Two people get lost in an infinite meadow and must find a way out
|It all started one day at the DMV. The line was unusually short for Saturday, but we didn't give it a second thought. George was getting a new license because he had "misplaced" his previous one. It was actually quite an improbable situation. We were walking down the street when, the always generous, George decided to give some change to a homeless man. He was getting a dollar or two out of his wallet when his ID somehow fell into the hobo's mouth and disappeared completely. Both George and I weren't willing to wait until the entire ID, somehow digested, and George definitely didn't want it when it came out, so I drove him over to the DMV.
Anyways, we were standing in the unusually short line when George's number was called. We walked to the nearest desk arriving to the dusty aroma of the well into her 80's attendant. She asked him what he needed, and George explained the entire story, not leaving out even the most unnecessary detail. All he received was a blank stare; the lady said nothing. This awkward staring contest continued for the next few minutes. It was soon that George realized that maybe something was wrong. Indeed, there was something wrong. At about the time George was describing how he did not want his ID even after the hobo passed it out, what would be left of it, the lady got so grossed out that she died. For a fact, this was the first account of anyone ever dying from hearing a hobo related story. Soon the paramedics where called and George was asked by the police to make a statement. He told them the exact same story, and they gave him a very similar blank stare, but they weren't dead. After the police realized that they couldn't charge George with anything, they let him go. This day ended without George getting his license. I do not know if he ever did, but that's not for me to decide.
We got some food, and decided that we would try to get him a license the next day. We returned to our apartment, or what one could call an apartment. It was a place to live, for our modest salaries. Trying to put the day behind me I fell asleep. What I didn't realize is that the previous day would seem very normal to the days that would follow. The next morning I awoke to a shroud of darkness. I opened my eyes, then shut them, then opened them again. Either way, I couldn't see. I thought to myself, "Oh, this is great, I'm blind." I stood up and tried to remember my way around the apartment. I walked towards what I thought was the fridge but just kept walking for what seemed like a good hundred feet. This is when I began to doubt that my surroundings were my apartment. The best I could, I retraced my steps and tripped over my sleeping friend.
Bewildered as ever I woke up my passed out compadre and tried to asses the situation. It took at least the next hour to figure out that we were, maybe, in a basement. After hearing what sounded like a washing machine to our right, we came to the conclusion that, "yes, we're in a basement." Once we had arrived at this conclusion, we figured, "Hey, if were in a basement then why not try to walk upstairs." Slowly we stood in the pitch black room. By pitch black, I mean pitch black; the kind of dark where even after your eyes adjust, you can't see crap. We began to shuffle around, for what seemed like a hundred yards; we hit a wall. We continued this dance for a good four hours until we hit the stairs. I swear to this day that the basement was easily as large as a football field, probably only to make myself feel better. We clumsily climbed a spiraling staircase for what must have been for at least ten stories, and this part I'm sure is not an exaggeration.
This is when our story begins to get strange. We opened the door to find ourselves in a vast grassy meadow, as far as the eye could see. Naturally, we began to walk towards the ever fading horizon. In which way we were heading, neither of us knew, nor did we care. Even after everything that had just happened to us, for some reason we felt no sense of confusion or angst. We just went along with what was happening. We knew that there was no explanation for our ordeal, so we didn't look for one, and we were both content with this. So without worry he headed toward the horizon, the sun glaring overhead. We walked until sunset, stomachs grumbling, we fell asleep.
How I met George is an entirely uninteresting story, but I'll tell it anyways. We met when we were in grade school. My family moved around a lot, and when we finally settled, George was my neighbor. At the ripe age of nine, we became best friends. We did everything together; we were inseparable. During High School, we sort of had a falling out. George was always much smarter than I was, so he enrolled in all the honors classes while I stayed in the normal classes. Unlike in middle school, we no longer had every class together throughout the day. In fact, it was not until my senior year that we even shared a class, PE. After graduation, we moved on to different colleges and we stopped talking. I got my bachelors in literature and went out job searching after gradating. I wasn't at the top of my class, but neither the bottom. I was a 22 year old kid, trying to find a job in the big world. For my first six months I couldn't find anything, so II had to move back in with my parents, soon after moving back in, to my surprise, George moved back in with his parents. Turns out, even after graduating from a prestigious college, even he couldn't find a job. We both got jobs as waiters at a local restaurant until better jobs were available. We soon later decided to get an apartment, and we have been living together for about two years. We still are waiters; well in a sense.
