A preview of the
When time turned to jelly,
and harm felt encouraging.
These were the last signs of life.
Once everyone realized what the deal was, the evacuation became robotic, rather mechanistic, unemotional, almost boring, really. Eyes became hollow shadows in faceless heads. One got the feeling you were walking by the same fence in a neighborhood you used to know, but didn’t want to remember. You didn’t want to remember it was the same portion of the same fence, endlessly passing by, no matter how far you walked, no matter how fast or how slow.
You didn’t want to remember there was no place to go, but you went anyway, and wondered why all these people in the line were doing the same thing.
You wondered how you got here, and where these other people came from and who they were, but in a gray mist of indifference you couldn’t quite make them out, sheathed as they were in a featureless fog of pulsating neon strobe lights.
People’s feet became heavy, scuffing silently along a well worn turf of matted, yellow grass, as the passing landscape tasted like a kind of argumentative indigestion on an endless path to a park you couldn’t quite remember, or to a building that you could recall with some trepidation, with green doors and dirty window panes, and a lock that wouldn’t lock.
Shadows disappeared into colorless pulsations, nuanced by samenesses you fancied were slightly different, cluttered and stacked like mousetraps that could no longer click, like bits of breeze in a cloudy sky you weren’t quite sure were blowing. Suddenly afraid of the sky, you were afraid to look up.
Feeling became indefinable, uneventful, purposeless. Nobody spoke with any kind of animation. Enthusiasm, seldom remembered, had given way to a barely audible snaggle of snarls and snorts, aggravated, impatient and mildly intolerant, yet reluctantly polite. You knew you were here, but weren’t quite sure where that was.
Your breath became labored, but not unpleasantly so. More of a nuisance than a favor.
Ardor was something that had formerly existed but was now a forgotten ancient trait. Time became an anxious enemy, yet would not stop. One would no longer talk about life or growth as if the subject had suddenly become forbidden. There was only the walking, and nobody could tell if their feet hurt or not, though some found it uncomfortable and moaned.
The line just moved along. We weren’t sure of where we were going. We all knew we just had to keep moving. Nobody spoke of a destination, only of the need to move. You thought you heard someone whisper, “Keep moving, that’s how you can tell you’re still alive,” but you weren’t sure who said it, or if it had been said at all.
Religion assumed an exaggerated importance. Atheism of any kind was no longer tolerated. It was greeted with a kind of injured anger and sharp rebuke. Forced gaiety gave way to a kind of cruel insistence. Just keep moving was the rule, and gladly adhered to.
Suddenly one realized there was no sound. You were afraid to turn around. The silence was so deafening it began to hurt. You yearned for a bit of a tune you couldn’t quite remember, but it remained out of reach.
Then something worse happened. You remembered a bit of where you had been, and bits of how you had got there, but the sudden realization that you didn’t know where you were going was suddenly superseded by the fearful knowledge that there was no way you could get there, no matter how hard you tried. And yet your feet kept moving.
In between steps and breaths you tried to find a reason you spent all that time doing what you did. But it was hard to focus. Someone would cough. It broke your concentration. Then someone dreaming in the shuffling line, ever moving forward line would mumble, causing someone else to stumble. You were not sure it wasn’t you, but it broke your concentration, and you still could not recall that tune.
You briefly remembered that you had left a note somewhere that there was somebody someone could call if you couldn’t be found or resuscitated, but you couldn’t remember who or where that was, where you had left it, to whom it may have been addressed, or whether you had written it all.
And then suddenly you realized that all that time you were walking and thinking about all the things you forgot to do that suddenly you realized you were in the same place walking in the same direction you used to know in that same neighborhood that suddenly you now chose to forget.
The damned fence. You never even learned what was on the other side of it. A fond memory had suddenly and unexpectedly become distasteful to you, and you resented remembering it.
Where you went remains a matter of speculation to no one but yourself. What was certain was that there was no way you could communicate to anyone else where you had gone and what you thought, though this was something that had never occurred to you before.
Then you thought how much the same this was in all those minutes you had lived, in all those miles you had traveled, all walking down that same path with people you had known or didn’t know whom you hadn’t told where you were going or what you knew, so how could you expect for them to find you now. Even if you even remembered who they were, you wondered if they would remember you, without ever gauging how warmly that recollection might be.
And then you remembered that once upon a time you remembered where at least you thought you were going, but now that you had finally reached your destination, you no longer remembered where that was. So you just kept walking as the scuffing sound of crinkling cellophane whispered silently in the breeze you could no longer feel.
Someone further down the line sobbed that he wished he had fought harder to stay alive, but you couldn’t be sure that’s what he actually said. Then a stabbing pain in your foot alerted you to a pebble in your shoe so you wondered whether it was worth the effort necessary to remove it.
Then you wondered if all this was what happened before you die or afterwards, but ultimately decided it didn’t really matter, because either way, you were as good as dead.
So ask yourself now, while you still can, if you don’t ask questions about matters of life and death that definitely affect yourself, are you as good as dead?
John Kaminski is a writer who lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida, constantly trying to figure out why we are destroying ourselves, and pinpointing a corrupt belief system as the engine of our demise. Solely dependent on contributions from readers, please support his work by mail: 6871 Willow Creek Circle #103, North Port FL 34287 USA.