I know that I had tried the door before, but it was locked, although, as it turns out, it actually wasn’t.
Or maybe it had been, and then something changed, but it was different than expected. It was not so much that the door unlocked itself, it didn’t. The truth is only that the keyhole appeared, but that was later.
When I first tried the door, there was nothing, only a handle.
And everything must have happened already, or maybe it was just festering in the background, but wherever I was, whatever capacity I would serve, it all seems still removed enough for me to have stayed unaware. At least for then, at least for that now, at least for that while.
Then he started taking hostages, and we knew, no one would ever be safe again. Then, everyone panicked.
In the shatter of the chaos, I am pushed back with the crowd, and we huddle and mull for what seems like hours, and all the while, the MadMan, he dances out there, with his knife a constant flicker of bright, at the throats of his hostages, and all we do is cower. We push to the corners, and we hide, trying to disappear and never be seen. And I think, Won’t someone just take him? Won’t someone just say enough? Won’t we all just rush him and take the knife? But no one is moving in any direction except for away.
The one who is in front of me, he is wearing a blue shirt, and I see the sweat seeping through in a stain on his back. As the cloth grows more sodden, the cotton begins to stick to his skin, and I can see his muscles moving underneath, and underneath again. I watch his ribs expand through each breath, compressing and condensing like a coiled spring. I can smell his scent, like something of a cross between freshly mowed grass and a goat, and in an instant I understand, flight, fight, or frolic.
I guess it would have always been frolic ….
So I reach out and touch the one in front of me. I place my hand against the swear stain on his shirt, and say out loud,
“Why doesn’t someone take him? Why don’t we rush him as a crowd?”
The one in front of me, the man, the other, I feel his body react to my touch. He tenses, and the sweat stain beneath my palm grows slightly cooler to the touch. This man, he does not say anything, but he takes a slow and deep inhale of breath.
There are still no words, but as a crowd, we begin to move in, and there is a hive that is forming in this mind. Yet, we are too slow, we are too cumbersome, there are too many stragglers and it all becomes disjointed once again. I would not say that it was for lack of trying, but rather for lack of hope.
I catch the hint of something burning and cold across the side of my cheek, and then I am being pulled into a side hallway, and I think I realize then, that there is nowhere too far from this MadMan. I notice, suddenly, that there is blood on my hands, but I do not know if it is mine. My shirt is pink, now. The other, the man, the one who was in front of me, his shirt is no longer blue, but it is speckled and imperfectly dyed with a colour that I cannot name, but that I can smell with metal barbs.
Everyone is talking all at once. It might as well be that no one is saying anything at all.
And fade … and back in…
The other, the man, he is breathing down into the side of my neck as he pulls me backwards across the floor, and then he stops. He keeps breathing in my neck, and that is all that I can focus on, that warm, that moist, that violation. I feel that I am further trapped, in this place, in this crowd, in this position. We are watching the MadMan with his knife, and he is holding the hostages, all of us, hostage, at the thin split of a blade. None of us is doing anything.
I think, Is this it? We just stay to the periphery and out of sight? We trust that the MadMan will be content with the hostages he has, and that is enough to entertain himself sufficiently? Do we trust that we can get by unscathed? We are not unscathed, any of us..
I am not unscathed.
And I must have remembered the door.
(I think) I must have tried to tell the others, and as I pushed myself away from the breath of the other still holding me, from the weight of this land, I rose up, to stand. Still, everyone was talking all at once, and still, no one could be heard.
I unraveled myself from the other, the man, from his mowed grass and goat smell. All I want is for this other, this him, to stop breathing down my neck. And so I am running, running, down the hallways, down the ratholes, retracing my steps to the point where it all started. I am retracing my steps to the door.
For the very first time, since trying to come out all of this alive, since the first time this all started, I came to find the door had a lock, hidden in the desire to open. I still try the the handle at first, and still the door will not budge. As I look at the lock which has now appeared, I realize, too, that the lock is key.
And the door swings wide open.
I am shouting back to the huddled masses, I am shouting back to those hiding in the periphery. I am even shouting back at the man, the other — We can all get out. We don’t just have to stay here, waiting in fear. We can all get out and make our own way.
I wedge the door to keep it open, and run back to the crowd. I tell them all, there is a way out. All you have to do is go through the door, cross the threshold, and leave. The crowd was still talking without connection, coming undone, within and without. I think I can hear a murmur running through, and I think it says, oh yes, oh yes, show us. We will follow.
I cannot wait any longer. I know that I have to go, and I do.
I told them, and I did, and I left the door wide open. But I stepped out across the threshold, and walked up the path into the open, before I just ran and ran, towards the rising sun.
It was well into the glare of morning, however, before it dawned on me that nobody else had followed.
to be continued ….