Gloomy, drawn faces peer out of the gray windows as I pass by, their eyes shrouded by a mysterious fog. The rain is falling hard, but quietly, drenching the cobblestone streets and trickling off of the gutters onto my head. The streets here are narrow and twisted, making it such that one cannot see more than ten feet in front of his nose at any one moment. This particular street is very long and especially curvy. It is called “Misery Lane.”
I used to avoid the place as much as I could. Misery Lane branches off of a much wider road called “Blissful Ignorance Street,” where it is always sunny and bright, and people wave at me and smile whenever I make eye contact. It feels surreal. Walking Blissful Ignorance is like walking through a dream, and after a while one might notice that the happy couple actually has holes where the hearts are supposed to be, the boisterous barber actually has cut wrists, and the cocky kids all have shadows under their eyes. Truth hidden beneath lies. Not so on Misery Lane.
I continue my walk, slowly and without any real purpose. I step to the side to allow a large black dog to pass. I notice fleetingly that he has a human heart in his mouth. I can hear the pounding begin to fade away as the dog trots on quickly. A clap of thunder makes me look upward for a second at the cloud-filled sea of gray hanging over my head. For a moment, my mind melts into that sea like ice in the warmth of the sun. I close my eyes and I am floating in the sadness. Hands reach out to touch me, icy, bony hands, but I do not recoil, because I know they only want to be loved as I do. We are a family, and for a moment, I feel “alright.” A soft moan brings me back down to earth much too soon.
The girl is tottering towards me very slowly, her hands up against the sides of the buildings. She looks to be quite young, and she is moaning and weeping quietly. When she reaches me, she stops. Her long, red dress is drenched. I cannot see her eyes, which are covered by a mass of long, dark hair that falls over her face.
“Save me.” She whispers, reaching out to me. “Save me.”
I take her hand lightly in mine, concerned, but not perturbed. “What is wrong, dear?” I ask.
“I have come from far away, from a town called “Abuse.” She replied. “I have tried to be good and to do as my parents ask me to. But I am never good enough. They warned me that if I could not see their way I would not see at all.” She parted her hair then with her free hand and turned her head up to me. Pits. Deep, dark pits of gloom, from which blood had flown freely and was now dried on her cheeks, leaving red stains.
Images begin to form themselves within these pits, rippling as if I were looking into a pool. I see the angry face of an abusive father and the stern expression of a disappointed mother. I see the knife pulled out of the top drawer where she cannot reach. The knife draws closer. “We warned you, honey. Don’t struggle.” I hear a scraping noise. A terrible, terrible scraping that resonates within my soul as her eyes are pulled out forcefully. A scream, and crying. “Don’t daddy! Don’t, please!” Crack. The pool turns a deep, blood red.
“What is your name?” I ask, my eyes filling with tears.
“Alma.” She says, lowering her head again. “Please save me. I am frightened. They are following me.”
“Who is following you?”
“Them. Daddy. Mommy. Them, them! They will hurt me.” Alma begins to sob more emphatically. I wrap her in my arms.
“Walk on, Alma. I am escaping too. We are all escaping here on Misery Lane. We have the choice to stop, any of these people will let you in and ease your pain.” I gesture around at the faces that are peering apathetically from the windows. “But you can never come back out once you have gone in. You have a long way to go yet. Walk on.”
Alma let me go and stood still, saying nothing. I hold her one last time and continue my journey, feet slapping against the wet stone. After a couple of seconds I hear a knock. Glancing back, I see that Alma is being taken in by one of Them. A tear slides down my cheek, but I press on. Her choice is not a weak one, but a disappointing one nonetheless.
The night never begins nor ends on Misery Lane, and the daylight never shows itself. One might think of it as a kind of false hope. The sun is always shining, but the clouds obscure the face. The result is a dull, heavily saturated image, in which everything is more pronounced and more real than anywhere else I have ever been. One can really “feel” on Misery Lane. The wetness of water, the blackness of shadows, the slap of shoes against stone is… these are things that one has never truly experienced until he has walked down this winding street. Lies and Deceit are not welcome here, only the cold, hard Truth. It is a frightening reality, and for this reason, very few people will face it.
Here comes the Faceless again. I have never understood how I may pass him so many times when we are both going opposite directions, but by now I have stopped wondering. I could not ask him anyway. He crouches and he hobbles along quickly on his toes, making hardly a sound. He does not hear. He does not smell. He does not speak. He does not see. The Faceless has only smooth skin covering his head, and he lives what I think must be a lonely and unusual existence, wandering around without any sense of what life is other than what he can touch. For him, life must be a miserable and un-enjoyable thing. Either this, or he simply moves and touches on instinct, lifeless and essentially dead. My heart is filled with sorrow to see him. I say “hello” as he hobbles by, even though I know he cannot hear me. I do not dare to touch him, for fear of what gross disturbance may then taint his innocent soul.
