Plato's Cave Revisited
Unable to see his hand in front of him, expecting a hole or crevice at any moment, he took careful, hesitant steps but nonetheless tripped on the broken ground and fell repeatedly, the hard gnarly surface unforgiving. After a time, his palms and forearms scraped and bloody from sliding on the gravelly sand, he grew tired. On his hands and knees, he searched for a relatively rock-free area, and lay down to rest.
Why has this happened to me? he asked himself. What have I done?
Not receiving a reply, his mind began to drift, fatigue, worry and the cold of this empty world slowing his thoughts to a crawl. Sensing other presences he scanned about but could make out nothing in the thick oppressive murk. He felt certain he'd died in his sleep and this was the afterlife, his afterlife. Concentration waned, and with it any semblance of coherent thought. His mind grew soft and pliable, ideas and images rapidly dissolved and melted away like snowflakes on a palm. Though he closed his eyes and tried, he couldn't sleep. Wide awake, he accepted he would always be so; it seemed perfectly reasonable to his now quite addled mind. Wide awake for all eternity on an empty barren planet devoid of life. He wasn't hungry or thirsty either and allowed himself to believe he would always be that way too, forevermore.
With one last bit of focused energy, he asked himself, What am I going to do ? out loud. It was the first time he'd spoken and discovered he couldn't hear his own voice. Frightened, he yelled as loud as he could. Nothing, no sound. He threw a rock hard against the ground. Still nothing. He was convinced: he had died and this was his punishment for all the selfish things he'd done in his life and all the loving relationships he'd ruined by his arrogance and self-centered behaviour. Of all the dastardly things he'd done that deserved punishment, why those thoughts popped into his head was yet another mystery. Perhaps selfishness of the lazy childish variety was the general blanket case.
Just then, his reverie was broken by a bright light off to his left, low over the horizon. It hovered momentarily, then flew off. What was that? he thought. My captors come to see if I yet live? As he stared hopelessly at the stars strewn above, the hairs on the back of his neck stood. Alarmed, he turned but it was too late. A rough leather bag was forcibly thrust over his head and he was lifted and carried. He struggled but to no avail, strong hands held him firm. After a time, he was dropped on hard ground and the bag pulled off. A fire hurt his eyes but he quickly adjusted; around him were many others. They were in a cave of some sort, torches jutted from cracks in the fractured walls. His hands were tied behind his back so he lay on his side. A hooded person, his back to the light, approached him and spoke in a language he knew not, but the tone was unmistakable. Harsh and threatening, his captor evidently saw him as an enemy or, at the very least, someone to be despised, distrusted and treated accordingly.
Fear crept through his bruised and weary body, that and pain from the wrist bindings. When his tormentor abruptly turned on his heal and strode away, he was able to see some of the others milling about near the firelight. A few stood staring blankly at the rugged cave wall as though wondering or examining its surface, looking for something, reflecting. He could only guess. Occasional whispers wafted in his direction, otherwise, nobody spoke, at least not loud enough for him to hear.
He tried to think, to analyze the situation. Even if I could hear them, what good would it do, I don't understand the language. And why can I suddenly hear in the first place? Is it this cave dwelling? The walls echoing sound? And where did they get the wood for the fire? It had no discernable smell he could detect, but then, he hadn't been able to smell anything since his arrival here, wherever here was. It was all too strange and bewildering to the point where he was beginning to wish he really was dead. Eventually his faith waned and left, replaced by a dread and hopelessness he'd never known. The strain wearing on his nerves, he slowly dozed off.
A loud buzzing filled his ears. He opened his eyes to see his familiar bedroom, the alarm raising hell on the side table. A voice he was unable to recognize called to him from what seemed far away that breakfast was almost ready and to hurry or he'd be late for work. He sat on the edge of the bed holding his head in both hands. After awhile, he stood and stumbled to the dresser. Looking into the mirror, he examined his face. Worn and haggard, he looked like he'd been through a wringer. And his body was sore as though from unnatural exertion.
Shock and memory of what he now thought of as a nightmare -- an all too realistic one -- gave way to a joy he'd never known. In a flash of insight, he saw the meaning of it, or at least what it meant to him. With a rare soberness and clarity of mind and an upwelling of emotions, he promised himself that from then on he'd treat others with respect and consideration. More, he decided to live for others, to care for them, although that might be a bit much to expect, he confessed.
Just then, he noticed that his thick hair contained flecks of tiny grey rock. That gave him pause. His exhuberance waned as did the certainty of events. As well, lines of red showed on his wrists and his palms and forearms bore scrapes. Misgivings rising, he opened his nightshirt to see scratches and a deep red swelling on his left side -- the side he was dropped on in the cave!
He searched his mind, looking for an explanation, any explanation. But it was all too much. He'd think about it later, he promised himself; there had to be a reasonable interpretation. Perhaps something to do with the mind's ability to manifest vivid dream events on the physical plane, or some such.
But for now, the feeling returned, an overwhelming sense of rebirth sufffusing his body and mind. He smiled knowingly and went to the bathroom, looking forward to the day and the sun. He shook his head, undressed and painfully stepped into the shower.