Susan Rosenberg, now in her mid-eighties, began writing poetry as a child. Her work was unpublished until a decade ago when she joined Voices Israel. Now, her poems appear regularly in anthologies and journals and she received honorable mentions in two international poetry competitions. Her autobiographical novel, Susan's Story, was serialized on this site.
Even Darkness is Something
“In the beginning,” Adam was reading, “there was nothing. nothing….nothing….nothing.”
‘That’s the part that gets me’, he was thinking to himself, just as his mother knocked on the door.
“Stop your day-dreaming, Adam,” she said, tousling his hair. “What on earth are you thinking about now?” She glanced at the book in his hand.
Adam’s eyes met his mother’s. “Hi, Mom,” he said, shifting to an upright position from the slouch he knew she hated.
“It’s time to get ready for bed, dear, and I don’t want you dawdling like you usually do. We’ve got car-pool tomorrow morning and that means leaving early. You need your sleep, you know…..you always….”
“OK. OK”! Adam said, to stop her. Yawning and stretching, he rose from his chair, and gave his mother a quick goodnight kiss before she left the room.
‘What could nothing be like?’ he pondered, stepping out of his rumpled jeans and tossing them, automatically into the hamper. Absently, he put his pajamas on inside out and climbed into bed. ‘Probably dark like it is now,’ he decided after switching off the light. Then he realized, with a start, that even darkness is something.
‘So, if there was no darkness,’ he mused, feeling more and more scared at the idea, ‘then, what was there? Nothing, and nobody to notice the nothing….’ He could feel himself slipping into a vast, terrifying emptiness. The void went in no direction and had no limits, no walls, no beginning, or end…like infinity….like space…..
“What are you doing here?” a disturbing voice asked.
“Where’s the beginning?” Adam whispered, trembling with fright. “I want to understand what nothingness is.”
The voice resounded, “you’ve got a long way to go before you can understand that.”
There was silence. “Don’t leave me!” Adam cried out. He desperately wanted to hear the voice again.
Instead, he heard an infant crying. To his surprise, the cries were coming from himself! How could that be?
There he was, a baby in his crib, and mother leaning over him. He couldn’t understand how he had become that screaming infant now; the one he had seen a hundred times before in an old family photograph. He was actually in the little bed with bars, gazing up at his mother. He even knew what she was saying because he had heard her repeating the same words every time she showed the picture to someone.
“Look at him,” she cooed, “Can’t you tell? From the very beginning, Adam has always been in a world of his own.”
“Was that…is this the beginning?” he wanted to ask, but he didn’t know how to talk. He was absolutely furious. Then once again, he was viewing the photo as a spectator and could see himself in it, kicking and howling with frustration and rage.
The crib scene clicked off abruptly, like a slide show. Adam was falling with centuries or civilizations. Ages were flapping past him like picture pages of a history book. “History of the world”, he thought.
Suddenly, h e was in a lush, green garden, feeling the warmth of the place, and its brightness. He inhaled deeply the essence of wet foliage and blossoms. He floated to a river’s edge and watched graceful fish gliding through sparkling waters; saw huge sea monsters eying him placidly. Angel-like birds spread white translucent wings and soared above him, while on the ground, strange reptiles approached, in company with gigantic beasts and small ones.
In their midst walked a hairy, naked, round-shouldered man. Adam identified with him at once and tried to push past the awesome animals in order to reach the human. “Are we at the beginning?” he asked.
In an instant, the man and all the living creatures disappeared. Beautiful fruit-laden trees, flowers, grasses, and herbs vanished too. Bare earth, water, sun, and sky were all that remained. A cold wind made Adam shiver. He looked up in time to see the sun sinking into night.
For a brief moment, the moon and stars appeared, but they too were snapped off. The wind ceased. There was no air at all, now, waters dried up and the very foundations of earth began to crumble.
“Wait!” Adam screamed. “Don’t take away everything! I’m afraid. I’m afraid of nothingness!”
“I thought I taught you that in the beginning God created heaven and earth,” said his Sunday School teacher, who seemed to come from nowhere.
“Oh, that’s what I want to believe. That’s what I want to believe!” Adam was saying over and over again, just as his mother came in to waken him. He opened his eyes and blinked.
“What were you dreaming about?” she asked, laughing. “You were talking in your sleep.”
“There was never nothing,” Adam announced, voice hushed by awe.
“What”? asked his mother.
“There was never nothing,” he repeated, emphatically, searching her face to see if she had grasped the magnitude, the importance, the wonder of his new understanding.
“Yes, Adam,” she murmured, “now, hurry, dear and don’t forget to brush your teeth.”