it’s heavy and quiet in here. the air is thick with sorrow, and i feel it like tar on my limbs. my breath is labored but full. i walk softly, not wanting to disturb the others. i feel them near, their blood in my blood, giving life to the sickness.
i am strong but there is pain.
my head turns slowly from side to side. i see their eyes all around me, glistening, slicing through shadow like steel. orbs slick with tears bear witness to their horror. i lower my gaze.
i am strong but ashamed.
i hear it. quiet at first, a low rumbling rises from beneath my feet. i struggle to maintain my balance as the earth begins to quake. i fall to my knees as it intensifies, clutching at my ears to keep the sound from going too deep. laughter, rank and cruel, climbs the walls and fills my lungs with dread. i’m choking on the acrid taste of lies. my onlookers squeeze their eyes shut, as if to keep out the madness that runs like fever through my veins.
i am strong but helpless.
and then the wailing begins. a world of torment rings in my ears, drowning out the laughter. agony made flesh as the sound reverberates through my body. a primal call into the darkness for healing, for death, for reprieve. it resonates so strongly, i feel hollow and alone. i am losing my grip, doubling over, desperate. i sit back on my heels, hold my head in my hands, and turning in every direction, implore them to stop, their anguish is deafening. it is killing me. flying back and forth, searching for the source of my pain, my gaze catches only their eyes. and they watch me in awe.
i am strong but overcome.
their eyes shine through the black, and i see myself reflected in their light. my agony, my torment, my wildness unleashed. it is my cry that repels the scorn. it is my voice that frees them and offers them hope. suddenly, i am without breath. instinctively, hungrily, i draw in air. heaving, gasping, i raise a hand to my chest, feeling it rise and fall. my heart beats. and it is all i hear.
i am strong.
i feel a surge within me, unfurling electric from my core. i still hear the drumbeat in my chest and feel the breath pulsing through me. i stand in my strength, palms open, heart lifted. i find the sound once more, this time with purpose. breathing in power and resolve, i throw back my head and release a howl that rises from my center and expands outward. it connects me to a universe where there is pain but also healing, where there is hurt but also forgiveness. chains shatter all around me, and i hear my voice lifted higher by those around me. they begin as an echo but find their own way. traveling skyward, they relinquish the bonds that were never their own.
the air is light with our song. i feel it like feathers dancing on our skin.