The Imposition of Darkness

There was a day that I sat down with whom I would consider one of my best friends. This friend of mine was always pretty cavalier about recreational drug use, but kept it light. Then there came a time when I noticed his casual drug intake was trending upward. It was around this time that I got to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with him. Just the two of us.

The conversation began slow. He and I were sitting in such a way that I could only see the side of his face; his profile. He would only turn to face me when he was talking about something that was particularly pertinent.

So at one point, he turned to me and said, “I think I saw the devil.” After asking incredulous and rhetorical questions, I just let him speak.

“It was about a month ago. I was passed out on the couch and woke up in the middle of the night. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew I was being watched. I didn’t think, I knew. I looked around the room. It was dark but then I saw something darker than the normal nighttime darkness of my living room. It was about the size and shape of a man. I just lay there, staring back at it. I mean, it didn’t have eyes, but I was just staring into it.” He paused here. “It scared me a lot. I mean I know I had a lot to drink, but I’m telling you, I was certain in that moment that what I was seeing wasn’t just my imagination or some hallucination.”

“So I’m staring back at him and then it starts to move closer to me. I don’t know how, but I knew it would do no good for me to try to move or run away from it. I just sort of let it get closer to me. It’s getting closer and it’s just…expanding. It’s darkness I mean, it just starts enveloping the whole room. Then, just before all I can see is the darkness of this thing, it stops so that from the fringes of my sight, I could still see some of the wall and the ceiling and shit. He-he, it, if there is an omniscient being like the devil, I doubt it has a gender-anyway he just stays there so that he is almost all I could see. It doesn’t move any closer. And I can do nothing but lie there and stare at his darkness.

“It never moved again. It just stood there over me as I’m splayed out on the couch. After a while it becomes apparent that nothing is going to happen and there was nothing to do but lay my head down, close my eyes and go back to sleep. And that’s what I did.”

“Jesus, I’m surprised you were even able to go back to sleep. I would have been scared shitless.”

“That’s the weird thing,” he started again, “I was scared but somehow I knew that the only thing to do in that situation was go back to sleep.”

“And you’re positive it wasn’t just a dream?” I asked.

He turned his face away from mine and explained, “I wasn’t so sure at first, but I’ve only told you the half of it. I would have been able to shrug it off as a dream if I weren’t still seeing him.” I stayed silent. “The next morning I woke up and the blackness was gone. Everything in the room was normal. But then I started noticing something: if ever I let my eyes focus on anything for a little while, any time I am at rest, left to my own devices and the silence of my mind, I see him. A blackness not so imposing or large as that night but it’s surely there. A spot of darkness behind everything I see. If I sit and stare long enough, he gets bigger.”

He turned his face back toward me and gazed in my direction intently for a few seconds. I couldn’t resist to ask the obvious question, even though I was frightened to hear the answer and I’m sure he was hesitant to tell me, “Do you see him now?” He maintained eye contact with me and said, “Yes.”

“What does he look like?”

“Like nothing. Like blackness; shapeless but deep blackness.” He broke eye contact with me and looked back in the direction he was sitting, perpendicular to me. “Sometimes I can’t even say that I physically see him, but his impression is there and I’m certain of it. I actually wish I saw him every time because it’s when I can’t see him that is most distressing. I know he’s there whether I can see him or not.”

A better man might know what to say to a loved one that just told him that he sees the devil on a regular basis, but I was at a loss. I’ve heard ghost stories before but nothing like this coming from someone I would consider a very reasonable man, someone that I trusted and frankly, loved.

Indeed, what is there to say? But this is what I ventured: “I can’t imagine how you’ve been dealing with that. But I gotta say, I’ve noticed you’ve kicked it up a notch with the pills and booze.”

He looked back at me and said, “If I focus on anything for too long, in other words, if I’m not distracted, he gets bigger. So, I keep myself distracted.”

“And that helps?” I inquired.

“It does,” he said calmly, “but it use to help me a lot more than it does now. It’s getting worse. It’s getting closer to me. I don’t just see him, he’s in my mind and I can almost feel his weight bearing down on my body. I know I’m not going to be hurt but I know something else, I can just feel it.”

“What?” I asked.

He called me by name and answered, “Somehow, some way, he’s coming for me.”

To this day I couldn’t say with any certainty what he meant by that. All I knew was that I was scared and worried for him. And, as it turns out, I had cause to be. Eight months after we had this conversation, my friend stopped his heart with a lethal mixture of codeine and oxycodone. It wasn’t determined whether it was accidental or intentional. I wept a great deal for my friend but, like he must have, I saw it coming.

 

Some Soma in the 60’s

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There was the annoying glare of the sunlight beaming through the large bay window into the TV right on time as always. Tab twinged her foot subconsciously every time this happened. With her program all but obscured by the damned sunlight her mind was no longer occupied and very much up for grabs. She had been watching Password and Paul Anka was the guest appearance of the day. Tab was successfully occupied until 3:30 when the glare made the set unwatchable. This was the crux of her day. With her 3 year old boy fed, all cleaned up and taking his afternoon nap, the kitchen in order and with her husband not due home form work for another 2 hours, Tab was woefully left to her own devices. Sure, she could draw the curtains and eliminate the glare but that made her sunken Greeley, Colorado living room too dark. ‘It feels like a cave’ Tab would think to herself every time she did so. Like every day she stared intently at the screen trying to salvage an image but, like every day, to no avail. The aggravation was what always snapped her from her TV induced stupor. Now, completely aware of her surroundings at 3:30 p.m. Tab had to figure out what to do with the 2 hours it would take for either her son to wake up or her husband to come home. Of course, such considerations were recently becoming a mere formality for Tab; she knew essentially how she would occupy her time.

