Black. That's all I can see right now.
I am conscious of my existence, yet I don't know where I am.
Wait. It's getting a little bit better. I'm starting to see something, but not much. I can't make it out yet, but still. I'm feeling better, just drowsy, very drowsy, as if I've woken up from a long night of sleep.
There we go. Everything's starting to clear up now. But wait, I don't know where I am.
Grayson Therien held his hands up to his face as he examined the web-like wrinkles that outlined his palms. Then, turning his hands down toward the ground, he analyzed the dirt that caked his grimy fingernails. His hands reeked. But what did something good smell like anyway? He had forgotten.
As he observed his surroundings, Grayson found himself to be amid a dark, musty room with wood-paneled walls and a mirror to his left, an oval-shaped mirror, hinged to a chestnut-colored pedestal. After turning around to face this fixture, Grayson examined himself, well, his reflection at least. The mirror was cracked and dusty, but he could make out his form - the sharp, defined features chiseled into his long, smooth face - his flowing, brown hair resting on top of his oval-shaped head.
He was young. He could tell. But how young exactly? Grayson didn't know.
Grayson drew his attention away from the mirror to hear the click-clack of his shoes as he began to walk. Passing a clouded window, which he didn't bother to look through, Grayson took a mere two steps before approaching a mangy, old, green door. This door was so ancient that many large, open holes were gaping through its wood, which revealed the light that crept in through the outside of the house.
Grayson gripped the brass knob that belonged to this sad, dilapidated door and twisted it. Then, after hearing a loud, almost foreign creak, he eagerly burst through the entranceway, out into the open.
Grayson was on the brink of a city, a great city whose expanse stretched out into the distance. He was standing on a platform, a dark-brown platform, with a fence-like railing sitting six or seven meters before him. Looking out over this railing, Grayson stared into the distance, but all that caught his glimpse were three, impending walls that boxed this city in like a fly caught in a web.
Although the city was enormous, Grayson, in a way, felt suddenly trapped. It was as if he were an animal that was stuck inside of a cage. That analogy was fitting. Grayson Therien was in a cage.
Immediately, Grayson had the sudden urge to loom over that fence-like railing, peer down over the edge of the platform, and see what was below. He felt as if this railing was eagerly beckoning him to do so as if it were concealing an important aspect of this cage.
Quietly, Grayson sneaked across the platform, as if he were hiding from something grim, and cautiously loomed over the thick, splintered piece of railing that was now directly in front of him.
At that moment, Grayson's eyes beheld what was below. It was water. There was a large, greyish-blue floor of it that silently sat below the platform Grayson stood on. This water was by no means transparent. Its surface was clouded by an uncanny fog.
Grayson couldn't tell how deep this mystic pool was, but his perceptions suggested the surface was no more than the starting point of a long ending. How deep does this massive pool go?
At that moment, something compelled him to turn around.
It was a girl, no, a woman. She had long, black hair that flowed down over her shoulders like waterfalls of coarse silk that streamed down beside her ears. She looked young and beautiful, yet something inside of Grayson knew this figure had witnessed many arduous years as a smile crept across her sweet, serene face. Her brown eyes were warm and inviting, and it was odd how her dazzling pupils sparkled, though there was little illumination inside of the Cage.
Behind her stood a man, a tall, burly man, who was rather thin but perfectly toned. His curly, black hair complemented his handsome face, and his knuckles were worn as if he had toiled for many years with hard labor.
Toward this man's right was a child that was firmly gripping this male's rugged hands. He had chestnut-colored hair and was noticeably younger than Grayson. Although, Grayson Therien couldn't recall any measurement for age. Was it a year? That sounded somewhat right.
Grayson loved his family; and, at that moment, a warm sense of affection began to flood over him; but wait . . . how do I remember I belong to this family?
As Grayson stared deeper into this trio's eyes, he noticed something unanticipated: terror. It was as if this group knew something grave, something Grayson didn't know. Yet, on the same token, these beings seemed mindless, as if their memories were missing something crucial to their existence.
"Who are you?" Grayson asked, although he already knew the answer to his inquiry.
The woman opened her mouth, only to be interrupted by her husband, who seemed not rude at all, but rather genuine, as if he were lifting a tremendous burden from this woman's back.
"We are your parents, Grayson," this respectable character informed.
"This is your brother," the now-anxious woman added, as she turned and gazed at the child who was gripping his father's rough hand.
Grayson gulped. He paused for a second as if he had to collect his thoughts, though, in all actuality, he had no thoughts to collect.
"Where are we?" Grayson questioned.
Grayson's father stroked his soft, black beard and revealed his pearly-white teeth as he opened his mouth to speak once more. "I don't know," he admitted, solemnly staring at the dusty plank floor.
