I found myself once again shivering and huddling around those near and dear, a fire in the middle of our circle. Each of us clutching to our hot soup bowls as we tried to savor the heat with each sip. Today seemed to have an extra layer of darkness. I looked up to the night sky. The moon’s light was being suffocated by grey night clouds, and stars, which usually looked so close together, were now much farther apart. In the second it took me to process my surroundings, I saw another night star dim, fade, and disappear. My heart jumped and I quickly looked away from the sky. It had been so long since I had looked up at the sky. How long has it been? Days? Months? Maybe even years? Every so often, I would bring my head up to look at the sky. I would suddenly get a headache. Like my entire body was warning me not to look up.
But today, I was distracted by the infinite thoughts in my head. I had looked up so quickly, and before my mind realised what I was doing, it was too late. It didn’t have the time to warn me like every previous time. And all that fear and frustration and the reason my mind had worked so hard to protect me came rushing back. In this world of an infinite night, with it never turning today, the stars were slowly going out in the night sky. One by one. I stared hard at the ground cursing myself. How could I do that?! I accepted another bowl of soup and tried to think of something else. Anything else. But it was now in the forefront of my mind. The sky had lost so many stars from the last time I had looked up. Once all the stars went out, would the moon be next? Sometimes, you would hear from someone far away in another part of this world about their stars going out. It was always sad, but it never felt real. Life continued on here. Until it happened to you. Until your stars went out could you fully appreciate the terror and sadness of everyone else who had experienced that pain before you.
My usual daily routine was very simple and boring. Find food for the rest of the day. Make sure there’s enough firewood, and if not, replenish it. Throw out the old and charred firewood from yesterday. Help cook meals. And when there is no work to be done, try and find something to do to entertain and distract yourself. But now, my daily routine has become a nightmare. Because I had looked at the night sky again. And each day now, I remembered it again. I threw myself into the daily chores of each day. When I had something to do, It was much easier not to remember. But it was during the times where there was nothing to do when the world would close around me. I would sing old songs or recite ancient stories that I remembered. I would desperately find everything and anything I could do. I had forgotten about everything once. How long would it take me to forget everything again?! I just wanted this awful feeling to go away. I tried to acknowledge it and point out everything I still had.
It was always cold, the stars were going out, but I always had something to eat. I had an education, and there were those around me who loved me. There were lots of people who had it worse. And every day was fine, not especially good, but not especially bad, and everything about my day was fine, “Just so long as I don’t look up” was what I started to reassure myself. And every day, the same routine, the same sinking feeling. The same feeling of hopelessness. The attempts to cheer myself up. That I had food and shelter. And everything about my world was fine, so long as I don’t look up.
So, I stopped looking at the sky. I did everything I could to avoid it. But it wasn’t enough. I would notice through the corner of my eye when a section of sky would become darker. “That’s another star going out.” I thought. And I would then try to bury that thought. It was when I had to sleep that I hated the most. That time you are exhausted and powering down when those doubts and regret are the most powerful. Trying to sleep as my thoughts turned darker like the night sky and plagued by nightmares. There was no mental guard I could put up when I slept. And so, I continued this way, distracting myself with the usual mundane chores, the stories I had already told myself a hundred times prior, and spending the nights singing myself to sleep to avoid the doubts. And through that, things weren’t as dark, and everything is fine once again. So long as I don’t look up.
Jonathan notes: “I’ve been writing for a long time. However, I recently realised that I write to process and understand myself and the world around me. I write for its freedom. And I write with the hope of finding my freedom outside the world of writing as well.”