by Dan Sanders
There’s no way to know where we are in the loop. The circle. The bend. I don’t know what it is. It curves subtly, into the distance. There is only the hope that it does not end, or, if it does, that it begins again.
The colors change, the terrain, the climb, maybe even pitch and yaw. It sometimes feels as though the floor moves around its axis, like we were suspended in a sudden gust of wind. It is most often just a deep blue hallway.
There are other people; I don’t know who they are most of the time. We do not speak, the only sound is the shuffling of feet, or the splashing of puddles when it rains. We continue forward and react instinctively when the ground moves or the walls shift, or we are suddenly outside or hot or cold or there is a fire in the distance. I did know know there could be a fire. I am now often worried about the possibility of fire. I assume we are all worried about the possibility fire.
I saw my mother yesterday. She was walking in the opposite direction and did not see me. She looked older than she was when she died. She didn’t stop walking. I couldn’t stop either of course, but I managed to scream. I had that much control at least, but only that much and just for a moment. I was punished with darkness.
It is difficult to know if there is sleep. There are periods of darkness, a deep moonless night, hands outstretched, stepping carefully. It’s as common as the rain or the mountain or the flooded city, and I know there are times when the loop shifts, almost instantly, and my gait is suddenly heavy, sluggish, and in mid-step. A flash of black and the landscape shifts, new neighbors appear, and I am bleary eyed, I am catching myself from falling.
We walk mostly single file, sometimes in groups. In the city we walk two by two. There are times when there is a line of people as far into the bend as I can see, and others where I am the only being, trudging a path through a dense forest. The pine needles. I am alone when I walk on the thick bed of pine needles. This is why I believe it is a loop. There is always the forest. There are always the pine needles. I am always alone when there are pine needles.
The sequence of scenes is different. The shape is consistent arc but the order of locations varies, distance, too. There was a week in the desert. A punishing hell, artificially sustained. No water, no need for it, just the pain of not having it. There was the cold, too. Six weeks in the mountains, the loop as spiral staircase, walking higher and higher through blistering cold, no end, no numbing release, just razor wind over deep snow. There was no completion of the journey, no moment of triumph on the mountain top. We are simply and suddenly on a beach, weeping relief, trudging through dense white sand, the heat of it painfully thawing our frozen feet.
The neighbors. I think of them as neighbors. People suddenly close and suddenly gone. Quiet, mild-mannered and hard working. Ideal neighbors. Good people like me, presumably. Probably. Probably I am a good person.