This one still needs some finishing touches.
I run in the mornings. I wake up when it’s only dark and put on my clothes and debate with myself whether to leave my torch at home. In the end I always keep it in my pocket but I never use it. Then I open the door and go out and shut it again and lock it. Now I’m outside and if I look up there’s a sheet of stars above my head. They’re like hundreds of strings of fairy-lights except you can’t see the wires. Then I carefully step back and put the key in my pocket. There is no sound. I feel as if the world is empty, except I am the only living organism and if I stay still long enough I won’t even be that. So I don’t move for a long time, my chest barely moving when I breathe, my heart beating very, very faintly so that sometimes I think it’s not beating at all and I must be immortal. But then something moves out there, a pair of headlight eyes or a cat hiding its misdeeds under a bush. Then I move.
I start off slow just in case my legs aren’t working this morning. I run out of the street and then out of the next street and the street after that. I don’t even turn corners because I might get lost if I do. But I know where I’m heading and I’ll go there in a straight line. It’s where small hills like acne on the earth stand in front of bigger and bigger hills like the nose and eyes and ears of the earth. The earth doesn’t have a mouth, but in my dreams one appears on a rainy early morning, a jagged fissure that eats the towns and the cities and crunches people with boulder teeth. If I keep running towards the nose of the earth I’ll be far away when the mouth opens up. Then I can watch.
I run for a very long time. I run straight towards the acne hills and watch as they get bigger. Today my chest isn’t hurting so bad so maybe my heart has stopped and I’m immortal now. The streets become different the longer I run, the houses no longer sitting side by side, whispering in each other’s ears, now shouting distance apart with yards big enough for whole other houses. Dogs bark at me and it startles me so much that I skip and jump like an Irish dancer until I’m on the other side of the road. By this time, the night sky is beginning to lift slightly, like the crown of shell you lift away to peel a boiled egg. It reveals a Tuesday morning underneath a chilled Monday night.
I think of the North Pole. There are no towns and cities in the North Pole. Maybe that’s where I’ll run to after I reach the acne hills. In the winter the sun doesn’t rise at all and there is constant night, like a boiled egg waiting to be peeled except that nobody peels it for weeks and weeks until the spring comes and they crack the shell and search through the white and make the luminescent yellow yolk into the first sunrise.
Carlos went up north. To the North Pole. He had a small, prickly black beard like a clump of steel wool and eyes that were so light they could have been fairy-lights in the night sky without the wires. But he doesn’t have anything now. That’s because he is dead.
I had a dream last night where everybody in the world stood on the same flat plain and cracks began to move through, slowly first, and then faster, faster until they were coursing everywhere like a stampede of animals. And everybody became divided with their own piece of flat land and a black, black sea around them. And then one by one each piece of land teetered a bit, cracked in half and sunk along with the people they held. I watched and around me people were toppling into the water everywhere. Nobody made a sound, as if they were too frightened to scream. Or as if they expected it all along. Until my own piece of land, which was the only piece left, teetered on its little axis. I watched sadly as it cracked down the middle and I lost my footing and plunged into the dark night of water.
The sun has risen now. It will be another day before I will go to sleep wondering whether the mouth of the earth will eat me up before I wake. I am beyond the houses, but now that the sun can see me, I am afraid. I tell myself to run, run fast into the mountains. Hide away and watch the city safe from a distance. I pick up speed because today I am going to do it, I am going to keep running and running, run away from my house and my bed and the door and the key in my pocket that thump-thumps against my thigh as I run fast. I run until my lungs claw for air and my toes feel bloody against my worn socks. But the acne hills are still far away. They are too far, they are out of reach and I am afraid because for all my desire I am still a civilised man and I belong in my house and my bed. The fear puts a stopper in my throat and I can’t breathe and I can’t run any more. I turn back and wish I was blind to walk the same route, where the houses begin to sit next to one another, the dogs bark and the cars flash in the new sunlight, and by the time I put the key in the door there are angry tears on my cheeks. The stars have abandoned me. The sight of my unmade bed and my room makes me feel sick. I sit down and peel off my running shoes. My feet are raw like meat and I stifle my cries as I walk. Every day a new layer of scabs, blisters and burns. Trophies in my collection. Shameful.
Every day I run away, away to where the mountains are bigger than the houses or the streetlamps or the city buildings. But I always run back again.