With that I am able to breathe again. Reluctantly, raspingly, but still breath. My hands tremble slightly, my body shivers in the light, a feeling passes over me that wants to pull out a tear from the corner of my eye. I shake my head, wanting to clear out whatever is gathered in there, but the day remains as it was, the light filters around and through objects I have a hard time describing, the sounds hover just around my ears, too shy to make their way in. What had been emptied remained so, what had been sung about has been transformed into the object of many debates. I have tried to enter into one or the other, but end up walking away more scathed than not. Finally the walking away itself seemed to be the more logical option, one which I took without any great reluctance.
Behind me, the walls of the city tremble slightly, as if to wish me a fond farewell, then settle back into their mortar, waiting I supposed for a more auspicious day to roll around. That was how it had begun, I remember suddenly. The day had been just like this one, the winds even had come from the north, just as they have today, which is fairly unusual for this time of year. Even the sun is positioned in the same exact place in the sky that my memory has placed it in on that last day, the one that had prefaced the end. But I am still alive! That in itself is fairly amazing. I am sure that my death had been accurately reported at the time; nothing, after–all, had come up to bring the matter into doubt. I look down at my hands, somewhat skeptical of the evidence presented to me by my eyes, but their movements seem real enough.
The city vibrates slightly, forming an image of a cloud, or a dream. I can not be sure which it is, and so leave the matter up to those I suppose to be more qualified to deal with such questions. They will have something to say about the matter in their journals, and might even come close to seeing the first trace of an answer, but that will of course scare them so badly that they will run back into the protective walls from which their little heads had initially peered out. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part. I really don't know what is going to happen behind me, but this not knowing doesn't seem so important anymore. It is enough to look up at the stars, even if I do know the cause of their twinklings. It is just a matter of time, after–all. And time, I have come to realize, is what I have just enough of – as long, that is, as I don't keep throwing it around like a bunch of hay in a barn. I smile to myself at the idea, then looked ahead to see if I can see any indications of where this little road I am on leads. For it clearly is a road. While not quite paved, the larger rocks in my way have been smoothed down, and the deeper gullies have been bridged, and the soil has been filled with large flattish stones, forming almost a kind of pavement. This is, I reflect, really where I have wanted to be all along – things must have worked out somehow, no matter how grievous I had held my error to be. That in itself is a relief, I have to admit, since the narrowness of the footpath might otherwise cause me some anxiety.
I begin to feel... almost comfortable. Just for a moment. That is enough. Worry about tomorrow, that can be done, well, tomorrow. I'm not going to dwell on the situation, though. There are things to do; the path leads through a forest, forming a tunnel the end of which gleams with a promise of open space. The forest closes up behind me, I am situated on a large cliff; smoke rises from the chimneys of tiny houses below me. I examine the village with an odd twinge, almost a feeling like I have seen all of this before. It must be 1000 feet down, but still each house is clearly visible, as a patch of terracotta orange. The cliff's face is more or less vertical, with rough protuberances and cracks breaking its face, but there is no way I am going to try to climb down it. I look back at the forest. It presents me with a solid green front, stopping only as its last tendrils wind down the sheer rock that edges the cliff.
This must be the place. I must have been very close all along – almost sideways to it, in a parallel sort of way. It was never quite as far as I thought, of course. That is part of its allure, almost of its essence. It is just a matter of letting go enough stuff to be able to see once again. I go back to the shade of the forest and sit down, sinking slightly into the forest floor. The sun hovers about midday, the sky is streaked with stretched out clouds. Birds soar overhead, circling, then going on long shallow dives. There must be thermals coming up from the valley, I realize, and of course the birds are well aware of this.
After a short nap, I get up and walk as close to the edge of the cliff as I dare, but I can't see over it because of the large downward curling lip that edges the cliff. The stone is reddish, or light brown, it is hard to tell, it blends from one to the other. A lizard darts across the bare rock face, then sits on a rock, bobbing its body up and down, as if doing little lizard push–ups. I say nothing, but watch happily. The lizard has somehow filled in a void that I had not quite realized had been so empty. I turn back to the valley, following the clouds as they undulate across the sky. There is nothing to do here, really no special reason to look down, or to try to find any real cause for what lies below. That has been my mistake. I am just making too much of a simple fact. My situation does not require action. That comes as quite a revelation. And also seems to contradict everything, and I mean everything, I have ever been taught. Maybe the time has come to question some of that.
