To say that we live just doesn’t seem right. I eat I move. I drink. I even sleep. But… it doesn’t feel right.
753 days ago I woke up in the garden alone and covered in dew laying on a path of bricks.
671 days ago I saw the first other person I had ever seen among the perfectly manicured hedges.
623 days ago I talked to her.
543 days ago she talked back.
217 days ago we met someone else.
30 days ago I watched them both die.
Yesterday I found a weapon.
There are things I’ve learned about this place; where to find food, where to drink, where to sleep out of the rain. There are things I’ve feared, starving, loneliness, dying in a spurt of too bright blood. There are things I’ve fled from. I don’t know if they can be killed but I guess from a logical point I don’t know yet if I can be.
I crouched among the bushes at the end of the lane. The garden here was less shrubs and more like a college campus. Large buildings that I couldn’t enter surrounded by bushes and trees spaced enough to give an open park like feel but still provide a good amount of shade. The brick paths from the maze area ended just before my current position and turned into a softer asphalt that was still much harder than any dirt or grass surface.
I clutched in my hand the pistol I had found. I had ten bullets in the clip. Like all the writing in this drearily perfect place I couldn’t read it. Every time I looked at it the words seemed to change slightly from what I remembered from the last time I looked. I only even know the pistol works because I fired it last night twice to test. The noise of the shots were devastatingly loud in the quiet of the garden.
From where I was I could see the slight trail of blood my enemy had left. It led up towards the clocks and bridges. Not around the lower half of the campus where the fruit trees were but through the pines, near the lemonade stand.
It still bothers me that there is an empty lemonade stand there with one full pitcher of fresh lemonade. No matter how many times I empty it or break it or hide it the stand is always perfectly there the next day…with a fresh pitcher.
But that doesn’t matter. The trail does. It winds past the grass across from the stand and down over the first bridge. I follow running from tree to tree. Hiding and glancing from cover to follow the trail. The bridge poses a problem. It isn’t one of the covered ones but only one of the early more plain wooden arches. No cover there and too long in the open. I’m afraid I’ll be seen.
The thought occurs to me that I should just turn back. But where would I go? Everyone I knew existed is dead now. NO. Turning back isn’t an option. I gather my all too fearful soul and sprint over the bridge pistol gripped tightly turning my head wildly to see if I can catch sight of my enemy watching me. I see no one.
On the first Island I pause. I wasn’t seen. The trail goes on. I follow and each bridge I cross becomes less and less of a barrier. The fear of the open conquered by the boldness of repetition. Amazing to me how fear fades backwards so easily for some things and yet stays so sharply vigilant for others. I once tried wading through the water here. The thought still makes me tremble. Bridges really are the only option.
Towards the middle, where the clocks tick but don’t chime every hour, I find a new brighter trail of blood. My enemy tried to wash off the blood of my companions and got a lesson about the water here. This new trail of my enemy’s blood leads away from the clocks towards the catalogue, where all the plants have unreadable placards placed next to them. At least now I know my enemy bleeds.
I’m eager now. I follow at a rapid walk. Weapon held at the ready. Now I’m no longer just a tracker. Now for the first time I feel like a hunter. I will find my enemy and I will get retribution. I will live. I may die after this brief moment of life but I know I will live. I will not be a servant to my fear.
The trail cuts through the catalogue like a straight edge, brushing past plants and placards alike with a driving urgency I follow. Down through the gate to the flowers. Past the flowers and out towards the orchards where the paths turn into dirt. There among the cherry trees I see my enemy.
My gun comes up to the ready. I draw aim and with a slight intake of breath and a prayer I act. The mechanical force of my finger activates a chemical response and a physical result. The sound shatters the orchard’s whispering breezes.
The gun fires.
My enemy turns; and I can see shock and anger. I have declared my stand and engaged. I did not run like our friend. I was not killed unknowing like my companion. I no longer passively wander among the garden.
My enemy engages.
The gun fires many more times and is silent.
A body falls to the ground spurting too fresh blood and the breezes again claim their rightful rule over the sounds among the trees. The spreading pool ripples silently as a cherry blossom shaken by the action lands in the crimson stain.