Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Silent Room: Part 13

(The prompt doesn't obviously connect to the actual writing, but I think I took the feeling/sounds of emptiness and silence and things not quite adding up in writing this)

Number 11

Number 11 had been walking for hours. The sun had passed high and hot and was deep into the sweltering, burning part  of the day.  He must have started out in the morning, though he hadn't realized it from the height of the sun.

Sweat ran in rivulets down his arms and back, down the backs of his knees and calves. The heavy fabric of his coveralls itched and stuck, pulling at him as he walked.  He wished he could strip and leave the coveralls behind. Wished he had brought the coffee thermos with its two swallows of coffee with him. It would have been extra weight to carry, but it would have given him the hope of finding water to fill it with.   Whenever he found water that is. Even a muddy creek was sounding appealing at the moment.

The last of the cheese biscuits had been eaten up some time after the morning heat had made it clear that the biscuit would either disintegrate into inedible particles or be saturated with his own sweat if he waited too long. He had opted to eat them.  After that he had forced himself to be thankful for the napkin to wipe his sweat away rather than regretful. He lifted his feet in perpetual motion, forcing away the memory of the biscuits and the coffee. Again.

The field went on and on ahead of him.   Rows of turned earth running away from him as if he was the center of its universe. Ahead of him a distant row of trees lined an edge that never arrived.  He was starting to feel as if he was caught in as endless a repeating loop as the one he had left behind.  For a moment he would start to feel as if the trees were drawing closer. Then, energy restored, he would take a few more sure steps forward... only to find that somewhere in those few steps the world had shifted slightly and the trees were as far away again as they had ever been. 

He thought about dropping his napkin, just to see if he came on it again a half mile further down this dusty imprint he was calling a track.  Even as he thought it, he pressed it to his forehead and watched as the trees literally shifted away from him as he walked toward them.

He stopped. Lack of food and water was obviously getting to him.

He turned in a slow circle, taking in the vastness of the fields, looking for any deviation or change.  The fields with their neat exact rows stretched seamlessly away from him.  Trees rimmed the distant edges in all directions, except for the one from where he had come.  He turned back toward the direction he had come, staring at the even rows as if they could speak and give him answers if only he knew the right questions to ask. The house itself was no longer visible.  He had another choice to make.

Keep going forward with no food and no water and not even a hint of forward motion toward anything that resembled people and where he would be forced to sleep on the hard packed earth under the wide open sky.  Or return back to that strange empty house with its haunting demon dreams and its slim possibility of food and water.   The basket of food this morning represented that someone knew he was here. Or there.  Maybe they would come back again.   Could he face dreaming again if it meant someone gave him food?
His shoulders slumped, and with the exhausted plod of someone past the end of his reserves and running on brute willpower alone, he began the long walk back the way he had come.

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