I sit down on the rock outcropping of the cliff, drinking in the heat as it radiates into me from the stone. The sun hangs motionless, the sky has cleared, its blue twisted, as if there are living forms writhing under its skin. The shadow of my body has lengthened already, stretching out towards the forest, although the sun is still quite high in the sky. Maybe time has stopped. That would be interesting, although my lengthening shadow argues against that idea. I will just have to watch, and wait. The lizard turns his head from right to left, to catch movement I suppose, then skitters away. I don't know what to think, to be quite honest about it. The sun is going to go down soon, and I need to find somewhere to sleep.
No indications show themselves to my left or right, other than more cliff and jungle meeting at a precarious moment. The green line of the jungle and the pale reddish–brown of the cliff merge in the distance into a dark–greenish blur. Reaching into my pocket, I find a small coin. I toss it into the air, resolving to go to my left if the coin falls heads, which it does. I suppose I could feel foolish for relying on such a device to make my decision, but it seems somehow very appropriate to me. I stick the coin back into my pocket, zip up my jacket, and start walking down the cliff, south, since the setting sun is in the west, and facing it, my left, would be south. That is about all the navigation I know, unfortunately.
My feet thud lightly against the naked face of the rock; I begin to breathe more evenly, my breath following the demands of my body instead of my head, for a change. That alone is an achievement. Just watching my breath rise and fall is really enough, that and the feel of my feet hitting the solid stone. It is better to not think. Why such obvious things strike our times as odd should be grounds for serious questioning, but they stay behind us, like a loyal but abused dog pawing at the door of his master, who is too busy drinking with his friends to hear the sound. It is better not to think. It is like a mantra, rising with every breath. But of course it too has to be let go of – each follows the same law, after–all. It is better to just walk. That makes sense to me too, which is a relief.
But what can one do if one doesn't think? It seems impossible. And it is. That is the charm. Anything possible either has been, or soon will be, done. The impossible, on the other hand, now that offers up a whole new set of possibilities. The impossible cannot be done, and such an inaction is very close, or at least it feels very close, to what I am after. You can't plan for the impossible, you can't defend against it or attack it, it just sits there like a black pearl, absorbing the characteristics of what we call our 'real' world until it has swallowed enough. Then it becomes time to let it all fall out. And that, very conveniently, exactly sums up the nature of the impossible. You can't call it, you can't greet it, you can't mock it, all you can do is let it fall out in front of you. The impossible is perfection, which is why that is what we are always striving after.
Perfection of course does not exist, nor can it ever do so, since that would make it a possible entity among other entities. No, perfection hides just around the corner. We catch glimpses of it, hints, sparkles, but never for long enough to fool ourselves into thinking we actually have it in our hands. Perfection is the perfect woman in this sense. I can't help but smile at the thought while my feet pound mechanically over the rough stone surface. The gap between me and the forest has narrowed slightly. The sun has also set, I notice with a start. This is not so good; I am not sure if it will get very cold at night – I don't know where I am, how far south or north, or how high. It can freeze at night, if I am unlucky. And walking in the dark, with the sheer cliff to my left, that does not appeal to me either. I peer into the forest, realizing that the trees have thinned noticeably since the last time I looked; they are, in fact, not really like a jungle at all anymore, but more like a forest. Looking back at the last orange glow of the sun cut sharply on the edge formed by the mountains across the valley and the sky, I step into the quiet of the trees. Soft grass cushions my feet, deadening their sound, except for the snapping of dry twigs. I make my way deeper into the trees, happy that the underbrush , what there is of it, appears only in sporadic clumps. I begin to follow a slight trail, animal by the look of it, until it merges with another one, then another, then the trail is almost a path, although it is still not obvious if it has been made by humans or not.