I slept for a long time, that night in the meadow. I had a rather peculiar dream. I dreamt that I was a bird, I don't remember exactly what kind, but I was small. I had only one wing and wasn't able to fly. The other birds didn't make fun of me, nor did I live a harsh life style. Food was brought to me every day, and if I wanted to move from tree to tree, the other birds had developed a pulley and basket system to get me up. I was a deformed bird of course, but there was really nothing wrong with my life. Still, I wanted to learn how to fly, to be like all the other birds, flying majestically through the sky. Everyone kept telling me that it was impossible, that you needed two wings to fly. They kept reminding me how nice my life was at that point, I was no different than any other bird except for my disability. I ignored all of their points. I started low, and jumped and flapped my single wing till I hit the ground with a hard crash. I figured soon, that I needed to start higher to give myself more time in the air. Each passing day I tried harder and harder, but failed. Until one day, frustrated as ever, I went to the top of the tallest tree and jumped off, flapping my one wing as hard as possible, I plummeted toward the ground. Before I hit the ground I woke up.
I woke with a jar, as something splattered across my face. Ironically, a bird flying overhead had just happened to release its bowels upon my face. After wiping my face up, I walked over to the sleeping George and shook him awake. For some weird reason at that very moment, I had a feeling that George was having the exact same dream that I had just previously awoken from. We both got up, and without saying a word to each other we began to walk once more. I took the lead and began to walk eastward, directly towards the rising sun. For what reason I had decided to do this, I don't know. We walked and walked for what seemed like hours until finally we found a piece of hope. Well, actually we never had lost hope, or really thought about the idea of hope. Anyways, as we were walking George tripped over something and fell down. What he had tripped over what was the dying ashes of a fire. Luckily, there were a few scraps of meat strewn to the side of the fire. We ate for the first time in a couple days.
To whom the fire had belonged to never crossed our minds. I was looking for any more leftovers around the makeshift campsite when I came across the tracks. They were not automotive tracks, but looked to be like some sort of carriage or horse and buggy. I ran back to tell George and we spent the rest of the day following the tracks. We knew we were heading in the right direction because of the way the tracks had bent the grass. As it rolled over the grass, the grass flattened in the direction in which they were heading. As we wondered down the lightly traded path that was the tracks, we found some helpful objects along the way. These were things that must have been dumped or that had just fallen off. To our luck we found some water jugs, some more meat and a few blankets. We had enough things to live comfortably for at least the next day or two. At sun down, we ate some of the raw meat and fell asleep.
This night I had absolutely zero dreams, or at least no dreams that I could remember. I woke up earlier than George, just before sun began to rise and packed up all the supplies that we had used the night before. Often, I would look over at my sleeping friend, and I would get this feeling that he was having a very profound dream, the kind of dreams that change a man's life. About a half an hour later, George woke up, and wiped the crust off his eyes. He noticed that I had already cleaned up, so he just sat, and watched the sun slowly move overhead. I walked over to him, and asked him about his dreams; I asked if they had any profound meaning. George then simply stated, with a serene smile on his face, "no". He said nothing more, so I inquired no more. I would later learn that he did have one dream, but at the time he felt that it was entirely unimportant. He had a dream that he was sitting in the very same meadow watching the sun rise, but in his dream, he was surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, all whom were completely silent.
As we began to walk, following the tracks, my human instincts kicked in. Like any human, I had the sudden urge to question my surroundings. I had been very quiet about this for the previous few nights, but it finally began to bug me. Maybe the sense of shear amazement, and utter confusion had previously halted my cognitive abilities. Anyways, I began to ramble and ramble to George about how utterly insane our situation was.
