(This is Part 13 of a series that I began several months ago. If you’re new here, you may want to start from Part 1)
Sweat burns in my eyes like sulfuric acid as I draw my right arm back for the final blow. I can feel the lactic acid burning in my shoulders and upper back, accumulating slowly under the sweltering Missouri sun.
Drops of fresh blood cake the jagged edges of the stone as I hold it’s awkward weight aloft in the air.
I summon what remains of my dwindling energy, grit my teeth, and swing the rock down one last time, hammering it home with an almost animalistic brutality.
The force of the blow ricochets up my forearm and settles deep within my bones. A muffled THUD rings out across the grass and over the nearby pond, before dwindling off into silence.
I rise slowly, and stumble backward as the rock falls from my fingers. I wince as it grazes the raw, open skin of my right palm.
Take a minute to admire my handiwork as my labored breathing begins to slow.
Not bad, considering I’ve never done this before. Not bad at all.
I make my way over to the water and dip my hands beneath it’s murky surface, watching as the dirt from my skin mingles with the silt and the soggy weeds.
Finally, I turn back towards the source of my grisly efforts, and breathe in the stunning panoramic view.
Trees line the perimeter, offering an eerily quiet and utterly palpable isolation. A bright blue cloudless sky hovers above. Springy grass carpets the Earth. Tiny bugs weave through the undergrowth, humming cheerfully to themselves.
And framed perfectly between the foliage and aloft the greenery – a small tent, big enough for one.
Bright-orange, plastic stakes secure it to the ground, hammered home by a large rock, now cast aside… having served it’s purpose. It’s surface is stained a soft, bloody red.
A gentle breeze floats across the campsite and brushes my sweaty skin, pulling me out of my reverie with a subtle shiver.
It’s late afternoon, and the sun is inching it’s way towards the horizon. Soon, it will be dark.
What to do, with these remaining hours of daylight? What options do I really have, in this tiny RV park near the Iowa border, surrounded by rolling farmland as far as the eye can see?
The fatigue from my earlier efforts has already begun to dissipate. I can feel the anxious energy building slowly again, crawling up my belly towards my chest. Nothing seems to quell it’s hunger, this ravenous beast inside me.
What had once been a limitless well of euphoric energy has begun to transform into something… unrecognizable.
I suppose all those nights spent gazing up at the ceiling of a shoddy hotel room, plotting and planning instead of sleeping, has begun to take it’s toll on me.
Eating one hurried meal a day and sipping water only occasionally hasn’t helped either. Factor in the countless hours of disheveled driving, and it’s a wonder I’m still standing upright.
But while my body is near it’s breaking point, the tiny neurons inside my brain continue to fire ceaselessly.
Always churning, always contemplating. Deliberating. Dwelling. Ruminating.
And the only way to quiet it is with motion.
Physical exertion. Constant movement.
Go. Go. Go. GO. GO.
Another wave of energy washes over me, and I hurry over to the rental car, parked haphazardly on the grass beside my new tent. I pop the trunk to reveal a jumbled heap of clothes, camp food, and highway maps. Reach into the pile and retrieve a pair of freshly-purchased hiking boots.
Lace them up.
And feel my legs carry me away.
Several Hours Later…
Bits of gravel scatter down the dusty road, my dirt-covered boot-tips knocking them loose. I stop to moisten my parched throat with a long drink from a crinkled plastic water bottle.
As I raise my chin to the sky, my eyelids scrape across my bloodshot eyes like sandpaper.
As they pull strenuously downwards, a curtain of black shrouds my vision, and little dots of light sprinkle into existence in front of me. They coalesce into figures – silhouettes that dance and waver to silent, unearthly music.
I open my eyes and they disappear.
But with each and every blink, they return.
I shake my head pointedly from side to side, attempting to remove their wispy bodies from my visual field like the erasable lines of an etch-a-sketch.
I force myself to continue walking, kicking up more dust and distracting myself from the light-people by forcing an interest in the surrounding farmland.
A brown cow rests serenely behind a nearby fence, chewing in his enviable and blissful ignorance of the woeful tragedies of my human condition.
What I wouldn’t give to be that cow.