The moon has risen and lit the ground just enough to let me follow the path. I walk on, hoping I run into something or other fairly soon – the dark makes me nervous, as do the silent woods. I stop, to look around, suddenly overwhelmed by the solitude around me. The woods creak lightly in the evening breeze, the air, the air I suddenly notice, is fragrant, as if there were a forest meadow in spring nearby. The trees around me begin to feel less threatening; I notice the white of birch bark scattered around the evening darkness; crickets begin to chirp, in time to the temperature of the air, which is still heavy and warm. I have been here before. The feeling strikes me like a wave. I have been walking, not knowing where I was going, and then I am sitting here, on the soft moss and grass of the forest floor, smelling air I have smelled many years ago, although I can't remember exactly where. All I can remember is that smell.
And that is much better than nothing. I can remember little more, but soon realize I will have to try to figure it out some other time. The air grows quiet as the warmth of the evening evaporates up into the night sky. I look around again, noticing small branches lying all around me. Reaching into my pocket, I feel a book of matches and smile. I quickly collect enough wood, then build a fire against some small rocks, after clearing out the dry leaves that have gathered in–between the stones. The flames are clear – the wood is dry, but not rotten. I am lucky. I stretch out my hands, thrilling in the heat, eyes lost in the reddish–orange heart of the fire. I lie close to the fire all night, waking once in a while to put some more branches on it.
A cold dew wakes me in the morning, dripping off the branches above my head, steaming in the last embers of my fire. The rest has done me good; although my stomach is growling, I don't feel all that hungry. The sun has not yet risen above the hills in front of me, but its light is already brightening the sky. A few birds sing, singly, then are quiet, as if waiting for a reply. I throw a few small branches on the embers, then blow on them until a flame appeared. I keep blowing until the ember has become like a little blowtorch, then stop, watching the flames spread through the small twigs I have placed under the branches. I think longingly of tea, but settle for a drink from a stream I find a few minutes away from where I slept. The water fills my stomach enough to make it possible to ignore its empty condition. I put the fire out, then walk on down the path I am happy to see really is a path after–all. Now and then I see human footprints pressed into the moist earth, along with other animals'. But the only life I see is birds singing, and squirrels jumping from tree to tree.
A few hours later the path opens out onto a regular cart track, partially cobbled, or at least time has worn the earth off of the rocks under it. Things are looking up. The sun has started warming the hard packed soil and rocks of the path, the forest has ended, I am in a flat valley, covered with long grass and a few oak trees. I must have crossed some hills last night before settling down to sleep. The floor of the valley actually consists of very softly rolling hills, and so I can see little from any point except once in a while, when the path crosses the crest of a hill. The path, however, tends to stick closer to the bottom of the little hills as it makes its way across the floor of the valley. Resting under the shade of a tree I look up into its branches and see some kind of fruit which I can't recognize, something like an apple only with bumpy hard skin. The loud growls in my stomach force me to admit that I am hungry. I pick a few, tear off some skin, sniff it carefully, then bite off a little piece. The taste is sweet, hard to place, but definitely good. After eating a few more, I stick as many as I can fit into my pockets, then start walking again.
The meadows of the small hills roll with the wind, forming waves and sheets of long grasses. The trail is broken by holes and ruts; in a few places it even looks like some sort of cart or wagon has passed through some time ago. But the grass has long since grown over the ruts, leaving smoothened contours as the only remaining evidence. Small white wildflowers bloom by the side of the road, the air is quiet, except for the isolated birdsongs that erupt now and then. A grove of trees just down the path offers some shade, as approach I notice a little stone bridge crossing a creek.
I climb down a little embankment to get to the water under the bridge. A small pool reflects the sky and bridge back at me after the water has calmed from my splashing and drinking. I have almost dozed off when the reflection of a dark–haired girl looking down at me from the bridge suddenly jolts me awake. She is leaning on the low stone parapet that serves as a guardrail. She waves down at me; I look up, surprised, wondering why she looks so familiar. She smiles back at me, saying something that is lost in the sound of the creek. I look down at my hands, wondering why I am meeting anyone at all here, let alone someone that I am quite sure I know, at least judging from her behavior.
