01 Feb The Call of the Void
Have you ever found yourself at the top of a tall building, with the irresistible urge to jump? Or perhaps you’ve been cutting vegetables, and just wondered what would happen if you slit your own wrists. Maybe you simply wanted to swerve your car into oncoming traffic, just to see what would happen.
These are the urges I’ve been fighting ever since I was a teenager. Despite this fact, you needn’t worry; Because I am not depressed, nor am I suicidal. In fact I always considered my life to be mostly decent, apart from these bizarre ticks I had nothing to substantial to complain about.
It’s just that instinctual need to control your own destiny, even if the only thing left to control is your own death. I’m sure some of you have felt it already, it’s quite a common phenomenon named: the Call of the Void.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of, most of us have these thoughts from one time to another, regardless of our mental state. However, most of us never actually answer that call.
Most of us…
A few days ago I finally succumbed to the desperate need to control my own end, and while I didn’t exactly experience what is typically considered death, I was able to see what existed beyond the void.
I wish I would’ve just died in stead.
It all happened in early morning hours. I was hiking with a couple of friends up a mountain. Seeing as we all had the day of work, we figured we might as well do something mildly healthy.
We reached the top within a few of hours, and the view that greeted us was breathtaking. Being the prick that I am, and much to the dismay of my friends, I sat myself on the edge with my feet dangling off the cliffside.
As I sat on the edge, I once again felt the sudden pull towards the void. An incessant call to just find the truth, to jump and finally be at peace with myself. Like a thousand times before I felt something dark within me, something evil that existed just beyond reach of my conscious mind.
With little to no hesitation, I jumped. It wasn’t a conscious thought, but merely an instinct pulling me towards my own demise.
It’s true what they say, when you’re inches away from death, everything moves in slow motion; If you’re lucky, you’ll see the best parts of life. First kiss, driving a newly purchased car, the sight of a beautiful sunset.
Unfortunately all I saw was an ocean of student debt and countless hours of procrastination spent browsing the internet.
Other than the obvious, there were a few funny thought running through my head as I rapidly accelerated towards the ground; Did I delete my browser history? Would my dog understand why I left, would I be missed?
Then I hit the ground.
Death came in an instant, one that seemed like an eternity. I felt my bones break against the force of the fall, I felt my internal organs crush to an undefinable mesh, and my blood escaping my body from all available orifices.
It was honestly disgusting.
After death I saw no light, no sense of peace to let me know I was finally safe. All that existed in the void was everlasting, empty darkness that I floated through, feeling nothing but regret that I jumped off that damned mountain.
I had little time to consider my actions, as I quickly fell back in a physical form, and I found myself standing in a feet of ice cold water.
The water was shallow, but extended endlessly all around me, like an ocean of black, tarry liquid gently lit up by the moonlight, except there weren’t any recognisable lights to be found, everything just illuminated on its own, barely enough to make out my surroundings, but enough to get around.
Even in death, my bones were still broken, my lungs punctured and mind devastated by my own weakness. Though I was functional, the pain remained.
I screamed for help, begging for someone to get me out of there, but no answer came. Without any better options, I started walking, hours on end of pulling my numb feet through the murky waters, wandering throughout the eternal night.
Eventually I saw something that broke the horizon, just silhouettes that wandered aimlessly around like myself.
They were people.
I caught up to them quickly, but they weren’t there to rescue me. Hundreds and hundreds of broken people, some with slit throats, some with broken necks and others entirely crushed to bits.
None of them acknowledged my presence, they just proceeded going in no particular direction. I shook them, I tried to yell at them, but nothing seemed enough to demand their attention.
After working myself through the crowd, frantically trying to get anyone to see me, finally one of them took note of me.
“Oh no, not another one.” A young boy said, couldn’t have been older than sixteen.
“What’s going on, where am I?” I asked, slightly frightened to know the answer.
“You’re in the void, just like all of us.” He stated matter of factly.
“Yeah, you know, ‘L’appel du vide,’ you probably had the sudden urge to crash your car or jump off a building, it’s the same story every time someone ends up here.”
He took a brief pause to let me process the information.
“So, what year are you from?” He asked.
“The year, how long ago did you die?”
“Um, 2019, why?”
“2019, holy shit, has it really been that long?”
I must have fired questions at him like a machine gun following that statement, but he was kind enough to answer all of them with an oddly placed sense of enthusiasm and patience. Though I suppose being patient is not really a virtue when you’re in a place where time truly is infinite.
He to introduced himself as Leonard. Like me he had felt the call of the void, or ’L’appel du vide,’ as he so affectionately called it, and after some hesitation he pulled up his shirt to reveal a completely crushed chest. Apparently he’d been learning how to drive, happy to finally have some freedom in his life when he suddenly decided to crash into a tree.
That was in 1982, thirty-seven-fucking years in the void with no hope of escape.
“What about the others?” I asked as I gestured to the anhedonic creatures walking among us.
