One

by Owaiz

I was walking, just as I had been walking. I looked to the left, to the horizon, where the sky met the earth. I looked back, a long winding road that I’d been travelling on. I looked straight ahead and the road continued forever. I shake my head, lost. It looks the same whether I look forward or behind. I have been carrying a rucksack, collecting things on the way. I should have dropped it, but the only way I know I have come far is by collecting the thorns, the pebbles, and all the miseries that came my way.

Where from? Where to? I don’t know.

I look to the left again. I drop the sack, get off the path, and start walking toward the horizon.

I see it, a dark cloud. I continue walking, one foot in front of the other. Tired to death, my feet seem to have a mind of their own, walking automatically, refusing to stop, sapping my energy.

As I get closer, I see a wall and a gate in the cloud. The more I walk, the clearer the picture gets.

The gate is open. A shadow is moving mechanically, repeating the same motion over and over.

I reach the cloud, the open gates. There is no wind, no breeze, but it’s freezing. I look back to where I came from, that abandoned path.

I walk in. Dead trees greet me. Not a single leaf on them. Somewhere in the distance a crow caws. One single ‘caw,’ as if signaling to the shadow, announcing my arrival. Now it is eerily cold. This is like a scene from a horror movie, and I know better than to go in. I am the one who calls the actors stupid when they go in. ‘Run, run, run you idiot! Why must you go in? You’re going to get killed.’ I am the one who says, ‘If it were me, I’d get the fuck out and run the fuck away.’ The movies never made sense in that regard.

And, yet, here I am, not running away.

The shadow is busy in the center. My feet are bare, the soil cold on my feet. I walk on moist, dead leaves. Not a sound. Silence is the only sound.

The shadow is aware of my presence, but doesn’t look up. A wave of cold runs through me. Goosebumps.

I reach the shadow. It’s a human wearing a cloak. I can’t see its face or hands. His sleeves are long, a hood pulled over his face. A shovel in his hands, digging.

Caw! The crow caws insistently. The shadow turns its face toward me, without looking up, then starts digging again.

“Whose grave are you digging,” I ask.

The shadow floats to one end of the grave. A staff appears in his hand.

“Rest,” he writes. It is a command. I look back once more, turn around, look in every direction. The horizon is crashing, the earth disappearing from all ends, chipping away in black squares, disassembling. The world starts getting smaller, the sky falling lower with big square holes in it.

Chipping away, disappearing into nothingness. 

The shadows taps the staff on the ground lightly, points toward ‘Rest.’

I am tired. The journey has been long. I want to rest.

The grave appears inviting. I climb down and lie on my back.

A gust of wind blows, lifting the hood off the shadow, and I get a glimpse at my own face.

I lie in the cold, lazily, ready to sleep, and watch my shadow cover me with dirt. I watch my own body lying cold as I cover it with dirt.

My eyes remain open. I can’t close them. I realize I am not breathing.

I look up at my shadow. I look down on my cold body.

Dirt. Darkness. Death.

The shadow picks the staff again and continues writing where he left off.

“In Peace,” he adds.

The world continues chipping away. A strong gust of wind turns my shadow into powder, blowing it away.

Square tiles.

32…

16…

8…

4…

2…

One with the universe.

Period.

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