In his second chapter, Ben Hramiak continues his story about Oscar.
The Deep and Lovely Dark
(n.) Love of darkness or night. Finding relaxation and comfort in darkness.
He should have just turned back. It would have been so easy. He could have turned and walked back to his nice, comfy apartment: an apartment with no one in it and no one to love him—
SHUT UP! He developed a slight habit: Oscar often found himself drifting into darkness… even with the blaring neon of the market street surrounding him. He’d decided to take a walk and had spent the last 40 minutes wandering aimlessly through the streets of an equally aimless space station. Every now and then he would look up at the infinitely spinning, infinitely cold reaches of space.
Stumbling through the market, Oscar could see the occasional stares of passing strangers. He knew he must have looked quite perplexing to them: he still wore his suit from the funeral. What had once been pristine had slowly morphed into a crumpled, creased and stained set of rags hanging from his gaunt flesh.
Two days had passed since the funeral, and still he couldn’t help but destroy himself. Anne wouldn’t want this, he thought as he eyed a small fruit stand occupied by a portly Chinese woman. With the blazing lights given of from the stall, Oscar could make out every minute detail of the fruit. Plump, rounded apples laying there, piled upon each other like a mass grave. A rather delicious grave, but a grave none the less.
Oscar quickly smiled at the woman and picked up an apple from the bottom of the pile. Within a second, an avalanche of red and green baubles cascaded down onto the ground. He cursed loudly as both he and the woman tried to pick up the fallen apples.
It took about five minutes before they were all back in place, by which time the woman gave a loud sigh of relief and stepped back round to behind her stall. She looked down at the apple Oscar clutched; seeing how white his knuckles had become. Quickly, her eyes darted up to meet his; she saw dark circles around his eyes, but also the sheer lifelessness within his haggard face.
“I’m,” her accent was English, “sorry for your loss.” She paused, seeing the realisation in his face, seeing a small smile grace his cracked lips. “…Have that on me,” she indicated the apple in his hand.
“Thanks.” His voice was hoarse crying, but even so his accent could be made out. He was English, northern perhaps—there wasn’t really a point of reference given that there wasn’t really a north of England to refer to—but not as broad as other accents.
“You look like you need some sleep,” she said.
He looked down at the apple, smiling, “Yeah, I know.” With that, Oscar turned and walked off.
The stares continued, not that he cared all that much. Meandering through streets, twisting and turning through dark alleyways and gleaming show windows, he felt as though his legs were moving of their own accord. Everything seemed to sting his eyes like they were being picked at by carrion crows. It all seemed so… smug—the sheer lack of humanity in the uncaring light as it seemed to jab away at him. It seemed to laugh at him.
Oscar wanted sanctuary—but where to find it? It took another 5 minutes before he found a sufficient resting place: a church!
The thing was ancient and yet pristine. Oscar couldn’t begin to imagine how much time and effort it had taken to build and maintain: The hours spent dusting away at the towering walls. He knew there wouldn’t be any beds, but right then he didn’t care.
Exhaustion had quickly spiralled down into apathy. Stumbling forward, he pressed a trembling hand against the tall wooden door; hearing the low creak of the door as it mercifully opened.
He let out a loud laugh as he saw the interior, “The deep and lovely dark.”
The smile almost hurt as it cracked his lips. Oscar entered the church slowly; he guessed that there wasn’t anyone in given how dark it was. Although, in his current state, he didn’t care if anyone found him or not. He made his way to what felt like a pew and collapsed into it.
It was then, much to his annoyance and amazement, he saw something through a sliver of light from the window. A statue of what looked like a man nailed to a cross by his hands and feet: Jesus.
Oscar felt a flush of anger rise in his throat; an ultimately pointless anger given that he’d walked into a Christian church. He knew the statue wasn’t alive, he knew it couldn’t hear him… and yet at that moment he felt like shouting at someone.
May as well be a two thousand-year old dead carpenter, he thought.
He took in a deep breath, and started to compile his thoughts—all the bile, primal rage and bottomless grief he’d been carrying around with him—ready to explode into a fit of screaming.
And yet, there was nothing, there was no rage, only the despair and a black, swirling mass of contempt he felt toward the statue. So, instead of shouting, he simply exhaled and took in another, smaller breath.
“I’ve never been a religious person. I mean, I went to Sunday school and all, but I treated the bible more as a really weird rule book. Or even just one long story. At least,” he bit into his apple, “I’ve never used the bible as an excuse for everything bad that’s happened to me.”
He chuckled before continuing, his laugh lacking any mirth what so ever. “I don’t think you can hear me, but if you can, I want to ask you a question: Do you find any of this amusing? Do you deride some sort of fun out of letting your little play things run around committing all sorts of atrocities?” He could hear the bile in his voice, and in that moment Oscar felt deathly afraid of what he was saying.
And yet, he carried on, “D-do you even care? Or are you just resigned to let us mess around. Did you just watch as thousands of men and women were slaughtered. Did you watch as MY WIFE WAS TAKEN FROM ME—”
And so he stopped, right there—he caught himself and stopped, “Or have I just been talking to myself this whole time.” He slowly shut his eyes, leaning back in the pew. Eventually, the low rumblings of the station died down and he let the gentle, darkness of sleep embrace him.
More next month, thanks for reading