A window opens a couple feet ahead of me on the right, and a voice cries out in a deathly monotone: “As this life is hollow, as the sun has gone, as the shadows stretch far beyond the dawn! As the death-bell tolls, as the blood begins to flow, let the Darkness grow. Let the Darkness grow!” The window closes as I come close and another opens farther along on the left, a similar voice reaching out from within: “Bleed through the night and bleed through the day, the end has come, now take us away! Cry for the loss and cry for the rain, the end has come for those in pain!” Again, the window closes and a chorus of haunting voices rises from within every house on Misery Lane, a sound like the whisper before death: “We will watch you. We will watch you.”
The rain has stopped; a rare occurrence on Misery Lane. I find an odd pleasure in the sound of my footfalls, the only escape from an otherwise deafening silence. My mind wanders of its own accord. I find myself pondering the wisdom of taking this long, sad road, the end of which I could not describe for the life of me. It is never understood until one has committed himself to the street that there is no halfway point and there is no turning back. The trek will be just as far in either direction. Everything begins to blur, and the realism that at first had been so profound trickles away like the last drops of water from the windowpanes. My legs move, I inhale and I exhale, my heart beats; automatic, without purpose. I do not comprehend my surroundings or my existence, life becomes as meaningless as the sky and the tears and the chronic misery. I feel alone. For the first time in a long time, I wish someone would smile at me. I wish someone would just pretend.
I have never, in all my travels, encountered a side street that falls off of Misery Lane. Today, however, I stop to look down one such street, the darkest and most obscure of any in the universe. It is a very short street. I can see the end of it. A single streetlight illuminates a brick wall some 50 yards down. Other than this wall, it is pitch black, the buildings on either side stretching far above the houses of Misery Lane. Silent guardians, blocking out any potential light. I notice a fallen sign on the other end of the street and bend down to read the name: “Suicide Circle.” The rain begins to pour again. I jump when I hear several shrill screams coming from the blackness of Suicide Circle. I strain my eyes to see, in vain. The screaming envelopes me and for a moment I am too scared to move. A detached head rolls into the center of the circle of luminescence cast by the streetlight. I turn my head and walk swiftly away. I will never know what exactly was happening on that road. I never want to find out.
A knife is a curious thing. The attachment one feels towards a knife is comparable to the attachment a son has for his mother. Or vice versa, rather. As hurtful as a son can be, a good mother will always cherish him, always attempt to convince him that she knows best, and always care for him. He will cause her pain. He will cause her great pain. Pain. Perhaps the metaphor stretches a little thin in my case. Unless the mother in mind happens to enjoy pain and blood. Pain is a curious thing. A son is a curious thing.
The son’s name is Fred. Fred has pins in his eyes and nails in his forehead. His mouth has been sewn shut, probably a measure taken by frustrated parents to prevent obscenities from slipping out. He is very bony, and most of his skin hangs off of his skeleton like drapes. I find him gnawing at his knife, trying to take out the stitches, but to no avail. When he sees me, he cocks his head a little bit a makes a strange, disturbing guttural sound from somewhere inside his stomach. I find that Fred frightens me, but I cannot take my eyes off of the blood-stained knife in his hands. We stare at each other for a long moment. In that moment I come to an understanding with Fred, without speaking a word: namely that I hate him and that I cannot live while he breathes. I grab the knife from his hands and push him to the ground, raising the knife above my head. I hear Fred moan, a muffled vibrato in his throat. The pins pop out of his eyes, and dark blood oozes out. I thrust the knife into his neck three times before I am satisfied. Fred’s corpse becomes limp. A pool of blood flows down Misery Lane, a river of life for all who come this way to see.
I look at my hands, covered in another man’s life. I am surprised to discover that this does not concern me. The knife is what concerns me, beautiful and loving as it is. It creates death. But it spills life.
A knife is a curious thing.
The time has come. The truth now presents itself. Misery Lane has no end. The Faceless passes me again. The screams from Suicide Circle rise out of the darkness to plague my thoughts. Nothing ever changes and the sun never comes out. We pursue life in a vain attempt to find a way out, to do what no one has ever done before, to find happiness. The way out is right here, in front of our noses. I knock on the door. It opens and a woman with a smile like grace incarnate steps out to greet me. She takes my arm, and I realize that I have found my home here on Misery Lane.
Gloomy, drawn faces peer out of the gray windows as we pass by, their eyes begging us to understand.
We live for death, and in death, we find true life.