Grayson was silent. What could he say?
For seconds, there was no clue on Grayson's face that revealed what he was thinking. He remained unmoved. Should I be sad, concerned, perhaps . . . angry? My parents are blatantly anxious about something. But why, especially since they don't know any more than I do at the moment? Perhaps they are lying about what's happening. Sometimes parents do that, so their children can remain strong and unafraid. But wait, how do I know anything about parenting or what it even is? What the heck has happened to me? Why can't I remember?
"Something's not right.” Grayson's mother broke the silence. She met eyes with her husband and eldest son as if she were seeking approval from them, the wrinkles in her pale, worried face now exposed.
Grayson instantly felt a sense of family, a strong sense of belonging, a sense of connection and responsibility to those whom he stood around, but the individual roles in this family were drastically off. It was as if Grayson's parents were just as reliant on Grayson as he should have been on them. Still, what do I know about family or the roles each individual member is designated to play? Perhaps there is nothing peculiar about the current moment.
"I agree," Grayson slowly, and almost cautiously, replied. "I don't remember much," he continued. "I doubt this is where we are supposed to start. We are obviously missing something. All of us are. We are missing a portion of our lives," Grayson stated, surprised at how young his clever voice sounded.
"You're right," his father admitted. "My name is George Therien, your mother is Elizabeth, and your brother is . . . River, there that's it," George stated, as if a lost thought had crept back into his head. "I don't know where we are, but you're right, this is not where our lives started, and if it is, then there, at least, has to be something outside of this . . . " George Therien paused as if he were searching for a suitable title for his imprisonment.
"This Cage," Grayson stated, breaking the thick, unnerving quietude.
Grayson's father glanced up, his icy blue eyes briefly connecting with his son's. "Yes, yes, that's it. There has to be something else outside of this Cage, something we cannot see, and . . . " he paused as if his next statement was rather bold, "I believe this external thing has an important mark on our lives . . . and our memory losses."
Now Grayson's father was making sense. "That's it," Grayson admitted. "There is something outside of this Cage, something we must all work very hard to find."
George and Elizabeth both nodded in agreement. River was only too young to understand the depth of what his family was discussing. "Until then," Elizabeth interjected, "we will have to make do with living here."
"With the others of course," George added.
Grayson surveyed his surroundings to notice several new members of the Cage, who had mysteriously crept up on this focused pack of survivors. Grayson gleefully turned around and stared back over the railing. He had a family now, and although he had no memory, at the moment, he would do his best to get as much of it back as possible.
Sticking out like a sore thumb from the grim face of the murky waters below were heaps of debris. Where had all that mess come from? Grayson thought so clearly he felt as if he could hear himself out loud. I will find out.
Nevertheless, the joyous atmosphere Grayson was savoring shifted into a horrific one.
A teenage male, whom Grayson had not known, was innocently gazing off into the distance, similarly to what Grayson was currently doing. Unfortunately, this teen had been leaning against an unsteady portion of the platform's railing. He was at most twenty meters distant to where Grayson was standing.
A quiet creak, a silent crack of wood, briefly caught Grayson's ears. This clumsy adolescent had fallen. His plummet silent.
Although Grayson had previously been unaware of this young man's presence, he watched as this youth quickly met the surface of the eerie ocean below.
Curiously, Grayson, along with a handful of additional spectators, observed the scene as this youth paddled mindlessly in place below an open portion of the platform, as if he were thinking about how he would return to that area where he had been standing.
But it happened that fast.
Instantly, Grayson reeled backward, as the teen let out an unnaturally high-pitched shriek, gasping for air, his eyes gaping wide. Grayson stumbled against the ground, frozen to the plank floor, as he uneasily listened to the blood-curdling scream that still escaped the unfortunate victim's mouth.
Grayson had witnessed it with his own traumatized eyes; and from that point on, he would never forget what had consumed that youth so viciously.
It was violent, brutal, despicable, and repulsive.
It was unfair.
A boy, not much older than Grayson, had been grasped by death's darkest form, unknowingly. Grayson would never forget it; and every day, henceforth, he would remember that one, single moment. He would remember that boy who had been eaten alive; and that's what the gruesome beasts were known as from that point onward: The Eaters.
More civilians would strive to enter the waters as if there was some hidden answer awaiting them there; but they would pay an exceedingly high price.
It didn't take long before the people of the Cage realized the city was their permanent residence and the school of demonic beasts who lurked below the waters would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
It tormented Grayson to know he and his family understood far more than anyone else in this hellhole they were forced to call home. Their intuition was greater, their minds were sharper; but at the same time, they still had forgotten so much.