Stepping Out

A dreamy hypnosis, frighteningly intense was overtaking him, but however much he tried to fight it, it only deepened. He stood at the brink of a chasm, a bottomless pit filled with a darkness so engulfing he was afraid it would seep into him and consume his soul.

And then a light shone. It was not clear where it was coming from only that it was warm with the comfort of hope. It amassed and took form as a slender bridge, scarcely a foot wide, with no protective rail or banister. Madness seized him and he stepped out, onto the bridge over the darkness, and began walking forward, not knowing where the journey might end but trusting in the hope and faith that it would end. And wherever or whenever it did, it would be into a glorious and certain light, like a morning in May before any other soul has awoken to taint or soil its splendour.

The narrowness of the bridge meant he had to place one foot perfectly before the other or risk the possibility of falling from the fragile, elevated place where he had found himself. In order to maintain such a precarious balance his arms were stretched out, steadying himself with the imaginary ropes which he willed to be there.

Time didn’t matter here. It was as though nothing did. How many steps he had taken, he could not remember. How many times he had almost slipped into the pit of darkness, however, was etched clearly onto his memory and each time his steps failed he flapped his hands and tried to steady himself. Failure to do so was unthinkable, for no one can truly consider their own death. And what would it be to fall from this precarious bridge? If there was no bottom, as he perceived there may not be, would he simply fall as minutes became days, which in turn spun into years? He might live out his days in a dark void where nothing mattered, for there was nothing to matter. But what if there was a bottom and the light of his life source was snuffed from existence by the powerful, suffocating darkness?

He missed a step and the bridge seemed to dull. The light was fading and, with it, the bridge. A fear struck him, and he tried to run, but on such a thin strip it was almost impossible. His arms spun like windmill sails, trying to keep himself vertical, but the panic-driven flailing was only more unsteadying. He tripped. The bridge, now a tarnished reflection of what it had been, rather like the old mirrored face which might once have stared back at him, caught him. And so, he lay for a time, his torso cushioned but his arms and legs overhanging. Perfectly balanced but perilously dangled.

Nothing altered. He could not know how long he hung like this. Why would it matter even if he did? He felt exhausted, unable to move and unwilling to try. Perhaps he should simply fall and be done with it, for he could see no end to the bridge which was fading into the darkness around it. As though his thoughts had the power to come true, he felt the bridge tremble beneath him and now, in one terrible moment, he realised that whatever passing emotion he had felt before it was not fear. He felt sick with giddiness, but it was a fearful, agitated giddiness which only magnified as the bridge seemed to evaporate entirely and he felt that sensation he had both wondered over and dreaded since this state of trance began: the sensation of falling.

He was helpless. In that second, as the security of the light-bridge departed, he felt mindful suddenly of how foolish he had so often been, how little he had considered the cost of his actions and, on more occasions, how he had been unwilling to perform an action because he was afraid of the cost. Now it did not matter. Cost was no longer important. What worry is there over worth when life is close to being extinguished? And now, without knowing why, for there was nothing there but darkness and himself falling, he reached out.

There was nothing at first, and then a strange humming noise began. It started in a peculiar way which made it feel like it had always been there, as though his ears had only just cleared and it was he who was just beginning. Were there voices in that reverberation? Did someone say a name which through the vivid trance sounded like his own, forgotten in fear and worry?

Lightning was flashing across the sky, clawing high above him, and he noticed now that he was not falling but standing comfortably on an unseen platform. Aside from the brilliant stabs of lightning there was no other light, and its purple-blue flashes were dazzling. There was no thunder, even though it was so close he felt he would touch it if he held up his hand. There was a dramatic ring in the air, though. He felt his brow bead with droplets of anxious sweat, and now he was afraid again. Not the dreadful fear he had faced at falling, but an overwhelming feeling, like an anticipation beyond anything a person should ever know. A light filled the darkness, a light more powerful than the sun and more brilliant. Was it yellow, white or an electric blue like the lightning had been? It was impossible to tell, for it throbbed like a beating heart, heavy in its radiance. And now he fell again, but to his knees, and spoke words he did not know. Alien though they were to him they gave him a warm feeling, safe and protected. And the light excelled in them.

As he stopped, as the final word left his trembling lips, the darkness returned and he stood once again on the thin bridge of light. It stretched away before him as it had done earlier, but now he felt a confidence in its structure. He did not study his feet but trusted they would lead him safely to the other side, wherever and whenever that might be. Nor did he flail his arms around him, but held one forward, trusting that he would be guided by the light, beyond his sight, but calling and comforting. There was no hand to be seen, but he felt it take his own and lead him forward, one step at a time.