In my line of work, I encountered many a bizarre situation that at first glance defied both logic and understanding. Examining beneath to odd surfaces, more than I felt comfortable admitting had been legitimate occurrences that existed outside the definitions of normal phenomenon, however, most of the cases I was brought on to investigate had been well-staged hoaxes, lies I had been able to unravel thread by thread until the truth was exposed but this, what I was looking at now, this, only fragments of which were identifiable, I was having a difficult time piecing those fragments into a cohesive whole that made sense.
When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
The famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche turned over and over in my mind but I was not gazing into what existed beyond the door, it was surging into my eyes, forcing me to take it in, blinding me to all else save its presence. The thickness of it bled into all my senses, pouring on layer after layer, taxing my ability to absorb it all. My limited comprehension was immediately overwhelmed with abstract concepts and nightmarish visions but the images invading my body were also infused with texture and weight and a vibration that created a high pitch sound I should not have had the capacity to hear, a sound that drove icepicks into my head, piercing the membrane of my middle ear.
No, this was not an abyss, not some dark immeasurable chasmal region of hell but within it existed abysses dwarfed by greater horrors and wonders. I had the inexplicable notion that it forced itself on all my senses because it realized mere sight was not enough to take in its enormity and words would not have been enough to describe it for how does one describe the smell of an extremely hot, small, and dense superforce of a singularity? The texture of the rapid expansion of existence? The sound of an atom being born, of the formation of galaxies? The taste of the sentient spark that would launch civilizations?
This thing that was so much more than anything I had ever encountered in life also snaked its way into my sixth sense, my power of perception, and taunted it with the concepts of everything, everything that ever was, everything that ever will be, everything known and unknowable. And with that came what could only have been called the stench of humanity, putrescent corpses marinated in human excrement, seasoned with sulfur and a sickly sweet, overripe fruity overtone, all of which I tasted on my tongue.
In order to prevent myself from gagging, I forced myself to adjust to it, to adapt and not die, but it was altering itself at such an ultraliminal pace that my eyes kept sliding off certain places I tried to focus on as if it was coated in a visual oil slick, while refracting my vision in other spots. It was an ever-expanding vista that occasionally folded in on itself and exploded into brand new structures that expanded and folded and exploded in a never-ending yet not quite repetitive cycle. It was like watching the Big Bang occur, race through a twenty-billion-year lifespan until its gravity eventually stopped its expansion and it began contracting until all its matter collapsed to a final singularity, only to explode into life again like a phoenix rising from its own ashes. But even this comparison was not totally accurate, it was simply my mind’s attempt at filling in the numerous blanks.
Between its expansion and collapse, figures appeared within it and faded away, not detailed humans or even humanoid but impressions of ambulatory flesh and behind them—ever present in the background and sometimes pushing its way through to the forefront of an instant here, a moment there—was a dark shadowy thing that seemed to billow like fog but left a visual echo like a living stop-motion entity that flattened each reality it pushed through and crumbled them like so many dry leaves to be carried off by the invisible winds of entropy.
As reality whirled just beyond the doorway, the once solid train floor turned to quicksand and the car seemed to rock and sway, threatening to rob me of my balance, to send me falling ever deeper until I cracked my skull and let slip the tiny remnants of sanity I somehow managed to hold on to by the tips of my fingers.
The longer I stared through the doorway—where the air bled realities that not only overlapped but intermingled other realities before it burned the bottom layer realities away—the less comprehensible the realities became. They became something alien to me, and I had a sense that I knew nothing at all about reality, about existence, about myself. I was finally able to see through all the lies I unconsciously told myself to distract me from the truth that I had ignored my biological imperative and would remain alone and this acknowledgment of the futility of my existence, of filling my life with busy work and would continue doing so until the day I eventually died made me want to leap. The most frightening part was if that managed to happen, if I managed to be sucked into the swirling madness that was terrifying and somewhat familiar in places, I did not think I would have minded experiencing the miracle within it firsthand.
