I lay still for a bit. The world is quiet. No airplanes overhead. No motorcycles echoing through the canyon walls. No Gus sneezing. Oh, where’s Gus?
I sit up on my elbows and look around, but I’m alone. Did it work? It couldn’t have worked. Did Melinda slip me drugs? No that doesn’t seem right, I feel okay, really. Not like I’m on drugs, anyway.
I stand and brush myself off. The sand is black here, not the red-brown of Sedona. It brushes off easily. The stones are grey, the sky is a purple, and the sun burns white. I should be scared, but I’m comfortable.
I can see mountains in the distance. It feels like they’re oriented to the west.
With nothing else to do, I walk toward the mountains. I move down a small footpath, and around a corner I’m confronted by a dense jungle. I’d thought perhaps I’d just inverted the real world in my mind, but this suggests I’d altered more than that.
I walk into the jungle. A single track footpath guides me through the jungle. It’s quiet here, too. No sounds of creatures moving or rain dripping. Have I lost my hearing? Or can a world be this silent? No no, I can hear my footsteps. I can hear the shuffling of my clothes.
I’ve always thought of the the phrase “it felt like a dream” as lazy and useless, but here I am. As I take each step along the path, my body twitches and tingles, like I’m following a predestined route. It’s almost as though I’m being controlled, forced to a specific end regardless of what I want.
Reality is fiction, Melinda says. I concentrate on myself. I close my eyes and pull back the camera to view myself in the third person. The world rotates slightly, as though it’s on an isometric plane. I can see myself. An arrow bobs up and down over my head. The landscape is dense, but the path is clear. I instruct myself to follow it.
I emerge at the foot of a mountain. This world lacks transition. I move from one landscape to the next. The entire universe washes over me and melts with each new location. I continue to travel through the world. The path is always perfect, never forking, pointing me along.
The clouds in the sky bends and move. They shake with life in one instance and appear dead in another. I come to think of the clouds as spectators. They watch me as I move. Eyes on me, all the time.
I arrive at a small cottage. It looks like the one I grew up in, but the colors are all the wrong. It smells like firewood and snow, but the ground is dry. I walk up a set of stairs and enter without knocking. The layout is different than I remember. It’s just one room. The flooring is busted and broken in places, but the ceiling is perfect. There’s no furniture, no rugs, no appliances. The walls are lined with books.
Each book is a different size and shape, but they’re all labeled and organized in a linear order. Athanasius 1. Athanasius 2. Athanasius 3. And so on. I sit down on the floor and start reading.