What is it like to pass through the unknown?
Adam found himself reflecting on this question as he raced down the highway, fear raging in his chest. All around him, from every corner of the sky, lightning rained down in torrents, striking the ground every minute. The car was old and beat-up, the engine sputtering nonstop as this nightmare chase wore on. Adam adjusted the rearview mirror, fearing his pursuer’s presence.
When the lightning came down, it struck the car. The report of it hitting the vehicle resounded loudly as the car went out of control, careening off of the road and slowing down in a field. The driver swore under his breath and got out, checking all sides for his assailant. The car was smoking and there was a strong odor coming from the engine.
Adam knew there was no time to check it, panic racing through him as he gathered his things and slammed the door. The pursuing vehicle was still some distance off, but Adam knew that he had to lose it. With that, he grabbed his bike out of the truck and took off, his mistakes chasing him.
Time stretched on.
The landscape was changing as Adam raced ahead, the area becoming more barren and drier. Luckily the lightning had finally stopped, but the car was still in hot pursuit of the bicycle.
Does nothing stop these guys? Adam thought, frustrated. Terror and fear consumed him and he was desperate to escape the pain.
The flash came so quickly, so that he hardly saw it. Adam groaned as he tumbled from his bike and the car door slammed shut. He froze in the sand, terrified of the coming attacker.
The man who got out of the car was tall and lean. Almond-shaped eyes with piercing blue irises stared down at Adam, stern and resolute. He was dressed all in black, as if the coming night were flooding from him and blocking any sunlight that might still remain now.
“I’ll do whatever you want,” Adam pleaded. “Just, please, don’t look at me!”
The only sound that came out of the assailant was a low, guttural growl as he knelt down before his target. Adam wanted so badly to shield his eyes, but the piercing blue was mesmerizing and, in this position pinned down by the man, unavoidable. Darkness began to crowd Adam’s eyes, the landscape around him disappearing as the void he’d been running from for so long came over him.
It was dark in this new place, but the weight of this darkness was all-consuming, suffocating. Adam breathed in and out, knowing what was coming next and fearing all of it.
The little girl appeared from the black, dressed in a long, plain night gown. She clutched a stuffed animal and looked at Adam with pleading eyes. Adam shrank back in fear and shame.
She moved closer to him to whisper in his ear.
“We got you here for a reason. I want an apology,” she breathed. Her mouth moved barely an inch, but Adam knew her voice all too well. He couldn’t bear to hear it now, be reminded of that terrible night. The memory of having gone insane and destroyed everything – including this little girl – in his path. He still couldn’t believe that he had it in him to be such a monster. The pain of it all was too real.
The girl blinked, her expression emotionless. Adam had expected her to grab him and hurt him, get back at him for what he’d done to her, but she remained impassive and still.
“Your punishment for not owning up to it will be staying trapped here forever. Always awake until the dark drives you mad. You made me fear the dark. If you don’t do something, this void will take you as prisoner forever. You adopted me, and then you killed me. Own up to it, and I’ll be able to forgive you and rest.”
Adam looked at her, tears in his eyes. She had once been so innocent, and he had stolen that from her. The regret and fear of this coming reckoning had been eating away at him, but shame had been a much worse monster to contend with. It hit him now like a tidal wave in this dark void, regret and fear eating away at his sanity, as he looked at this little girl who would never grow up. He buried his head in his hands and howled in agony. The pain was as sharp as a knife, the void bringing out his worst regrets and fears. And, worst of all, all of the self-hatred he had been carrying for so long, once buried but now free.
The little girl took his hand and nodded, seeing the remorse in his eyes.
“Promise me,” she said. “Promise you won’t run anymore.”
Adam nodded as the sobs heaved in and out, the regret and shame eating away at him.
The girl nodded. “I’ll let you go now.”
A wave of invisible energy crashed over the world. Adam struggled to breathe as the void was sucked away, and time readjusted. The falling was soothing, peaceful, compared to everything else he felt at the moment. The world turned and changed as he surrendered to the fall, no longer afraid of the end.
Adam opened his eyes, gasping for air. The void was gone, the barren desert still surrounding him. The man was gone. Tears in his eyes, he got up and went back to his damaged car. The only way to ever forgive himself would be to own up to it, he knew, and the void would free the little girl only if he did.
Ready to fix his mistakes, he got back on the bike and raced off as the sun finally set and darkness settled over the barren land.