The Path Forward Is Paved With Broken Glass

The last two nights I’ve dreamed the same theme…

The maze was in my dream again last night and the night before.  At first I walked its path easily, the maze nothing more than a design worked into bricks below my feet.  I could stand and look forward, tracing my turns to avoid back tracks.

The longer I worked the maze though, unraveling its answer, the more it changed.  It morphed from a pattern to one foot walls funneling me through.  There was evidence of cheating, bricks kicked loose  from the mortar, dusty footprints atop the walls.  Still I traced my path with my eyes, trying to avoid deadends and make my way across.

On the other side of the maze was a bridge.  I could hear rushing water far below, the rift in the land projecting the roar skyward.  I kept looking up at that bridge as I woved back and forth through the brick walls.

My maze grew taller.  If I looked at the bridge another line of bricks would be upon the walls.  The same happened if I looked back.  The walls were at shoulder height before I realized the correlation.  I tried to avoid the issue, focusing instead on the task at hand.  I could no longer see my path, relying instead on the old standby of making consistent turns.

Layer after layer of brick grew upon the wall, stopping when it reached six feet.  I was glad they didn’t grow taller or the sky would have been blocked.  Still I walked.  I was tired.  Keeping focused on my path became difficult.  My feet hurt and I was thirsty.  I’d been walking for a long time.

I turned a corner then immediately turned again, going back the way I had just come but on the other side of the wall.  The brick here was in poor condition, mortar crumbling in the joints and crunching underfoot.  The roar of the water suddenly seemed louder and I looked up.  My path was clear, the brick walls unbroken for a hundred feet then opening to the left.

My pace hurried.  I couldn’t help it.  The angle of the sun had changed significantly since I began the puzzle.  When I got to the opening I gasped.  I was through the maze!  I stepped out and frowned as something crunched and tinkled under my feet.  The lane from the maze to the narrow bridge was paved with broken glass.  The shards glinted in the sun, a shimmery fractal rainbow, hemmed in by a stacked stone wall.  Rich, lush green grass spread out on either side.

“There is only one path to the bridge.”

I jumped and spun around.  The maze was nothing but a fancy brick terrace again and a woman, eyes cloudy with age, thin skin pale and wrinkled, leaned on a cane at the edge.

“I don’t understand,” I answered.  She nodded and stepped closer.  She smelled of cinnamon and nutmeg, like she’d just walked from her kitchen where cookies cooled.

“If you wish to reach the bridge there is only one path and you must exchange your shoes for this.”  She pulled a needle from her blouse, a thread pulled through its eye, and offered it to me.  “It is the only way you’ll make it.”

I looked over my shoulder at the glass then at the bridge.  I needed to cross it.  My eyes tracked to the lush carpet of green on either side.  Couldn’t I walk there?  In the way of dreams, I knew I couldn’t, and that the woman was guiding me true.

I slipped my shoes off, settling my feet carefully onto the glass.  She reached out and pushed the needle through the fabric of my blouse over my heart.  “You’ll know when you need it,” she said before stooping to retrieve my shoes.

I nibbled at my lip, watching her walk back across the brick maze with no regard to the pattern.  Sighing I turned and began to walk.  Each foot I placed with care among the shards of glass, trying to avoid cutting myself.  It was a futile endeavor.  I imagined  the soles of my feet glittered like gemstones before I had made it halfway along the path.

I hummed to myself, trying to distract my mind from the pain.  I was beyond the point where stepping hurt.  There was so much glass embedded in my skin my nerves screamed constantly.  I could feel my body trying to react, flooding me with endorphins.  I had stopped crying and as the end of the path approached I was faced with the prospect of the bridge.

A stone bench waited for me at the edge of the cliff.  The glass was gone from the path, but still in my feet.  Bloody footprints stained the ground before the bench, testament to others who had made the trek before me.  I sat down and carefully picked the shards from my skin.  The wounds healed as soon as I cleared them of glass.  After a while I rested my feet on the ground and wiggled my toes.   The echoes of pain lingered, but gone were the sharp stabs of agony.

I nibbled on my lip, anxious.  The bridge belonged in a horror movie.  It was a great ugly beast of twisted metal and wood, an old railroad trestle.  The broad railroad ties remained in random spots, but there were more missing than remained.  My stomach knotted and I pushed myself to my feet, bracing for the crossing.

The roar of the water below was deafening.  The bridge stretched out into a bank of fog.  I couldn’t see the other side.  Far ahead of me I could see others making the crossing.  I fingered the needle, making certain it was still there.

I would need it soon.

I woke as my foot took the first step onto the bridge.

A Haunted Mind

My mood, and thoughts, have been far from erotica these last few days.  Focus has been elusive, concentration impossible.  So, as I’ve learned is necessary, I’ve let my mind roam.  It’s wandered far and wide, and has yet to settle.

Yesterday I read a very powerful post by Remittance Girl.  Her words hit me somewhere deep, sunk in, and clung tenaciously.  They stuck with me all afternoon and night.  The following piece was written in direct response to the voice of hers, composed as I lay trying to fall asleep, haunting my mind until I rose and scrawled it out longhand in my atrocious cursive.  It’s part truth, part legend, part terrifying dream. 

 ____________________________________________________________________

Your letter struck me with it’s power, and I cannot help but respond.  Half the world away my mind turned to my night spent among ghosts.  It was no human construct that leeched the energy from my body though, but the very earth itself.
 
I sat on a hillside.  The intention had been to camp in the valley below, where a small stream played musically over rocks into a deep pool before dancing its way into the forest.  The moon examined her reflection in the pool’s mirror before ducking, shy, behind the trees once more.
 
No.  I couldn’t stay down there. 
 
It wasn’t until I returned to the safety of my own home that I learned the shapes of the memories that ground had tried to share with me.  The midwife drowned in the pool, accused of witchcraft when she wouldn’t hide the minister’s infidelity.  The maidens, eyes sunken, clinging to each other, broken and traumatized.  They were what chased me up the hill, each trying to share the rape, the ravage, they suffered.  Native indians, white women, black slaves, they all were damaged here, in this valley, over the years.  The tortures, atrocities, visited by indian upon white man and white man upon indian. 
 
 You don’t have to be sensitive to the fringes of our world there, the shaman told me.  The valley belonged to the tribe, they allowed no one to dwell within those narrow walls. It’s called the Valley of the Torture Tree. He warned me I was lucky I had spent the night as far from that tree as I had.
 
I still shudder, remembering the way the witchlights wove through the trunks, searching for something.  I think they seek an exit, a portal, from this plane.

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