This is an astral post, so if you are not interested in such things, you do not have to read.
The road behind me is little more than dust and tumbleweeds. I have a pack upon my shoulder, but it is near empty now. The journey to this place is always long and takes many weeks to complete. That journey begins, always, in September. The second the weather begins to change, I know where I must go in an effort to get to the place and so, I head there. It is an automatic thing now. I need not think of it. I need not begin the journey with any thought in mind. Before I know it, my feet begin to walk and I am on the journey again. It can take hours and it can take days. It usually takes weeks, but sometimes, I am closer to the place. That is not the case this year. I am not close. I have been traveling like the wandering vagabond that I am for many weeks now. But I finally arrive.
I am heading to the crossroads. The first important one of my life.
When I arrive, I look upon the damage wrought. This place is haunted by ghosts. They are my ghosts and they do not haunt it majestically or with tact. They are simply there. The ghosts’ eyes are hollow and empty. Whatever life may have once been within the ghosts of those decisions has long since fled, if life ever was there. They haunt this hellish backdrop with pain and terror. It is everywhere – the pain, the terror. It has soaked into the very ground upon which I tread. It will never leave. The blood of those decisions has been spilled and the landscape has leeched it into the very fiber of its being.
The landscape has been destroyed by my own fire. I have wrought destruction here, on purpose. Once, I came with fire and with anger and I poured it into the surrounding. What had once been a verdant world of imagination and possibility now belongs in a movie about the Old West. The corpses of the trees are few and those that still exist are gnarled fingers pointing accusations at the slate gray sky. The bushes perished in my first onslaught all those years ago and have never regrown. They never will. The dust of the crossroads – once a faint path of well-trod beauty slicing through the verdant landscape – is now a track that bears only my own footprints. The impressions of my past meanderings disappear as quickly as they appear, as the road hungrily soaks up what little bit of myself it can drink. This placed use to be beautiful with its possibilities but now, it is a dust-filled bowl of horror.
I made it that way and whenever I see what I have done to it, I smile with amusement and glee.
It makes me feel powerful, though perhaps its destruction should not, whenever I see it.
There is a slight hillock at the apex of the crossroads and I stop there. My footprints in the dust behind me disappear with the greed of the road. I turn and look at the magnificence of my power around me. The wind kicks up and the heat of the sun above us pounds down upon our head. Everywhere we turn, we make sure that the annihilation is complete. Nothing grows here except the ghosts that haunt this worn track, and one day we will get rid of them too. But that is not yet for today. Today, it is a day for silent contemplation in a land that was created out of my own self-fulfilling prophecy. And with that manifestation of that prophecy, we destroyed it with our hatred and vitriol. And it still shows the scars of that vitriol and I am happy with its destruction.
Soon, I realize that I am not alone. I do not know why I thought I could come here without him following me. He has been in my every waking moment for the last few weeks. He had released me from the prison my mother threw me in. While I understand the reasoning for that jail, I am slightly embittered with it. She could have allowed me to do things in my own time, but rationality and logic make this difficult. Her fears are quite correct of course. I would have torn myself asunder if I hadn’t been forced into the project itself. No one could help me – only receive my angry words and my irritation. With his help, I have done a lot in the last few weeks and because I have been behaving myself – with hardly more sarcasm than usual – he said I could take a break. I don’t believe him. I strongly suspect he knew that I had a place to be today and if I failed in that appointment, it would undo all that we had accomplished together.
It doesn’t matter.
I am irritated that he is here.
I wanted to do this, per usual, completely alone. But he watches my every move, my every thought, my every emotion. I can do nothing alone anymore.
“This place is damn ugly,” he says, to break the silence.
I say nothing, but admire my handiwork. It is beautiful. All those years before, I had been just intent on making my pain felt. Without even knowing how, I had come back to this place. I remembered it, years later, but at that moment, I had did not understand why I was brought to this place in my anger and rage. And in that rage, I had destroyed everything. I had set it on fire and then burned it when it was nothing but ashes. I had salted the earth after and been pleased with the results. Nothing would grow here. Nothing would ever be able to take root again. And while my rage had been at myself, at the circumstance this crossroads had led me toward, it was the very best I could do so that I did not destroy myself in my anger. I had done plenty of things in my anger, but the destruction of the starting point was the most potent and the most thrilling.
Even now, as I stand here, it still pleases me greatly.
“I like the look,” I say into the silence. I set my pack down and sit at the apex of that crossroads. I stare into the eyes of a ghost of mine and wave it away. I pull out a meal fit for the traveler that I am – an apple, a bottle of water, a handful of berries, and a single piece of chocolate. I take a bite of the chocolate first, having never been able to pass up the sweets even in the face of such a healthy meal, and bite it in half. The uneaten half I offer to him. He takes it and settles himself beside me. His makout, he places beside my own pack. He admires the handiwork of my pack, which I had spent many waking hours sewing into creation. “It feels like a good place. I want this to be a nice place and it is. It is a deserted and empty as my soul. I like it here and I will always come here now.” I take a sip of water and say, “You let me out today on purpose.”
