Lost as I was, what else could I do? I hadn’t seen any sign of life for weeks or months or maybe years. Time hadn’t meant anything forever, as far as I could tell. Dark desolation, still as death, surrounded me in all directions. I breathed without noticing. I walked because walking was all there was. One foot in front of the other, again and again and again. Wandering without direction, just waiting for the journey to end.
But it didn’t end yet. Instead, at the side of my path a sudden spark of something… something I hadn’t known before. She appeared out of nothing and she said, come with me.
In that instant, I became aware of the vacancy. Nothingness was all there was but suddenly the empty space seemed stretch behind and ahead and above and below in more dimensions than existence had offered before. The presence of this one being—this one beating heart beyond my own—lit up the understanding of all the emptiness and the world came alive.
So I followed her.
I followed blindly at first, not caring where I went because when there was no difference between the vacancy of life and the vacancy beyond, it had made no difference where I went or how long I traveled.
But there came a day when I cared.
Then there came a day when I realized I cared. On that day I asked her where we were going.
Trust me, she said. Just follow me. I know the way.
So I did. I followed and I trusted and on we walked, still placing one foot in front of the other, breathing in and breathing out, but all in this new world in which I wasn’t alone.
Then I realized I wasn’t alone and I understood the difference between being alone and not being alone and my heart filled with fear. I begged her not to leave. Not ever.
And she said the strangest thing. She told me that one day I wouldn’t need her anymore.
I listened and I doubted but I trusted, too. I trusted and I followed.
The path was dark and light, up and down, in and out, and I told her how different it was to see all the wonderful things I’d never noticed before.
She told me the world had always been just as it is and only my perception had changed.
I listened, but I knew the world had been empty and black and life had not been life at all before she appeared on my path and so I thought it must be her. She must have brought life to the world or the world to life.
She said no. That isn’t it.
I said it must be because I was so alone.
But she said no again. In fact, she said, you were never alone.
This made no sense at all and I told her so.
She said one day I would understand.
And the doubts came again and the fear grew bold and I pleaded with her not to ever leave because even if it was all there and I’d never been alone, I didn’t know how to see any of it without her.
And she laughed. And again she said, no. That isn’t it!
And I laughed too, but I was still afraid and I said, just don’t ever leave.
She said, one day you will be ready to walk without me. On that day, you’ll know you are not alone.
I asked for a promise. You won’t leave until that day?
She nodded her head and told me it would be all right.
I heard, she won’t leave and my heart sang. The world expanded again and the colors became brighter and the sounds fuller and even the air tasted sweet. I let my trust grow and open and lift me up. I rose higher and higher and as I rose I saw the road ahead and it twisted and turned and tumbled and rose and then… it ended.
It ends? It just drops off into nothingness? I almost asked her about it but then I thought, no. It can’t be. She promised she would never leave and by now my trust was so big that I walked on without a care. Singing. Smiling. Stepping over stones and splashing into puddles and plodding through mud. Following. Following. Just following.
Until she stopped.
The day was bright and full of life and I didn’t know why she would stop so I looked at her face. I thought I’d find the answer there but her expression was unlike one I’d seen before. I felt a tremor in the ground. I asked her, why have we stopped?
She said, it’s time.
The vibrating path sent a tingle up my legs.
Time? I asked.
Yes. Time for you to go.
I forgot to breathe.
The ground trembled harder.
Go? I whispered.
Yes, she said. Go on alone. She stepped aside and gestured towards the path.
I turned to see that we’d reached the place where the path ended. Beyond the next step was a drop so deep and dark it surely crossed into several more dimensions.
My heart pounded.
The Earth shuddered.
My head was full of thoughts and words that jumbled and seemed to flee before they fully formed. No and Why came first but were quickly followed by, you promised! And, I don’t understand, And, I’m scared!
I turned to try to tell her or to see her face and find the answers there but she was gone.
The ground shook violently and then the emptiness rushed in. For days and weeks and months I stood there, numbly staring at the blank place in front of me.
Finally, I turned back to the path. I took the last provided step and stared down into the precipice, watching bits of earth fall into nothingness. I remembered the momentum of my feet moving forward and nearly let them carry me into the darkness. I lifted one leg and let my foot hang over the empty space and here I am, still, wondering what I’m waiting for.
She promised she wouldn’t leave and she left.
She promised I’d understand and I don’t.
She said I was never alone but I feel more alone than ever and why should I believe her? How can I trust when everything she was is colored in this betrayal?
Still, I hang in the space between. I can’t trust and I can’t know, but just in case… if you’re there, I ask you, what should I do now?
What would you do?