"What has just happened to us", I asked.
"This is completely absurd", I mumbled.
After fuming for a few minutes, I moved on to some of my more serious, and necessary questions. Feeling like I was asking myself, I asked the obvious questions,
"Where are we?"
"How did we get here?"
"Who sent us?"
"What are the chances of a bird crapping on my face, in a seemingly infinite meadow?"
All these thought provoking questions didn't receive an answer from George or my conscience. A few minutes later George simply replied, with the same serene smile as before, "Stop worrying, I'm sure we'll be fine."
At sunset, after what seemed to be a century of meandering toward nowhere, we finally caught up to a small caravan of people, and saw the carriage whose tracks we had been following. Like a lion sneaking up on a gazelle, we approached the caravan. As we got closer, it looked exactly like a seen out of a western movie; even the farting gag out of Blazing Saddles occurred. Night soon fell, and we felt that it would be better to approach the people in the morning, so we slowly walked back a couple hundred feet and set up camp. I was particularly excited because I couldn't wait to see how these people got to this place, and if they could answer any of my questions.
After another dreamless night, I woke up to find myself tied up Gulliver's Travels style. I was unable to move my arms or legs. I turned my head as much as it could to see if George was also tied up. He wasn't. I panicked, thinking about the terrible things that they had done to George; what atrocities had they committed. I began to yell and as I tried to writhe myself out of the ropes. Soon I began to hear footsteps walking toward me at first it seemed as only a few people, but soon it turned into what seemed like hundreds. Unable to see in front of me, I lied limp. A few second s later I saw a mad rush of feet running next to me. I saw people only by their shoes, and would forever only know them by their shoes. That isn't a bad way to know people. You don't have any good or bad preconceptions about them, you just know that they exist, and that's the most important thing of all. About thirty second later, the footsteps stopped and I felt the ropes loosening. Finally, they were loose enough to get out, and when I stood up, I saw that it was none other than George cutting me out.
The first thing that I asked George was the most obvious question. I asked in a very calm tone, what had just happened. George just sat and shook his head. After a long pause he stood up and said to me, "Silly friend, you just haven't learned yet have you? You shouldn't be asking me all these questions, for I have not yet come to understand at all what is going on. But unlike you, I just accept what is going on. Indeed, I am a bit confused, worried, and even a little scared because feeling emotions is as normal as anything in the world. The thing that I have come to learn is how to get past all of these emotions. For the last few days I have lived as utterly confused as you, but I haven't let it bother me. I have just accepted the fact, and don't see it as worrisome or harmful. I have learned to equate all feelings and emotions as the same. Not good nor bad, not evil, not joyous, but just feelings and everything for some reason has just sailed along much easier. I can see it as we walk; all you do as we hike through this vast meadow is think and think and think. I can see it in your face; it worries you. I don't think as much anymore, I just let it be, as events happen, I go with the flow. Now friend, I challenge you to not ask any more questions about the unanswerable, to me nor to yourself, for it will only lead to more stress and confusion. Just stand up and look around you, observe the land in which you're standing. Observe the sky above you, the sound that the wind makes, observe everything. Do not question what you are observing; give rationality to what you are observing. Find contentment in your rationale and live content."
After hearing of George's sudden enlightenment, I stood up and looked around. But this time as a looked around, I didn't just see grass or clouds, I observed grass, I observed the clouds. The way in which the clouds hover, moving ever so silently, the way in which the grass moves in the wind and bends towards the sunlight. I saw all of the footprints around me, but did not question them, instead the answer found me. We were both standing in the remains of the campsite that we had seen the previous night. All that remained was the smoldering campfire.
