One million years. How can I describe one million years to you? Is there any way I could put it into words, or do I just have to leave it floating there in front of you and hope you feel the edges of it?
I’ve counted every day of every one of these million years, kept track in the library of my brain, growing like a balloon in the pressure of this place. Remembering more than it was made to remember. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop, just give the whole thing up, if that’s even something I can do anymore. But that old rage swells inside me, bristling into determination, and I know I have to keep going.
I lived as regularly as living gets, a human being occupying a little bit of space on Earth. Cooped up in that head of mine. It used to be so easy to keep track, and then that place scooped me up.
It stalked me, a predator slicing through the edges of reality, waited until no one was looking and folded me into the crease of its malevolence. Hiccup, a little blood comes up, and then down with the pill. That’s how it’s always worked, however long it’s been in operation. Far more than a million years.
Describe the place? I want to call it a labyrinth, but it’s more, worse. It’s an intestine. Literally and figuratively. Glistening pink walls, bloated like balloon-skin. Too plastic to be real, too alive to be fake. Nutritious sacs exchanging nutrients. A two-way street. A compromise.
It throws terrible images at you, pricks your sides and scratches your skull. Waits for you to realize where you are and when you finally break down, the tunneled walls and hungry pores slurp up the stew of your misery. You feel every wasted second leeched off your skin, the exhaustion peeled off your muscles, the despair flossed out from the folds of your brain. This is a kind of favor. It’s what keeps you alive, immortal even, but it’s also an opportunity. A chance to break you again.
One thousand and ten years in. I cannot describe the cycles of despair, the things I saw and convinced myself I saw, so I won’t try. One thousand and ten years in, the maze slipped up, and a pore opened just a little bit too far. I saw that thing, the fucking thing that took me. Sitting in the center of it all. At the controls, so to speak, of the heart of the operation.
I was scrambling for it before it could react, through the pore before it could close itself off. A pathetic, fist-sized clump of an organism, covered in feelers and tendrils and exposed pink skin. Not a demon, not a ghost, just something from another place, something that thought it could get the better of me and who knows how many others.
As I lifted the squirming thing off its high horse, out of the reach of its beloved controls, I started to understand this place, the center. I breathed in its air and its mechanisms unfolded before me, made themselves part of my consciousness. How easy this place was to manipulate, if only you were seated in the cockpit!
My previous captor writhed noiselessly, balled up in my hands. I knew I could not kill the wretch. Everything that kept me alive kept it alive, too. We were two sides of the same coin, and neither one of us could die while the other lived. Maybe neither one of us could die at all. We were – are – stuck.
It was easy to toss the thing out of the pore I came in from, even easier to close it off. There are so many security options in the ancient, organic controls of this place. Perhaps time had made my captor careless, but I will not make the same mistake.
I don’t know how that thing never made use of even half these options in the thousand and ten years it made me its prisoner, but. Well. Things could have been much worse for me, had that thing been smarter and more creative.
But now I am here. I see the options, and I am using them.
I am using them well.
One million years. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop, just give the whole thing up, if that’s even something I can do anymore. But that old rage swells inside me.
And I know I have to keep going.