An Expanse of Grey on Grey

By Chantal Toso

The day was a cold, unsatisfying mist. The color grey had settled over everything in existence, as if the clouds that reign over me had fallen from the sky to rest upon the earth. The sun was dim, the blue of the atmosphere was darker, sadder even, in its hue. The smell of the small city was crisp this morning; sharp as I inhale, cold as it settles in my lungs.

The parking lot I currently inhabit was nothing but an expanse of grey asphalt. Nothing but the cracked cement and the dull, yellow lines, barely visible enough to establish placement at their intersects. Through my car window, fogged with the steam from the heater that finally decided to work, I could see nothing. The empty lot was quiet, abandoned, as if something tragic had occurred in the very spot I sit. As I leer out of the hazy window, my eyes follow one particular parting of cement as it made its way through the earth towards me. It was almost as if the shattering of this cement was happening before me, a destruction of something taken for granted.

Closing my eyes, I could almost hear the cracking of stone and asphalt as the fault line erupted beneath my vehicle and me; a harsh sound that somehow reminded me of the noise of bone breaking or of ceramic shattering. Leaning back in my plush seat, I watch the chaos erupt around me as it is projected on to the back of my eyelids. The parking lot shook and rattles, the light poles swaying with the force of destruction as it sweeps through me. Though the sound of the outside was dulled, I could almost feel the beat of devastation as it rocks the buildings around me, tearing foundations apart as if they were so meaningless.

As the world seemingly fell apart around me, the only sounds that successfully reach my ears are that of the heater, whinny and wheezy, as well as the clattering of pills in a bottle as they sit upon my dash.

Opening my eyes just enough to see them, the orange of the bottle blinds me. On such a gloomy day, the blaring color was the source of light. Back-dropped with grey, the small, cylindrical bottle was the sun I rarely got to see anymore. A source of life, the contents within were like capsules of meaning.

Reaching out towards it, I feel its slight weight balanced in my palm. Inside, the small, nonthreatening white pills glared up at me. As I watch, their milky color fades into something more and it was as if I was looking through to the sky. Compared to the falling sky around me, what I hold in my hand was beautiful and I feared just that: its beauty. To its core, its very meaning of existence was to rescue me. There was a lot of purpose resting in my hands.

Already in my system, these pills were to take their affect within the next ten minutes. Still unaffected, I sit waiting, my heart pounding against my sternum. Outside my window, I hear a distant noise, the far away sound of a buzzer. Sighing, I tuck my little spot of sunshine away into my book bag as I collect my things.

Emerging from the heat of my vehicle, I enter the post earth-shattering atmosphere of my imagination. Frozen in my step, I look around the parking lot, raising my eyes not to the burning, screaming scene of the apocalypse, but to the same, quite old slab of land. Grey, on grey, on grey.

Taking in that familiar gasp of air, I hold it in my body for a moment, relishing on the sharply cold feeling of my interior. With that, I make my way to the building.

The sad face of the building frowns at me throughout my approach. The windows seem to weep, their corners drooping. The glass melts down the side paneling, still reflecting the bluesy horizon. Wind ripped around the corners, catching stray leaves and twigs, throwing them at me. Beneath my feet, small stones scuffed between the aged ground and the soles of my shoes. So loud, the noises these small stones conceived. As of the day before, and the day before that, it is the loudest sound in the world.

As the fast approaching entrance became a reality, I look down at my feet. My plain, black sneakers stare up at me as I hurriedly push myself through the doorway.

While I had thought the outdoors was quiet, it was nothing compared to the ringing emptiness of the building. Like each morning, the hanging soundlessness always hit me with force; it made my ears ring.

With the speed not so rushed as preferred, I press through the silence down the hallway. My attention drawn anywhere but the end of the hall, I watch the ceilings and the walls. I watch the hanging lights as they flicker and dance, casting misleading shadows on the wall as they pass through my ghosts. I watch the green metal that hung from the wall as their doors open and close. As I made my way through the constricting space, my gaze rake through the images the light threw.

Creatures rose, pulsing with life, tearing at each other on the walls. Dark shapes appearing denser, more alive, as the lights above grew stronger. Moving, undelaying, off each other, down the hall with me. Faces turn towards me, forming out of the shadows, their eyes dull and meaningless. Scowls almost as cruel as smiles leer out at me, forming lips and dimples as I stare.

No longer was the melody the stones and my shoes created the only sound; now the building began to moan, coming to life. It started small, with the creek of a metal hinge, or the soft sound of skin touching. It didn't bother me much, these sounds. Or rather I didn't let them. Instead it felt as if they were reaching towards me, such as a fog clearing, making room for more.

Rolling my shoulders, I raised my eyes and my chin up, pushing on through the shifting shadows of the hallway. As best I could, I ignore the solidifying shapes on either side of me. They lunge and come at me; I could feel their cold masses advance, their attacks grating against my psyche. The monsters' voices buck and swell, pushing against the fog on my mind. Wincing at their sheer force, I push my head back down. No longer could I imagine the voices would be gone, as I had hoped everyday previous. I had to prepare myself, I had to try.

But as I near the bright end of the hallway, the denseness of the shadows around me proved round, fleshy. Arranging in shapes; shapes that, not surprisingly, grew more familiar. More like myself. The sounds were no longer whispers, no longer a menacing harmony just over my shoulder. These sounds came from every corner, every crevasse and cranny. I knew not to hide. There was no place they could not find me.

I reach the end of the hallway. Letting the almost tangible words fly at my face, the ascending volumes of sound fill my ears. Never a beautiful note, the chants grate against my senses and I fall into myself, struggling to disappear. Taking a sharp right I enter a room.

This volume was of nothing else. I had never known silence before this point, never felt the soft brush of only my very existence as it echoes off the space around me. I could barely see through the vibration of sounds; my head filling with a clarity I have come to resent, in moments like these.

The maze set before me never changes, and yet I always struggled to find my particular destination. The shapes that still accumulate in the hallway had made their way into the room with me. Their very physicality had changed so dramatically, I could almost see their feelings in their face, their thoughts in their eyes. The colors of these creatures around me had paled, different mirrors of the same color scheme. Their expressions were that now, expressions. Pouts of pale lips and the upturned of the same surrounded me. No longer the scowls and grim frowns, they had evolved. Smooth, untouched skin was pulled over the dark skeleton, revealing the bright eyes. Following, watching my every move, I feel their gazes on my body. Tangible strokes of scrutiny.

By the time my feet got me to my destination the grey surrounding me had burned away, torched like paper. The ashes of my mind fell away as I planted myself in my chair. The same old plastic dug into my legs; my bones had become a charred black, rubbed smooth, aching. Looking up from my desk, the lights above burning into my eyes, I watch as the harsh shadows fall away, like dust in the wind. The glaring ferocity of lights dulled, the sharpness of the image before me smoothed. Colors creep out from their sanctuary, tendrils piercing at me, their very emergence giving birth to a new sense of self.

The crescendo falls on to me. The grumbling and mumbling had come together, their nonsense somehow forming words. Their coherence rocket through me, tearing away that last wisp of cloud. Through the berating war of words around me, the memory of silence the soft beat in my chest, a familiar sound of a buzzer. The gavel had come down, the peak had come, and suddenly

Quiet.

"Daniel Johnson."

Focus. Everything had once been vibrating, a back and forth battle between the different types of sanity. Suddenly, everything comes together, and the sky opens up in my head. My eyes open, all encompassing, as I stare into the face before me.

"Here."

And outside, the sun was shining.

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