Under the Black Light

Last week I had one of the worst weeks ever at my day job. Take a look at what came out of head. Comments and critiques are welcome. Thanks!

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“Out in the West Texas town of El Paso…,” the old man sings, his voice soft and trailing off to a hum. His head bobs to the left and right as the melody plays in his head.

“He’s doing it again,” the teenager sitting in the row in front of me whispers to the woman sitting to her right.

“Some people,” her mother says, shrugging.

“Keep your voice down, they’ll hear.”

“Who is ‘they’, and who are you to tell me what to do?” the older woman says, looking annoyed.

“I’m Tracy, your daughter, please be quiet,” the teenager pleads as she steals a quick glance at the monitor facing the passengers at the front of the tram.

“Daughter? I don’t have a daughter,” the woman said with a laugh. “I only just got married a couple months ago.”

“Stop talking,” the teenager says, a touch of panic in her voice.

The woman frowns but falls silent.

I can hear the other passengers around me trying not to cry. It’s hard to cry without making a sound but it can be learned. I cried silently for several millennia but no longer.

“Out in the West Texas town…,” the old man sings, his voice drifting off as before.
Tracy leans over and pats him lightly on the shoulder, whispering in his ear at the same time.

“Quiet now, Grandpa.”

“Excuse me. Conductor?” the woman’s voice loud in the abject silence of the tram.

“Conductor?” she stands and waves her hand in the air.

“Mom, no!” Tracy hisses the words as loud as she dares from between clenched teeth, reaching out to try to pull her back to a seated position. The older woman moves further down the row, avoiding her grasp and stepping on the feet of the passenger next to her. I’m sure he feels it but he doesn’t move and doesn’t make a sound.

If Tracy can get her mother seated again, she will avoid what I’ve come to realize is all but inevitable. No matter what she does, they will take everything away in the end. I’ve seen this a million times.

The monitor begins its typical left to right pattern of passenger scrutiny. When its gaze is almost upon them, Tracy rights herself, sitting up as straight as possible, the arm that was straining to reach her mother falling to her lap with a dull thud. Her shoulder muscles tense involuntary, locked in a battle between staying seated, or making an irrevocable attempt to grab her mother.

There is no warning, no second chances.

A spear of black light flew from the monitor to Tracy’s mother, entering her forehead and disappearing into her skull as if being absorbed by it. The top half of the woman recoiled backwards then sprung forward. Then, with a newly acquired far-away look in her eyes, she blinked several times and sat. Her eyes find Tracy and she smiles pleasantly.

“Hello dear, I’m Joanne. What’s your name?” she says, offering her hand to Tracy.

“Tracy, I’m Tracy,” the words coming out as a quiet sob. Tears stream over her cheeks as she takes her mother’s hand in hers, shakes it, and reluctantly lets it go.

One might think it comforting to be able to go through purgatory with the people you died with, but purgatory has a way around that. No talking, crying, standing or hugging, among others. The only thing they tell us is stenciled on the back of each bench and reads ‘Have Hope’ in white plastic letters. Break a rule and you take the chance of losing a chunk of memories by having a spear of black light hurled into your brain. I think it must be easier on the receiving end; you don’t have to watch your loved ones deteriorate until they’re entirely void of all recollection. They forget you as well as any familial or personal connection to you. Perhaps that’s the point of it. Too many infractions and that person disappears, one day they slowly fade to nothing, ironically just as their memories have done. I don’t know where they go but my guess is it’s to someplace worse.

New people appear as fast as a blink already sitting on the bench where they will stay until they fade away. The fact that I’ve been on the tram for a long time gets around and they try to find out if I know how to get off. If I knew that, would I still be here? I don’t help them; they wouldn’t believe me anyway and can’t accept that there is no way out. No doors, no windows or hidden panels, just rows of wooden benches in an over-lighted tube which may or may not be hurtling through space. The tram doesn’t move that much but I’ve always had a case of slight, but constant, vertigo.

If you die alone like I did, part of my purgatory seems to be watching other people suffer. The thought has occurred to me that this isn’t purgatory and, in reality, there is no heaven or hell. Eternity is this tram running endlessly around a cosmic sized monorail track. Our hope, the hope we’re encouraged to have, feeding whatever entity is controlling the whole thing. God or Satan, take your pick, it doesn’t make any difference.

I don’t know how long it will take to atone for my sins; if that’s indeed the reason I’m here. I’ve accepted this is all there is, it’s easier that way. Maybe someday I’ll find the courage to take a few hits of black light and fade away.

Until then, I’ll be on the tram.

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May 30, 2013
By Karen Miraz

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~ by Karen Miraz on June 2, 2013.

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