I don’t know how long we walk over there; I can only compare it to the days I have out here. I’ve been walking now for nine nights, this side, nonstop, while I’m supposed to be sleeping. That’s the thing I don’t know though. I asked my wife the other day, “you ever wake up and I am just not here?” She said no and that I was freaking her out, so I didn’t press the issue.
I know when I leave, and go over there, because I always wake up on my knees, and for the first chunk of time I can’t seem to get my bearings on the place. It feels like I am trying get up and go running on an ice sheet.
Finally the sun comes, then the grass, and soon I’ll hear her frustrated little cough and I will look up and there she’ll be. “Let’s go,” is what she usually says to me.
Then we walk. I got to say something about the lay of the place. I remember reading in history books that when the first European settlers showed up on the new American continent (which wasn’t really new at all, but I don’t want to digress), they were amazed at the abundance of wildlife and vegetation. I remember one guy writing how fish literally jumped into the boat, that’s how abundant things were.
For the next couple hundred years or so the only thought on everyone’s mind seemed to be to tear through this impenetrable Edenic jungle and get to the “other” side, come hell or high water (there were plenty of both). Now these days we see a sort of artificial organization of cities, roads, businesses, suburbs, and then farm lands, and then ever dwindling areas of open free space. Well, over there it’s like how it was back in the day I think, jungle, deep, deep, jungle.
Now I love the outdoors in small doses, with a return to home promised at the end. So, I am in no way an outdoorsman, and this has become something of an issue. The Muse doesn’t seem to have the same problem. Slimmer, and apparently familiar with the terrain, she weaves herself easily through the jungle.
She won’t wait either when I start to get caught up, and a panic sets in that I am going to be left alone, forever, over there. That’s the thing, she hasn’t told me where we are going exactly. She just tells me to walk and then starts walking.
The only thing that can stop her is a really ridiculous comment or complaint. That’s the other thing, she hates us, like people I mean, human beings. She thinks we are a race of stupid, lazy children, less noble than the cow of the field, and more dangerous than the vipers in the tree, or something like that.
There something with the colors over there too. I never really noticed it in our world before, but now I do, that color is so abundant and meaningful in the world. Flowers, trees, in the water. It was like I was looking at the world for the first time.
It’s not all rainbow and butterflies either though, not at all. A purple field grass grows everywhere, which is beautiful, but if bumped up against, it can easily slice you up. Imagine encountering a field of that, after huffing it through the densest jungle ever; it’s pretty demoralizing.
Thing is though, there’s always a way through. I have to search all over the ground for a trace of her, but then I’ll find it, one little heel print of hers that will lead me right back to it. Sometimes I get so lost in it, so turned around, that I end up surrounded on all sides by that purple, razor-bladed, prairie grass.
Always the key over there is to remain calm. It is the frenetic anxious movement which gets you in trouble. Anxiety just seems to make the world bubble up even faster all around you. Usually now if trapped, I’ll just stop, sit down and wait it out.
The beauty is shifty over there. The sky seems to roll in color and consistency, and from night to day. I heard the singing the first time, in one of the purple prairie fields. It was like a choir singing, and the more you tuned into it, the more it started vibrating down into your heart and out to the rest of your body. I don’t know…weird shit for sure.
She caught me listening to it one time. My eyes most have been staring off too long into space, concentrating on it. She smacked me in the back of the head. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Oh shit, stop! What is that singing?” I asked.
“The singing is your death sentence, stupid. I’ve told you a hundred times you better stop asking questions.” She had ordered that, a hundred times at least, but I couldn’t keep walking any more. I needed a break, so it was time for a round of stupid questions.
“Sounds like a choir,” I said.
“To you,” she answered.
“What does it sound like to you?”
“Like the death wails of a thousand of my brothers and sisters.”
“That’s awful,” I said. “What is it?”
“It’s not an ‘it’. But you’re probably too dumb to get what I mean by that.”
She was right, so I didn’t say any thin and just started walking. This was the first time I had ever been ahead of her, and I could hear her mumbling to herself behind me. “Fucking donkey. Idiot errands. Goddamn babysitting bullshit; I’m tired of this shit.”
In full disclosure what she was saying really hurt my feelings. It’s the strangest thing to describe, but in this whole experience, the cyclical torture and then the walking, and all the yelling, I had sort of grown attached to her. Stockholm-syndrome, I guess. I can see that clearly, in the light of day, but over there, things are different. It made me cry, and I struggled to hold it together.
“Oh goddammit,” she yelled. “Are you crying again?”
I didn’t say anything, but swallowed it back hard and walked even faster. “Oh now you walk,” she yelled after me. “Slow as a tortoise for a week now, but now suddenly you got steam. That’s great cowboy! Have at it bud!”
That was it, that use of the word “bud.” My Dad always called me bud as a kid. Older now, I can’t stand for another adult to call me “bud”. It just seems so patronizing and condescending. I snapped.
“What gives you the goddamn right to talk to me like that? You’re powerful, but like you said, you’re a fucking errand boy, right? A hamster on a goddamn wheel! And you think you’re all high and mighty, with your privileged information, and think your’e so much better than me, but I’ll tell you something, if I knew everything you know, and if I could do what you can do, I wouldn’t waste my time harassing innocent people!”
Somehow in all that I ended up with my hands tight around her shoulders.
“You would be dog meat before you even had a chance,” she said. It was so dry and lifeless, like wind through fall leaves. I realized I had made a big mistake touching her.
“Why?” I pushed on, right in her beautiful face. “Tell me what is going on! Where are we walking to? What is this all about?”
