That Absolute Darkness, the Hell for Fools

By Diane Payne

For no obvious reason, I simply wake, then realize I haven’t a clue where I am. It’s so damn dark. I sit up and feel my heart pounding.

Then I remember: I’m in the dank, musty basement of my daughter’s father. Must be the room for the people they consider the guests from hell. The feeling is mutual. If I weren’t so cheap, I would’ve got a hotel instead of barged in on her father and his wife.

It’s so damn dark I can’t breathe. I’m starting to panic. I’m entering the crazy zone. I need to see light.

I’m pathetic. I’m a bigger asshole than my daughter’s dad.

They’re all asleep upstairs. Upstairs in rooms with windows. I was sent to the basement with the cat-litter box. Beggars can’t be choosy. I don’t hear anyone talking. No sounds at all. I have no idea what time it is, how long before it’s morning. Maybe it is morning. Down here, time doesn’t matter. There’s no window. No light. Just the smell of damp, musty carpet and cat piss.

The darkness is unbearable. I’m going fucking crazy. I stand up and start reaching for the wall. I can’t breathe. I touch the TV and start pushing on it, hoping to find a power button. I’m afraid I’ll knock the TV over. Then I’m so angry, I want to knock the TV over. I want to see sparks. I need light.

I remember where the TV is in relationship to the door and turn myself around. I still can’t find the wall. There’s got to be a wall. Four walls. Where the fuck are the walls?

I start banging on the ceiling. “Help me! Please help me! Please come down here and turn on the light!” No one responds. I continue screaming.

I’m pathetic. I’m a bigger asshole than my daughter’s dad. I didn’t think that was possible.

I need to find a wall. The ceiling tile starts falling when I hit it. They’ll probably give me a bill in the morning.

“Ania, please help me. Come down here!”

I imagine that my daughter is not only hearing me, but tweeting about my misery. “Guess what my mother, the asshole, is doing now?” LOL.

Maybe they’re hoping I’ll beat my head against the wall until I’m comatose. What is wrong with these people? They hear me beating on the wall, screaming for help, and they just want me to get in such a miserable state that they can call 911 and have someone haul me off to the psych ward. Assholes.

I find my phone and click it on. Sweet, sweet light. I’m so relieved to see that glow of light, I’m almost in tears. I turn on the room light. Open the door. Take a whiff of the litter box.

Life-affirming shit.

Morning will come.

Diane Payne is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press), Freedom’s Just Another Word (Sweatshop Publishers), and has been published in hundreds of literary magazines. Diane is the MFA Director at University of Arkansas-Monticello.