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My eyes shot open. In front of me was a gray ceiling. The heavy weight of its coolness fell onto my eyelids; I felt them closing. My head began to float, and I became one with my breathing.
I shuddered. My knee projected itself into the early morning air. The numbness in my body was slowly going away. I felt the movement of my toes and the rubbing of my hands against the cotton sheets.
I got onto my knees and looked outside my window. Yes, what an early morning. A breeze washed onto my face, and as the gentle sunlight struck my eyes, I batted my eyelids violently.
Upon opening them again, I saw the Lone-Candid Mountain. Only seven hundred and twenty-three meters high, it seemed disproportionately gigantic over the green and yellow plain and the sparse village poking through the vegetation. Wiping my aching eyes, I saw a dynamic, cynical morning sky stained with blotches of gray and blue. In contrast, the patchy meadowland glowed with golden light.
Below the window was a man—Terry—who gazed up at me, calling my name. Somehow, in the drama of the yellow sunlight that splashed onto the ground that connected the brick pavement to the wall of my house, I couldn’t see the eyes and nose on Terry’s yellow face. All I could see was a small red mouth moving as it spoke to me.
“My bag, David!”
I got up and grabbed Terry’s old leather bag that he’d left in my place the other day. I heaved it out the window to him. Yawning, I watched him run into his cab and ride away.
After getting dressed, I walked down the road of the countryside. The cool autumn wind blew passive-aggressively through the dark strands of my hair and strange sensations pervaded my body. Since losing my job last week I hadn’t been able to rest. Today that restlessness seemed to have reached the crux of my being. My head was filled with thoughts, but those thoughts were of no substance. I’d expected that without employment I would finally be free from the ferocious grasp of responsibility. And I am—only to be locked inside the indestructible cell of my mind.
Is it boredom? And what if it was? What could I possibly do to rid myself of this misery?
I eventually arrived at the Vernica Roman Catholic Church. Once inside, I joined the group of people of mostly women saying prayers on the pews. Clasping my hands together and clutching them between my legs, I lowered my chin to my shirt collar and began my share of prayers. But today, I paused and really thought about what I wanted to pray for. After a few seconds, however, I came up with nothing, so I said hesitantly the same prayers I’d said each time before.
I gazed up to a large Jesus on the Cross at the front of the church room. He looked different today; His essence bore a realness I had never perceived before, and his body was humid and dirty. There was optimism and anguish in that voice as it said to me: “There is nothing any of us can do.”
I noticed that I had begun to sweat. It’s becoming hot in here. As the pits of my shirt soaked up in moisture, I looked around at the women praying in thick, long-sleeved dresses and dark cloaks. I felt so near to them; I could hear every word, every sigh, and couldn’t help but feel a sense of empathy for them.
Suddenly, I saw the stone walls of the church moving. It was closing in on us. The more I looked, the more it came in. Soon, we were all squeezed together in the relentless heat, all praying and shouting. I could feel the oppressive wool of their coats against my skin and their hot breaths on my face.
We all radiated with hot energy. The heat torched my chest, and I felt nauseous.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I abruptly stood up from the pew and hurriedly exited the church.
Under the scorching afternoon sun, I made my way to a restaurant in a small city for lunch and stayed there until six.
I took a glance at the bleeding sky above—the pink clouds looked young, like a baby’s flesh—and put on my coat as I met the cold air. The city buildings surrounding me stood tall. The animation that had permeated them during the day was withering away, blown by the sunset to the outdoors in the form of people scattered on the red streets.
Crowds of people walked busily past me. I felt uneasy. On their faces, I saw painted a sort of panic or fear, a universal anxiety as they all left the locations of their occupations and quickly headed home.
I stopped. I realized that I had been in their position just a week ago. Upon this realization, I felt their energy invade the muscles of my face, and then my chest, my arms, my legs. My head used to always be buzzing—it had adapted to the constant pacing of my feet and mind, the constant noises of people, traffic, phones, and my quick breathing as I’d run from one train station to the other—but today, it only felt heavy and sluggish. I used to be afraid to be outside, afraid of the outdoor air that would pervade me as I breathe it in and the awakening it would lend me.
I gazed up to the sky—it was red and swirling, casting shades over the dark, moist ground, thoroughly polluting it.
I continued through the streets and soon found myself walking down a side road that looked over a dusky town beneath. Its structures blended into each other, and their energies flowed slowly through the murky streams of shadows. Next to the town was a fjord on which two masted ships sailed. The water reflected the black shadows of the boats and the redness of the atmosphere. At the horizon was a dormant mountain range.
Then something caught my attention. A few meters ahead of me was a tall man in black clothing panting, his broad shoulders heaving. He stood with his left hand rested on the railing next to the pavement. I saw no hair on his head. He seemed to turn paler while his body swayed and distorted, synchronizing with the churning background beyond the side road. I walked past as he liquefied into the ground. Looking back, I saw his wide-open eyes and mouth just before they disappeared against the cement.
The sun was gone, and the night had completely settled in. The redness had retreated, and left behind was a clear night sky. I lifted up my watch: it was nine o’clock. Had a day gone by already? For a moment, I wasn’t sure whether tonight was a continuation of this day or the day before.
I stopped at a bridge and gazed over the wide, dark river that flowed underneath. Upon the river reflected the bright streetlights of the city, making their way steadily down the cool ripples of the water.
At my feet lived a group of beautiful purple irises. Their leaves reached out and their pedals quivered silently. They moved as if the matters that constituted them were oscillating back and forth within a supernatural space. I felt strange suddenly. I felt something was wrong.
When I raised my head, I had to blink twice. Tonight, the stars glowed, yellow like a lamp’s gleam. They were large; they seemed close. Their light swirled intensely around them, stirring the sky. The landscape looked like it had fallen into bits and imperfectly pieced back together.
The scene before me had taken me, and I found myself choking up tears when I became aware of that wonderful, agonizing beauty.
I went on. And as I arrived back in the countryside, I passed by Vernica’s Roman Catholic Church. I paused to look at the stone building. It was still, and inside was dark. It no longer radiated that frightening, desperate heat it had that afternoon. Now, it was only a cold, lifeless structure. Staring at its walls and roof, I was almost calmed.
Continuing down the road, I realized for the first time that there was no one else around. There was no other life but white butterflies fluttering amongst the flowers next to the dirt road and black crows hovering above a nearby wheat field. They all stirred and swayed, becoming more and more mystical. I turned to my left, to my right, and then behind me: I was surrounded by an unceasingly wavering terrain that kept inching closer. I thought I could soon feel the scratchy exterior of the wheat on my legs and the surface of the churning sky on my head. There was no person around to break that space.
I could not run away: there was nowhere to go. I could not move. It then finally occurred to me: there was nothing I could do.
A crow flew past me. I lost my balance. I fell backward onto the strange ground—I could feel nothing. Above me, I saw the stars again. I felt them digging into my soul. I shut my eyes, but still, the darkness couldn’t help me escape from the unbearable silent motion of the landscape.