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The Enlightening

There is always light at the end of the tunnel

By Oliver MillwardPublished 2 months ago 9 min read

Where am I? Why am I here? The initial self-interrogation during my reoccurring nightmare. There are only two alternatives in the incapacious pathway, pitch black behind me, no expectancy of reaching any answers going that direction, envisioning the darkness to be boundless, a glimmer of light to the front intrigue's investigation as it has on countless occasions. Each time I pray, it will end differently. The light must be the route out, the thoughts of the naïve version of my former self. In actuality, it was a way in. As I stride towards the assumed departure of the corridor, I try to touch the walls to the side, but my hands do not grip, or the wall moves away; I'm not sure...

Light emanates rectangularly in the distance. It is a door; the light is penetrating the edges. Whatever is beyond that door must be more radiant than God's own sun. Doubts creep into my mind. Will I ever escape? Leading my cognition into a voyage of doubt. What have I done so immorally in my life that I deserve this torment? Has my life been worthwhile? Did I help people as much as I could? If I die today, would I be happy with my existence? These are the inquiries in the corridor where darkness reigns supreme, my ever-enduring hell. The questions become more intense. as I get closer to the mystical door. The penultimate question is, what is through the door? Will it be kinder than the dark corridor or more sinister? Will I be perpetually cursed to no longer dream of empathy and joyous times?

I'm practically there; I'm almost at the door. I reached out, but I halted too soon. I step further, yet the handle is still out of reach. The corridor had a way of doing this outside my wisdom. I paced whilst grasping, stumbling forward but it was pointless. I scrambled, panicked, gasping for air like I was on an eternal treadmill. Is this an illusion? Please allow me through! I stopped and stared at the door. My entire body was tense; I was trying to force my way through as I had throughout my recurring nightmare, but every time, this technique was unsuccessful, so why did I repeat it?

It dawned upon my sleeping intuition that I must do something different than all those other nightmares or remain eternally incarcerated in a vacuum of nothingness. In fact, worse than nothingness, my own self-doubt was my only company. I needed to let this happen. I cannot control everything; I cannot keep thrusting myself to wake up due to apprehension. I am willing. Accept me, show me everything. I inhaled all my dread, clutched the handle, and slowly opened the door with a measured exhalation and focus.

I wanted to search the room, but my gaze was forced downward; the light almost burnt a hole through my retina. In a crouched position, I heard a stern voice command, 'Enter!' I walked timidly forward. I could now keep my eyes open but only to look at the ground, allowing my eyes to adjust. I stepped forward; I knew people were in the space; I could feel their presence, but there was still no way to look at them. The uncompromising voice now directly above proclaimed, 'Please take the stand'.

With each deep breath, a sharp, cool air filled my lungs. I reached some stairs. I limped awkwardly up each stair, legs ridged with tension. I placed my right hand on my brow to gaze around the room; the previously blinding rays were becoming bearable; I just needed to squint my gaze slightly. A grand hall stretched out before me, filled with silent judgmental onlookers. At the front, a high bench dominated the room, and an imposing figure with a ferocious countenance leered at me. I had to tilt my neck to the point of breaking to see the tip of his nose. It wasn't a face I wanted to look at anyway. I had hoped the light radiating through the doorway and the intense rays would signify a welcomed spirit. The judge did appear God-like, perched above all and omnipresent.

"State your name," the judge intoned.

"My name is Peter," I replied, sounding insignificant to the anticipatory crowd. The words I mustered appeared to evaporate into nothingness within the vast space, and the uncertainty of my tone helped overpower their resonance.

"You stand here for crimes committed against your fellow beings. Do you understand?" the judge asked with an air of resentment.

I nodded, unsure of what was to come. The judge began to read from a scroll, his voice resonating through the hall in a manner that suggested my guilt was necessitated.

The judge leant forward. I was now able to see his whole brutish face. He proclaimed, ''You do not allow people to get close. You assume people have nothing to offer you. This is pure ARROGANCE.''

A murmur ran through the room. I felt a flush of embarrassment creep up my neck. Each fresh droplet of sweat caused me further discomfort. It was such a trivial thing, yet here, it seemed to hold great weight.

''Is this really the crime?'' I said solemnly.

''WHAT?! Of course, it is! You lock yourself away and say it is because you do not have time for others! When in reality you only trust yourself.''

''I keep away from others to protect them from myself; I don't want to put on a show for others.'' I protested.

''Ah, you see!'' Said with a righteous smirk, ''You have led us to your second crime, dishonesty.''

''No, I am an honest man. I know this to be true. Even in trivial situations, I cannot lie. If I did, I would blush and walk away from the contemplation. Ask anyone.''

''Well, we have witnesses; maybe it is time for one to speak.'' The judge, now apparently disinterested in my interpretation wanted to move the matter along.

