She awoke in the same terrifying darkness. The emptiness that was now so familiar, but never less oppressive. She had been wandering in the crushing blackness for as long as she could remember; it was all she remembered, like recollection and time had been stripped from her awareness. She could touch it, smell it, even taste the dark. It was her entire existence or all of existence. If it could be called that. If it could be called anything at all. She longed to perceive anything except the nothingness as it swallowed her. If she could think of something, imagine anything beyond the empty suffocating dark, perhaps she could find what was missing, what was lost, remember what she was.
Words were beginning to fold together and lose both shape and intention. She could feel them twisting and writhing around her in the abyss. It was as though they were an extension of her body – searching as desperately as she to find a way out, to define obscurity. But instead they crowded upon her, causing the darkness to press in further. If she could quiet the black, stifle the movement of her thoughts, it might be peace. In the midst of the terrible chasm of nothing, she craved silence, begged for the words to release her.
The dark pressed harder as she strained to resist, demanded to know what she was, who she was. She refused to accept this reality. It was there. Just out of reach of her comprehension she could almost sense the hole like a bottle or glass drained and then obliterated. The nothingness smothered her, enveloped her. With the last of her conscious she defied and felt it beading on her like droplets. Wet. She felt the wetness, the first recognition of anything and with hope-filled panic she grasped for it and demanded it. Quickly it spread and continued to devour her but now she could feel; she could feel it soak her.
Liquid rolled over fingers and found slick sensation on what must be her arms and down her back between legs thrashing against the tension of the pressure. Wetness touched and made real the parts of her naked body as it squirmed in the dark made corporal. It now stung open eyes and filled burning nostrils, pain greeted her as water poured down her throat and constricted her lungs. She cried out as she found reality. Dark black flowed around her and pushed her body as limbs flailed and she choked and began to drown as she took her first breath of existence.
She fought against the current and kicked as she clung to life. Her chest and mind blurred and burned, deprived of air and reason. She could almost see her own form struggling through the thinning dark of the water. The distance called to her, pushing her forward. Then her fingers found light.
Her head erupted from the water. Cold and sound and air all hit her. She gasped and coughed as she slipped in and out of the sea. Bobbing weakly, her limp body vomited water and clung frantically to the bits of air she could. She was out of the nothing, out of the darkness, she would cry if she wasn’t dying. For countless waves, she faded in and out of consciousness, until finally she moaned and felt coarse sand on her back.
It was light when she woke. The move to stand was slow, instinctual. Feeling every bone, every muscle stretch and extend to unfurl her to her full height. Arms reached out above her head, fingers searching the air for the electricity she sensed coursing somewhere nearby, the coming storm. It suddenly seemed important to delight in the ability to command her body, to live. Though she could not have said why.
In fact, she could not have said much of anything at all. She opened her mouth wide, running tongue over teeth, experimenting with lips. Satisfied that things were as it seemed they should be, she set about choosing a word to release. She could feel it bubbling up in her throat, like the last bit of ocean salt being expelled from her lungs.
Her mind was full of twisted hallways, packed with gilded cages, each containing a single word. It was silent here, while they remained entrapped. She considered allowing it to remain, for she felt that she had desired this stillness but could no longer recall the reason. The crowded hush seemed wrong, out of place here where the waves roared softly in and the sand cut gently at her feet. This is a place that called for sound.
She chose a word roiling and undulating, barely contained within its bars. It burned her as it rushed past, filling her ears with a sorrowful ecstasy. It consumed her before she set it free.
She laughed joyously, effervescently at the texture of letters on her tongue and quickly sought another to fill the void.
“Delicious. Crystalline. Sonorous.”
She pulled them out and tried them on, reveling in their weight, consistency. It was addicting. Each one tasted unique in her mouth; from the velvet sensuality of “susurration” to the bitter tang of “cacophony”. She felt ravenous.
“Amorphous. Dulcet. Felicity. Resplendent. Somnolent.”
Their golden cages crushed beneath the force of her voice; she ripped them apart, one by one, tearing down bars and twisting open the doors. She flung the words from her as rapidly as possible; relishing the righteous noise they made as their consonants crashed together and fell around her. She could almost feel the sharp sting on her skin as they made contact. She paused before a single cage, smaller than the others and shrouded in shadow, almost as though it was trying to hide.
This word. There was a hush, momentarily, as this word settled down around her, enveloped her completely, became her.
It slipped over her shoulders and hung comfortably around her neck as though it belonged there. A name, her name, a definition of self. It grounded her, sunk her toes further into the cold sand. She rolled it over her teeth and back around between her ears. She pulled it tight and let it warm her. How could she have forgotten?