sides.

One indisputable reality is that in time, every road ends and we all know that and that’s what keeps us moving ahead but we don’t know if the light at the end will be the sun or just another train barreling down the tracks at us or if it will take days or months or lifetimes.

As human beings, we have to be confident that the species will persevere, the light will nourish us all and let us all find answers to avoid another lifetime in darkness. If we didn’t have that optimistic spirit, how could we go on, how could we take even one more futile step if we thought the destination was disastrous?

Hatred just violates the core of what makes us human. You can hate only for so long before it consumes you and kills you. It is tempting to succumb to anger when the sides seem so clearly defined into good and evil. The thing that keeps most of us from falling into the trap of anger is that we all know that once we jump in we may never find a way out. And we all know in our core that we are all the same, even if that may often seem to be an absurd dream.

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer