As I crawl toward the abyss, I am filled with dread as well as a burning desire to witness the goings-on there. I reach the edge and turn onto my back in the darkness intending to listen to stories that well up from below. I can see nothing, and any clumsy move might be fatal.
The abyss gapes to my right, and I am beside it, fettered to the rock. The only safe way to be near it is to be chained. Gagging is also a prudent course of action, to avoid crying out inadvertently. Let slip a mere murmur, and a passing ghoul might reach up and pull you in. The best practice is to be tied down and throttled, with a pen in the writing hand and a journal situated on the rocky surface to one side.
Although my reclined position is uncomfortable, I raise my head and open my journal to write. I expect to hear voices relating stories, but all I perceive is a cacophony of cries and sobs echoing in the blackness. I record the words that reach me, but when placed side by side, they make little sense. Nevertheless, I faithfully inscribe them on the page and patiently await a coherency that the abyss may never produce.
I am the one who gives the words their final order. After all, if God provides the manna, the least I can do is prepare it for consumption. But these words are not from God. Rather, they arise from the abyss, a place so dark and chaotic that gods shun it.
My orientation is not at all that of a writer. No one can write effectively while lying flat, bound to a rock, and filled with fear of a terrifying chasm that yawns only centimeters away. I hear voices close by, as if two beings were sitting on a ledge just over the side. I begin to record their conversation, but soon their talk turns to anger, and they start shouting at each other. The yelling intensifies, and although I frantically copy as much of the exchange as possible, the words come too fast, and my writing turns to gibberish. Even so, all is well, because these characters say nothing of note, nothing worthy of penning to a higher level, nothing that constitutes manna.
I wonder if the abyss can produce manna. At first, I doubt it, because I associate that mystical substance with deserts. Defined as a foodstuff that miraculously materializes in a desert, manna cannot emanate from an abyss. Characterized as an aliment that issues from a forsaken place, however, it might emerge from a desert, an abyss, or a remote planet. I am relieved that I shall not have to break my shackles and look for a desert, because it took me a long time to find the abyss.
Suddenly, something strikes my stomach, and I tighten up my midsection. Whatever it is rolls off me and onto the rock to my left. I am certain that it has come from below. My fetters clink as I touch the object. The thing feels soft and doughy, and I know it instantly as manna. I examine it with my restrained left hand and scrawl in my journal with my free right, recording every impression. I break off a piece and eat it, and astonishing words explode from my pen. Once more, I marvel at the magic of manna.
I consume the loaf and find that I have amassed several thousand words in my journal. I cannot see the writing in the dark, but I count the pages and know roughly the total. The experience has been so bewildering that I am unable to tell if the sentences have meaning. I recall no plot or identifiable characters, just mumbo jumbo. I have written rapidly and have focused on capturing a word at a time, so I do not know if the process will result in a renderable story.
I do know, though, that bona-fide manna has erupted from the abyss. The pulpy piece that hits me is no bigger than my fist, but the language it engenders is plentiful and diverse, and I am convinced of its genuineness.
Once manna manifests itself, rationality takes over, and the writing evolves, heading inexorably toward some final form. Before that, reasoning is counterproductive. At this point, the rational side recognizes the presence of manna, and further contemplation indicates that it must contain a story.
Frequently, however, raw stories appear incomprehensible to one lying in pitch darkness beside the abyss. I conjecture that no finished piece is possible unless I crawl away from the chasm and view the pages in the light. Only then can I demarcate the tales and determine their structures.
Remaining at the edge of the abyss is more challenging than most folks know. Insane people are insensitive of the difficulty, because they have crept too close and already have fallen in. Sane ones are too far removed to note anything that comes from the depths and are often in denial that the abyss exists at all.
Between these two extremes are the artists, who are shackled on their backs by the chasm, aware of everything they observe in the rational world and perceiving too much of that which rumbles up from below. They live in exaggerated awareness and constant fear. No one can help them, except perhaps God, and they can do little to assist anyone else, except to describe what they sense as they lie exposed and vulnerable on the bare stone next to the abyss, diligently executing their crafts.
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Thank you for reading The Abyss ©, by Douglas R. Eikermann