“I know what this place is to you, honey-child,” he replies sagely. “I knew if you didn’t get out then you would damn well go crazy. I’m pleased that I had a good enough reason to let you out.”
“It’s jail,” I explain snottily. “It’s jail.”
“It’s for yer own damn good,” he says.
“Difference of opinion,” I snark. Of course, I know that he is right. It is for my own good.
We are quite for an eternity. We are quiet for a few minutes. Time is a very strange thing. It can flow so quickly that in a single blink of an eye, we can be weeks in the future. And then, in the next second, we are back to where we were, doing what we were doing before those weeks were created. Time moves forward and time moves backward. We are old together in this place. We are young together in this place. We are many things in this place. We are all things. We are no things. We are in between. He always tells me that places like this – whether destroyed or just forming – are areas where we straddle the now and we straddle the then, where we straddle both realms. In any case, I feel none of that here, but only the strange pace of time as it moves to its own desires.
“This place just ain’t good for you no more,” he explains. I trace designed into the dust. They create little puff clouds into the world before fall back into place. Nothing moves here – not even the wind. “You come here every year and nothin’ good comes of it. You think you have to be here and ain’t no one got to be anywhere, ever. You come here to admire what you did and ignore the point behind this place. You forget what it was like. And you do that on purpose. You do not want to stew in your own guilt. But you have no guilt to feel. You are not the one who made this decision.”
“Didn’t I?” I say. My voice is husky with the depth of my emotions. “This is my crossroads – no one else’s. You’re right. I purposely forget what this place once was to me. I do that on purpose. I don’t want to remember those feelings. I don’t want to remember what it was like. And I don’t want to remember the guilt of everyone else when the decision was mine alone. I chose to head down that way; no one forced me.” I nod down the path I trod all those years before. It was the realm of self-fulfilling prophecy and I had run into it with open arms. I hadn’t know that was the direction I was going in, of course. Hindsight is, after all, twenty-twenty. “I went down there and I reveled in it at first and then –” I choke up. I cannot continue that. I cannot continue those words, those thoughts, those anything.
“You keep forgettin’ that there are a whole lot more than just a single decision that makes things happen. Whole worlds have to align to make things happen in someone’s life. And you did your part and everyone else in the situation did theirs, too. You forget that this was damn fated and ain’t nothing you coulda done to make it stop. If it didn’t happen at that second in time, it woulda happened later. You keep forgetting that this prophecy wasn’t self-fulfilling because it would have happened anyway. And because you keep forgetting that, you mire in your own guilt and you take that anger and guilt out on everyone and everything around you. You’re just like yer mama, o’ course. That’s what she does, too. But you keep forgettin’ that ain’t nobody gonna deter you from that track if you want to keep at it. No one’s settin’ you off on purpose but yerself and ain’t no one gonna stop you when you burn everything down around you.”
“I hate when you’re logical,” I say good naturedly. I take a bite of my apple. It is bitter with the juice but it is sweet on my tongue. “You make such logical pronouncements and you make me grow deep inside. You make such comments and I know, deep down, that you are right. I keep coming back her because I want to be righteous in my anger and I want to destroy it all. I want to destroy every second that I have felt that guilt and that horror. I want to obliterate the very memory from my being and I know that I can’t. No matter how long it is and no matter how much time has passed, it will fucking be there. And I can either accept it or I can fight it. And I don’t know anything else but fighting.” Startled, I feel a single tear slide down my cheek. I had not known that I would cry. I had spent so many years studiously not crying in this place that even a single tear drop is a marvel and is frightening.
“You need to stop coming here, honey-child. You need to move forward.” He looks around at the place that is under his purview. Even all those years before, he had known what my purpose was when I came back to this place and he let me destroy his domain without censure. I have always wondered about that. “And maybe, we can begin to grow this place back.”
“I salted the earth,” I begin but he reaches out and waves his gnarled fingers at what had once been a beautiful bush with thick green leaves and purple flowers. The bush’s ghost manifests is monochromatic shades. It slowly fades in turning Technicolor before my very eyes. I am startled, though I do not know why. Before long, the bush is whole and beautiful again. I can smell the heady scent of those flowers that I had once admired. I stare in amazement at the old man.
“What? You think I don’t know how to make things grow?” He asks with a laugh. “I’m makin’ you grow, ain’t I?”
Disgusted, I jump to my feet and then reach my hand towards him, waiting. Smiling up at me in that smug but sweet way, he allows me to pull him to his feet. “Fine, fine. Aren’t you so wonderful and perfect? You make things grow, even pig-headed people like me.”
He guffaws at me before picking up his makout. I tuck what’s left of my feet into my knapsack and take a sip of water before tucking that in there as well. I sling my pack on my shoulder and look up at him. He looks down at me with merriment in his eyes. “Come on, old man. Let’s get out of here. We have places to be and lessons to learn. This place is boring now,” I say with a shake of my head.
He laughs again and wraps his arm around my shoulder. “Oh, honey-child. You are so smart!”
We walk into the sunset together. The sun bleeds red across the horizon, soaking the crossroads behind us with its passing. Behind us, the bush continues to flourish into the night.