What I would later find out is that George woke up well before I did, and he started to take a walk because he needed to pee. When he returned, I was gone. He walked over to the campsite that we had seen the night before. As he was walking he saw the people tying me up and overheard them talking, about how I was not ready. Then they began to walk away and suddenly disappeared down what seemed like a hill. George ran over to where they had walked. Just past the campsite, was a large hill that seemed to drop gradually for many miles. At the bottom of this hill were thousands of people just sitting next to campfires. All of a sudden about a thousand or so of the people all of a sudden got up and just started running. They ran with the determination of a bull fighter. It took these people nearly half an hour to get up the hill. When they got to the top, they completely ignored George and I, and ran past. These were the people whom I had seen the shoes of. They ran until they disappeared down what looked like another hill.
George told me to follow him, and he showed me the large mass of people. We walked about a hundred feet backwards and saw another group of at least a thousand people. To our right and left it was the same. Somehow we were on a large plateau, and we did not even know it. We knew there was only one thing we could do, walk to the bottom. So there we were, the two of us walking down a giant plateau walking towards an enormous group of people. When we got to the bottom, no one questioned why we were there; they only moved over to give us room to sit. We sat next to the blazing fire, just watching; observing. We sat for nearly two days without food or water, but for some reason, we did not feel the desire for food or water. All of a sudden on the second day, George stood up. I have no idea what made him do this, but when he did, everyone else sitting around our campfire stood up. We then stood for the next hour or so, waiting, just waiting, for the prefect time. Then all of a sudden it hit me; it was time, I looked at everyone's faces, they too knew it was time.
I turned and just started to sprint up the hill, but no one followed. I was in my own little world. I suspended my disbelief and just ran towards the other side, but I knew that I would not be going back down the other side. I did not look behind me because I did not care whether I was being followed. It did not matter now. I ran across the top of the plateau, but all of a sudden, there was about a thousand or so people running at me full speed. This is when I began to doubt myself. Slowly they approached me. I knew something was wrong, I realized that I had left to early. I had experience faux enlightenment. Realizing this, I slowly made a wide arching U-turn and soon found myself running with this new group of people. As we reached the far edge, I pulled ahead of the pack, but unlike I had previously hoped, I just ran back down the hill. I soon found myself in the exact same place I which I had started, but for some reason it felt different. No longer did people move to give me room to sit, but they almost seemed rude. I found George and sat next to him, but he just got up and moved. It seemed as if the pack was slowly sliding away from me. I tried to sit next to a new group, but the same thing happened. I realized that I had failed, I had failed miserably. At what I had failed, I do not know. I got angry, frustrated, sad, and worried. I went to the top of the plateau and just started to cry. It was at this moment that I realized my faults. I had let my feelings take over me, the feeling of anger, and previously the feeling of enlightenment. I realized why I was being shunned; I didn't even deserve to sit with them.
With this knew found knowledge, I slowly walked down the hill. I didn't even bother to search for George because I knew it wouldn't make a difference. I sat down with a group around the campfire, and this time, no one sneered at me. Instead of anticipating what was going to happen next, I just sat and gazed into the fire. I watched the way each individual flame dances to a silent beat. Every hour or so, the person closest to the fire, would add some wood to keep it going. Everyone just sat silent gazing into the fire, or at the sky and the floating cotton balls, that were clouds. They would listen to the wind blow and watch the sun as it ascended in the east only to descend in the west. I sat here for a full day. When the sun went down some people went to sleep, while other stared at the stars. Out in the middle of nowhere, the stars shine much brighter and there are many more of them. This night, I chose not to sleep. As the sun began to rise, the people who were asleep woke up ever so slowly, and they stood up. One by one, every man just stood; I didn't. I just sat, trying to remember to blink every once and while. As the sun reached its peak at mid day, these people whom I had shared the fire with, all were gone, they had done what seemed to be a daily sprint to the top of the hill, only to disappear. I didn't run. I did very little. Night on the second day soon came. This night I was alone, for this night no new people came to the campfire, so I let it go out. Soon all around me, the hundreds of small fires turned into smoldering ash. I could not see very far, but I could tell that I was the only one left. All the others had left, or so I believed. What I believed was all that mattered. For at that very moment, and in all actuality every moment, I created my own reality. I accepted the fact that I was alone, so I was only with myself. I accepted the fact that I didn't know, so I knew. It was the first night since I had arrived that it was overcast, so there were no stars this night.
