I’m walking down a dirty road. The trees are dark and stiff. They do not sway, for there is no breeze. They appear to be dead and hang their heads down over me, on either side of this road. There is a corroded chain-link fence that separates the road from rows of trees. These rows seem to continue as far as my eyes can see. My leather soles are worn so thin that I can feel the sting of sharp things on the bottoms of my feet. The road looks like it’s riddled with pebbles and strange-shaped stones—things I cannot yet make out as I slowly plod along. The air is dry and there are no distinguishing marks in the sky, no clouds. I feel, as I look around, as if I wandered into an old black and white photograph that has been bleached and faded by years of handling and time. I cannot feel the heat of any Sun, so I do not know where it may hang. It’s very bright out here regardless of where the light is coming from. I breathe in stale air and continue walking, letting the rows of drooping trees guide me along with their hands. Surely this road I’m on must lead somewhere. I hear the sounds of insects so close it feels like they are trapped in my ear canals. I place a hand over my heart; it beats one wing at a time, so very fast. The fluttering of the tiny bird in my chest sends vibrations up my neck and causes my jaw to tingle and pop. I see nothing alive that I can point out amongst the littered road and blackened trees. A long, lending branch, perfect to set a row of crows on, held none. Maybe they used to perch there but have long since abandoned this place. My hair hangs a little in my eyes now, oiling my forehead. I let it. I’m beyond caring. I’m just walking, trying to reach an end or a turning point. It’s a very narrow road and sometimes the black leaves of nearby branches touch my skin, scratching it. They sap the strength out of me. Maybe that is their purpose. I feel washed out, like my surroundings. I’d built-up a lifetime of patience, and my feet have carried me far. I think they will be the first to let me know when it’s time to stop. I feel no movement of time but for my progression along this road. Surely I’ve made some headway. The trees are differently shaped and sized, and the chain link fence shows other signs of abuse aside from its corrosion. There were gaping burn holes in several places. Why would someone try to burn their way through metal rather than just climb over such a low fence? I myself had no desire to hop over that fence and head into those mean-spirited trees. All I can see in front of me and behind me now is the road I’m on, and the trees that have chosen to outline it. The bird panics in my chest and I feel it wanting to work its way deep into the pit of my stomach. The tiny wings, as they beat faster and faster, set more spasms through me and cripple my diaphragm with pain. It wants out and does not care if my heart goes with it. It chitters at me desperately to stop, to turn around. If I come to another tunnel I might not be able to continue.
I can sometimes still hear them laughing. Laughing as they pointed at me and tossed cockroaches and broken glass at my face. They had good aim. I would cry out and fiendishly claw the roaches from my hair and wipe the blood from my cheeks and brow and push on. For all their intimidation they were harmless, in the end. Just rats. In that tunnel I had found the light. Thankfully, it wasn’t a long tunnel. I saw sun soaked green, sparkling hues on the other side inviting me in. Maybe it was you, stopping to let me catch up at long last. With that in mind I pushed through the filth and the laughter and I made it across. There was nothing neither green, nor sunny waiting for me, though. I saw traces of you in the grass surrounding the tunnel’s mouth. Flecks of gold and lilac this time and then nausea took over and I vomited all over your hints. Birds clamored after it, eating the last of my supper and then taking off, your traces now coursing through wing and eye, encapsulating them in a spilt (split) aura. I got up from my mess, and still finding I could see glints of color here and there. I kept following them forward. I never turned back to face that tunnel.
I walk with no help and no guidance, but for the pieces of you that I hungrily chase. The presence I can never seem to claim, never being allowed to share the same space with you. I begin to believe that I’m dreaming again, maybe this road I’m on winds solely within a dream.