This is really all to confusing, I decide. I am not sure how to handle the situation. As I watch, she flips a coin, studies the result carefully, then walks away, in the direction I had been headed. I look down at the bubbling water, then up at where the girl had been standing, then up at the sky, which is a clear blue, scattered with high clouds. I step across a few stones to cross the stream with dry feet, then clamber up the other bank, having decided to see if I can at least learn something about this girl, who apparently knows me, or at least recognized me. By the time I get back up to the path, she has grown very small, her shape silhouetted against the light tan of the dried grasses surrounding us. Walking with her in my sights makes the time pass much more nicely, I have to admit after what seems like only half an hour has passed, but which the condition of my feet suggests has actually been more like 4 or 5 hours. She is a little further ahead of me than before, but not so much as to be worrying. She just doesn't seem to be getting tired, but she isn't walking all that fast either.
The vegetation has grown a little more sparse, once in a while I can see patches of earth, rocks and piled up stones that hint at the beginnings, or endings, of ancient walls. Her head bobs up and down ahead of me, her step sure as the surface of the path gradually worsens. The gently rolling hills gradually become stony earth banks, covered with gnarled up little trees whose twists and turns seemed to serve them instead of wrinkles. I sit down, exhausted, realizing as I sit that I will lose her in the twists of the path, but I have stopped caring. Maybe not caring is not exactly the right term, however. I suddenly realize that caring in this regard is unnecessary. It is a more a matter of fate. And faith, to some extent, even though I am generally hesitant to let myself think such a thing – it, after–all, seems to indicate some absence, or gap, or just a place inside of which nothing can be certain, or known – faith has grown more important to me. It is as if the generations have fallen away and I have been permitted the enormous privilege of actually walking in someone's shoes, who has lived long before me. Science is not even a question in that moment. This is something so delicious that I hesitate before letting myself sink into this unknowable past someone. It will just be for a minute, I know, but each minute will carry me on, each more precious than gold, each a drop of something to remind me of what really matters in a world where decreasingly little does.
And that will be enough. That is how it works. It doesn't go beyond that. It is deceptive in its simplicity. Everything really interesting works that way. I gather in the approaching dusk, holding it to me like a lover, feeling its musty warmth, its hesitation, its resignation. There is more, of course, but the dusk passes before I notice, and so I am at a loss to say what that more is; it is enough to know that it is. And then to look up, at the dark skies above my head, filled with stars much brighter than I am used to. The lights of the village glow with a dull orange I cannot remember having seen before. It is like the earth that falls from between my fingers when I pick up a handful of soil to examine its texture: faded, reddish–orange, soft more than anything else. The light does not twinkle in the way I am used to. It just sort of flows out of the village, like air, or pollen from a very fertile flower.
The light gives me a feeling I like. That much I am sure of. There is a sense of home, of a place where everything is as it should be, good and bad alike. I know I am dreaming, but I don't care. It is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing I haven't done before, really. And this dark does not feel particularly threatening, or daunting. It is just the fall of night, the end of the day – time, that is, to go home. And that is enough. It is exactly this feeling that nothing more is required that creates the core of the feeling that is slowly washing over me. It is as if I have been gone a long while from somewhere I have never been, and have come back to a place that has never existed, but all the same everything has suddenly fallen into place.
I let myself be carried on by my feet, which seem familiar with the ground they are covering. When I get down to the village, the flames are set low in the streetlamps, and no–one is visible. I sit in the village square, looking up at the tower of the church, at the intricate stonework that surrounds me on all sides. The square is still warm from the sun it stored up during the day, the night air blows across the small piles of leaves gathered under the big, leafless tree in the center of the square. So it must be winter, I realize. That is good to know, although it certainly doesn't feel that way. I smile, to myself I suppose, but I don't mind if the empty eyes of the village see as well. Given how everything is shuttered up, there doesn't seem much danger of that. But still, it is nice to think that those eyes are there, sleeping, if not open.
