By Anja Marais
He is me, but he is also you and her. He wandered the carved-out path of faded memories in a daze. The fog lay thick in the dewy hills, and he kept walking through the curtain of dusk into the cobalt-dark night. When luck was on his side a star would unassumingly make its presence known. A frivolous guide with ambiguous directions. There was plenty of food for him alongside the road dripping from foliage and branches. The rotten, fallen fruit would squeeze between his toes as he walked on. He never stopped to eat; his stomach wasn’t nearly as barren as his sense of recognition. He was seeking “it”. He once, long ago possessed “it,” but it slipped away, unnoticed and unattended.
His only companion beside the occasional star was the hoarse wind. Softly, like a shawl, it would embrace his tired shoulders and lift the dust majestically around his legs. During the night shadows would visit him in unidentifiable shapes, moving in and out of the fringes of his mind. They were hardly memories but more like ripples in a bowl of water. A scrying tool of past possibilities. In his ambulatory quest he thought he saw another traveler on the road ahead of him. He hastened his steps trying to catch up. The distance between him and the co-traveler would stay the same no matter how he adjusted his speed. With adamant concentration he would not take his eyes off the stranger’s back, even when the fog coagulated the space between them. At times he would have an uneasy feeling that he was being watched but as he turned around the figure behind him had already disappeared.
The fruit was getting heavier and the branches moaned under their weight. They fell and burst like fleshy bombs over the road up against his legs. He noticed the fruit splatters on the traveller’s legs ahead of him as well. He marched on. The road would occasionally split. He knew that it did not matter which side of the fork he chose, it would always unfold as an intricate fractal of itself. He used to take the road that tugged the hardest, but now he blindly followed the familiar traveler instead.
He hardly rested, for the weight of incompleteness fed his restlessness. He decided once and for all to get hold of the strange man ahead of him. He picked up the pace and started running, an awkward shuffle, trying to avoid the slippery stains in the road of skin and pits. Behind him footsteps became imminent and louder but the fog never revealed to him the occupant it sheltered.
And then he finally stopped. Tired. Hungry. For once he allowed the aroma of tree and fruit to enter him. He reached for a full, quivering, soft peach. As his teeth sank into her body the hoarse wind momentarily lifted the fog like a flimsy lace slip and he saw the road stretched ahead of him, open and unoccupied.