I stood and listened, my eyes shut tight. Seeing anything beyond my own inflicted darkness had become absolutely out of the question. I knew my expectations well enough to know what they promised; even now. It was troublesome just being here, regardless of how...safe I happened to be.
I pulled away carefully, lids uncontested. It wasn’t until I believed I had retreated four or five steps—easing my feet backward one after another like a cane-deprived blind man—that I dropped my head, turned on my flashlight, and eased my eyes to observation once more.
But that was the easy part.
I slowly tracked a direct path up toward the tank, all the while dreading what I would ultimately see; least of all, on the way there.
I halted at the first hint of blue.
Would my gaze find what I most suspected?
My prerogative shifted in a flash of surrender. I made tracks. After all, I didn't need to look. Not even if they tried to make me for the smudger.
And besides: the tank was practically invisible, anyway. Anybody who argued against it dare only do so with their tongue pressed firmly against their cheek. I knew what they would try to deny, as I knew what their intentions were.
It was all a ploy to deceive us, you see; to make us believe there really was a separation; a divide.
But instinct told me that there was not.
The eyes could deceive, but the instinct knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The silence that met my senses as I stopped running was palpable. So much for the integrity of my senses. Even my sense of surprise was absent. How come I hadn't been caught yet?
Surely a guard would have been alerted to my presence by now. There was no question about that.
I should never have taken that bet, I consoled myself pointlessly. I should have stuck to what I knew quite well: to follow the rules and leave when they had urged me to. Instead of listening to that mischievous voice and its wind-drowned temptations, I should have followed my instincts and suffered the ridicule.
My instincts. Crippled by the prospects of ridicule.
My God, what did I dooooo??
I ran again, going nowhere fast. All I knew was running here—running there—running in circles—running—running—running—running—
Helpless to do all but run without resolution.
I ran while the world seemed to tumble to and fro around me. I ran until running could do nothing more than retreat to its own secret sanctuary and leave me in the dust of this sordid old aquarium.
There was a distinct squeaking sound, like rubber across glass. I froze in terror. I regarded every iota of darkness around with frantic inquisitions, madly trying to place the sound, and so immediately.
I listened intently, but no encore came.
None at all.
God, how I wish that could have been the end of it then.
I rose with aching slowness to my feet. I kept my eyes honed in on the source of that terrific squeak.
Suddenly, there was a new sound. A distant, insectile buzzing. At first I was embraced by a surge of hope that it was the sound of lights coming to life again. But as the sound gained a steady momentum, and the darkness held immobile, I was plunged deep into terror once more.
And then: my prayers were answered.
The aquarium before me was suddenly flooded with light, and all of my fears evaporated in a flash.
I was in the exhibition area, far below the shark tank which had fueled my anguish to its apex. As I regarded it with probing eyes, I saw nothing staring after me with predatory intent. In fact, I could see nothing in there at all.
Enormous relief liberated a sigh from my lungs and a relaxing of all the usual muscles.
That peculiar buzzing remained, and did so unaccounted for.
Until I turned around.
For as I spun on my heels, I was met with a sight that haunted my dreams for dense years afterword.
The words that came into my mind in the moments that followed were spoken through images that were not my own, though they came through in a synthesized voice not unlike my own internal dialog—a doppelganger which was both compassionately calculated, and cold.
While their technology, I could imagine, was flawless, they had made one critical error: they had recreated the wrong living environment in which to study me.
At least, that was what my mind screamed aloud in its own defense.
For, after all: did instincts ever lie?
About the Creator
Hello all! I am an aspiring vocalist, filmmaker + writer. I hope you gain something personal + inspiring from my work here. You are also welcome to subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Ad-Libbing With The Zman.