His mind wonders between the pitter-patter of rain, the thick drops landing on the wet ground, a percussion section winding down the orchestra of the waking world. Through the tall grass he weaves, it sways dreamily in his imagined breeze.
He presses his hand against the rough bark of an old oak tree. Feels its years in the deep groves of its brittle skin.
He’s stepping over roots entwined long before him, a path through the centuries that extend as far as he can see.
The deep green glow of the forest begins to dim as it swallows the fading light of the setting sun.
A pathway built of time leads him through to a clearing, a ring of peace formed around him and for him. He lies on his back and closes his eyes, letting the lullaby of tiny hoofs carry him to sleep.
The leaves of the trees rustle in the gentle breeze, he can almost feel the drops on his skin; the soothing sound of the rain grows inside his mind, it envelops him, transporting him back to the clearing.
The vastness of the night unfurls before him, an inky blackness punctured only by the fireballs millions of miles beyond. His mind turns to the wonders that must watch them too. To the mysteries, they must illuminate, the secrets within their light.
The dark consumes the last of the world as it finishes its creep across his view. He is pulled from thoughts of the unknown that surround him.
Pulled by a hint of a pattern between the drops, a rhythm, the lapping of waves against the shore, they carry him from the clearing far into the forest.
He stands amidst a grove of Aeons, slight amongst the towering trees. His comfort displaced by the sense of a presence. His gaze drifts and then hurries. He strains to see what isn’t there. He squints to see what he can not, a fade in the foliage, a weight to the air.
He takes a step towards the nothingness. He can feel it pulling him. A place within him wants it to. But he stops. He will not let it intrude. He breathes deeply, letting the rhythm of the breeze influence his breath, letting the rain clear his thoughts. Letting himself be carried back to the clearing to his solace, his peace, his rest.
The sweet scent of freshly fallen rain mixes with the heady fragrance of the forest, lifted into the air by the disturbance of the rain.
Giant Oaks and firs huddle together around him as if he was a fire they were protecting from the wind. He lies there, the raindrops patter his face. They run down his brow, dripping off his chin onto his neck. He feels them now. They are colder than the air. They create a cooling mist, he rests in it.
A protective atmosphere in his protected clearing.
But he hears it again, Softly, slowly, rumbling. A drum beat, the sound of marching from deep in the earth, from deep within himself. The tempo of waves lapping at the shore, steady, the constant of time moving forward, of all the time past that makes it swell. Quick notes stab through the rhythm as he sees it. As the tide creeps up the shore, it rides it, the shade within the night. The darker black he can not see, it stands there now at the clearings edge.
He senses its gaze on him as it lurks between the trees. He listens for the quiver, for the snap of branches the cackle of twigs beneath it, but the beat of the waves is all. It prowls along the edge of his comfort, waiting to be beckoned, waiting to emerge. He feels it, the coldness mounting at the base of his spine, the fear beginning to grip, restricting his lungs to shallow breaths. He is drifting into its gaze, he breaks away, fear beginning to consume him. He stares into the rain-soaked ground, between the blades of grass, into the lakes of water between each fallen green sword. He watches them ripple in the rain. He breathes deeper, broader. He counts the drops hitting the lakes, disrupting the worlds beneath them. He tells himself stories of the underwater worlds, he occupies himself, he breathes air into his mind, he doesn’t let the figure in.
He persists. He sleeps.
The ground is waterlogged, the clearing spreads under him like sweat-drenched sheets, a matted green fabric of grass and algae. He has to focus to hear the rain beneath the drum beat of the tide, he reaches for the comfort it brought him, but when he picks it out, it’s no longer a soothing patter but a lashing force against him. It hisses against the canopy of trees that loom around him no longer seeming to protect but to judge. A jury peering down on him.
The tides are licking at him now as he lies on his eroding mound of safety. His body is numb and stiffened with cold. The waters muddying his clothes, twigs carried by the tide scratch at his skin. The moon above him radiating menace through the tree line, not playing threatening tricks with shadows illuminating them, the threats within the trees.
They are numerous.
They do not wait to creep into his thoughts. They await him.
All holding hands, a chain-link fence around the clearing, they contain him, as they always have.
He stands, his filthy clothes clinging to his scratched skin as the downpour builds. The figures step towards him, united as one, his darkness tightening its grip. His heartbeat pounds his ribs, a drum beat of his own, but the only tide it rises is the one of fear that threatens to drown him.
The figures’ approach, no more clear now they duplicate outwards, now they close in. No features to frame on no face, a inky shape amongst the dark night. Yet its gaze feels sharp on him, paralyzing him in place.
Their mouths open as one, darker circles of nothingness drawing upwards on the shadowy figures, readying to receive.
They let the rain pour into them. They let his peace, his solace, his safety be their communion. They let it flood into their mouths, let it engorge them, they consume it all, they grow, blood leeches on his mind, they feed.
Like the trees that surround them, they loom now tall and strong, the goodness in him consumed by the darkness.
He falls into them as easily as falling into a well.
They stretch out above him as he falls further and further. He awaits the comfort of the bottom for the familiarity of the darkness to become his world. He no longer needs to fight it, he will embrace it, and it will embrace him.
They reach to him as he plummets, arms that aren’t their place hands that don’t exist around him. They lower him to the bottom, they place him, he lets them, he accepts them.
No more can the man drift off to sleep listening to the sounds of the rain.
No longer can he distract himself from the dark thoughts that kept him up at night.
The concept of day or night does not exist for the man now.
He is lost to the never-ending abyss .
He can’t wander the world searching for his place. He can’t find solace in a peaceful moment.
He has only the darkness at the bottom of the well.
His battle lost, darkness walks the man’s life, it consumed him, it became him.
When his family talk of him, they will talk of the darkness.
When they visit him, he will not see them, he lies at the bottom of his well now, he always will.