I have been walking for quite some time when I realize my thirst has grown to the point of urgency. The landscape morphed again a while back and now includes a large number of trees. The narrow, dirt path in front of me curves to the right. I assume the next fresh water spring will appear around that bend but there is no way to be certain. Though I’ve rarely been made to go without water or food for too long, there have been a few times when I thought I might pass out from the lack of one or both. It’s unwise to take anything for granted here. There is nothing to do but keep walking.
My assumption proves correct and I come upon the spring about thirty minutes later according to my mental clock. Time is not a measured quantity here, by which I mean simply there is no way to measure it. Living without some concept of time is maddening so I rely on how it feels to me. The distance to the spring felt like thirty minutes. But I am here now. Thank goodness! I kneel on the bank and drink my fill, wondering how long I will be allowed to stay and rest this time. Had I found a companion here when I arrived, we would have been allotted extra time to know each other. Today I am alone.
I sit and drink some more, waiting for the landscape to begin another transformation. That will be my cue to move on. For now though I can relish a few moments of peace. The spring is really lovely this time. The trees surrounding it provide a comfortable shade. They look like magnolias with slender branches supporting large white blooms. Their graceful shapes are reflected perfectly in the clear, clean water.
As I sit, I wonder again why I am not like the others. When I woke in this place some time ago, my memory was flawed. I did remember my name, Kim. I knew I had come from a place where there were lots of people like me, where there were buildings and beds and bathrooms. (What I wouldn’t give for a bathroom!) But there was much I couldn’t remember; all the details of my previous life were gone as were the names of family members and friends. My memories were vague, misshapen. I mostly just knew that I was Kim, that I had once been known to and valued by people who loved me.
The others here have not been so lucky it seems. They have no memories at all, literally waking up each morning with no memories of yesterday, as if they were brand new. “Today I am called Star,” one might say when we meet. “Let us be nameless and take pleasure together,” I might hear from another. Usually now I acquiesce. Such meetings occur on no discernible schedule and the time between them is long. I don’t care anymore about the gender or color of my partners. It is beautiful here but lonely. One can’t be choosy under these conditions.
Behind me, I hear an ominous creaking and cracking begin to echo through the trees. The transformation has started. I stand and walk in the only direction available: forward. Once the transformation begins, the path behind closes up and the landscape morphs. Sometimes forest morphs into garden. Sometimes the other way around. Sometimes the landscape becomes so odd that I hardly know what to call it, with plants that look alien in shape and size and color. I’ve tried to watch the process as it occurs but my eyes always betray me. I blink and the land changes — what was is gone.
I walk. I walk and after a while, a familiar silence returns. I always hope that each new transformation will bring some other creatures with it. Birds would be wonderful. Even an ant or a beetle would be welcome. It never happens. For whatever reason, apart from the plants, we are the only living creatures here. And we only meet briefly, randomly. I don’t understand how this place, this world, survives without some connection between living things. I don’t understand. I only know that I must walk, that I must keep walking until another resting place is reached. There is no place to go but forward.
So I move on — one foot placed in front of the other, one step at a time. I walk. This is how the day will pass. This is how the day will pass until darkness falls and I arrive at the next place of rest. There I will find plants bearing fruit and more water. I will eat and drink. I will lay my head down and try to sleep. As I close my eyes, I will repeat my nightly litany of identity. I will speak aloud to the silence of this place. “I am Kim,” I will say. “I am Kim. I am Kim. I am Kim.”
© Karen Kleis – All Rights Reserved
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