the labyrinth

I’m somewhere in the woods, next to a river. Can’t see it but I know it’s there.  This trail’s been flooded. And I hear water.  The smell of fire lingers deep within my nose. And I’ve got my sleeping bag. It must be a camping trip. The evidence suggests so. But we don’t have a tent. The tent is with her. But she’s higher up. Further from the water. In a field next to manmade structures. Letting her canine companion run loose. She’s gotta have the rest of our supplies. Is she safe?

I can almost feel the current of the river in my chest. It’s strong enough to tell me which way its going. But that’s it. It’s not like I’m letting it lead me. I’m way too tired. Unable to walk anymore. That would take much more effort than my body wants to give. No more steps. No more energy. No more.

And no time to look at the options. None to toss around pros and cons. I guess I could jump in the river. Nah.

I’ll just get sucked into the blissful state of not giving a fuck. Let that lead me. It’s night time anyway. Nice and dark. I’ll just lay down right here. Right in the path. This smooth, flat path. The trees can be my tent. My umbrella if needed. Nobody will see me.

And then I’m gone. Sinking in to a different place. A place of rest. A place of in betweens.

Seconds pass. Or was it minutes? How long have I…

Shit, what’s that noise? I’m still here. I don’t wanna budge. Not even open an eyelid or two. Whatever it is will pass. I’m so comfortable.

It’s a voice. A man’s voice. Tapping me on the forehead. Gotta keep moving, he suggests. Interrupting the sweet absence of noise I’d been enjoying. A natural reflex of resistance fights this waking state.

I’m bombarded with a pile of fucks to give. And the pile takes human form. A wet shadow. He is concerned, shrill, and very dark. With sweat rolling down his face. An enforcer with two legs.  I didn’t ask for this. I wasn’t expecting anyone till sunrise. By then I would’ve been gone anyway.

But now I’m up. Alert, with an annoyingly present dose of paranoia. He’s waiting for me. No point in fighting it. Gotta get up. Do I have a choice?

My legs are moving now. Stumbling. But moving. Guided by the dark stranger. Growing confident and cautious. Violently tiptoeing away from the river. Up the shore and out of the forest. Where we can part ways. I can smell the relief.

He’ll continue on the trail, and I can fall back asleep. Unlike him, I have that luxury. He never rests.

Finally, he’s gone and I don’t think twice. I’m relieved. Maybe I can doze off now. I wish.

I’m up now. No longer in the woods. I’ve faded into the maze of underpasses, sterile bathroom stalls, and side streets. It’s clean and smooth. Artificial, plastic, and concrete. Looking the way Home Depot smells. The air is still and thin. And I’m ready to get the fuck out. Am I the one who gets to decide that? I wish.

Now I’m thinking about her. Am I running through this maze to get to her? Or am I trying to get away. All I know is I’m here because of her. My thoughts drift.

An interruption. A car. Silent with the headlights off. Moving slowly. Perhaps turning around. I hide in the bathroom stall. Wait a few seconds, and the coast is clear. I jump out and see more of them. The sleepwalking cars. I hope they don’t see me. They can’t see me. They’ll know I don’t belong. They can’t know.

I see the green car and I know it’s mine. It’s gotta be. Nobody’s driving the thing. Gotta claim it fast, before anyone notices. And so I do. Lifting it up with my fingertips. Carrying it above the plastic walls. Grasping the open windows. Holding on to this hollow vehicle. Hoping not to be seen. I go higher and higher. The car gets heavier. Now what? I’m not ready to face her.

Seconds pass. Or was it minutes? How long have I…



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