2. NEVER STEP INTO A BLIND ALLEY WITHOUT FIRST MAKING SURE THERE'S
A GOOD WAY OUT, AND ESPECIALLY THAT THERE IS REALLY AN ALLEY THERE, AND NOT SOME
ENDLESS PIT INSTEAD. 'CAUSE IF THERE IS, GUESS WHAT WILL HAPPEN...
least when I opened the back door, I thought I was facing an alley. It certainly
was dark, and smelled bad like an alley should. But as I stepped out, my foot
didn't find the ground. It kept going, and the rest of me followed. I was falling
into an endless pit.
Well, I thought it was endless, for it felt like I was falling forever. I could
feel stubble growing on my face as I fell and fell. Soon the stubble grew into
a beard, and the beard grew longer, and my hair flapped shoulder length in the
stale air that wafted by.
After a while (five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks, five years?) my
eyes began to grow somewhat accustomed to the gloom, and I could see other things
falling in the pit with me. I couldn't see them very clearly, but somehow I sensed
that these were people that I once knew, and things that once meant something
to me. A car drifted by, and before it disappeared out of sight, somewhere in
my brain it clicked that this was my first Datsun. But the next instant I wasn't
sure if it was my memory, or someone else's I was remembering.
my third grade teacher floated past. A stamp I once paid a year's allowance for,
dangled beyond my reach. A choir of children with smiles so wide and bright were
singing "Let there be peace on earth..." My heart leaped with hope until
the Wicked Witch flew by on her broomstick, and I reached for Joey, the dog who
was my best friend when I was six, but he bit me, and swam off into the darkness.
barely had a chance to lick my wounds when bursts of fireworks lit the darkness,
dazzling my senses with their brightness and deafening noise. I wanted to cheer
but I was interrupted by a platoon of soldiers that roared from below, soaring
upwards in their rhythmic march.
A gurgling swell of patriotic pride filled
my throat and I wanted to applaud them, or better yet join them in their gallant
mission to protect freedom, liberty and justice for all. But as they turned to
stare at me, I saw them wince and cringe as each burst of light filled the skies,
and the patriotic pride in their eyes was hiding an emptiness of fear and doubt.
I could see in their uncertainty that these soldiers-in-arms weren't sure
whether they should salute me or draw their weapons. But they received no orders
and the monotonous sound of their marching boots began to fade in the distance
as I found I wasn't sure either whether I was the enslaved subject of a maniacal
dictator they'd come to liberate, a fellow citizen whose freedom they'd sworn
to protect, or even one of the enemy.
I strained to see whose flag they'd
been waving, and as I squinted and peered, the colors and stripes kept changing
as if a progression of dynasties rose and fell, one after the other. But the troops
never waivered in their allegiance, no matter how many times regime change occurred.
As I struggled to regain some shred of nationalistic identity, a football
bounced past. A different rush of competitive fervor flooded my veins and I reached
out to grab the ball, but
a thundering mass of quarter-ton muscle-packed football jerseys pounced on it.
The pigskin-object-of-desire squeezed out of their grasp and jetted upwards, with
the testosterone-tangle in hot pursuit.
Another mass of humanity rose from below, as I seemed to plunge faster. They were
carrying signs and chanting songs of peace. The peace procession was an endless
stream of faces whizzing by me that passionately wore their causes and concerns
in every tear that filled their eyes and ran blood-stained down their cheeks.
"What do we want?" a billion voices cried out. "Peace!" a billion more answered.
"When do we want it?" the billion asked.
I gasped, longing to grab a sign and follow them in their cause, but before I'd
uttered that single syllable, the entire crowd of billions had drifted up out
of sight and I was falling alone once again, without a cause or anything at all
to hold on to.
I fell, and I fell, and I could not understand why I was falling so much faster
than all the others in the hole, when, by the laws of gravity, or some such reason
like that, we should all be falling at the same rate. Or, was it that we'd all
fall at the same acceleration? Or speed? Or? Oh, what did it matter. I'd fall,
and I'd fall and I'd never STOP.
I stopped with a jerk, and felt something tugging at my shirt. A line stretched
from out of the darkness, and ended in a hook that had found its way into my favorite
(and apparently, only) flannel shirt.