My tiny ball of light flickered and faded.
The only warmth, strength and hope within my dreary surroundings was dying. Its shine was failing and subduing to the darkness which surrounded us both. It was only a tiny ball of light, at least I couldn’t tell if it was anything more because, even as it was dying, it was still too bright for me to properly define.
My tiny ball of light. My best friend and my only companion. My sword to fight off the darkness. My shield to protect me from the cold.
This little light, that had carried me through so much, was leaving me. Falling away into the darkness, no longer standing out from the crowd of silhouettes or infecting the surrounding darkness forcing it to light.
Light that was all but erased in this world, on this path.
I walked this path with no direction. I never turned, but the road didn’t feel straight. The only illumination of the road ahead came from the fading light of my dying companion. Even at it’s brightest, I could never see much of what was ahead.
The most notable thing I had seen was a sign post that simply had the numbers 2 and 0 on it.
Since then I was certain that the path began to dip as if we were descending into a valley. In fact, the sensation had come at about the same time the light began to die. Was the light going because of the path? Or was the path reacting to the light?
I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t feel anything with any sort of certainty. All I could do was focus on trying to keep the light alive, not that I had any clue how to.
The light still lit a fire within me when it bounced against my side, but recently it had been wary and more erratic in its movements. Less and less was the light helping me. It had become more like a hindrance draining what little energy I had trying to travel this path as I also tried to keep it alive.
I didn’t have any specific direction or reason to keep traveling. It’s just…that is what people do, isn’t it? Paths are made to be walked?
The light was now in its very last moments. It was swaying in and out of sight to a constant beat that grew further apart with every second.
And then, it was gone.
The pitch black surroundings enveloped me and a shiver shot through my body.
What felt like a thousand tiny knifes began to stab at my pupils. Claws began to tear away at my stomach as my arms went numb before falling lifelessly by my side. It all happened in an instant. I couldn’t react, as if I would have even known what to do.
I had never endured such pain. Never handled such a challenge. Never confronted such a fear.
I was alone. I had nothing. The light had died. The road was still daunting. The darkness was as thick as ever. The cold was filling my body. What more could I do but try to breathe?
I gasped but brought in no air. My chest tightened, squeezing what ever was in my lungs out like a sponge. Each of my ribs cracked before the cage collapsed in upon itself.
I didn’t die, but I felt every bit of the pain that comes with death…with none of the relief.
For once, I had stopped moving forward. Stopped walking the path. I felt if I stayed here long enough I would die. Is that what I wanted? Death wouldn’t have this darkness or pain, it couldn’t possibly. It also wouldn’t have the light though.
This place, where ever it was, didn’t have the light anymore either. But this place, at the very least, had had the light. Maybe, if I started walking again, I could find the light again? Maybe, it had simply been lost in the darkness?
The light had died. The light was gone. But was it the light or a light?
Maybe if I somehow managed to move my feet forward and continue to walk down this path, I would find another light. Maybe if I continued, this pain would stop. It would be left here in the darkness, to die, instead of me.
It was surprisingly easy to move my feet despite the pain overwhelming the rest of my body. As soon as my foot touched the ground however the path began to bite me once again.
The cracks on my skin seared with every step. The longer my feet touched the ground the worse the burning became. It was like a raging fire, but too precise and definite in it’s movements. It focused on my tender spots and dug deep. As deep as any pain ever had.
Nothing was left unscathed. Every piece of me was forced to endure each slash, each rip, each slice, each slight movement from that fire which felt like hell, nothing else, just hell.
My feet jutted and slipped as I forced myself forward. The pain worsened with every step but there was nothing else I could do. The darkness continued and now I was certain that the path was dropping.
Dropping to where? Where was I going? What was I doing? The pain was getting worse, not better. Nothing was subsiding.
Yet, through sheer resilience, maybe even a stubbornness, I just kept moving forward. Moving forward made sense. I don’t know why, sometimes things are inexplicable, but sometimes a part of you just knows.
I knew, but the doubts quickly came.
What was left of my chest continued to squeeze with every step. The cage formed by my ribs was broken, but that didn’t stop them pushing together and looking to pierce my heart.
As each second passed, the bone inched closer and closer to piercing the soft surface of my heart.
But my heart wasn’t soft. It was hard. Hard and strong. The bone didn’t pierce me, the bone broke. The bone cracked and snapped in two dropping from my chest towards my stomach. It didn’t pain me.
A new sensation was brewing in my body.
Slowly, all the pain was easing. My heart was expanding and pushing the bones of my chest back into place. The pain was dying but this new feeling wasn’t completely better at first. My chest was full, I felt sick and my throat was closing in on itself.
No, not closing in on itself. My throat was being pushed through from beneath. My heart had stopped expanding and it was moving north.
I stopped moving forward now and fell to my knees. My face crashed into the ground and my eyes watered. I writhed on the ground willing my heart to stay inside of me.
My heart was giving up on me and was trying to escape.
I closed my eyes and wrenched my teeth together anticipating its imminent arrival in my mouth. My throat was being cut through like sandpaper as the bulge forced its way onto my tongue before blasting through my teeth and breaking my jaw.
It had happened. It was time to give up. I was enveloped in darkness. My body had been repeatedly broken and my last strength, my heart, had left me. The sensation had turned to numbness and I was sure everything was over.
My eyes were shut and my face was planted on the ground.
I felt nothing.
Suddenly, my retinas began to sting. They stung as a bright light shone through my eye lids and compelled me to look through blurred lashes at a glowing in front of me. The longer I stared the more focus fell in front of me.
There was no heart on the ground. My mouth was not broken. I could feel my chest perfectly in tact. My limbs were no longer listing and…most importantly….no, most incredibly…my pulse was beating.
Beating as strong as it ever had.
My heart had not left me. My heart hadn’t jumped from my throat and abandoned me at my final hour. My heart had sent me hope.
My heart had coughed up a little ball of light.
This light wasn’t like the one which had previously accompanied me. This light was much grander. Much brighter. Much more compelling and much smaller.
I tentatively reached out to grab the small ball to touch it and see if it shared the warmth of my last companion. When I touched this ball, a lightning bolt shot through me. Not a lightning bolt of pain, but a lightning bolt of light.
The little ball began to expand slowly before breaking out and exploding in front of my eyes. The little ball disappeared, but I could see the light everywhere. My hands blinded me as I stared at them. They were full of color and life despite being in the darkness for so long.
The path below me was still dusty and rough, but now I could see what lay ahead. There was no darkness. There were just two massive blue balloons tied to the ground. Two balloons that formed the numbers 2 and 1.