this is what life is like, i feel.

you open your eyes and you find you're in a pitch black place. there's literally nothing that you can see except absolute darkness. and you wonder if your eyes are even open at all. you can't know if there's anything ahead of you, behind you or around you. so you stand dead still.

suddenly there is a teeny glow. a dot of an orb and you see it bob against this inkiness. you think your eyes might be playing tricks on you but, no— there's an orb of light that's really moving through the darkness.

and it's coming straight for you.

the light comes close then gets raised. you're able to see it's another person. he has raised the light to his face. so you can see the outline of his features. "hello, friend." you say. you think he's a friend because he has come for you. somehow, he knew exactly where you'd been standing. plus, his face is kind.

"come." his voice is gentle. you are comforted. ah, yes. this one's a friend. and you follow him without another word or question.

there is nothing you find odd about this trek. in fact, you are simply grateful to have company at all. what's more, he has a light and appears to know exactly where to go. there is no conversation but you like that. no need for small talk. and the novelty of it all— that you're able to travel a path in utter and complete darkness with zero conversation between the pair of you is somehow both amusing and exhilarating.

you cannot wait to see where this all leads.

the light is held just barely an inch of this strange guide's extended arm. it is neither lowered nor raised. just a steady ahead. and his pace is calm and relaxed. if not for the blinding darkness, you would think you were strolling through a luscious garden. drinking everything in.

then all at once, there is a halt.

it is so sudden, you're surprised you both did not collide. "why have we stopped?" you asked for the first time. surprised at how the sound reverberated. had he brought you to a cave? for the first time, you stretched your arms out width-length. to feel for walls. nope. none there. you shift positions to have them out in front of you. sure enough.

a wall.

"where are we?"

your voice again.

"why have you brought me to a wall?"

then the light is raised and you're able to visualise that there are a couple of things now bathed in white fluorescent glow. a wall, yes. the man's face and half of his torso. what was it that had given you the impression that his face was kind? you wonder silently. realising for the first time what you'd just done.

trusted a complete stranger in pitch black darkness— asked no questions, spoke nothing and assumed he'd come to lead you out. because how would he have known just where to find you? surely, someone good had sent him.

right?

"is this a dead-end?" you ask. your voice now has a slight tremble. what did any of this mean?

and somehow, something was already telling you— you weren't going to be getting any answers from your stranger guide. not today, buddy.

he holds the light for three seconds longer. and somehow, in the harsh fluorescence, he suddenly looked sinister.

"you have just learnt," he says, speaking deliberately in a voice so soft, he might as well had been whispering. "not to trust that someone will never lead you astray."

then he takes a step back and all at once, vanishes. as if the darkness had just swallowed him whole.

feeling the wall in front of you, you turn 180 and begin to walk as straight as you're able back to, perhaps, you were hoping, where you'd been standing previously. so far, so good. putting one foot immediately in front of the other, you were doing alright... thus far. no tripping, falling and bumping into anything just yet. thankfully.

this darkness is starting to piss you off. because your eyes actually feel tired. i guess they're just straining so hard to see but there is nothing. so what's the difference? you might as well keep them closed.

you dare yourself to close your eyes. and there we are— much better.

oddly, you're not too scared anymore. you've managed to alleviate some pain for yourself. and it didn't seem complex. keep walking in a line.

then you actually do make contact.

you bump into the form of a person. your eyes fly open. a light.

for a second, a small panic rises. not again! the voice inside your head shouts. was this the same stranger?! you step back. the light advances. it's the same guy!! right?

RIGHT?!

"hi." his voice steely and cool. "come."

"WHAT?! NO. i'm not falling for this again. i really don't even know you," you sputter. you feel anger creep in.

"but i've been waiting for you."

and before you can say another word, he turns on his heel and the light goes with him and though you hadn't yet recovered from the first strange encounter, you suddenly feel comforted by the fact that there was one more person in this godforsaken darkness. and what's more— he has light.

he's running. at least that's what it feels and sounds like. rapid sounds of footfall. you run, too. keeping your eyes trained on the orb of light that's bouncing and jumping erratically against all of the darkness. there is nothing to see, nothing to hear and why does it feel like all you're doing is running round in circles? but no matter. run you must. so run you do.

and you're breathing so hard. you don't recall running to have ever hurt this much. but your lungs are on fire and your chest feels unnaturally heavy and everything's screaming out for you to stop and catch your breath. you want to ask why you're running. what's happening???! but you're also afraid to know. then suddenly, you feel an arm block your motion. oof! your stomach runs into the arm. you want to shout out but "sshh..." comes the low warning.

then all at once, a gush of cold air. and padded footsteps. it sounds like a large animal. but there is nothing except the abnormally large gust of air that billows on your face, you feel your hair blow upwards and your eyes squeeze shut in reflex.

and then, the light is cast.

the stranger's face comes into view. his eyes seem to twinkle. lips tugging ever so slightly.

"you're welcome." it's a quiet, soothing tone that sounds like a lover's.

and before you're even able to find your voice, he takes a slow backward step back and disappears without a trace.

"you've just learnt how it feels to trust again even though you've been betrayed," says a voice, loud in your ear.

you jump.

a light and it appears to be rising in slow-motion.

all you see is the curve of lips. teeth. straight, almost luminous teeth.

"come."