All around me was a severe lack of light. It was pitch black, the last of the fires had gone out. It was at this moment that I realized that the running shtick was just a decoy for the bigger picture. It allowed each person to completely suspend their disbelief without ever knowing it. They were too concentrated to know what was going on, but they were changing. They were so focused on a seemingly absurd goal to realize that their perception of reality in all its multilateral uniqueness was becoming as thin as the air on top of Mount Everest. It was not themselves that was disappearing, but their own perception of themselves. This in turn caused the meaningless façade that was the "person", to become "everything". No longer did emotion, feeling or ego play a part in anything, just the idea that they exist. Neither their own reality, nor other's reality played a part. A seemingly infinite truth existed, the only truth that mattered, the idea that they exist. They were no longer themselves, but just a part of a larger picture. It was only from this feeling of perpetual nothingness, did existence become a reality. All of these people did not disappear, they had actually become real. From the outside looking in, it seemed as if they had disappeared, but in all actuality, they were more real than the people watching them. All the "waiters" sitting around the campfires, were slowly melding into his realization.
It was at this point that, I myself "disappeared", but I came out of it with a more sensational sense of reality. These other people, had this enlightened realization, through means that were not there own. They lacked all feeling, they lacked all necessity to question; they just followed. They all got very effective results, they all seemed content, but to me, they just seemed like pawns in the great chess game of life. I, in a different manner reached very similar conclusions to these "runners". I questioned my existence; I figured out for myself what was going on. I found meaning in nothing and rode it to the very end. There were no mediums to help me along the way, I just did what my old friend George told me to do; I just observed.
I was standing in the middle of the empty field when I myself left, without needing to run to the top of the hill, or anything fancy like that. By this time the sun was up and I could really sense the feeling of being alone, having the ability to see that everyone was gone. I looked at the sky with the intensity of a jaguar chasing its prey. My eyes were wide open, but I realized that they were also shut. I was standing, in a field, but I was also lying in my bed. I was feeling the wind blow past my face, but I was also trapped in a vacuum. I was everywhere, or anywhere I wanted to be. I had reached singularity of the most infinite proportions. It was at this very moment that I woke up. I woke up for the first time in what felt like years. I turned over and saw that I was back in my apartment, lying in my bed, for real this time.
I had a bittersweet taste in my mouth. "It was all a dream", I thought to myself. I could not convince myself that this was a good thing. I realized, what great accomplishments I had made, what great realizations I had made, which were now dulled, by the fact that they were not real. I rubbed the crust out of my eyes and started to walk towards the fridge, to get some food. I noticed George sitting at the table eating some cereal so I decided to join him. It was at this moment that I realized that it couldn't have been a dream. George looked up at me and just said, "That-a-boy, your home and you didn't even have to run." George then got up and picked up a suitcase and with his same serene smile, walked out of the front door. I didn't try to stop him nor did I ask where he was going or whether he would come back. After finishing my cereal, I walked over to the window and looked outside. Not only where there no people outside, there where also no buildings. All that was there was what looked like a seemingly infinite meadow.
There is every chance that this meadow is about as real as unicorns, but you can say the same thing about anything. This though, was my new reality, my home, where I would stay. George obviously had no reason to stay in the meadow, because he had bigger fish to fry, more important things to encounter. I packed up my things into a suitcase and took one last good look around. I noticed an envelope sitting in the chair where George was sitting. I picked it up and read it, sort of. The contents of the letter consisted of a greeting saying, "To whom ever it may concern", and a farewell saying, "Best of luck, George". In between was blank. This said more than a thousand words could. After reading the letter, I could feel myself begin to smile; the same serene smile which George had always possessed. I then picked up my suitcase and headed out the front door into oblivion.