She responded by turning away and walking faster. I followed, because really, what else could I do? We walked until I woke up. Then it was back to normalcy. Diapers, breakfast, running around chasing children. In full disclosure I have to admit that all of this is really starting to get to me. My patience has bottomed out, and I am always so tired, so horribly tired. Tired with tiredness. I also feel like I’m about to burst from tension.
My wife can sense something is wrong, but she just has no frame of reference for this type of thing. When she gets home from work all she can say is that I should lay down, take a rest. But what she doesn’t understand is that even when it looks like I’m resting, when I have collapsed on the couch, I am really walking over there, and there is no way to stop.
Next night, we came upon the three people, the first other “real” people I have seen there. They stare at me, wordless, zoned out and sort of blank looking. We had been walking for hours. She still wasn’t saying a word to me. She doesn’t even acknowledge the three people standing there beside the trail, in pajamas. She just keeps walking.
We start walking up this high mountain, which is so huge and runs into the distance for ever and ever. I try to get her to stop, but I’ve run out of dumb questions.
I lose track of her halfway up the thing. Not that it made any difference really. After that for a couple nights, all I would catch is glimpses of her flowing robes, as I rounded a curve, and then she would be gone. Sometimes I hear things hunting me on the mountain. I can sense myself being stared at. On the mountain there are too many places to hide, so I never see what it is.
I catch a glimpse of her on a peak, one night, with an orangey moon floating behind her. She was gorgeous and terrifying, and in my strange broken mind, the only thing I felt was worthlessness, that I was even watching her like that. My mind taunted me. What could she want with me? What was this place? Would I ever get out of this loop?
I got stuck on the mountain later that nigh. I tried to find the trail which I had been following, but with no success. The only thing was the ledge and the sky, and there was no where to go. I finally sat down on a bulge in the massive wall of rock and just sort of waited, hoping beyond hope that my wife or one of my children would come to wake me up soon. It was freezing. My socks were frozen lumps of ice.
I tried to close my eyes and sleep over there. I know that sounds stupid, a little too meta probably, but it’s the truth. The weird thing is when you try to sleep over there that music starts up, and the more you drift into the darkness the louder it gets. And when you hear it, it’s like someone shoved a battery down your throat, because you are overwhelmed with an anxious, surging energy.
Last night, I found the trail again and started making my way down the other side of the mountain. I caught the briefest glimpse of her garment at one point but then it was gone again. I walked along and for the first time it dawned on me that maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad. I mean the air was fresh and warm and the trail had leveled off. I thought why not just slow down and enjoy it for what it was. I rarely get this type of quiet alone time in real life, why not enjoy it?
As I descended more bushes and trees began to pop up out of the rocks. At first there were sort of rough looking, curled and very little leaves, but as I got further down the mountain, they started rising above me and into the sky. I came around another curve and saw a a glowing green forest in the distance. I had lost all trace of the Muse too.
I followed the trail down the mountain and came to the edge of the Pine forest. It probably goes without saying, but this was the weirdest forest I’ve ever seen. First thing, there is a neon green type of Pine tree over there. Its nettles gives off a very strange, sulfuric smell. Everything in the forest, all the plants and wild life, are coated in this green power. They seem to have adapted to it. Their dark yellow eyes are the only thing that undermines their perfect camouflaged selves, as they peek over limbs and from behind trees. Everywhere you look is coated in shades of this green.
Right as I was about to pick up a handful, she popped up. “It’s a severe hallucinogenic. It can penetrate the skin. It’s responsible for much of the madness in the artistic world. Get too much on you, or god forbid, eat it, and you might end up catatonic in the real world, and stuck in this place, for ever.”
“How am I supposed to get through then?” I asked.
“Carefully,” she answered, before swiftly walking away.
The way forward was blocked with thick trees, coated with this neon green dust. There was absolutely no way forward without getting it all over me. I looked all over for another way around. But it was either back up the mountain, or through the forest.
I was about to say fuck it and just head back the other way. She wasn’t waiting for me, so why should I continue to follow her? I started on the trail back up the mountain, but then the strangest laugh broke out from somewhere high up in the cliffs. My whole body broke out in sickening goosebumps. It was so human, yet so crazy, and something else, something tortured The laughter chased me back down into the forest and then stopped.
I had no choice. I tucked my hands in my shirt, and pulled it up over my nose, and headed in. As I tiptoed into the forest, my feet inevitably were coated in this neon-green pine dust. Oh that’s an important point. Whenever your wake up over there, you are wearing whatever you had on over here, presumably your pajamas.
And because I can’t sleep with shoes on (not yet anyway), I am usually and unfortunately barefoot over there. For those first few weeks I had nothing but my boxers, but at I got smart and I started wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt to bed.
So I am walking through this forest, and my feet started glowing with this neon tint. As it keeps layering up, I started forgetting everything she told me about it. It was like every slight brush of the pine nettles erased a little memory, starting with the most recent and working its way back months, then years. Until I couldn’t remember anything.
A sliver of moonlight caught my eye and broke the spell. I realized I was now deep in this forest. Both hands were piled high with this dust. Somehow I had filled my hand like this.
It was like I was wearing green bubble. Everything shimmered with this viridescent haze. Merged with it, in this horrible twisted state, the only thing I knew was I’d made a big mistake.
Next thing I knew I had to cough, bad. I started choking, and stupidly, I brought my hands to my face, rubbing this green crap all over. The unfortunate result was the most beautiful, intoxicating forgetfulness I have ever felt. Just smushed right back into my face. I merged with the dust and was nothing.
And how did that make me feel, dear reader, being nothing? I can’t even put it into words really. You know the dopamine rush you get when you hear the favorite part, of your favorite song? It was like that, times a million, on ecstasy, and you never have to work, get sick, or suffer any sort of loss or hardship ever again. Isn’t that great?