It’s strange. How hollow I feel. Like there might be echoes inside of me. Like I’m one of those chocolate rabbits they used to sell around Easter, the ones that were nothing more than a sweet shell encapsulating a world of nothing. I’m like that. I encapsulate a world of nothing.
― Tahereh Mafi, Unravel Me
Emptiness felt like a living thing. A parasite growing in the center of your chest, somewhere behind your heart, taking every ounce of warmth and light and happiness and consuming it until there’s nothing left. Emptiness feels like exhaustion, like there’s no reason to fight, no reason to take another breath, no reason to try to survive. But emptiness also feels like freedom. Because it doesn’t just take the good, it takes the bad, too–the anger, the bitterness, the pain–and when it’s done, it leaves you with just you. A cold, shell-like echo of yourself, but still you.
―Ava Jae, Beyond the Red
There is a wide yawning black infinity. In every direction the extension is endless, the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce. But most of all, there is very nearly nothing in the dark; except for little bits here and there, often associated with the light, this infinite receptacle is empty.
This picture is strangely frightening. It should be familiar. It is our universe.
Even these stars, which seem so numerous, are, as sand, as dust, or less than dust, in the enormity of the space in which there is nothing. Nothing! We are not without empathetic terror when we open Pascal’s Pensées and read, “I am the great silent spaces between worlds.”
―Carl Sagan, From an undated, handwritten piece of text which Sagan wrote when he was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago
I told myself: “I am surrounded by unknown things.” I imagined man without ears, suspecting the existence of sound as we suspect so many hidden mysteries, man noting acoustic phenomena whose nature and provenance he cannot determine. And I grew afraid of everything around me – afraid of the air, afraid of the night. From the moment we can know almost nothing, and from the moment that everything is limitless, what remains? Does emptiness actually not exist? What does exist in this apparent emptiness?
Carina Nebula Public Domain image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope
Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.
…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…
―Ray Bradbury, Epitaph to The October Country
Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.
— Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons