In the cavernous room there was a single, flickering light bulb swinging from a cord. It buzzed occasionally with small energy surges. Completely covering the walls, floor and ceiling were thousands of graffiti-like words, each word pulsing and twisting to its own rhythm and each making its own sound. DEATH and GRIEF appeared in huge black and red letters that scrawled, intertwined, as they keened across the wall and melted, sobbing, into a puddle on the floor. MONEY flashed and fizzled like a neon sign, hanging sideways and covering an entire wall. The big, puffy letters of KIDS and the more mature, practical FAMILY laughed and danced together. ADDICTION slithered like a snake, whispering it’s evil lies, causing SHAME to writhe and swell and PLEASING PEOPLE to cower and quiver. FAITH and LOVE were in ethereal puffs of blue and white, swirling with the faint tinkle of wind chimes from the ceiling. RELIGION bellowed its condemnation in rigid, hard, sharpness while HOPE and HOPELESSNESS wrestled close by.
Threading through the spaces in and between the larger words were smaller ones in various sizes: TAXES, SEX, PLANNING, RELATIONSHIPS, KINDNESS, CLEANING, TUITION, HEALTH, CAREGIVING, EMBARRASSMENT, INSURANCE, RETIREMENT, FRIENDSHIP, FUN, COOKING, POLITICS, NEWS, CARS, HOUSE, VACATION, HYPOCRISY, and thousands more. Some were painted in brilliant colors, while others were more muted and dull, but each had its signature sound and movement. Small neon signs and theatre marquees dotted the room, their garish, flashing lights reflecting off of every surface in a sinister, Burtonesque display. The woman standing in the center of the room was colorless, clear, flat by comparison.
Suddenly, without warning, RESPONSIBILITY popped out like a jack in the box and she started and scrambled away from it. As she turned back around to face RESPONSIBILITY, she noticed CHOICES in flowing font, repeated again and again, weaving in and out of words around the room like a spider web holding it all together. She ran to the window and tried to look out, but the window was shut tight with the oppressive, foreboding FUTURE mocking her as it blocked her view.
Suddenly, they all seemed to call out to her at once in a cacophony of color, movement and sound. Her eyes darted in panic at the display. Confused, she spun around, glassy eyed, attempting to take it all in at once. But she couldn’t do it! OVERWHELMED flashed red and grew on the ceiling, devouring FAITH and HOPE and filling itself with air from the room. She couldn’t breathe! She closed her eyes and fell into a ball on the floor, clamping her hands over her ears. She screamed as OVERWHELMED exploded with a thunderous, ear-splitting boom and the shards of it rained down around her.
Finally, there was the blessed relief of deafened silence. The high pitched ringing was all she could hear as, after a time, she uncurled herself and slowly rose to her feet. She squinted her eyes and tensed her shoulders as she again noticed the flashing lights and obscene words that coated the walls like a thick layer of grease.
As in a dream, she stumbled over to a wall and blankly began to trace with one fingernail the web of CHOICES that held all of the words together in the strange tapestry. With each of the CHOICES she scratched, choices were made. CHOICES led to more CHOICES, but she continued to move along in her plodding pace, following the line beneath her finger.
After a long while, she looked over and noticed that the window was cracked and there was fresh air and a ray of light streaming in. As the time passed and she continued tracing along the line of CHOICES, she noticed more and more light from the window as it opened wider. THE FUTURE, dark and foreboding, that had once blocked her view, was now bathed in light. Each of the CHOICES drew her closer and closer to the window until finally she was able to see out.
At first she was devastated by the view. The web of CHOICES led out the window and stretched as far as her eye could see! There were words that dotted the landscape, though they were not as concentrated or insistent as those in the room. She turned her head away to look behind and saw all that had been done, one choice at a time. HOPE bubbled up from deep within her soul and STRENGTH seemed to wrap around her and lift her a few inches off the floor. She turned back around, climbed on the windowsill, and stood on the ledge, surveying the huge expanse of CHOICES in front of her. They glowed, golden and sparkling in the sunlight. She was so very tired of CHOICES, though! I could stop here, she thought, as DISCOURAGEMENT plopped down onto the ledge beside her like a childhood friend, I could just sit and rest on this ledge forever. But she knew that could not be. Though her memory was clouded, she knew she had been on that ledge before. She would eventually be drawn back and become trapped again in the chaotic room. Would there be more rooms like this in the maze ahead? At least she knew this room, would others be even worse? FEAR and UNCERTAINTY pulsed and inched toward her, reaching out with smoke like tendrils that began to slowly wind around her in an effort to snatch her back.
But as she gazed over the CHOICES in front of her, she finally understood the freedom they contained. The freedom to make each choice was hers, but so was the choice of whether to turn back and give her freedom over to the room. She took one last look behind her, and with a deep sigh, remembered again how far she had come. She turned toward the endless stretch of CHOICES in front of her. Then, taking a long, slow breath, and with her finger still outstretched to touch the web, she closed her eyes and jumped from the ledge.