I stretch out my hands, letting the radiating heat slowly fill my knuckles with its wordless messages. It is, after–all, just a matter of letting go. And letting go, that is always the easiest thing to do. Everything else is just a pain. The air of the square has more to tell me – I close my eyes to better hear, and sink into a sort of sleep, only I am most definitely not asleep. No, it is some other condition, I can't place it. A sort of slumber, yes, but not sleep, or unconsciousness. The warmth fills my veins, my bones, then wraps itself around my intestines, sinking into some tiny spaces I had completely forgotten about in my hurry to get to wherever I was going. But I can no longer remember where exactly this where is. That is funny, the fact that I can't remember where I was going. Just the big hurry to get there. And I am out of breath. It is time for a rest. The night air holds me in its hands, supports my head, lets me fall over into its protective arms.
Before I know it, the sun is creeping over the trees on top of the hill. I rub my eyes, then look around. The square is quiet, the village empty. I want to say something, but can't. A villager walks by, his steps echoing against the stone walls; he looks curiously at me as he passes by, but doesn't say or do anything to lead me to believe that my presence is odd or disturbing to him. Just curious. A simple 'who's that?' That is a good thing, it gives me some grounds for hope. Otherwise I really don't know what to do. A small café opens up down the street – I walk up to it, curious. A little woman is bustling about its tiny kitchen, adjusting things, banging pots about, slicing other things up. It all seems good, but I have no money. Just to be sure I reach into my pockets and feel around. A few coins clink at the bottom of my left–side pants pocket. I pull them out, looking at them, but unable to recognize them. They are larger than I remember money being. The woman looks up at me for a second, then goes back to her work. I walk back to the square and sit down, unsure of what to do next. The hills I walked over the night before shine in the morning sun, the leaves of the trees reflecting the sharply angled light in an almost liquid sort of way.
Everything is far simpler than I imagined. That is good thing – it makes the situation easier to get a grip on. And that is important, now especially. The correct motions, the proper places to put my feet, the right way to look, those are all things I can deal with. It is the intangibles that have me a little worried. But they aren't all that pressing at the moment. The most important thing, I realize, is to keep a close watch on my breath. It is this kind of simple thing that is easiest to forget. And then everything else collapses. That is how things like that go, I have come to realize. And that is fine; I have accepted the rules, that is not a problem.
The first stirrings of morning have grown into a more regular din, the clatter of roll–up steel shutters being forced up their squeaky tracks by just arrived shopkeepers, the opening of windows and doors, the sound of children laughing as they headed off for school, a small rush of traffic. I sit in the square, remembering all of this with a smile, wondering where it is today. Nothing is permanent, I know, but still this has a feeling that it has been here long before me. And that, quite frankly, is a feeling I like. The morning begins to grow old, or at least, it loses its youth. The clankings and slams and assorted calls and laughs fade away into a quieter bustle.
An occasional car passes by, tires rolling noisily over the stone surface of the street. I look out over the hill, wondering where I am, and how I have gotten here. I can't remember anything, the day and night before me are a complete mystery. This too is a familiar feeling. A feeling of uncertainty begins to grow in my center, then radiates out to my extremities. That's better, I think. Complete relaxation is something I suspect only an enlightened master can hope to attain. I don't set my goals that high, preferring instead to simply try to notice when things like anxiety came along. That is like a little warning flag, telling me to keep my eyes and ears open. Things are moving, that is certain. Of course I can't keep sitting here all day – after a while it will get noticed, people will begin to talk. I get up, walk over to the little café, ask for a coffee, then hand the woman one of the coins. Based on the fact that she hands me back some smaller ones, I assume I have given her the right amount. There are a few little tables on the sidewalk, but I sit inside, watching the people pass by through the window. The coffee is good, I have to admit. And the air is filled with the woman's cooking. That is definitely a plus.
I put the little glass the coffee came in down, look sideways at the little woman, wanting to ask her a thousand questions, but not even sure she speaks my language. She catches my look, smiles, then goes on with her cooking. There are definitely things I need to know, that is becoming obvious. Maybe there is just a limit that has to be adhered to. A question, that is, of balance. Balance is very hard to find, though. It comes and goes, then just spills out over the ground, almost laughing at my efforts (sufficient, or not, I can never tell). The air around my head begins to glow slightly, then vibrates into what I would almost have to call a shimmering. The coffee must have be good. Or something is good; I can't be sure what, but the air is good, that much is for sure. I get up, say good– bye to the little woman, who waves as I walk out the door. Things are looking up, and that is a relief. No matter how much I try to just exist in some kind of pure condition, you simply can't live without real people all around you. Anything else is like a fish gasping for breath on dry land – you can pour water on it from a pitcher, or you can throw him back into his river. The choice doesn't seem all that hard, if I look at it from that perspective.
