Once upon a dream
A familiar place a familiar feeling, a familiar city with an unfamiliar teaming of nothing but broken roads and lonely structures, and so I walk. A river still and wide, it beckons me as caring guide to places I most want to go in all the world, and all I know is home is far away. But still I walk.
Walking becomes nothing as the river bends and sways to musing’s memories that melt and run away, and all the dream’s a play while all the world stays still but me. Far and far I walk to day to night this shifting place this drifting time where rivers criss and cross and fray upon their banks across a city floods emotion’s loss of everyone but me. In a haze of toward delays, of water drops and falling steps I walk.
A bridge I know, a cornerstone of stability in running memory stands tall and golden near yet far while exhaustion burns, and walking turns to falling, and desperation becomes crawling. All I want to do is sleep upon this busy street of stalling cars and falling stars, to just lie down and weep and dream within a dream. Yet still I crawl.
A rippling change stabs my back, imagination’s blunt attack becomes a diving sound that echoes far and all around in thundering familiar. Changing storms a world of peace and nothing with melting forms and downward somethings, where shifting paths begin to configure beneath the surface falling ground with water surfaces vapor drowns away. Beyond my vision, moving on, I see the silhouette of a stranger. I want to pause, to wonder asunder everything, but my actions are no longer mine. The dream demands I walk.
He is old and tired, dressed in grey, a nondescript man with a disheveled beard and tired eyes that glitter and weigh with bloodshot pressure cracks of long nights and infinite days. His back is bent in tiresome toil, a crude shovel in his hands of twisted metal, and down he travels, moving shale and coal and things unknown to places far away. He bids me follow. I walk.
He does not talk, and neither do I, this tired man beneath the earth. I want to ask, to offer help, but not all burdens can be shared. He moves with purpose, shoveling on, while I step with listless movements, shuffling down and down and down. The walls contort and change and run as light begins to creep from all and none, fighting through such narrow cracks until time dies away at thankful last. A forever instantly passes while we walk.
A marvel breath hushes sighs as caverns birth infinite wide such landscapes leak like tears and blur with sand and ash and rock and space. A wash of colors so muted grow throughout all time of boldest browns and grays, of dusty days, where green is not allowed to shine or blue allowed to come and play with beauty. Rock formations jagged tall contort and reach and drop from all. I don’t understand. I don’t care. Forever surrounded by wonder, I stand and stare.
“Who are you?”
“A man with a job.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Someone’s gotta do it. World won’t spin otherwise.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Not much to understand. This all needs to go. All of it”
“Or the world won’t spin?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Fuel. It’s gotta burn. The world doesn’t just spin without it. Nothing goes without something.”
Strangeness sighs a symphony while all around I’m touched with empathy and sympathy and forever stretches a brilliantly song of howling winds, and affinity touches infinity. The man works, focused on nothing but his job while the canvas around abounds with want. He works; I talk.
“Do you want help? You look tired. I can help you.”
“Nope. A man needs a job, and I have one. Been working at this for … forever.”
“But don’t you want a break? To rest?”
“I used to. But now it’s what keeps me going. If I stop, then I’ll stop forever.”
“Are you afraid of death?”
“Then find a job that will keep you going forever. You can. I did.”
“Be in the right dream at the right time. That’s how I did it.”
He stops his work, this withered man of blisters, aches, and desperate whisper to point at me and then the sky where time is right and dreams collide with the universe. Far above in brilliant light, Earth’s core now touches on my sight, crafting a cascading crashing power of reds and oranges, blues and greens, pinks and white in storming passion behind a sleeping night not meant for eyes. Reflection lighting thrashes howling perfection of expanding colors that dance and dance and dance in radiating forever. The core it sets as speechless wets my lips and tired fading begins to set. For one last moment we talk.
“This place is gorgeous. Amazing.”
“I used to think so. Now it’s just a place. Just a job. But you have to go now.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You have to. But thanks for talking. Most don’t. Most only watch.”
“I’ll remember you.”
“That’s all I ever ask. Goodbye.”
I awake to the empty hours of a humid morning, unsure of everything yet secretly hoping that luck or fate or pointless chance had granted me a view into truth. May such a perfect place exist, and may that man keep the world moving. May dreams forever come true.