The previous winter Tab’s husband Patrick took her to Lake Tahoe for skiing. The trip was something of a bonus from Patrick’s boss for being one of the top 4 performing salesmen in the ’68 fiscal year. Tab was thrilled. She had never been to sunny California and relished the ideas of breaking free of the monotony she found herself resenting more and more as a stay at home wife and seeing the coast for the first time in her life.She loved her son and husband but her feelings for them were unmistakably sullied by a suppressed resentment even if Tab didn’t realize it herself. During the weeks leading up to the trip, Tab took an evening to go to the library and read up on Tahoe. She found that it was about a 5 hour drive drive to the coast from where they would be staying. “We’ll be able to carve out some time to drive out and see the coast won’t we?” Tab asked as she gently unclasped her silver earrings and placed them in the jewelry box on the nightstand next to their bed. “Honey this is a skiing trip. Besides, it’s November. The coast will be nothing but cold and craggy.” To this, all Tab did was give her husband an intent look dead in his eyes as she raised her left eyebrow ever so subtly. Patrick caught the look, continued to unbutton his shirt and relented. “I’ll see about a rental but no promises.” Tab smiled and continued to undress.

The flight had been enjoyable for Tab. Despite being wedged in the center aisle between her husband and a man who immediately fell asleep and began snoring upon take-off, Tab’s spirits and excitement could not be dampened. Tab wasn’t exactly the athletic type so skiing was something of a periphery bonus. She was most eager to drive out to the California coast. When they got to the front desk of the resort hotel, Tab immediately spotted a desktop cardboard stand with brochures for all kinds of activities and services including car rental. She silently gripped Patrick’s arm as he was checking in and nudged her nose towards the brochures. Patrick took one. The weekend trip began early Saturday morning with lessons for Tab. She had never been skiing before but Patrick had and enjoyed it even from his youth. So he attended his wife patiently as the instructor ran her through the basics. Eager to hit the slopes, Patrick rushed her to the bunny course and took a first run with her. It didn’t take 5 minutes for Tab to hit an ice patch, tumble over and twist her ankle. The weekend was shot for Patrick but Tab took the incident as divine providence that they have nothing to do together now but drive to the coast. They could leave first thing Sunday morning and still have time to make their 4:40 flight, she reasoned to Patrick. She slept early that night to rest her ankle but at 8:00 p.m. Patrick was still wide awake after they had their dinner so he went down to the hotel bar. He was disappointed that his weekend of skiing was so immediately brought to an end and somewhere around his 3rd highball, he began to suspect that his wife intentionally took a spill just so that they could have more time to take that idiotic coast trip of hers. Patrick noisily inserted his room key into the lock and sauntered into their room. He walked into the bathroom and saw the Hertz brochure on the sink. He threw it in the toilet as he urinated and flushed it all down. He went to bed without setting an alarm. The next morning, the Maynard’s greeted the California sun with a good old marital spat. Neither of them woke up when Tab wanted to and a hungover, unwashed Patrick informed his wife that the drive was not happening. “It’s not in the budget.” he half argued to his irate wife. Tab went down to have breakfast while Patrick showered and spent the rest of the morning and afternoon reading magazines in the lobby with all of her things packed. Patrick took a short hike around the resort grounds and watched football in the bar until it was time to pack up and head to the airport. It had been a disaster of a trip- no skiing and no sex. They were stone silent with each other the entire flight home. When they got back to Greeley Tab insisted she needed to see a doctor for her ankle. “It’s just a rolled ankle, it should be healing fine on it’s own.” Patrick argued. “Well it’s not.” Tab said matter-of-factly and that was that. The family doctor prescribed rest and Carisoprodol.

Tab uncrossed her legs and got up from the couch. She went into the kitchen and fiddled with some flatware for a bit but nothing was taking. She did a lap through the house but nothing needed cleaning. She stood in the living room scanning the E-Z Chair, coffee table and TV console and finally made her way to the upstairs bathroom and the medicine cabinet. Her eyes instantly fixed to the shelf where she knew her next activity would be waiting for her. She selected a bottle with her name, Tabitha Maynard printed on the label along with the name Soma. She rattled 2 capsules into the palm of her hand and went back down to the kitchen. Her Oxford’s clinked on the orange sunburst Linoleum floor as she headed towards the liquor cabinet. She poured herself a whiskey glass half-full of Chardonnay and gulped down the 2 capsules with her first swig of wine. The potent little muscle relaxers became part of her daily routine when things would get dull. Long after her ankle was completely healed, she took comfort in between the medicine and liquor cabinets. These days, she swam languidly into most evenings on a soft wave of blissful numbness. Everything was so much more enjoyable in this state. Everything that crept to the forefront of her mind when the glare of the sun sobered her from her broadcasted ossification became so much more tolerable with these pills and maybe a couple glasses of wine. She jaunted into the living room once again and turned on the hi-fi. The cool electric organ keys of Eddie Layton drowned out most of the noise of the TV that was left on. Tab swung her hips and cha-cha’d clear over the sunken sectional where she collapsed on a cloud of pillows and couch cushions. Laying there on the couch, her head hanging off the seat cushions and her feet up on the backrest, Tab was laughing uncontrollably. She put the palm of her hand to her forehead as if to feign embarrassment but was belly laughing the whole time. The upside-down position she found herself in on the couch was remarkably comfortable to her and as her laughter subsided, she began to feel sleepy. Without moving a heavenly muscle, she closed her eyes and thought hazily, ‘That was the closest I’d ever been to the coast.’ She drifted off but could hear the faint jingle of the Hamm’s Beer commercial playing on the Television as she slipped away, “In the land of the sky blue waters….”