A quarter of my mind with Winifred HMensa: A Portrait of the Dark Side (III)

A Quarter of Mind: The Night Niko Turned (Part III)
Winifred hMensa

Previously on A Portrait of the Dark Side, Aba had come under a heavy weight while on her way to the bus stop after work. Just when she thought she had escaped the invisible footsteps behind her, there was a tap on her shoulder

After the tap on my shoulder, came echoes of my name from behind me. Confused, thoroughly exhausted, and desperate for help, I paused and turned slowly to face the source of the tapping. Mid-motion, a dark blanket descended on me, sending me down through the cracks of the pavement.

I willed everything in me to stop – paddling my feet and flailing my arms – yet I fell even faster. When I hit solid ground, the cloak lifted off of me unaided. I clambered to my feet and saw it float slowly to the ledge of a well – the well. The one my mother fell into. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was back at the door of our village house, facing the very thing that had been her doom. With uncertainty, I took two steps forward and stopped myself.

“Watch out for the well,” the hobo had said.

All around me, a thick blackness was gathering and started to close in. Above, a cloud drifted my way and let down tears over me, soaking me sad. I looked down at the puddle that was gathering, only to find my adult feet replaced by the small, delicate limbs of a six-year-old. I had become a child again. The vulnerability and the helplessness I felt as I watched my mother die came rushing back. My knees quivered with fear and my heart almost gave up. I wanted to go back inside and never come out again, but the door was barred shut. There appeared to be no other way out but forward – to the well.

At its mouth, shadowy creatures appeared as mist, pouring themselves over the ledge, and draping its short walls. As they spewed out, the formless creatures started to take shape as they slithered toward me. Out of the muddle, a stout imposing figure emerged and stood a few paces ahead. It stared at me with hollow eyes and made a soundless call to me through an opening that appeared where a mouth should have been.

I recognised its inaudible tone from when my mother drowned and fell hypnotised under its draw. Invisible hands prodded me from behind and I stumbled forward. After a few steps, I dropped to my knees in hopeless resistance, weeping, groveling, and begging not to be taken to the well, but my voice was completely muted and my gestures failed to communicate. The invisible hands grabbed me by my feet and dragged me to the well where the crows from the STOP sign circled overhead.

Seconds later, I was looking into the dark depths of the well; lifted above its mouth and dangled over it like bait. Without a moment of consideration, they dropped me into the pit like a piece of trash. As I fell down the narrow shaft, braced between death and a life unlived, I gave up hope and became one with the shadows. About 50 feet later, I struck what I thought at first was water. It turned out to be the same black sticky substance Saba was found in. I imagined being discovered in the middle of the street like he was and my heart sank deeper than the well.

Stuck neck-deep in a strange fluid with stone walls for company, I thought it was over until a pull from underneath said otherwise. I reached for the walls for safety but the fluid was stronger. It turned, churned, and spun until I was caught in a vortex that sucked me through a vacuum and dropped me headfirst inside a dark cave. I passed out. When I came to consciousness, I was uncertain whether I was alive or dead. All that spinning had left me in a daze. Broken, lost and afraid, I dragged myself against the floor to the wall of the cave and leaned against it for support.

I sat there contemplating all the wrong turns that had led me there. Just then the same shadowy form that had dropped me into the well appeared before me and gestured that I follow him. I gathered myself from the floor and shadowed him. He led me down a tunnel that brought us to the most dreary place I’d ever seen. It was an atmosphere of palpable misery, and hopelessness and it had thousands of people chained to the floor and contained by fear. Utter discomfort, dreariness, and doom permeated the stale air. There was no sound except the faint buzzing of sorrow.

The space extended miles to either side with masses of people spread across the floor of the cave. On the walls, grey shadows made their taunting dance, telling stories of shame, disappointments, depressing moments, lost opportunities, forgotten dreams, guilty pasts, and so much more. Weaving through the population was a fearsome 10-foot-tall silhouette that watched over the captives.

The creature pointed to a spot on bare ground next to another person and gestured for me to sit. It was pointless to resist so I sat down and watched as a knobbly creature arose from the shadowy floor to fasten my feet with the open end of the chain. When the lock of the fetters clasped, every ache and pain of disappointment and rejection was amplified and shot through my body. This went on for hours until the pain left me numb.

After a while, I mustered the courage to look beyond my chains. I noticed that people sat in pairs separated by a thin veil of fog. It occurred to me that I hadn’t checked to see who was next to me. Turning to my right, I peered through the mist and recognised the familiar form of a woman. She was so warped and withered with sorrow that dark trails emanated from her sides. I tugged at the legcuffs that bound us to draw her attention. She lifted her head, looked at me vaguely, and then let her head sink back down. It was my mother!

Leave a Reply