Delirious and weak from lack of water and food, I know my body is reaching its breaking point. I could feel my ribs sticking out against the worn-thin cloth I had on. It was just something that adhered to my skin at this point, as colorless as the sky. Placing my hands over my eyes, I could feel the way they now sink into my skull. I imagined myself looking as withered and washed-out as this world I’m moving through. I was as threadbare as my shoes that faithfully took the shifting things below, and carried me step to step. I was being reabsorbed by my own body. I’d soon be a part of this road if I toddled any slower. I look down at it more closely. I spied things amongst the rocks: feathers faded grey and white, tufts of fur and teeth, little nubs, still connected to long, disproportioned jawbones. Other pieces jutted awkwardly out of the gravel. When I kick them out of the way I stir up all manner of dust and particles. If I were to become a part of this road, those jawbones would have to come alive and snap down on my legs to pull me down. I will never willingly drop into this place. I’ll keep walking until I’m somewhere else, and then I’ll walk until I reach the next turn and on, and on, until the bird that beats as my heart has died, or until I’ve found you. I’ll continue until my passing has erased all the tunnels, waters, reeds, trees-the great hill I met my fate at the base of—and too, this road, will fade away completely and complete the erasing of its presence. I will go on moving either as a wind song or a construct until I find you, in my clearing, that you walk along the edge of. There, in the falling gold dust will we join. You’ll either fill me with the color of spectre and seraphim, hovering around our earthen pathways, or empty me as low flying as the vasty dampness of your boots. Old buildings, corridors, every painting lies in wait. You’ll cover me with your coat and mend my brittle bones. My eyes will fill again and I’d be whole, humanity intact. Then I’d silence the whispers. I’d no longer need to send for help. No more getting stuck in-between. You’ll reach your hand into my chest and free the bird that’s become my beat. I know once it’s let loose all the maddened buzzing in my body would cease. I know it. You will do it.
All these thoughts assault me as I trudge along this ugly road, an unknown smell in the air, an unhealthy sky that points downward. The ground is quickly filling up with things I could not remember ever seeing before. I watch them rub up against the few things I could make out: sharks’ teeth, humanoid-looking teeth, broken glass, bottle caps, petrified starfish, tortoise shells, skulls of many varieties and sizes, shed skins, crumbling snake skins, detached claws, partial ribcages, whole ribcages, giant femur bones and other bones, and stones, all dusted white, all stripped of color. I can see faces in the gravel; some of them look at me. I can feel them wind their presence around my legs, tunneling towards my sex. They beckon me to lie down with them, to revel and roll in the debris, in their past. My knees shake, my lips sting, I feel myself weakening with their songs. Just stop. Stop walking, my love. They whisper all around my clitoris so very softly, telling me…To. Just. Stop. I start shaking again. Full-bodied shakes. Even the deadened trees bend closer to me as if to warn me with their body language, while the road spins its last piece of advice:
Stop. Spread yourself into this road and all that was before, that will remain after, and always will be. Add your ages to this road.
I begin to whisper my SOS as my teeth chatter against each other, I feel one break. I whisper anyway, as the blood in my mouth spills out, down my chin and onto the white tongue the road has become. My blood vanishes almost as soon as it hits the gravel. I choke and feel the partial cracking of another tooth; I bite my tongue, hard. My body tremors from the inside up, sending urine down my legs and tears from my eyes, and snot and blood from my nose. I release the meager contents of my bowels into the road. Everything fluid within me is leaking out, or escaping, or even being withdrawn from me as I whisper my plea. I feel my head emptying of desire. I pull my hands up to my chest and try to steady myself. If I sink into this road it will consume me. I will cease to be. I stutter my whispers, it’s no wonder I’m not heard. I’ve forgotten the face of the hill cat. I try to picture the doves, circling overhead. I am overwhelmed with so much pain that I am emptied of the visions in my head. I swallow my blood and a piece of tooth. It goes down hard. I see the tree branches move in, and with black, shadow puppet hands they come down over me, lashing at my face, my chest. They hook me and drag me toward the fence just as my body begins to smoke and combust. I feel the sizzling on my arms and all at once I am engulfed in white fire. Still, the branches pull, propelling me toward the low-resting, chain-link fence almost instantly. My clothes are melting to my skin; my face is smoldering and stretching with blistering lips, my feet leave the ground, hovering atop the pyre that fills the road. I bury my face in my hands, hoping I will be dead soon, and, in an instant, the burning stops, the fire goes out. The trees have sidled me along the fence, and like a ball I curl into a fetal position, so much more resembling one of their dead leaves than a person. Only now, I’m on the other side of the fence. I never realized my own burn-hole was now in league (aligned) with all the others.