A to Z and Back Again - E is for Earnest


You are in a pitch black cave so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face. You stumble about, unable to find your bearings.  Before the lights went out, you saw a cavern, a meandering walkway with rocks littering the path, leading to another cave. You listen for a voice, a laugh, a we're only kidding jest, but hear nothing.  Where are you now? Are you alone? Or are there other people lost in the dark same as you. 

You stand in place and wait.  Should you turn around and seek the light?  You remember a door, but you don't have any idea where it is anymore. You were shoved through a door into the cavern before the door shut, blocking out the light, sight, sound. What is on the other other side of the cavern? Where are you going? Do you know? 

They said they were giving you a test to see, ha ha, your full potential. What did any of this have to do with being a team player or a lone wolf. What did any of this have to do with being management material?  What were they expecting? For you to stand there silently and wait, or yell for help; stumble and fall, or march through the dark, like a stupid idiot, going in circles. 

You hate tests. Always had. They never revealed the true you. Didn't test your real knowledge, just the fake, the regurgitated lessons of the past.  Whether you made it through or not, you decided you were through; with her, with them, with the whole endeavor. It wasn't worth it.  

Do you dare move into the dark?  Stumble about in the dark, hands out stretched, eyes squinched tight against the heavy weight.  You breath deep and take a step, your foot sliding an inch, then another, until you reach the zenith of your stride.  You feel like Frankenstein, stiff legged, stiff armed, lurching forward in the dark.  You continue to shuffle forward, feeling your way with your feet and your hands.  Your whole body aware, seeking the path, seeking the way forward.  

You slide your feet forward again, a little faster this time, one after another. How far have you gone? How long has it been?

Silence descends and nothing reaches your ears except for the slide of your shoes. Nothing in the cave except you and the dark. The whoosh of your shoe as it swings in an arc, testing out the width of the trail. You swing your arms to no avail.

The split second of light at the beginning, a flash of the trail, not concrete, but gravel leading off into the distance remains in your mind's eye.  You blink open your eyes and wait for them to adjust, imagining people in the dark; observing, listening, taking notes, grading your progress.  Damn them.

Another foot forward, the rasp of your own breath, another inch.  Are you getting closer? How far have you gone?  Inch by inch, breath by breath, how much time has passed?

Your foot encounters something in the dark, in the path.  You reach out and run your hands over the object.  A chair? What would happen if you sat down? If you waited, if you rested? Would you fail? You grip the chair and fling it as hard as you can forward and listen to it clatter and slither along the trail, until it comes to a stop. Lost in the dark.   

An hour passed, you think, before you encounter another obstacle in your path. The damn chair again, upright, and waiting for you to sit down and rest. How the Hell did they do that? 

You huff out a laugh which echoes around you.  You hoot like an owl and listen as echolocation tell you you're in the middle of a chamber, the sound circling around you. You throw the chair, harder this time, and are rewarded with a thump as it lands against a wall. 

Tempted to rush forward, you restrain yourself.  Whoosh, slide, step, whoosh slide, and step, again and again until you feel the brush of air flow past you. A bat? A bird? A fan? Or maybe a door opening. 

You listen, hearing nothing, the oppressive dark unrelenting, your legs quivering from fatigue, and push forward until your hands hit a hard rock wall right in front of you.  You lean forward and rest your head against the rocks, resting for just one moment.  Is this the end or another chair, another barrier?

You run your hands over the wall searching for a doorknob, a latch, a hole, even a button to push. What feels like  interminable minutes pass before you find an outline of a square.  

You push it and wait and wait and wait and wait. 

You swear and punch the damn wall, slide down to sit. For just a minute. You are so damned tire, but you need a minute to rest, to regroup. It's another obstacle, no more than that. 

You climb to your feet and resume running your hands along the rocky wall. Five feet to the left and find large rocks blocking the way.  Back to the middle, then five feet more to the right.  You encounter a blank spot. You press forward through an opening, hands sliding against the wall, foot carving an arc, until you hit wood.  A door. An actual door with a handle.  You turn the knob and the door squeaks open to a sea of black.   

Sighing, you power onward and find, another chair. This time you sit and wait, close your eyes, and listen.

A murmur of voices, laughter, music, comes from your right, in the distance.  Are the jackasses having a party while they wait?  

You open your eyes and see a tiny light far, far away. A figment of your imagination, or the real deal. An open door? An exit? The end?

You rise and trusting nothing else will block your past, you stride with confidence forward into the light.  

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