All in a line, they sat, staring. They were the experts, staring because staring is what filled
their minds and hearts with the sense of reality they had always known. They had done nothing but stare since the beginning
of time. They were meant to stare. Meant to take in this and nothing else.
On the rocky wall
built up in their line of sight was the soft, flickering firelight that glowed from the great flames behind them, where they
had never turned. The wall covered their minds and reached to every corner of their vision, limited by their unturning heads
and their blank lack of desire for anything more.
The fire was ever burning- their eyes ever staring. For hours and days
the fuzzy glow danced...for weeks and years the moments repeated their comfortable warmth.
It had been this way since the beginning. They sat, they stared, they did not move. The firelight glowed and bubbled on the
rock, and the shadows would come and go. Sometimes they would be shaped with crisp edges, pushing the gentle light into the
background with their exciting, black realness. They would form things that had never been, but yet their names seemed to
crystalize in the minds of those staring- these things called men...trees....dogs. Meaningless words to go with the black
shapes...the curving and cornered lines of empty darkness that filled a hole in the raging fire. They did not look at each
other. They saw only the rock, the fire, the beautiful shadows. Time became nothingness. Life became a glow.
At one point she shivered. The others did not. She managed to turn her head- something the others had never done. She moved
her eyes from the rock and behind her to the real flaming source of the light. Her bones creaked painfully against one another,
moving where they had never moved before. Her skin stretched menacingly...her cold face suddenly lit and burning. Her eyes
watered and swam into blurry pools. Her vision errupted. Where there had once been lovely and predictable shadows, there was
a spinning ball of steam and anguish- sending spears of pain into the soft core of her heart.
Still, she turned further. Her body cried out, but her mind was crying louder. Crying with desire. She turned her back to
the rocky wall while the others sat dazed and content as the outline of a man appeared once again on the yellow-orange backdrop.
This time the shape was beckoning with a gentle curve of its arm...welcoming the others to watch, but she was staring backward...at
the real thing, and knew in the fried depths of her existence that what it was doing meant something. It had white things
that moved about in the small round portion of its high side. They seemed to stop when she stared at them, holding their place.
A sound escaped her dry lips, and before long there were more sounds. The others did not notice. The sounds were behind them,
certainly not a part of the world that the rock was giving them.
All at once the moment was
changing. The hard gritty surface of the floor leapt downwards, and a soft, cool cradle of air was around here, lifting her.
The shadowy thing had wrapped itself around her somehow...she had felt its touch on her hand. It had pulled her away from
the rock and made her body cry out once more with the pain of being moved. Her hand was prickled with contact that seemed
to last and last. The darting white things disappeared for a moment, then returned. She stared as this repeated itself...and
let herself collapse into the black shape before her. There was nowhere else to go. The others could not forget her, for they
never knew her. All they knew was the rock...the glow...the shadow...and now the shadow had picked her.
The cradle of sensation that enveloped her was a rebirth. Time began to tick. Moments became something more than rock, more
than glowing firelight. The temperature of the world entered her eyes, her ears, her nose. These things that had before been
empty spaces in the back of her mind now had words...much like some of the shadows had had names.. Man, tree, dog. Eyes, ears,
nose. Words and language appeared in the dark, and a tiny pinpoint of light materialized somewhere far away. She was being
lead...carried...caressed...softly touched by something alive, and the pinpoint was growing bigger. Much bigger. There was
something at her feet now. The surface that had once been close, and had jumped downward was now jumping away and returning
over and over as she moved along a tunnel. The light was coming.
Her heart exploded and her
vision fell inward to the tired muscles of her face. Her mind became a liquid, boiling universe of whiteness. For hours and
days the whiteness held. For weeks and years it became the rock. Things began to move on it...to form shapes. Though there
was no firelight, there was color- a mind-blowing color that made her think only of deep, eternal life. It was an eternity
of color and soft, gentle air moving about her. Then all at once she saw it, and tears flew from her eyes in a shower, filling
the moment with priceless energy. Her lips formed the word for the thing she had only felt in the back of her mind, and she
found her voice- a thing she had never had. Her voice gripped at the word for a moment, then let it fall, fearful of what
it might do. What she was seeing was gorgeous- a thing that no shadow had ever prepared her for, and it was the mind-blowing
color of eternal life. It was tall and green and slender, with roots that reached into the very core of the earth. She cried
until it disappeared again...her body rocking with sobs of the biggest joy in existence. The light took her again.
As time fell into order, she felt the shadowy thing touch her, but somehow she knew it was no shadow. If she could have opened
her tired eyes she would have seen the lovely creature. She could have held onto it with her vision and felt its every color
flow through her. Instead she let it brush her, her tears drowning her heart as it pulled itself closer and smaller in her
core. The image of the tree was burning into her deeper and heavier than any rock wall in firelight ever could. She let herself
die in the moment. She let herself slip away into darkness again. She let herself be taken by the beautiful shadow.
When she opened her eyes, there was nothing but blackness. The color she had dreamed of was not only gone, but had never been.
The surface at her feet was numb and indistinct, and the light that had just broken her heart with joy was now disappearing
into a pinpoint again behind her. She couldn't see it, but she knew it was there. Her head would not turn towards it.
There was nothing but blackness.
Feeling her way along the empty darkness, she sank into her
spot in line with the others. They did not move. They did not breathe. They stared. She could feel them staring, though the
wall was gone, and the firelight was gone with it. The shadows had never been; her heart had never been. She had been blinded
by the light she had held so dear in the one moment in time she had truly lived. Time was gone. She was gone. The others stared.
They were meant to stare- meant to take in this and nothing more. She shivered. The others did not.