Monday, August 11, 2014

The Silent Room: Part 22


The walking went on and on once he finally hauled himself to his feet and resumed his steady march.  Eventually, his eyes began to play tricks.  The mirage of a farmhouse surrounded by fresh green grass beckoned.  In the landscape of nothingness, something.  He turned his steps away from the invisible wall.

He refused to wonder if he had been wrong to choose the farmhouse out of all the broad dusty landscape. The napkin would be here.  It had to be.  He refused to think about how much searching he still had to do.

By the time he got to the farmhouse, he was beyond the end of his reserves. Thick layers of dust crusted over him, sticking to the sweat- drying, cracking, chafing.  The heat had sapped away any last energy hours ago.  He was lightheaded with fatigue and hunger. Only sheer force of will put one agonizing foot in front of the other.

When he at last reached the bright green circle amid all the blowing dust bowl of fields, he fell headlong onto the grass. The damp blades of new grass pressed cool into his sun-crisped cheek.  He lay there for a long time.  He may even have passed out for awhile. Afterwards, when he thought about it, he was never sure.   He only knew that eventually he found his way to his knees to drag his body forward toward the steps.

As he clawed  his way up the porch, he saw a picnic basket sitting there.  Peaking out the top was a blue gingham napkin.

The end. The last thing.  He let out a sigh just short of a huff of relief as he settled onto the top step. Knees pulled up, his back leaned against the porch post, he just let himself stare.

The end.  But... was he ready for the next thing? What would be the next thing?  What...

He forced his thoughts to a stop. He had left all those questions and their circling gamble of answers hours ago in the dusty fields.  He didn't care anymore what the wrong or right or possible answer was. He would pick up the napkin, and it would be what it would be.  He had left hope on a beach not that long ago. Now wasn't time to be picking it up again.

A bottle of lemonade sat next to the basket. Condensation glittered on the glass.  He reached first for that. Felt the impossibly cold bottle solid under his hand.  Popping the cap off the top, he drank it long and slow, with his head tipped back.  Letting it side down his throat, gulp after gulp, until it was gone.

Once it was empty, he set it firmly on the porch beside him. He  took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. Moment of truth.  "Let's do this thing," he mumbled to the crowding air.

 He closed his eyes, leaned his head against his left fist, and in one smooth motion reached forward to grab the napkin.  His hand closed over the napkin.

Water, cold and thick, closed over his head.

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