I wake to darkness and silence; the only sound that of the wind howling like some demented beast. The only sensation a heaviness of the limbs and a strange tickling on my face. Not even any traffic noise from the road at the end of the lane. It has to be still the middle of the night.
It takes me some time to work out where I am. Even longer to realise that it is five in the afternoon, not five in the morning and the tickling is the dog checking on me. I’d sat down for a minute after work and the night with no sleep had caught up with me.
The silence is complete, wrapped in the rush and roar of the winds that isolate this portion of existence, separating it from the knowledge of a wider world. I cannot hear any evidence that another human being exists in the world tonight. There is no human sound. I can see no-one in the blackness. Only the dog and I exist for certain… and how can I tell for sure that even she and I are real and not the figment of some extraneous imagination?
I open the door on a blackness that is complete. It should be rush hour and the lights of cars casting sparkles through the distant trees. There is nothing. The roads are dead. Winter curtains blank the windows of houses, no gleam of light escapes to give credence to the idea of the shared life of the village. No childish voices ring out in play, not even the sound of a television filters through the storm.
Were I subtracted from the world right at this moment or it subtracted from me, would either of us notice?
In the centre of the storm there is only the point of consciousness that thinks of itself as ‘I’ and the other, the inner observer, that watches that ‘I’ watch the empty darkness.
There is a curious kind of freedom; no emotion… nothing with which to interact, nothing to which the ‘I’ must react… no reason to fear or worry, no cause to laugh, feel joy, or hope. The isolation, momentarily complete, redefines my view of the world, obliterating my idea of self as an individual. I sit in the eye of the storm within the only ‘reality’ I know.
I realise both the beauty of solitude and its obverse aspect. Without others with whom to interact we do not live in the world, only within ourselves and that can be both the narrowest cell and the widest landscape of liberty. Both aspects have their purpose, their gifts and their potential pitfalls into pathology.
I wonder how long the storm will last and what changes it will leave in its wake as it sweeps away the last shreds of the autumn leaves, clears the dead wood from the trees and sends its breath into the shadows.