Autumn 2007 Volume One Issue Four
Uluru - Jennifer Linnaea
There's a man with me, leading me gently by the hand. A small, plain man with compassionate eyes, and although I don't know him or what he wants with me, I let him lead me away from town, past the trailer parks and dry cotton fields. When I tried to go into work this morning I couldn't find the door. Only this man seems to see me.
As we near the muddy soil where the creek runs in spring another man shows up, a much bigger man, and at one look from that big man my guide flees with his hands clamped one on either side of his face. I see his robe snag for a long moment on a barbed wire fence as he recedes into the dust-choked distance.
The big man, really huge when I look at him, ten or twelve feet tall with ruddy skin and finely embroidered clothes -- like a genie, or a fashionable demon -- sneers down at me.
"Looks like you're on your own now," he says. Then he walks off behind a stand of stunted willow trees, and is gone.
I think I'm dead, because I can't get home no matter how hard I try. Not that I'm lost, or, I don't think I'm lost, but that heading for home is like spiraling around a mostly-clogged drain. I never seem to get any closer.
I wonder where that small man was trying to take me, but he's gone now, so I think of other options. Where can I go? Where have I always wanted to go?
There's one place. I've only ever seen two pictures of it, and the one of that funny opera house doesn't do much for me; but the other one, the one of the huge red rock humped out like a bear's back in the middle of the desert. That'd be something to see.
So I get on a boat. No one seems to notice I'm there. It's a big rusty freighter with a hold filled up with enormous crates. I think maybe in some of them are cars. BMW's. Mercedes. I don't get seasick anymore, which almost positively proves I'm dead. I always thought of death as a really big deal, but now that it might have happened I don't much care, and that's strange. Unsettling. I hope Australia is as interesting a place as I've led myself to believe.
I don't climb to the top of that big red rock, Uluru it's called. The brochures say it had another name for a while, but it got its old name back. The local people can't stop anyone from climbing it, but they don't much like it, so I don't. I settle down with my back against it and let the sunlight fall right through my skin. Such a wonderful feeling -- the warm rock, the soft sand, the cells of my body lit up and glowing like beeswax in the sun.
I fall asleep, I think, because when I look again the sun has gone behind the rock, and I'm in the dark of its long shadow. For the first time I can remember I'm filled with peace. I think, now that I'm dead I may as well stay right here.
When the stars are overhead the small, plain man comes back, and looks at me with those eyes of his. Brown eyes, they must be, though it's too dark to see more than wells of soft darkness in his face. My body still feels like it's glowing a warm glow against the freezing night air.
He waits for a while, like he expects me to get up and follow him, but when I don't he nods once, and a little smile quirks up his plain face. Then he fades away till I can only see tree shadows where his body has been. I lie back against the rock and shut my eyes.
- END -
Jennifer Linnaea is a sometimes superhero, an ex marine botanist, and a bicycle adventurer who lives in Eugene, Oregon with assorted housemates, including a husband and a kitten with no tail.