But there are things to do. The street has collected a slight touch of the shimmering I noted in the café, which makes me happy – I don't want to leave that behind. The air is fresh, with lingering hints of diesel exhaust, but that seems somehow appropriate. Now the real question has to be dealt with: what should I do? It is good to let matters fall to such a basic level. And to realize at the same time that there will be no answering this question. Once put, it will have to be satisfied with serving as a simple bookmark, a note to myself of a place I was at the time of the asking. That is the function of questions like this, I have grown to understand as I get older. It is not that they shouldn't be asked, or that they are wrong in some fundamental way, but rather that they don't allow an answer. This doesn't fit in well with how we are taught to look at the world, but it does fit in well with this little village I find myself situated in.
There is no why or how to the matter. All that needs to concern me is the taking of the most accurate accounting of the lay of the land, the alignment of streets and houses, the way the sky arcs down to meet the crest of the hill I crossed not so long ago. For that is in itself amazing enough to catch my breath. I will have to go back one day, and try to find the way by which I came, but that is not a pressing matter, and can easily, and, most likely, profitably, be put off to the side. The town interests me; it has several features I find quite familiar, in that slightly disturbing sense I am liable to experience at oddly frequent intervals, but about which I can say nothing that will help take me any closer to grasping the mechanism by which said familiarity can function.
I will simply operate under the assumption that I have been here before. It is hard not to think about the question, but it has to dropped if I am to get anywhere. Do we actually live in a big circle, spinning endlessly around, living out the same existence end over end, without purpose or meaning? You can see why it is best not to start thinking of things in this way. The village does have a church to deal with such questions if they ever come up, I suddenly realized. I walk over to it, wondering if it will be open. Churches where I have lived most of my life are only open a few hours on Sunday, which has always struck me as somehow wrong. What about the other days of the week? Dodn't they count for anything? Fortunately, the big wooden door stands ajar – well, actually not the main door itself, but rather the little one set into one of its halves. The church is cool inside, smelling of stone, if stone can be said to have a smell. The pews are made of dark wood, and the only light comes from the stained glass windows that lines the upper interior of the church. Small clusters of votive candles add a little light as well, although not enough to make a real difference. Maybe at night it is more noticeable.
A priest is arranging something behind the altar; he looks up on hearing my footsteps, smiling in much the same way the little woman in the café did, then goes back to whatever he was doing. The residents of the village don't seem overly affected by my presence. This is an important observation, I feel, although I can as of yet not determine its utility. I sit down on one of the pews, looking up at the story told in the stained glass, which doesn't seem to be that cheesy kind that became popular in the later 20th century. The glasswork is intricate, the light richly textured. At the highest point of the inside of the tower a circle of small stained glass windows offers a cross composed of four inward pointing pyramids, meeting in a blank space. I let my eyes fall into this focused nothingness, dreaming of the black haired girl I had been following. A tear rolls down my cheek, although I don't feel sad or anything like that.
The pew shakes a little, then creaks. I stop looking at the odd little crucifixes, and look down, to my left. The girl is sitting there, eyes shining brightly as she looks back at me with a quiet confidence. I smile a little, not knowing what else to do. She smiles back, then looks up, towards the priest, who has by now put on some exotic looking robe and is busy swinging an incense burner back and forth while chanting something I can't quite catch. Beams of light cross the interior of the church, their paths highlighted by glowing dust motes. It's good to know that this place is here, and open. If forced to choose, I suspect I would pick the admittedly flawed ways of the church over all of our great scientific achievements. And it does have to come down to such a choice one day. This won't make a lot of people happy. But this is not a question of happiness, but of sanity, and simply following what has to be, no matter what we want or fear. I look back up at the point supported by the meeting of the four triangles, wondering if all that has flowed out of them and into me. There can be no telling, nor does there need to be.
