The Black Hole

Dust and grime stuck to fingertips as they slid across hardwood floor. The edge of a faded flip flop revealed its location behind sagging shoebox, just barely out of reach. A cold nose nudged his shoulder as he wondered how the footwear had gotten pushed so far under his bed

Belly to floor, he lunged forward and grasped the strap. In his haste to remove it from its hideaway, his elbow made contact with cardboard. The shoebox spilled its contents across the floor. 

A momentary hesitation indicated his desire to leave everything in the dust and proceed with his mission, but experience had taught him better. With a sweeping motion of his arm, he drew the scattered objects from the blackness beneath his bed and into the glow cast by his window.

Staring back at him were little trinkets and scraps of paper. These were reminders of people or events that were important. A barely legible ticket stub reminded him of the first concert he had ever gone to without his parents, and the feeling of freedom that came with it. He silently named the faces in a photograph taken outside his highschool, shining with the naive belief in all the wonderful opportunities that life had to offer. His mouth twitched into a half-smile when he saw the Star Trek action figure–vintage, 1974. It was Spock. 

Spock was rotated in his hands a few times. The chipped paint and mildly disproportionate facial features did not take away from the serene expression on his face. 

He wished he could be like Spock sometimes. 

Emptiness began to open up inside his chest as he felt his body grow heavy with emotion. Eyes scanned the room, seeking relief, but finding only more pain. Dirty laundry strewn across the floor in lifeless heaps, giving off the odor of disappointment. An empty carton of chocolate milk on his bedside table smugly reminded him that he had spent the entire previous day binge watching TV. Amazon boxes, gutted and abandoned, packing material drooping from the side, seemed a summary of his existence.

Closing his eyes, he unwillingly confronted the darkness of his own mind. It was vast and crushing. It was a black hole within his very being, threatening to suck him in and annihilate him. It was extinguished motivation. It was despair. It was death.

Spock resisted the crushing force of his left hand. As he loosened his grip, he felt the phrase from Season 2 Episode 1 ignite the darkness within him. 

After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but is often true.

Most of the people in his high school picture were married now. A few had kids. All had good jobs and beautiful homes. Still, in their eyes he recognized the black hole. 

Happiness was not wanting or having. It was a choice made in every moment. 

Cold wet nose nudged his shoulder. 

He made his choice.

(C) 2021 Barbara Gray – no content may be used or reproduced without permission of the author.

Dark Magic

Toes blanketed in warm sand, face turned upward absorbing the energy of the sun, a gentle breeze whispered this is heaven. The sentiment was echoed by the melodic voices of the gulls overhead, harmonizing with the distant hush of waves against shore. The faint taste of salt on lips and hair made wild by the wind closed the separation between body and environment.

This was heaven on earth. 

Heaven on earth was now a heaven that existed only in memory. Summer vacation had come and gone as if it had never been more than a wish. Back in the wasteland of first semester, nothing remained except patches of peeling skin, souvenirs from days spent with too much sun and too little sunscreen. 

The cold gray prison block euphemistically referred to as “school” had thoroughly eradicated any sensation of heaven–or freedom for that matter. With its humid classrooms that smelled of sweat, dust, bleach and the occasional fart, this was either hell or at least purgatory. 

High school is such a magical time someone once had said. 

Magic? Maybe dark magic. 

High school did have a certain power. It had the power to make time itself slow to a sickening pace, each tick of the clock on the wall smirking at its own laziness. This dark magic manifested as the slow droning of the chemistry teacher’s voice, invisibly closing eyelids and setting hands to doodling. It was the instigator of tapping feet under tabletops, nails chewed to the skin and contagious yawns. It was the wandering attention, the tears secretly shed in bathroom stalls and the smoke rising from cigarettes in that one corner everyone called “the pit.” 

It was the mechanical pencil that had run out of lead.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Eyes silently counted. 

Dark magic was channeled by the jarring emittance of the bell and the resulting rush for the door. It was the cacophony of chairs thrust backward, zippers yanked shut and voices breaking out into nervous chatter. Dark magic was embedded in the rush for a door that did not spell freedom. 

It spelled lunch. 

Dark magic weaved its way through the narrow hallway of competing elbows and toes and spread itself throughout the large space occupied by slabs of compressed wood generously called tables. It sank into the cold metal bars attached to benches and chewed into the cold gum stuck underneath. It was the smell different from all other smells. It was the merging of the aroma of cheap pizza, chicken nuggets and sweaty socks. It was the clinging of sticky floors to soles of sneakers as bodies made their way to unspoken assigned seats. 

Dark magic coerced soggy-breaded sandwiches into grudging mouths. It traded bags of crushed Cheetos for broken pretzels, celery sticks for carrots and sweaty juice boxes for cartons of lukewarm strawberry milk. It inspired rushed conversations, flirtatious encounters and hurt feelings hidden behind folded arms. It wove its insecurities and fixations on imperfections into developing brains. 

Dark magic was–

Ringgggggggggg

(C) 2021 Barbara Gray – no content may be used or reproduced without permission of the author.