You are not alone. Here in the cold and the dark and the emptiness between the lives of others, there are many of us. Starving, torn out from the book and falling like brittle leaves through the stillness of a cold dusk. Here, no breeze to carry us away. Here, no light but that is not quite true. You have light. You hold it in your hand. Twelve tiny cherry tipped wands for light making. Not enough to live by, their fragile flickers burst with such bright frivolity, a lion in the night, a roar in the silence ‘I am here!’ ‘I am here!’ ‘See me feel me You are not alone.’ And then the blaze that left you blinded and hopeful fades from red to green and burns you just before it sputters out.
You are not alone. You can hear us here beside you in the dark. The death breath exiting our vessels as we pass through. The sigh of our bones as, so fatigued, they slumber into dust. There are teeth, also. The teeth of starving mouths who have never closed over any meat but the empty flesh of this hollow frozen dark. Sharp and ravenous and mad with desperate hunger you can hear them cut through the shadows at your back and how long until they find your own shadow? If they eat the hole in the fabric of the universe that is made by your existence, what then? Then, when you no longer leave a dent or a ripple and all your actions cease to impact anything at all, then when even your breathing does not suck in or expel air, then are you allowed to float away and the breezes come and carry you? Or will you still lay here, a fraying blood thread within the labyrinth of only your own mind, feeling the dust that you have now become and the weight of an empty space where there are not even any feet to trample you out of existence entirely?
Strike one. Strike and you will see us. Strike and know you are not alone and glimpse in an eye blink that we are all the same. True our limbs do not twist and gnarl the same way, true there are washes of muted colour in our sunken orbs and those do vary. True the tails, the talons, the scales, the teeth and claws, the hair all are not identical and we are ancient and new born and have seen the world birthed and have lived but not even a day. But strike again and see us, strike, strike two, you know we are just like you. You know that once upon a time each of us fell down and this, this gap between the lives of all the others, this skipped heartbeat, this caught breath, this missing note, this blind spot in the corner of the universal eye is where we all go.
You are not alone. You are a child of the universe and the universe wishes you to know that you are one of many and all, all, all are loved. Strike three. Strike and you will see them; their fat speaks, the dough of their soul flesh is warm and ripe, their hair and skin are smooth and gold, and their laughter goes on and on and on like the song of stars. Their laughter is your laughter, their joy your joy, and if only you could hold the image of them and the truth of them in your mind, after the light has faded, after the image has burnt up back to black and the warmth of their rubicund lifefullness is gone, then you would laugh too and be filled with joy, knowing that we are all one people filled with love and light. You would let your image of them be your light until it filled you and you, little star child, were a light to others. So strike four, strike five, strike again and see them, just one more time, just one more blink, just to remember, you are not alone.
You are not alone. Do they keep telling you that? These glamours, these fireflies, these fantasies you have made for yourself down here? I am here. I am you. I am telling you now that you are alone and if you continue to chase after all these glimmers of hope that flare up fast and then fade to nothing soon you will have spent your last one. Half are gone already. And what have you gained? There are no others here. The hungry teeth are your own teeth chattering with cold. That tail you see out of the corner of your eye is your own, the sunken eyes, the fur, the fangs, your own reflected in a gutter puddle. The sighs and groans, the footsteps and the dying breath in the dark these sounds all emanate from your own self and if you devour your own shadow and tear yourself out of existence, then what? Will the breezes come and carry you away? Will the universe cry for its lost beloved child? Will the light spill out of you, a soul of gold out of that cracked grey husk and dance and sing for joy amongst the stars? You have fallen out of the world and the world does not know it, nobody knows you are here, you are unloved, unthought of and very much alone.
Strike six. Because that is your mother’s voice now calling. You are not alone, beloved, never oh never would I leave my child alone. The dark river that came between us once was long and hard to cross my dear one but, look, see, strike, across the water I have come. My face is just as you remember. That warmth is not the flicking flames in your hand it is the warmth of my heart, my arms are waiting for you and only you for you are truly alone in me, you alone.
She is gone. Strike seven. Seven will bring her back again. Seven for the magic. Seven for the gods. Strike seven, eight, nine, ten, anything, anything to see her face again.
Eleven. Is that snow falling now? Can snow really find its way here where even the wind can’t? No. It is cold for sure but it is not snow, just the fading of your eyes now as, somewhere, just above and behind and round and out of mind, a different light begins to grow. Can you see it? No? One more match to go.
So thin, so frail, so feeble this cherry bright wand of yours.
Swish and flick.
Will you drag this one out or will you make it quick?
Do not worry, you are not alone. Open, inside, a different eye. That one that does not need a light to see. Look to that torn edge of yourself, that jagged wound, that scar where you were severed and ripped out from all that you once were or should or could have been. There on the threshold she sits, there in the doorway she is calling, coiled, waiting with smooth brown scale skin and a gold green eye, a bite that is good sweet death and a belly that has hungered for your fall. Drábaneysapa, Baba Gub, Sister Sophia, Sara Kali, this snake has many, many names.
And all she is about is waiting for this moment, to stretch out an offering, sweet fruit for your little flame. Do not strike the last match, she is calling to you, hand it into her because all those little cherry wand lights were hers to begin with. There should have been twelve, but one will do, and take the apple, the grapes, each peach pear or plum in exchange, the fruits may change but the girl and the snake are always the same.
Sink your ravenous teeth into that hard bought fruit
and wake up. Yes, wake up.
Open your eyes.
You are not alone.