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  • He is headed for the deep.


    I have observed his pain for a while, from a distance, like I have observed the misery of others for a long time. Every morning I give thanks for my privilege, my protected existence, I force myself to remember not to take my fortunate situation for granted. There are reminders everywhere, but they are mostly possible to overlook, if you don't want to see. And who wants to see, really? Spiritual pain is contagious, it hurts to observe, it hurts to take part. It hurts, but I can't ignore his agony any longer.


    He is slipping away; I reach out to grab the sleeves of his coat, I hold on for dear life, but his despair is heavy. He's not even trying anymore, he has given up, and I know this is the moment when I have to decide whether to let him go or to follow him down.
  • I must have fainted, I closed my eyes just for a moment but when I open them I find myself lost in a dark place, with him. He looks at me, gravely, and I want to strike at him for pulling me down, but what good would that do? I get up, brush off the dust of resignation and start to walk, his hand in mine.


    I am not supposed to be here, I know that deep within. But then, neither is he. He is ill-equipped for this place, much too vulnerable, too weary, and I think my purpose must be to lead the way, to be his guide through this tormenting darkness, this inferno of despair. A poet leading a poet; a project bound for doom. I am not afraid of the lurking beasts, my light is strong enough to keep them at bay, but he is blacked-out, his hope is eclipsed and he is careless and slow, an easy target.


    That mountain there is where we need to go, I tell him, we must get out of this dark forest and climb those hills, if only to get an overview of this deep valley.


    The climb is steep; the road is narrow and winding. Somehow I recognize this path, it bears a strong resemblance to the route I used to escape my childhood. Nine circles of suffering offer plenty of time to recall memories I wish to delete. I thought I had, but it all comes back to me now, forming a looming shadow that follows me closely, two steps behind, personified by him, my brother. His pain is mine; I feel it echoing throughout my hollow soul as we continue our hopeless journey.


    They say there are many ways to interpret poetry, that there's always a deeper level. But I think we're there, at the very bottom of all possible meaning. I tell him our only option is to walk on, but he says there's nowhere to go. We must be the greatest sinners, he and I, for we have rejected hope.
  • What we see from the top is another mountain. I recognize this view, too. Behind every peak of hope lies another steep hill, and another, and another, I know. We still have to keep going.


    I take a deep breath and pull him up the slopes. All the while I hear him muttering, a stifled string of words that have lost all poetry, it sends a chill down my spine. With every uttered word he's getting heavier, and the darkness is getting deeper. It's like we're passing through the centre of the Earth, the very core of agony, and now my light has faded to a pale, flickering blue. His faint breath is like a cold draft of despair across my neck, but I squeeze his hand and pretend that I still have a reserve of strength, although I fear it may not be enough to get us both out of here.


    *


    Just as I'm about to succumb, out of breath, out of hope, I see another flickering light ahead, a sight I never thought I'd see again. A starry sky, a hint of dawn on the horizon, can he sense that the sun is about to rise?
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