Slowly, to consciousness, come and find your face crushed on pavement viscous. Dirt falling from eyelashes, blinking it away, gradually bringing your mind around.
On a long-stretch of road, nose full of tar, all movement meagre, your energy’s long fallen from bones. Use your 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 nothing and pavement. Walk, in an impossibly straight line until there is nothing left, one foot lifted and then the another, onward.
Notice the white line at the black road’s centre. Use it’s division as motivation for movement in this place, all black skies and broken desert.
But then, the line grows when followed, expanding into what eventually becomes your 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 yourself, which shields from bright chaos unnamed.
Unclear and unsure memories fight their way to the fore: cherries in a basket, the falling of a wheel, a bird overhead and a knife to the throat. And they swirl, making your heart beat wild with the batting of wings, wings 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, you cover your ears with slick palms and retch.
The grinding of it, the absolute destruction, forces you again to knees. Tears drip, clearing a small stream in the white, pale earth. Smudging tears with fists closed until your hands and knuckles are bloody, pain ebbing sound until the ugly noises move.
For the first time, you begin to focus on setting:
What had covered – pure as milk, white as pearl – is simply a fine white dust blanketing a city; a city only a shadow of another, at once barely remembered and peripheral, but now the only thing called company. White blank buildings, subtle in the non-sunlight, stand on either side, once serving a purpose and now abandoned, decrepit. No building a door, no entrance to anywhere Else, as anxiety delves deeper in the volcanic air, heat-waves unbearable, covering your 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: a squint through the glare finds… and there. Found it again. A black point, the color of night 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 SPOT 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 its boundaries you 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 blankness that lives before you.
A new and elusive destination in a journey of endless ages. Staggering around, turning for the first time to 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 else is the castle’s colour 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?
You turn down, watching the red river underfoot, under the wooden, sagging bridge leading you inside. You 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 else. Two more steps and your feet find something softer than wood to stand on, a carpet soaked but still, with words stained darker than all the rest:
You push the doors open and see. Home. Not familiar but new, and bold, and black, and bloody. Taking a knife held by a kind-eyed statue, you boil it to your bone and add yours to the place that forever calls, in dreams.
“Finally.” You sigh, as you let it all go.
Header Image Copyright Jessica Barratt