The Space and The Outside Part 2
I flex my hands nervously as I step forward. The spiderweb closes in ahead and is strung back and forth across the tunnel in the middle, not just the outsides. My palms are sweaty and hot.
Walking forward, I start to duck and lean through the sticky mess. It brushes precariously to my arms, legs and head as I work my way through. In a few minutes, I am covered in it and moving forward becomes harder and harder.
Panicked, I struggle forward haphazardly. I shove my arms out and frantically push away the web as I try to drag my body through. It's hard. My heart is beating fiendishly in my ears.
I start shoving forward with my right shoulder, my body now mostly covered in the sticky muck from the spiderweb. My breath is coming out in sobs. Tears are falling from my eyes, but they aren't touching my skin - they're falling on the spiderweb stuck to my face.
I'm about ready to give up. I am hardly making any progress. It's hopeless.
My feet can hardly move when I push them with all my might. My arms are hanging out in front of me and I can't move them anymore.
I'm crying now. Sobbing like a weak child. I hang in the spiderweb like a crude marionette, performing a tragic saga of hopelessness, pity and suffering. Terror jags into the corners of my limbs and my soul. I feel sick. My stomach folds on itself into nothing. My chest feels like it is caving in. I can't move one single centimetre.
I try to move anyway, in a pointless effort. I swing hysterically in my mess, tears falling freely now. My weight drags on the spiderweb from the tunnel ceiling, pulling it into thinner and thinner strands. Suddenly, I fall like a discarded toy onto the ground. My arms are now free, so I crawl up to the wall of the tunnel and sit down, pressing my back against it.
My sobs have dissipated. I lean my head back against the wall and close my eyes. Stretching my arms out against the wall, my knuckles on my right hand brush something that’s different to the crumbly dry wall. It’s smooth and hard. My eyes flick open, interested.
It’s a long stick. The both ends are slightly flattened. The wood is smooth and well-worn from use.
I reach forward while sitting and sweep away some spiderweb with the stick. Amazingly, the stick takes away the web, yet doesn't get any stuck on it.
I have a new tool. Biting my lip with new resolve, I stand up on my sticky legs and sweep away the strands that bound my progress. I step forward, sweeping back and forth with my stick. The adrenaline throbbing through my veins propels me forward towards the increasing roar of the waves. I can smell the breeze again - it's potent and intoxicating.
I can then hear the others calling out again. They want to know I'm alright. Do I dare call back and let them know? I haven’t actually responded to them yet. If I connect with them, will we then be friends? What if they don't like me when I'm out? I'm dirty, sweaty and starting to sway on my feet. My hands are sore already from using the stick. My palms are throbbing.
Regardless, I grip the stick. I am getting out, I decide.
I call out tentatively,
"I'm OK! I'm coming!" My voice chokes on the last word. I'm coming! I'm getting out!
I move faster through the web until, with surprise, I sweep away the last layer of the sticky muck. The tunnel is now clear of spiderweb. No trees, no webs, from ceiling to floor. In a moment of unbridled passion and relief, I throw down my stick, raise my raw and blistered hands to up over my head and sink to my knees. My legs burn with fatigue, but I don't care. No more mess! No more web to slow me down and stop me from going forward. The relief is swift and sweet.
Overwhelmed, I fall forward on my arms and press my forehead to the ground. I am sobbing. It feels good! I have fought so hard and I'm so close to achieving my goal! Tears drip off my nose onto the dirt in the tunnel. A little puddle forms as I lean there on my forearms, body heaving with sobs and my hands gripping my hair in desperate relief. I'm so close.
When I awake, the light is brighter than I have ever seen. I squint as I shuffle to my knees and sit on my feet. I'm thirsty and hungry, but there is no relief. My tongue is starting to swell again. I bow my head, gathering my strength. If I don’t move now, I will never make it. My strength is ebbing away like the stream in my space did.
Pushing to my feet, I leave my stick behind and step forward. Within minutes, my legs burn with the effort and I realise that I'm not really walking. It’s more like a scarecrow shuffling. My arms are sore from sweeping spiderweb away. My body is encrusted with dried spiderweb. My legs and head throb with fatigue and pain. Slowly, my pace slackens to a shuffle. My head becomes heavy and I put my chin down as I stumble along.
The breeze suddenly whips around me, swirling through my caked-on mess around my ears and head. It's so delicious, I can barely breathe it in.
All of a sudden, I'm there.
On the cusp of the tunnel.
Shielding my virgin eyes with a hand, I can see outside that there are others sitting in the outside. There is sand. Some others are sitting down. Some of them are kicking a ball to each other. The sand glistens a rich golden colour. Further away down the sand is water. It's pale blue, almost clear. Round, soft waves break gently on the sand. Some of the others are walking in the water and jumping. They are laughing. The sound of it tinkles in my ears.
The sky, oh, the sky – it arcs in triumphant blue to meet the water far off on the horizon. It’s blue, all blue. Calm, bright, healing blue.
I stare out at the scene, frozen. Everyone out there is clean, brown and healthy. I look down at my bleeding and raw hands. My head is covered in white stickiness. Slick with sweat, the dirt has formed a paste on my skin. My back is hunched and my spirit bent. Disappointed in myself, I stand bent over at the waist and put my head in my hands. It hurts, but not as much as inside my soul. I've fought so hard to get here. Now I'm hesitating! I put a hand on the side of the tunnel and one over my chest. I'm so incredibly tired.
My body folds and I sink to the ground.
"Julie." The other pokes her head inside the tunnel. She has short black hair and a spunky smile. "Why don't you step out here?"
"I can't!" I croak.
Her face disappears. I put my chin onto my chest and close my eyes. They burn with the relief of having moisture over them. In a few minutes, the other with black hair is there, putting water into my mouth. It dribbles down my chin and onto my chest. A single sip is enough to refresh my entire mouth. The cool wetness spreads as deep as my soul.
She wipes the spiderweb off me with a cool, soft cloth. I'm too tired to open my eyes. I am wholly exhausted. She speaks affirming words and it's like scaffolding around my broken heart.
When I can open my eyes, she smiles her spunky smile. It lights up her elf-like face. It's cheeky and happy. I like it.
She holds out her hand.
"Let's go." she says.
I take her hand and stand up. I realise I'm clean and free from mess. My legs and arms are still shaky and tired, but I know that with help, I will be just like those others out there. All I have to do is walk out.
I smile. We step out into the sun and walk towards the water.