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When the Gods Have Been There

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There is a void when the gods have been there, then turned their backs and gone.
- William Golding, The Double Tongue


When he was calm, they came and took the straitjacket away. He suspects that may have been weeks ago, but there is no way to tell. Time in here is without purpose.

He is familiar with drugs and knows that they are responsible for his minutes passing like hours, his days in the blink of an eye. Still, he almost welcomes the needles.

He sits in his corner these days, curled up in the emptiness that surrounds him. It can’t hurt him then, not if he stays silent under his blanket of numbness, keeps very, very still. Last time they let the sedatives wear off, he clawed at the walls, screamed until he tasted blood. He remembers what he was screaming for, feels the futility of the act like shards of glass under the skin.

Clark isn’t going to come.

The memories are hazier now, like vivid dreams, blurred at the edges. Sometimes they aren’t there at all. When he feels them escaping, he does his best to hold on, closes his mind around them like a fist, tight so that nothing will slip through his fingers. But there are always cracks, and little by little his experiences trickle away - gold dust from a broken hourglass, shimmering as it scatters on the wind. He can’t bear to lose a single speck.

But every speck has edges like a razor, slices through him to the bone. Sometimes he can’t wait for the rush of narcotics to come and sweep them away, force him to let go. When the memories are clearest, the pain is at its worst.

He shouldn’t mind being cut open, though. He has spent a lifetime studying mythology and he knows the punishment for those who see divinity unveiled. As he has seen. In his thoughts, he watches again and again as the impossible happens, the miracle, right before his eyes. There is a glory in that moment, a joy of understanding that he would gladly suffer for, if only his sacrifice were accepted. If only Clark hadn’t turned away.

But of course that isn’t how it works. Like Psyche lighting the lamp he has transgressed, and he has been abandoned.

He can still remember Clark’s face in the sunlight, the way he just stood there, naked in his splendor, stripped of lies and flimsy explanations. It’s beautiful, perhaps the single most beautiful moment in his life. He has never felt more whole.

It’s the contrast that kills him. The darkness of now after the brilliance of then. He wants to remember so badly, struggles so hard to hang on, but when he drifts away, when he forgets, this season in Hell is so much easier to live through. It is no torture to be banished from the radiance of God if you don’t recall that God exists.

Clark allowed him to be taken away, and Clark won’t come for him now. He should be angry, perhaps, but all that’s left is an overwhelming loneliness. A loss that goes deeper than grief.

When the drugs kick in, he doesn’t even feel the pain of hope.