I was running- or at least trying. My legs were heavy as lead, numb, and seemingly only moving in slow motion, no matter how much effort I made to flee. They were going to catch me if I couldn’t think of something quick. It had been hours, and I was simply too weary to run any more. I turned a corner and slowly, painfully made my way along the alley between two of the countless black structures that could have once resembled tiny single-room homes, throwing up dense clouds of the black soot beneath my feet as I went. I weakly sank to the ground, propping myself up against the wall.
I could barely make out anything in this tangible darkness, and felt a thick, stifling heat on my suffocating skin. There was only a barely perceptible, sickly yellow glow coming from the inside of a few of the shambled buildings, but the poor illumination barely even threw itself outside of the windowless cut-outs in its crumbling walls. I knew there were no people here- maybe there once had been. Perhaps there had once been happily naive semblances of families. Maybe there had once been children walking about in the sunlight, dreaming of all that the world or divine fates held in store for their hearts of such characteristically child-like faith. Perhaps there had the great number of fortunate lovers lost in something great enough to temporarily numb out reality. There had once been names and faces that meant so very much more to those who were theirs, than words could ever say. Perhaps there had once even been words that did mean something.
But I knew that was so long ago, that I could remember no more beyond a dry, pallid, detached understanding of what any of those things felt like. I knew no one even knew I was here in this infernal darkness; I knew they were all far away in their own cages, corridors, or lives.
I sensed that they were almost upon me again; out for the irreconcilable debt of flesh and blood that they had forever condemned themselves to. I sat down in the dust, for my legs would move no further and my body was growing heavier. Why run? There would never be anywhere to run to. I looked up to where I recalled there had once been a sky, and opened my mouth to utter a prayer; but the words did not come. I was always mute when I most needed to cry for help or make peace.
I felt their ghastly presence drawing closer still- likely moments before I would be found.
They simply wanted to make their agony mine as well- who knows that I wouldn’t ever do the same at such a tempting prospect. Yet I truly never felt that my misery really loved company, but it’s what I used to see all those used-to-be -people doing all around; looking for something or someone to share the torment- to identify, to be seen and felt as a soul. But then again, these beings didn’t have souls anymore, and I grew again inexpressibly terrified at the implications. I rose to my feet.
Looking down to find my legs, I wasted a moment to brush the ash from my crimson shirt. I could feel nothing but the roaring, panicked static in my head. It seemed like nothing else had ever been real.
I stepped back out staring through the swirling soot and down the road fading into blackness.
The pain woke me, and I opened my eyes to behold the same profane grey ceiling.