As I walked out of the box and sat on the bench, I could now make out figures. They were familiar but focusing on their faces for any prolonged time to seek confirmatory traits caused distortion, and their faces collapsed into blankness. Once in my seat, I saw a man walking to the witness stand. ''I know him.'' That is my friend Matthew. ''Matthew, what are you doing here?'' my timid voice repeated the question, remaining ignored in succession.

Matthew stood straight, much more powerful than he does or did. I don't know... His face was no longer welcoming; he began, ''I have known the defendant'' I intervened. ''Defendant? I am your best friend.''

''Silence!'' bellowed the judge.

Matthew continued, ''The defendant is guilty; I will prove it. His arrogance is clearly displayed when giving advice but never receiving it, for he puts no belief in anyone. Imagine if I, his best friend, cannot gain his trust; what must he think of the common man?''

''I tried to help you answer the questions you had'' I uttered.

''Because you know best?'' quipped Matthew.

''Because I endeavoured to help, If that makes me guilty, lock me away,'' said in a way that outsiders would assume my descent into madness.

''And why did you never ask my advice on decisions you made?'' I could almost hear the old Matthew in those words which prompted a more subdued response.

''Because... I erm... I guess I wanted to look for a solution myself.''

The judge intervened ''Have you ever asked any friends or colleagues for any advice?''

I glanced down. ''No, I have not.''

The crowd murmurs grew louder, a mixture of disapproval and shock. I swallowed hard, realising the weight of my actions in the eyes of this tribunal. Matthew vacated the witness box. I knew I could not escape, not if I desired the nightmare to end.

I gathered any remaining exuberance: ''If this is a courtroom, where is my defence? Where is somebody with heart and compassion obliged to give my side of the story?'' I began laughing not from joy but disbelief.

The judge asserted ''You have misunderstood our intent. This is not a trial for me to see if you are guilty; I already know you are.''

''Then you have brought me here to be mocked; I hope I have exhilarated you all.''

''You are yet to comprehend; bring the next witness,'' he mumbled scoffing down a bowl of Borscht, weirdly my favourite food.

I prepared for the subsequent damning condemnation, but where would it emerge. A tall girl appeared; I knew instantly it was Ksenia. A former partner who remained a positive memory for me.

She spoke more monotonely and matter-of-factly, saying I was guilty and always had been, articulating, ''You are dishonest. You are so dishonest you lie to yourself, you tell yourself you avoid commitment to protect me, you only do so to protect yourself.''

I had no words; I only thought to myself that she was not lying.

She continued, ''Remember when you said you didn't want to be alone any longer? That was another lie. You know you will never love someone as much as you want to protect yourself. This is the reason behind your lies. If you love, you become vulnerable, and you cannot allow that; you must be in control.''

I felt a collective gasp from the audience, the weight of their judgement pressing down on me. I could scarcely breathe under the intensity of their stares. The witnesses continued to recount from family members to people I only knew I remembered once I saw them. This endured for what seemed like an eternity.

''Have I not been punished enough?'' I took a deep breath, my mind racing. How could I defend myself? These were moments of thoughtlessness and selfishness, but they did not define me. Or did they?

"I am sorry," I began, my voice trembling. ''I did not realise the impact of my actions. I will strive to be a better person. I am guilty; I always have been. Please, give me a chance to prove that I can change. I am my actions; I am not separate. I am the person you show here today.'' And with that plea, I awoke! Truly, for the first time.

I do not remember waking so relieved from understanding. I now realise that what was behind the door was honest; it was a truthful reflection of how I had been living. The fears shown to me have always been present; it was only that now I was being forced to stare into the abyss. Who would investigate an optional abyss... Maybe some do, but I would not have. The judge and jury are not to blame for my crimes; we do not blame them for sentencing criminals every day; why not? Because someone wrote about these crimes in a law book. All that is missing is ink; yes, I am a criminal without documentation. The whole nightmare was conjured by me. I wanted to punish myself. I knew I was guilty all along.

I had previously said I had forced myself awake to stop the nightmare; conversely, forcing my dream to end prevented me from awakening. The blinding light represented the awakening I desired but remained repressed through fear. I had been in the dark corridor for too long. I became used to hiding away from the truth, much preferring the comforting lies I told in solitude. The dream only simulated reality, which my subconscious knew I must face.

The nightmare is not the antagonist, only a manifestation of my darkest fears. My nightmare wanted me to face the avoided confrontations. I lived in my shadow, so my dreams represented my shadow thoughts.

You must let your subconscious guide you, as it is superior at knowing your darkest truths—truths you do not share even with your own superficial consciousness. I do not know if I will have more internal accusations to accept, but I know I can no longer suppress them.


About the Creator

Oliver Millward

Hi I have just completed a MSc in psychology and feel I want to write psychological novals that centre around existential dread. I read a lot of philosophy particularly the Greeks. Please recommended me some reads and have a read on mine.

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    Oliver MillwardWritten by Oliver Millward

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