Janesville81.6°

In the rubble, waiting

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Rick Horowitz
January 19, 2010

Blackness.


Utter, unfathomable blackness, although your eyes—you’re almost sure of this—are still open. If you can feel yourself blink, you tell yourself, they must be open. You need to keep them open, you tell yourself, although your eyes can see nothing. Close them, close your eyes even once, and they will never open again. So you stare into nothingness. And you wait.


There was light, and life, and then this. A deep, dark sound as if the world itself was groaning, and the walls fell, and the roof fell, and suddenly there was blackness. The dust was in your mouth, and in your lungs, and you spit the dirt from your mouth, and for a few seconds (or were they hours?) your mouth was almost clean.


But when you tried to clear your lungs, tried to cough away the rest of the dirt, you could not cough. There was something much too large and much too heavy across your chest, pressing you into the ground. You would pull this thing off your chest, give your lungs the room they need, if only you could move your arms. But your right arm is helpless, pinned beneath your body; you can still feel the knuckles flexing in the small of your back, trying to wriggle free. And your left arm is…


You can’t feel your left arm.


Why don’t they come for you?


When the walls fell, and the roof fell, there were others. You could hear them crying, praying in the blackness. You said words to each other, sacred words and children’s names. You insisted that they keep living—for their sake, and for yours. Their words gave the blackness some semblance of shape.


Then, as the hours passed (or were they days?) the others grew silent—first one, then another. A moaning, and then nothing.


Something crawls across your forehead, so close, and beyond your grasp. Your legs strain yet again against the concrete that imprisons them. The concrete will not yield, and you are in the blackness, and the silence, and you are absolutely alone.


Why don’t they come?


Life here has always been hard, you remind yourself, but people have good in their hearts. If for some reason a building has collapsed, or even two buildings, people will surely come to help. They will do whatever they have to do, as you would surely do for them. They would never…never…


Have you been sleeping? It feels as if you might have been sleeping. You cannot allow it, as much as you crave it. The scent of rotting flesh is everywhere—it is all the air that remains. Your nostrils are filled with death, and your mouth with dirt, and as dry as dirt. You have passed beyond thirst, beyond hunger. How many days (or have they been lifetimes?) since you last saw food, or sipped even a sip of water?


You try counting the days, but there’s no way to keep count, not in the blackness, not in the silence. There’s no way to count anything, to do anything anymore, except to rest. To sleep and let the blackness come, the endless blackness and the endless silence and…


A noise.


Somewhere, a sound that sounds like scratching. Like shifting rocks.


A sound that sounds like an engine, far away.


A sound that sounds like a human voice.


A shaft of light.


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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