“Oh, they’ve been here for ages, not many people answer the call, but everyone that does end up here. The last person I spoke to killed themselves in 1985, that’s him over there.”
Leonard pointed to a man with a slit throat, walking a few yards ahead of us, one of the people who’d ignored me earlier.
“Yeah, this place takes a toll on you, eventually people just kind of degrade, they turn to autopilot and eventually fall behind.”
Falling behind would be the ultimate fate for all of us, Leonard explained. Depending on your mental strength, you could only last a certain amount of time, before the void ate away at you, leaving you as nothing more than an empty husk of your former self.
“How come you’re the only one still sane?”
“I haven’t given up yet. I know there has to be a way out of here, and I’ll be damned if I succumb to this fucking nightmare without finding it.”
Whatever exit Leonard dreamt of it never showed itself to us. We followed the lifeless people, still marching faithfully towards the horizon, and every now and then someone would fall behind and simply stop walking. I thought a lot about what happened to those people, but Leonard told me it was best to just not think about it.
“How am I supposed to not think about it?” I asked.
“Easy, don’t think about a pink elephant.” He said.
“It’s a paradox, if you know you’re not supposed to think about something, you’re absolutely going to think about it.”
“I suppose that makes sense.”
He patted me on the back, surprisingly mature for someone his age, even so, I suppose he had actually existed there for several decades.
“When I find the way out of here, you’ll come with me, won’t you?” Leonard asked.
“Yeah, of course, this can’t be the end.”
Time passed, and I tried my best to keep the spirits up between myself and Leonard; We shared stories from our lives, hopes and dream. I told him about what had happened to the world in the almost four decades he had missed, and he excitedly listened. He was particularly interested in how far video games had come.
“How often do you see new people?” I asked.
“Not often, and most only survive a few days. I think you have to be in a pretty bad state of mind to actually answer the call of the void, not like us mind you.” He said. Keeping time was an impossible feat there, but to the best of my estimation, years passed. Every now and then another unfortunate soul answered the call and joined our march, only to fall behind a few days, entirely skipping the autopilot phase.
Our talks weren’t enough, and Leonard slowly started becoming more tired, less talkative. He started saying that he just wanted to keep walking without focusing on anything else.
Before I could find a way to stop it, he had turned into one the others. He stopped interacting with me completely and didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Time had taken it’s toll and it had taken him with it, while he still marching alongside us, there was nothing left inside his soul.
I spent the next part of eternity on my own, desperately begging not to lose myself in the void like so many others had before me.
For each march across the horizon, more people started dropping out from our march, left behind to fade into the background, and when the time came, Leonard stopped walking as well. I tried so damned hard to drag him with me, but I had become weak, and nothing I could do would save him.
I hated myself, but had no will to fight back anymore.
Ages, eons passed, and every so often I found myself staring behind the group; Away into the distance, hoping Leonard would come running, but in stead of his familiar face I saw something else, a light suddenly glaring a couple of miles behind the march.
It was magical, mystical, horrifying. A thousand different emotions built up inside me. I was utterly terrified, but I knew it would be my best bet to walk towards the light.
I yelled, tried my best to get the others’ attention, but they ignored me as they always had, and without any other choice I ran towards the light on my own..
The light shined before me, growing in intensity for each passing step, and long before I could reach it, the light all but blinded me. Within seconds my bones stopped hurting, I could finally breathe normally again, and as sudden as it had all started, I found myself sitting on the edge of a cliff, with my friends yelling for me to back away.
Only seconds had passed since that faithful day when I answered the call, I was alive again.
I stumbled to my feet and quickly stepped back in shock, and without hesitating I embraced both of my long lost friends. For them only a moment had elapsed, so my misplaced moment of affection slightly confused them.
We spent a couple of hours on the mountain together, with me just staring into the beautifully lit up horizon, being warmed by a sun I so dearly missed, and then we went home.
A few days went by and I started to wonder if it had all been real. Despite spending an eternity in the void, it seemed so fantastically distant, but the memory of Leonard lingered on my mind.
I spent some time researching him online. He had given me his name, which city he lived in, and how he had been killed. All of that combined was enough to dig up some newspaper cutout posted online as a memory, years later when the internet became popular.
His picture matched perfectly with what I remembered, and the story added up. There was no doubt in my mind anymore, Leonard was real, and I had left him to vanish, alone in the void with no one to help.
It didn’t take much more for my life to fall to shambles. I tried focusing on my work, and to find any resemblance of a love life, nothing work.
Sleep eluded me every night, and the thoughts of my lost friend dug deeper into my subconscious, begging me for attention.
There’s not much more to say about the story, but, please, if you ever feel the call of the void, turn around and just go home, don’t question it, don’t let it be anything more than a curious thought that you ignore.
When it comes to me, it’s too late. I already know what’s there, and I can’t live with it, leaving all those people behind.
If you never hear from me again, just know that I went back to save my friend, that I tired my best to do the right thing.