The child’s game had ended. After I nearly ran Kurtz over, we stood facing each other. He was unsteady on his feet, swaying like the trees that surrounded us. What stood before me was a ghost. Each layer of him had been carved away by the jungle, until nothing remained. Despite this, his strength still exceeded that of my own. With the tribal fires burning so close, one shout from him would unleash his natives on me. But in that same realization, I felt my own strength kindle inside me. I could just as easily muffle his command and overtake him. The scene flashed past my eyes as though I was remembering not imagining. The stick that lay two feet from me was beating down on the ghost, as my bloodied hand strangled his cries. My mind abruptly reeled backwards as I realized what unspeakable dark thoughts I had let in. Kurtz seemed to understand where my mind had wandered; it was as though the jungle’s wind has whispered my internal struggles to him. His face twisted into a smile. He seemed to gloat and enjoy standing by to watch my soul begin to destroy itself.
“You’re just like me. You don’t realize it yet, but one of these days you won’t be able to deny your hunger anymore.” I looked up to meet his gaze and was again caught by his demeanor. The shadows cut harsh designs on his hollow face. Darkness trailed behind him like a king’s robe as he paced where the light could not reach him.
“You don’t know me.” My voice sounded as unsteady as his stance. He shrugged as he chuckled; the laughter turned my blood cold. He seemed to know something I did not.
“It doesn’t matter because neither do you.” At first I didn’t understand. Neither did I what? But after a moment the impact of his statement hit me. Kurtz was suggesting that neither did I know myself. But of course I knew myself, who else would know better? This idea seemed so absurd that I myself began to laugh. The mad man was completely insane and; therefore, he could not possibly have a coherent thought. I again, found the joy in his weakness and felt my strength bubble up. Somewhere in the conversation, we had begun to circle around each other. Slowly and cautiously, we side-stepped to the beat of the tribal drums and found ourselves moving into each other’s place. Kurtz had stepped into the fire’s light, where I had stood only moments before. His soul was completely visible to me now, and he was no longer hiding who he had become.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” His question was penetrating, and I was suddenly afraid that the jungle was listening in and greedily soaking up the words. The panic was overwhelming and the world began to speed up. The jungle around me and the fire inside began to battle for domination. It was only later I realized that together they were allies.
“Perfectly.” I stepped into the shadows and became invisible as the darkness surrounded me. Kurtz swiveled around trying to find me; one more fatal step and he crumbled to the earth.
“I don’t remember how I got above...