The girl gets up, indicating that I should follow her. This strikes me as a very good idea. The priest looks up as we leave, still wearing the same smile he had been when I first walked in. The brightness of the light outside makes me sneeze several times. The girl waits for my sneezing fit to end; my lack of control seems to amuse her, or at least I assume that is the reason she is laughing. I have to squint a little bit, although the sun is not as bright as it could be. How I know this I don't know, but it seems to be something I don't need to doubt. The girl has by that time crossed the street, walked up to one of the tightly packed houses that lined each side of the street in a continuous row, and is standing there, waiting for me to come up. I look nervously up and down the street, afraid to be hit by an errant moped or delivery truck, but there is nothing there, so I cross, surprised by my hesitation, which is not simply rooted in any excessive fear of getting run over by a speeding vehicle.
When I look back up everything has vanished. I am standing on a featureless plain, the air has a dry, almost metallic quality to it. My hands shake, my breath rasps in the back of my throat. I do not reach down, or turn around, knowing I don't know how that if I were to do these things the repercussions would be unpleasant. I take a careful step: the surface rebounds slightly, in a plastic sort of way. I breath in and out, wondering if I should move my eyes. I throw caution to the wind and look to my left and right, without moving my head. The plain extends as far as I can see in either direction, as well as straight ahead. I shake my head, trying to remember something, but there is only a faint ringing in my ears. The air is neither cold nor warm, the sky is colored in a blue more faint than I am used to. Fortunately the sun guides me, giving me a shadow to follow.
I pause, trying to find some indication in that uniform curve of the horizon that marks it as any way unique. But it reveals no difference; the curve ends without mountains or other eruptions. The foolishness of my situation makes me laugh. I sit down on the ground, which, like the air, is neither warm nor cold. My thoughts begin to wander, the featurelessness of my surroundings giving my senses nothing to get a hold of. I place my hands together, gather my legs around myself, then prepare to watch, like a hunter waiting for an unsuspecting deer to come down the trail. What I want cannot be ordered, or manufactured. And it waits for me, just outside of my grasp, taunting me to come in to it. So sitting becomes the best option. I stop seeing the featurelessness of the plain, and begin to see just the plain. There is nothing to think about, so I don't try. A few breaths pass, then there is only the silence of the still air.
My eyes close, the fuzzy afterglow fades away into a dull orange. There is nothing to think about. I look ahead through my closed eyes, letting the distant blur stay just out of my range. I stare down through my half–closed eyes at the ground – it begins to vibrate, then small splits appear in its smooth surface. A tendril of some difficult to identify substance snakes its way out of the small crevasse that has formed in the center of the spreading splits. White petals open on the end of the tendril and sway back and forth, to a slightly different time than the stalk itself. While this is quite interesting to observe, I realize that this will not be a meaningful event. I look up, slowly, and turn my head, examining the horizon to see if something has appeared. The surface remains unbroken. I look back down at the stalk, shaking my head slightly.
Ignoring the flower–like object, I lean down to the ground, and peer down into one of the cracks that radiate out from where the stalk springs out of the ground. The sides of the crack glow with a faint bluish–green light, like that you would see from some kinds of algae or fungi, and as a result, I can see quite easily, and further in than I would have thought possible given the narrowness of the crack, which spreads then branches as it goes down, each branch seeming to open onto a huge cavern, whose walls are covered by the same bluish–green stuff as the crack. I close my eyes, watching the light go through its customary sequence of colors before settling into that dull orange glow. When I open my eyes again the ground has settled back in on itself, the flower thing is gone, and the air has grown significantly colder. I permit myself to smile, for the first time in a long while. As the light fades away, I stare at the vanishing sun, brilliant orange against the sharp edge of the horizon.
The night falls quickly, but the ground radiates off the days heat, leaving the air pleasantly warm. I look up at the stars, wishing I knew more about them, their patterns, constellations, movements, but I am annoyingly ignorant on the subject. Plus of course in the city at night there isn't much of the heavens to see. Here, of course, the stars light the landscape with a pale light, not bright enough to reveal any colors, but enough to show shapes clearly enough, if there were any shapes to see, which there aren't.