I was drunk on existence. I had only been truly intoxicated two times in my life when I was foolish enough to keep company with experienced drinkers and had not thought to fortify my body with food beforehand and this made those head-pounding, gut-wrenching experiences seem nothing more severe than a bad after-taste. Within this inebriation there lurked an awful formless panic. I was in the middle of nowhere and everywhere simultaneously and I felt vulnerable and lonely but also at one with a slippery existence in which I could not maintain balance. I was falling, always falling, falling within falling, struggling against the fall, though I realized I was still standing upright. All the individual bits of me, my mind, personality and soul had been separated into layers by year then by month, by day, by hour, by minute, by second and my core self was falling through each of those layers.
Suddenly I was a child again, helping my father repair the roof of our house and against his instructions I climbed above the rung he told me to stay on. Spotting me, he shouted a warning that shook me and made me lose grip. My fingers slipped from the top rung and I fell backward off the ladder. Throughout the years, the pain associated with making contact with the ground was gone and all I remembered was falling in slow motion which felt a bit like flying followed by the sparks and stars that filled my eyes and the blood that filled my mouth. This time as I tumbled within myself my eyes were filled with blinding futures and my mouth filled with bitter pasts.
Then civilizations crashed down on me, civilizations inhabited by people, by beings, by creatures, hundreds of them, thousands, millions, piling on me, pressing their way into my skin, melting into my muscles, my organs and my bones and I could not remain separate from them because the pressure increased as their descendants and their descendants’ descendants buried me under an avalanche of flesh that would not stop and I could smell them and taste them and hear the noises they made and feel the sensations they experienced and I screamed against the agony, so wide I felt my jaw unhinge, which only allowed them to fill my mouth and choke the life from me. Soon there would be no room left in my own body for me.
I tried to pull my self back into myself, to turn my overcrowded head away from the mouth of madness. But I couldn’t. At this point, I was not quite sure that I wanted to as if it was an action I would not be able to take unless the entirety of my being was totally committed to it. Just how long had I been standing there, how long would I have continued standing there, if the train car door had not suddenly closed?
The weight of the universe was lifting from me and my bones creaked in relief. My arm was still resting on the riveted metal plates of the car walls and I made the slow returning climb to the physical world.
It was being extracted from me, everything that had previously invaded my body was being expelled. It ran as tears from my eyes, mucus my nose, bile from my mouth and sweat from the pores of my skin. It left me aching and weak, my insides grew soft and I melted like wax. My body crumpled into messy folds on the train floor and as the experience of what existed outside the train car left me, when there was nothing else inside my body but me I realized just how empty a shell I was, how incomplete, how hollow and I would have become lost in this realization forever if not for the burning sensation in my throat. I gasped and shuddered as a single breath of air traced its way into my lungs. I savored it and wondered had I been holding my breath the entire time? How long had it been since my last breath for me to be gulping any oxygen that may enter? I remained on the floor until my breathing normalized.
How I managed to endure being one with everything than stripped back down to a singular self, I’ll never know. Through sheer will, I managed to crawl over to Madi who lay on her back groaning and rubbing her eyes with the heel of her palms. I wanted to collapse beside her, I wanted to fall asleep to wake up in my bed to find this had been nothing more than a dream but I couldn’t. There was a mystery to be solved and my mind wouldn’t let me rest until I peered behind the curtain and exposed the truth.
“You still with us?” I asked. I wanted to say more, I wanted to make sure she hadn’t been harmed, I wanted to hold her, to feel the reassurance of her presences, but we were under the observation of the mysterious woman and any affection I displayed might have been interpreted as weakness.
“What the hell was that, Darius? Hypnosis?” Madi raised herself on her elbows.
“A distinct possibility. They could have planted a post-hypnotic suggestion when we first arrived.”
“Not hypnosis,” the woman said. “What you experienced is very real and the reason we sealed off all the windows in here.”
“What is that?” McKissick asked. Just beyond Madi he managed to get up on his knees and shook his head to clear the cobwebs.
“What is it? Where is it? When is it? Any of these questions are applicable, Mr. McKissick. I call it the vein of God. We are sitting within time itself.”