To bask in that mid-afternoon sun, admiring that cornfield…
…unaware of the all the little political and societal nuances that allow for that genetically-modified corn to be planted, reaped, taxed, branded and advertised as the quintessential component of the American diet…
… elevated in price and processed by underpaid workers into cereal, after being drowned in carcinogenic additives and refined sugar…
… and plastered with the colorful cartoon label that’s been psychologically proven to ensure that children will beg their mothers to purchase it.
Because our society has become nothing more than a consumption machine – a chronically underfed one.
Because the basic components of human need as defined by Maslow, have been exploited, repackaged, and sold back to us for profit.
Because we’re spending our hard-earned dollars on the publicly tangible evidence of our accumulated material wealth…
… all as a means to appear successful to our peers – without stopping to question the origins of this perceived idea of success.
Because our definition of success is, at it’s very roots, bred into us as children in the form of standardized public education and pressured social conformity by which we feel we have no choice but to abide.
Because even now, in the 21st century, in the era of globalization and widespread publicly-available knowledge, it’s even harder to tell the difference between truth and fiction than it was 20 years ago and that despite social media we feel more disconnected from each other than we ever have before…
… and because our replacement for that lack of connection is a DIGITALLY-SIMULATED VERSION OF CONNECTION comprised of airwaves and fiber-optic cables…
…and we’ve all become slaves to these imaginary digital misrepresentations of ourselves and spend our entire lives locked inside the confines of these prisons of our own making…
…and adding to that we have the political unrest and generational divide which are all perpetuated by the media in news-stories that are spoon-fed directly from the mouths of the shady politicians that are bought and paid for by the greedy corporations that keep all of us in a form of…
… INDENTURED SERVITUDE BY ENSURING WE NEVER RISE ABOVE THE POVERTY LINE BECAUSE WE WILL SPEND OUR ENTIRE LIVES PAYING OFF THE INTEREST OF OUR VASTLY INFLATED STUDENT LOANS and can’t afford to buy houses or start families…
… and half of the American public believes that the solution to that is to introduce a form of governmental socialism and to demonize capitalism which is actually fucking ridiculous because capitalism is the most productive form of self-governance when it IS NOT CORRUPT BUT THAT’S OUR PROBLEM IS CORPORATE CORRUPTION AND WE’RE TOO BUSY bickering amongst ourselves to actually do anything about it AND THE CORPORATIONS LOVE THAT BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONES THAT PAY FOR THE PROMOTIONS THAT START THE BICKERING AND—-
That little spot in my left temple is throbbing again.
Breathe, I need to breathe.
I plop down on the picnic table and stare at my little tent. How long have I been back here, at my campsite?
My mind is whirling again. Spiraling out of control.
Rest… I need some rest.
But it’s difficult to rest when your mind is buzzing, whirring, vibrating.
When you can see all of the problems of the world so clearly.
When you know the answers to those problems.
I know that I know the answers…
See, that’s the thing. I’ve had so many epiphanies over the past week.
I’ve had so many ideas.
And sometimes, when I go to plan out those ideas, more ideas pop up before I finish the plan for the first ideas…
… and so what I’ve done is I’ve taken certain parts of some ideas and other parts of other ideas and I’ve sewn those parts together…
… and then I took still other ideas and I glued them over top of the first ideas and now what I have is a giant, amorphous blob of idea-parts – a Frankenstein idea.
The problem with all this, though, is that the idea is so big that when I look at it, I can no longer see the whole thing, and it’s a bit fuzzy on the edges and so my plans have begun to represent that.
For instance, part of my idea required that I drive South and the other part required that I go North, and so I tried to do both and wound up driving in a bit of a circle, which is how I wound up in this strange little farm-town.
Also, I had planned to walk for a long distance but I had also been determined to bike that same distance and so I’d bought hiking gear but also tried to buy an expensive bicycle before I’d run out of money.
And even now… my body seems to be telling me to slow down, while my mind is telling me to speed up.
It’s all so very confusing and I’m starting to get a bit scared and also sort of lonely.
I’ve been awake so long that none of this feels real anymore and I’m beginning to suspect that I may have already died and that I’m walking around in my already dead body.
A living dead girl. That’s what I am.
The ghost of a person, who wasn’t ever really a person at all. Just a big, jumbled mess of confused ideas that never came to fruition. Just a scared little zombie out in the middle of nowhere, all alone.
I find myself walking towards the pond at the very end of my little campsite.
I step out onto the dock. Stoop down. And begin to cry.
To Be Continued…