One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

I count my footsteps as a way of keeping time while I bite down on my lip just to feel the pain.

Five.

Six.

I can't see ahead of me and I can't see behind me; It is all concealed by thick, never-ending darkness.

It consumes me.

Seven.

And I welcome it.

Eight.

But I hear the thunder of white water pounding against rocks, and I know I am near the deathly black pit we call the Chasm.

I one by one peel my fingernails out from my palms, where I had dug into them, leaving telltale white crescents.

Nine.

The sound wafts to my ears like little wisps of people's souls, fragments of dried tears, drops of weakened screams.

I shiver.

Ten.

Eleven.

Twelve.

Thirteen.

Shadows dance upon the cold, humid rock walls, unforgiving and all-seeing.

Fourteen.

They have seen this before, what I am doing.

Fifteen.

They might even like it.

Sixteen.

I might even like it.

Seventeen.

Eighteen.

But this time I am the only one the shadows see.

There is no one here but me.

I am alone.

Nineteen.

Twenty.

Twenty-one.

My bare feet are red and raw. I keep my eyes trained on them instead of the shadows that taunt me and lure me.

Twenty two.

I've walked this path too many times before, down this corridor that will abruptly open up like a mouth trying to swallow me whole.

Twenty three.

And now it is the only path I know.

Twenty four.

The only path I have ever known.

Twenty five.

Twenty six.

Twenty seven.

And that scares me.

Twenty eight.

Twenty nine.

Thirty.

Thirty-one.

Thirty two.

I cannot be afraid.

Thirty three.

Because this time I am walking it for a different reason than all those other times.

Thirty four.

And this time I will never be afraid again.

Thirty five.

Thirty six.

Thirty seven.

Thirty eight.

Though my breathing is quiet, it echoes through the haunting space, carries around underneath the heavy, pressing stone ceiling that keeps me in and chains me here in this unwelcoming underground inhabitation.

Thirty nine.

Forty.

I know where I am, but I don't know where I'm going.

I don't know where this path ends.

I don't know when my pain will end.

I don't know.

I don't know.

Forty-one.

Forty two.

Yet the path leads on.

Forty three.

And I follow it religiously.

Forty four.

Forty five.

And I can try to know all these things, despite my everlasting sorrow and repression.

Forty six.

Forty seven.

Forty eight.

Forty nine.

The shadows have stopped dancing.

The shadows have gone.

Fifty.

Now I am the only one and I walk alone.

Fifty-one.

I walk alone.

Fifty two.

I walk alone.

Fifty three.

I walk alone, I walk alone, I walk alone.

Fifty four.

Fifty five.

Fifty six.

Fifty seven.

Fifty eight.

My feet heavily, mechanically carry me farther down the dank corridor of this corrupted compound, past the doors that I know behind them men and women, boys and girls, sleep peacefully and ignorantly.

Unaware.

But it's only me.

Fifty nine.

And right now, in this endless darkness I once called a home, I don't even have a shadow to keep me company.

Not even my shadow is beside me.

Sixty.

I walk alone.

Sixty-one.

I am alone.

Sixty two.

I feel dead.

Sixty three.

Even though I feel my heartbeat in my chest.

Sixty seven.

My heart is the only thing alive about me.

This confinement is killing me, has killed me.

Sixty eight.

My heart, it pounds too loudly in my ears.

It is too loud.

Sixty nine.

I wish it might wake someone up with each door I pass.

Seventy.

I wish it might make someone find me before they cannot any longer.

Seventy-one.

I wish it might make someone save me.

Seventy two.

Sometimes I wish someone would unchain me, pull me out of the fire that is my life, because it burns as fiercely as hell itself.

Seventy three.

But so many "sometimes" have come and gone without anyone caring that this time-

seventy four-

no matter what-

seventy five-

I won't let anyone touch me.

Seventy six.

No one will save me.

Seventy seven.

Ever.

Seventy eight.

Seventy nine.

Eighty.

Except myself.

My feet stop when they blindly hit the chilled metal bars of the railing, slick with the saltwater that may as well be tears.

Without my consent, my arms raise and my fingers clench around it.

They hoist me up.

My toes slip but I feel no fear of falling as my hands hold the bars tighter.

I am finally on the other side of freedom.

I have unshackled myself.

I have left behind that unrelenting path, that boulevard of broken dreams behind me and now I am on the threshold of my salvation.

I lick my lips and taste reckless abandon, I taste remission.

And as my fingers lose their grip I close my eyes and listen to my heart.

There is a slight reverberation of sound as my fingernails graze the metal.

The wind whips my hair around my face, lashing out.

My clothes billow around me.

Goosebumps rise on my arms as the sound of rushing air fills my ears.

And for one last time, I count.

I count how many times my heart will pump my blood throughout my body in the last seconds of my pain.

I count my heartbeat as I make my rapid descent into salvation:

One...

Two...

Three.

"Goodbye, Four," I whisper, just before my body hits the pitiless, savage waters that will smother the raging flames of my inferno.