Chamber of Horrors


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How many will perish and how many will grow?
Who will live and who will die?
Who at his destination and who before his destination?
Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by hunger?
Who will stay and who will flee?
Who will be saved and who will be punished?
Repentance, prayer and charity shall temper the severity of the
judgment, for as thy name is, such is thy glory. Hard to anger and
easy to reconcile, for you take no pleasure in the death of man, but
that he may turn back from his path and live.

Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year Festival)

* * * * * * * * *

The bed in the dark room was more than slightly damp and creaked softly in protest as the figure on it finally sat up, gingerly stretching the muscles that had become cramped during the frantic exertions prompted by the memories that, even now, still haunted the tortured mind…

Walls seemed to close in from all sides and harsh calls echoed callously out of the darkness, dying slowly away...

Next came silence, and eyes, hundreds of pairs of eyes, facing the figure as it stood there: defenseless, abandoned and agonisingly alone…

The dark, as the eyes opened, seemed to stretch ahead, endless and terrifying…

In a space that seemed to continue for eternity in all directions, the hands stretched out in the hope of meeting some object that could make that dread of being alone with oneself seem to diminish.

Vain hope…

Exertions caused by the nighttime visions had caused strange movements that meant the walls of the room were beyond the reach of the outstretched fingers and so there was nothing to find but empty darkness.

At this thought, Reason started up and scolded, declaring that it was too late in life for a person to be afraid of the dark and of being left alone.

In the hours that the sun warmed the earth, reason was heeded.

But then the sun would vanish beyond the horizon and it was during the time of dark that the nightmares came…

And the nightmares were the most terrible of all - the moments when the worst of what had been became more indescribable and less tolerable than when it had ever existed in a form that could be touched or experienced…

* * * * * * * * *

Familiar as they were in the daylight hours, objects often became sinister and threatening when the illumination was extinguished.

And when the moment came for the brightness to be terminated, there was always pause, hesitation…

For so many years, they had not been quenched, broken sleep preferable to the temporary blindness brought on by their dousing.

But, with stern directions to self, they had finally been turned off and then had commenced the many hours of loneliness, when sleep was pushed to the verges and fought against for so many hours until, as the light appeared, exhaustion forced its way in and, finally, sleep came…

The dreams were never the same, their content always slightly altered, but the feelings were always identical - fear, loneliness, terror and waves of panic that radiated from an unspecified source but enhanced the other feelings brought to the surface by the dreamed images until their victim felt that death was preferable to this wave of emotion that crashed on the beach of consciousness, drew back and crashed down again; repeating over and over again, until rising was accompanied by exhaustion that was almost but not quite enough to send the sufferer back to the dreaded bed…

* * * * * * * * *

And yet, once upon a time, bed and sleep had been a haven of safety.

Memory, sweet and beloved memory, could bring back times when bed was accompanied by the arm of a mother or father and the muted tones as a favorite tale was spun out of a beloved book or an even more dear mind.

And then dreams brought to life these wonderful tales and created dozens more that were later used in play as the only form of expression of which the young person was capable.

And if the dark did sometimes seem to be full of monsters and fear, then a cry would bring a swift comfort in the form of a hand or smile and then the angels seemed to smile and clap their hands and rejoice.

But then the darkness descended and, in one movement, the light and joy was gone and the angels, in their turn, would weep as the childhood tears went undried until, finally, the child learned not to cry and then all fear was swallowed up and, despite there being no real safe refuge, the comfort could come in the knowledge that another day was over and, although there was no end in sight, it had been possible to live for those twenty-four hours.

And so, in the depths of darkness, the dread continued and, despite the offering of a friendly hand, loneliness was the hardest of all the trials to bear - when even a brother would be taken away - and it was then that the tears threatened again, but the lessons had been learned and the tears were no longer allowed to fall.

However there was never a reward for such behavior…

* * * * * * * * *

Then, one day, the longed-for light appeared.

No great light, as had shown the way through the more innocent and naïve early times.

This light was dimmed but was sufficient to show the path up out of the slough and onto the next length of the road that was to be traveled.

And the images of loved ones lost, now certified in the quiet words spoken by another who had tried to take the place of those far-gone figures, could come once more and then could the tears finally pour down for the loss of so much in the loss of those dreams.

And so a dimmer light, containing no source of brightness itself but instead reflecting the light from the earlier times, as the moon reflects the day’s sunlight that is long gone, shone on the path and showed the way that, although difficult, may finally lead to the great destination and reward at the end of life - the unity and safety in the arms of a loving family…

On to Act I

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