Perhaps it began that day. A day of hazy recollections until the darkness. There was nothing hazy about the darkness, it was sharp, black. A darkness that absorbed all light. Then there was the sound of sea. Restless in the darkness, hungry for the flesh of prisoners. A taste long denied but never forgotten.
My father, a disembodied voice, all that was left after the darkness had absorbed him, was waxing lyrical in hushed worshipful tones about those martyrs who refusing to give up their faith were chained and fed to the incoming tide. I shuddered, an involuntary convulsion and longed to get out into the sunlight and the biting cold wind that rose up from the sea. At least I could feel that coldness not this suffocating, invasive darkness that stole my substance.
Was that the beginning of my fear, a fear of corridors in the darkness? Not corridors of power but hallways of blackness that even in my dreams could not be escaped. Always running down hallways, an Alice Wonderland of fear and anxiety trying to shut doors and windows before thieves and robbers entered. Golem creatures of my dream-scape intent on stealing, though what I never knew.
Ageing has its advantages. The hallways of childhood don’t seem as long when you are taller and older. There is that universal surprise the haunts of our childhood are always so much smaller than we thought. The doors I had run to shut in my dreams were now firmly bolted and Golem creatures faded into dusty memories. Or had they?
Perhaps I had just grown a tad more sophisticated. I wrote journals. And when the bolts on my doors rusted and loosened I wrote. I wrote my fears rather than dreamed them. The sulphuric smell of the hell of fear still lingering in the singed hairs of my nostrils. When the journals had grown into a pile I dug a hole and burnt them. A symbolic act of both burial and cremation. An unmarked grave to protect the next generation from the enlightenment of too much knowledge of my hallways.
Then in an attempt at alchemy I taught myself short hand believing that in hieroglyphics I would have more freedom to unbolt doors and do battle with my thieves and robbers. The hallways of my childhood are now the hallways of my soul. These hallways are always much longer, they are a labyrinth of corridors, a maze I have spent years running down, seeking to keep the doors shut, the bolts in good condition and to find a way out.
Perhaps, I am running the wrong way. Rather than trying to find a way out of the labyrinth, I should be running deeper into the maze. Like Theseus in Greek mythology I enter the labyrinth seeking the Minotaur and writing is the string I trail behind me as I journey within. I write to test my boundaries and having tested them and grown comfortable, my writing encourages me to cross those boundaries, to journey deeper. To cross unmapped spaces of my soul to the next boundary. The next act of writing becomes an act of fear and courage.
It is an act of fear because I wonder is it safe to disclose this part of myself? Is it safe to unbolt this door and write of my rage, my hatred, my ecstasy? These raw emotions I keep behind the bolted door of civilised niceness, can I declare them? Will people still like me or more importantly, will I still like myself. It is an act of courage. The courage to journey within, to face my Minotaur.
The Minotaur was half human, half bull, unable to feed naturally he devoured humans, men who were sent into the labyrinth as sacrifices. Theseus went into the labyrinth and killed the Minotaur and using the thread he had spooled out behind him used that as a means of escape. Within me there is that strange mixture of human and animal. In writing into my fears, in writing to push my boundaries I learn that human and those darker, more animal passions can co-exist. I learn using the strength of the bull to be most fully human.
Writing into fear can be the thread that leads us back out to live most fully human.