Slowly, to consciousness, come to and find face crushed on pavement viscous. Dirt falling from eyelashes, blinking it away, gradually bring the mind around.
On a long-stretch of road, nose full of tar, all movement meager, energy long fallen from bones. Use dwindling strength to bring back what happened. Raise hand to forehead and press down on the crumbling wound there.
Lazy eyes, too heavy for steady vision, follow the causeway forward into eternity, the last of hope falling away to bloody pavement. Walk, in an impossibly straight line, until there is nothing left, the sense of which seems present one foot is lifted and then another onward.
Notice the white line at the black road’s centre. Use the line as motivation for movement in this place, all black skies and broken desert.
The line grows when followed, and so takes to expanding into what eventually becomes the whole visual field, filling and filling like milk pouring from the sky, white paint coating the blackness of even pupils as the world goes blind save the image of self, which shields from bright chaos unnamed. Unclear and unsure memories of a long time passed fight their way to the fore: cherries in a basket, the falling of a wheel, a bird overhead and a knife to the throat.
These memories swirl, making the heart beat wild with the batting of wings, wings soon too loud to bear, a temporal disturbance complaining of a thousand jet-ships, a million bees, or a single black hole. Cat-like spine arched involuntarily, discontent coursing, cover ears with slick palms and retch.
The grinding of it, the absolute destruction, forces again to knees. Tears drip, clearing a small stream in the earth. Smudging tears with fists closed until hands and knuckles bloody, pain ebbing sound until the ugly noises move. For the first time, begin to focus on setting:
What was thought pure as milk, white as pearl, is simply a fine white dust covering a city, a city a shadow of another, at once barely remembered and peripheral, but now the only thing called company. White blank buildings, shadows subtle in the non-sunlight, stand on either side, once serving a purpose, now abandoned but not decrepit. No building a door, no entrance to anywhere Else, as anxiety delves deeper in the volcanic air falling around, heat-waves unbearable, covering skin, in disgust.
There is no question of an uncertain future. Small hairs bristle like someone’s watching, who was always watching, waiting, wondering of the pawn in this midst, in the dream world all devoid but fallen, here, like this.
But something as a squint through the glare finds… and there; found it again. A black point, the color of night sky against eternal day, floating along the horizon steady. Limping gait and tired neck, sagging arms and heavy head, hard to move on but there’s no going back. The only thing left a little dark hole singing of the end.
Soon revealed, the black becomes the desolate outline of a mahogany city, the ominous color of dried blood, cracking under the touch of stone fingers there. Within it’s boundaries, step gratefully into shadow and turn to look back, only once. An endless white stuns for one moment, before movement bears it’s wing upward toward the sky: a crestfallen hawk with a raven’s tale disappears carelessly in the molten heat of the mountainous castle ahead.
A new and elusive destination in a journey of endless ages, and staggering toward it feel for the first time the biological hope of healing. A scrap of food. A drink of water. A bench on which to rest weary self. But as comes the quiet castle door, so does the realization.
What brought about the castle’s crimson tint?
What else but the blood of thousands, of all those who once lived with litres in their veins, pouring and spilling over the turrets in smooth waves, pools of brimming burgundy surrounding the castle walls like a moat, no scrap of skin to mar the flow.
Watch as the red river flows underfoot, under the wooden, sagging bridge leading to the castle. Watch a small wave of velvety foam roll through the cardinal river, bubbling up over the bridge and onto bare feet, dying them the same red as everything. Two more steps and feet find something softer than wood to stand on, a carpet soaked but still with words stained darker than all the rest: