I walk unsteadily through a tunnel of trees, the ground squelching under my feet. On either side, like the pillars of a cold cathedral, I see those white shapes waiting patiently. They are eyeless and alone; I stare one of them down and the pair of black voids in their heads pulses and throbs like bags of agitated worms. I look away. My arms have disappeared and I’m scared to walk faster lest I fall and cannot catch myself.
Fetid streetlamps scrape through like dull razors on skin. As the shapes lean in closer, I pass through some of them and I am hit by smells from my past – grandmother’s perfume, the dead grass that I lay in after losing my first fight, the musky iron odour of my high school sweetheart. My fingers shrivel and slime, squirming into tentacles that claw at my shirt and force themselves up my chest and towards my neck. Feeling the first grooved tips poking at the corners of my mouth I put my head down and run for the grey in a tube of utter black.
The Playground is invisible in the night, so I walk towards a black mass. Everything is silent, as though the entire world is judging my current performance. Vaulting the gate, I pause to take a bow. As if lit by spotlights, I can suddenly see everything within the fence and nothing else beyond. I lose my coat and shirt and make my way towards the zipline.
Climbing to the top of the launch point I clamp my thighs around the old car tyre and grip the cable. Leaning back, I throw myself off the platform. The tyre bucks and spins like distressed horses, and my feet are suddenly skywards as my cheeks skim the surface of the chipped bark floor. Feeling the splinters grazing my skin but not entering, the wire slowly peters out and fades until I am left dangling, upside down and twirling faintly in the dead air. I let go and unceremoniously clatter to the soft floor and begin to eat the dirt.
I have three more goes at this, and every time it ends the same way. Feet up, head down, I skate across the thin veneer and see the churned up ground rushing past my mouth. On the final go the brakes fail and I hit the end point at maximum force, trebucheting me weightless for a brief few seconds until I crash down on the damp grass. I lay there for minutes, maybe hours, letting the midnight dew soak into my clothes and hair.
When I finally get up off the floor, The Playground is surrounded on all four sides of the fence by the white shapes; loose bedsheets of various widths and heights all formless except for two black, pulsing holes in their heads. They watch me silently, with judgement but without words or actions, until I have spun around six times and tried to find an exit from all this. I look up towards the sky but God is empty, and the stars all shun or hide from my terrible behaviour.
I feel my heart trying to escape through skin and my fingers seizing up; writhing maggots turning into broken fences. I wrench the belt off my waist and claw out the pin in the buckle. Raising it up to my face for a symbolic moment I hook it inside my eyesocket and begin to hook out the jelly within.
Eyeless and alone.
I am on my hands and knees, feeling the wet grass under my fingers and soaking into my jeans. Salty fluids run hot down my cheeks and into the corners of my mouth. I cannot stop shivering.
Kneeling against the black, I look around for white shapes but I cannot see anything. I cannot feel anything. The wet grass dulls into sand, and the wind dies into a vacuum. But I know they are still there. As I grasp handfuls of the earth it fades from my fingertips, and I cannot tell if I am being lifted away or disappearing entirely.