It’s nighttime. Clear skies, full moon, the light so bright it throws shadows. You’re outside somewhere, rough, arid terrain without any sign of trees, just scattered clumps of low-lying scrub, pale grey in the moonlight. So some kind of desert, high or low. You realize then that you should have some idea of where you are, of how you came to be there, but instead your mind is a blank. As empty, as quiet, as the sandy hills that stretch out to the horizon.
Or maybe the reason you can’t recall is because you’re so distracted. Thinking about the one key fact that defines your situation. Your predicament. There, on your shirt, a spreading stain, a blossom in the darkness. You keep telling yourself that it should hurt, that you should feel panicked. Scared. But instead you feel a mild contentment, waking up to that first day of snow, and knowing school is cancelled. You will never again face the dentist. Burden a friend with dark news. The bad thing you have always feared, it’s already happened, and somehow you’re still here.
For a while at least.
Most of you is stretched out in the sand, some kind of shallow arroyo, but your shoulder, your head, have found something firmer, a flat outcropping of rock. And when you reach up there, for no reason at all, you notice the strangest thing. The same stain, the same flower, is now smeared on its surface, thanks to your fingertips. Seeing this, everything changes. Flips. You are no longer lying down. Are standing instead in some shallow cave, those same fingers finding a wall, telling a story, leaving their mark on the world.
Which means your contentment, your languor, is suddenly gone. In its place lie a series of choices. By the time the sunlight hits those hills, you won’t be there to see it, with whatever you are, whoever you were, bled out in the sand. Only maybe, before that happens, you’ll take a bit of that sap, that ink, and use it to scrawl something on the rock. Your own name, perhaps, or the name of a loved one, or the one who left you there. To wait. To die.
Pointing fingers. Saying thanks. Or just painting a pretty little picture. All that matters is you’ve still got a choice, in the hours or minutes that remain.
A choice. Because that’s what writing is.