The Long Fading Scream

Published by Woodruff House in Ohio, 1901

Somewhere in the distance he heard a scream. He waved his hand in front of his face and only knew it was still there from the feeling of moist air sluicing through the space between his outstretched fingers. With no idea where he had awoken or how he had gotten there, the man only knew that he was falling and had been for quite some time. Now, despite it’s ominous nature, he hoped this new sound would lead him out of the lightless void and back to some human connection.

He frantically twisted about, trying to pinpoint where the scream was coming from but, in his free-falling state, he was unable to remember which way was up and which was down; what had a minute ago seemed to be on his left was now right. Furthermore, the sound kept multiplying. Echoing. It was a steady drone that built into a howling, throat-tearing crescendo. As the man tumbled on and on the scream stayed with him; becoming one with the movement of the air itself, the sound of his plunge through empty space.

Markers of time were falling away quickly like broken handholds; black marks on a clock, every time he reached out to grasp one it crumbled into the darkness. The space was impossible to comprehend. So was his velocity, for that matter. He floated through the tomb-like darkness with nothing but the dank drafts to occupy his thoughts. His mind wandered, roaming the blackness for something to latch onto; a life preserver in the boundless dark ocean, but there was nothing. In his blindness he began to reawaken to every pulsing nerve. Colours swam before his eyes, dull at first, gradually building to great flares: hazy reds and greens, the colours that smudge together behind tightly closed eyes. The zones of colour pulsed in and out of existence. He blinked to see if they were real, but they were there with eyes both closed and open. He’d gone mad and discovered true happiness. He exulted in the emptiness as it suffused with the sensation of serenity. He felt love. He felt time. He felt the rushing wind. He felt himself tumbling through space at astonishing speed and he no longer cared.

Caught in an unending loop, he wandered crumbling and decadent palaces he had built and rebuilt from the scraps of his mind; fragmented memories from a former life he no longer truly believed in. He knew his fall would go on forever, unchanging. Nothing changed here. Until, suddenly, it did.

He snapped from his stupor and coughed. His body shook as though a great hand had grabbed hold of him and was trying to crack him open. Something warm and wet bubbled out from his mouth. He wiped a hand across his face and felt the moisture there; spread across his dry, cracked lips and desiccated wooden tongue. His ears felt as though they had been stopped up: something was missing. He couldn’t place it. He cast about again in the darkness, trying to discover what had changed. Perspiration slicked his nearly forgotten panic-stricken body. This change was unwelcome. He wanted to return to his dreams; to the world he had built in his mind but the horrifying epiphany struck him cold. The scream had stopped.

He looked with blind eyes at the back of his hand. He couldn’t see a thing but he knew in the depths of him they were stained a lurid crimson. His mouth opened and closed, his lips moving silently like a fish on a gutting table. The last echoes of his scream bounded back to him from the ends of oblivion and ceased. He felt the wind as it whistled by and it felt different. A new smell perhaps, a slight shift in temperature, the suspicion of change crept over him and took hold. He sensed it and pushed all the air in his lungs over muted vocal chords, though no sound would come. As he hurtled down he screamed silently and knew impact was imminent.