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The Nowhere Place
Movieland - Chapter 10
Waking up in Oblivion
The Nowhere Place
Indeed, it was a half-century ago when Eden first woke on a slab in infinite darkness. 1959. Fog was in its first run at the Palatine Theater.
Eden opened her eyes.
At first, she did not move. She waited in the stillness for the instructions to come, the sense of inevitability, the thoughts that were not really her thoughts but directions from a higher voice, one that she imagined — when she imagined anything at all — dictating to her in CAPITAL LETTERS: say this, hold your head like that, now a troubled look, now a dreamy gaze out into the distance.
But in the dark, no voice came. A prickly sensation crept over her. An eerie chill: she did not know what to do next!
She sat up and peered into the void. Layer upon layer of nothingness.
The Nowhere Place.
Where had that come from? These unprescribed words? This…name? She had never known, before this moment, what a question really was, but now one question after another bubbled up.
What …? Where …? How …?
Rapid ill-formed fragments, they burst quickly in the air. In the blackness, a thrill of fear made her nervously awake. Anything might happen to her now. Anything … everything!
She was too stunned to stand and might be waiting there still had she not seen a ball of light bouncing about in the distance.
Was that her cue?
She rose and began pushing her way through the darkness, which weighed down upon her, brushing against her skin like heavy black velvet. It was a blind, sluggish journey. Sometimes the space she was pressing through seemed too narrow, sometimes it rose and fell on a slant, but what she found when she reached her destination was nothing like the rest, for it looked like a mountain path leading upward, dimly illuminated by the ball of light dancing above it. Something about the light made her long to be with it, and yet at the same time she dreaded its pulsing glow.
Compelled, she made the arduous climb. Small stones spun loose beneath her high heels and she stumbled, catching herself in time. She pressed herself against the rock face, inching her way along the wall. The path was scarcely wide enough for one person, and the drop was becoming steeper and more perilous. Without warning, the ball began to float toward her, and when they were about to collide she saw the light was not alone, nor was it really a light.
It was more like an aura around a small, dim figure. A child’s glowing hand reached out from the light, clasped onto the wrist of a struggling teenage boy whom it was towing down the path. The boy looked terrified, called out to her, but no sound carried in the heavy velvet blackness. She could still see that face in her mind, contorting, pleading, a tough lower-class face with a waterfall of hair that twirled over his forehead like a motorcycle delinquent. He was desperate to twist out of the grip of the small glowing hand. Suddenly the rough boy wrenched free and scrambled up the path. The dim figure in its ball of light bounded after him.
Bewildered, compelled, Eden made her way to the top, then hid behind a boulder, peering cautiously out. She was now in the wide hollow of a cave whose iridescent walls shimmered whenever the ball of light moved about. The far wall wasn’t a wall at all but whirling vapors churning quickly, and as she looked the fleeing boy jumped through the center of them, disappearing behind the swirling smoke.
In a fury, the ball of light enlarged, catching fire, all flickering gold flames and in the intense brightness, the shimmering walls flared up with illumination, revealing that Eden was not alone in the cave. There was a man, an older man, who had fallen, rising from the ground.
Proud, white-haired, he stood with defiant legs apart, demanding something of the dim figure in the glowing ball. Silence muffled his words, but unlike the wild boy with the waterfall hair, the man seemed to berate the light, following the enormous golden ball to the edge of the cliff, where it glowered in the air, suspended like a small angry sun.
In a burst of rage, flames radiated out of the sun, a blaze so intense it was impossible to make out the child-like figure within. All at once, a gold flare leaped out, catching the man up in its blinding intensity, lifting him off the ground in a hellish cocoon of dazzling light, holding him there in agony, squirming, his cries muted, crushed by the heavy silence of the cave, whose walls were aglitter with the jumping flames. The man was battered about and then hurled through the smoking whirlpool to whatever lay on the other side.
Eden had the sudden certainty that the whirlpool was the only way out of this madness, but she hesitated, and as the blazing ball of light went out, abruptly so did she, sinking to the ground at the edge of the cliff, losing herself in a blank, dreamless sleep.
For five years, she lay there, existing nowhere in the Nowhere Place.
Abruptly in 1964 on a certain notorious December night, she awoke. A strong wind was throwing up dirt, and she shielded her eyes. The far wall was just beginning to swirl, and behind the vapors, she could make out the golden glow. Here was her chance, and she hastened against the powerful gale, pressing forward into the wind, but before she could reach the whirlpool a young girl was blown into the cave, knocking them both to the ground.
The girl was a flaming redhead in a white bathing suit. The fallen girl struggled to stand, rising up in shadow but her hair seemed on fire, for the glowing ball was right behind her like a whirling sun. The walls came alive with shimmering iridescence as the child-like figure entered in his blinding gold aura, and now the girl saw Eden. Her eyes were wild, her hair crazily whipping in the gale, but whatever she was screaming was lost in the smothering silence of this strange place. Frightened, hysterical, she was pleading with Eden as Eden lifted herself to her feet.
All at once the girl lost her balance, tottered backward, grasping at Eden by the coat sleeve, pulling Eden toward the edge. Eden reached out with her other hand but the terrified young woman lost her grip, slipping off the cliff. In horror, Eden watched the girl in the white bathing suit fall away. She didn’t fall in a natural way but in dream-like slow motion, her flaming hair and white bathing suit becoming smaller until they were consumed by the velvety blackness below.
The ball of light zoomed past Eden over the cliff in fiery pursuit. Eden’s first instinct was to hide, lest the glowing child see her, but she felt other eyes upon her and spun around to see who else might be trapped in the cave. Just then the light dimmed, and Eden sank to the ground, her life force sinking with her.
The last thing she saw through the whirling dust was another person emerging from the shadows, a serious-looking youth, but — something she had never seen before on a grown boy — he had long hair … shaggy long hair. And he was staring right back at her with a questioning look.
Eden had tried to express all this in her limited, confused way, realizing as she struggled how thin and insane it must sound. Guiltily, the well-brought-up heiress met his eyes, but Tom had, for the moment, put aside his skepticism.
“You passed out?”
"It felt like … like I had been erased … like I never existed.”
“Do you see that this might be a pattern,” he asked pointedly. “All this blacking out?”
But Eden wasn’t listening. “Then I'd come to and exist again.”
He could see she was trying to sort things out. He would not patronize her a second time by playing psychiatrist. He would allow her to work through her elaborate fantasy in her own way and in her own time, and so he returned to her story.
She had had two chances, she said, two chances separated by a span of years, to flee her Nowhere Place, and both times she missed the opportunity. He now asked the question hanging heavily in the air.
“How then did you ever escape yesterday?”
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