He placed the other foot in front, sweat pouring from his entire body. His feet felt like they were nailed to the ground because of the effort it took to perform the simple natural action of walking. He has been on this journey for what seems like an eternity with no end in sight.
He looked up through the haze of heat to see the outlines of what should be his destination. Was it close, was it far? He couldn’t judge the distance through the distorting heat film. It wouldn’t be the first time he had fallen for a mirage. His body was tired, his brain was tired, but he had to get there at all cost.
His body was tense and primed for another surprise attack. He wished secretly it would be an enemy he had faced before, better yet, there would be no more attacks. The last novel surprise attack almost took him down. They were relentless with calculating creativity. He could feel their eyes from a distance. If he was only to be lunch, why could he sense such malevolence? There seemed to be so many of them.
The thought of giving up glanced in his mind. Could it be that bad to stop? Surely the exhaustion of this never-ending journey was not worth it. What was the promise he had read? He couldn’t imagine what was written — it was outside his frame of reference. He felt stupid just thinking about it. Suppose his primitive interpretation was way off? All the others went the other direction. Was there time to turn around at catch them up? Looking behind him showed a clear path; where did the haze go? Indeed, it seems he needed only one step in that direction to catch up with them. Nevertheless, there was something deep in his core that pulled him down this impossible road instead. If it was impossible, why continue? Just choose the other path, it was clearer, smoother, and there would be a lot of others to stand shoulder to shoulder.
He was sure that he couldn’t turn back. There was a single strand of thread that glowed in the pitch black that guided him. He knew deep in his spirit that whatever was at the end of that thread was worth it. The thread had never faulted — he was still alive.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the glint of sunlight shining off was look like a sword. Before he was even ready, the attack began. It was swift, skilled and focused. He was facing a battle-hardened expert swordsman whose every stroke emanated the desperation of fighting for life. The attacker was skilled and underhanded, caring only about victory no matter how it came. The attacker fought with such ferocity with eyes that told him there was no way out of this. He got the feeling there was not going to be any talking, running away or defeating this attacker in battle.
Even if he had the skills to challenge, he was too tired. He fought for all he was worth, without hesitation, allowing his muscles and brain to work freely in complete synchronicity without conscious thought. He didn’t think about how tired he was; he just let go. This battle would have to be fought on the previous years of hard work. Autopilot. Where was the source of his strength coming? The pace was relentless and seemingly unsustainable. None of them gave ground, and without both having such high levels of offensive and defensive skills, one of them would be sliced to bits by now. Suddenly his opponent howled the words “turn back” just before disengaging and standing a short distance away. He was confused! The enemy’s eyes were shivering cold. The attacker stared into his eyes and saw the apparent conviction. The attacker prepared to reengage.
The pause in the battle had reminded his body of how exhausted it was. Could he survive another onslaught from this tremendously skilled opponent? How did he survive the first attack? Nevertheless, he readied himself and uttered with the bravado of the most unrealistic B movie, “if today is my day to die, then I will die, but I will not go back”. The attacker looked at him with utter hatred and disgust and as quick as the entrance was, so was the departure. He stood, muscles ready, and eyes locked where this surprise attacker just stood. His muscles pulsed and shivered as the pent up energy needed release. He was stunned. What just happened?
He thought about the last encounter as he walked. Couldn’t the attacker have won if he continued to fight? Why ask him to turn back and why retreat? If the battle was pressed surely the attacker had a chance of victory. He thought, maybe fifty per cent chance of victory is not good enough odds or was it more important for me to turn back than to die?
He could barely lift his foot to walk, but yet he had the energy to fight in the last encounter. How was that possible? He defended against an enemy that would destroy the most valiant opponent just with those dead, soulless eyes. Eyes that say — you have picked the wrong fight, you are outmatched and you not leaving here alive whether you engage or run.
He thought back on the life he left behind. Those days seemed like another age — another distant time fading with the counting days. The daily rituals with a sprinkling of living without life to sustain the rituals before an exhausted departure from this world. A life-filled confusion of Hegelian dialectics; a plethora of divisions, a platter of routes all a part of this panoptic schism leading in the other direction away from the destination of this glowing thread.
A voice called out to him. His muscles tensed, and he froze. He waited without moving an inch, ears perked, listening for the sound to emerge again. “May I walk with you”, the voice coming from the left of him said. He didn’t say anything. Sensing his hesitation she said, “I am by myself walking in the same direction. I saw your battle earlier, and it would be safer for me if I walked with you. I have no weapons.” Then she emerged from the shadows. He looked at her. She was stunning with marks of dirt on a soft face. She had strength in her eyes with a wise yielding vulnerability. She was exquisite! With her keen eye, she saw his shoulders relax, and she approached even closer. “What are you doing out here?” he asked.
He slowed his pace even more on the gruelling road so that she could keep up. She engaged his mind, and with adept tactility she drew him closer. Still going forward but his vision was not so clear. He rejoiced in this new companion as the attacks subsided. Like a sword not used becomes dull, so did his edge for the surprise attacks. He rested more often for her until one day he finally stopped, promising in his heart to continue once she was settled. Time passed, and he looked at the clear skies. He could no longer feel their eyes.
He opened his eyes in a moment of clarity and looked at her with knowing eyes. She looked back at him with soft eyes, both understanding each other’s thoughts. She didn’t smirk, laugh or display any glint of acknowledgement. He rose up without a word and started walking into the haze — no more clear skies. She didn’t pursue. Her silence sounded like
He wondered what was at the end of this road that warranted such a broad spectrum of warring. His thoughts sunk in disbelief. Such warm soulful eyes in direct contrast to the cold shivering soulless eyes of the swordsman, yet a hundred times more deadly. How do you fight when you don’t even know you are under attack? He thought about the distinct nature of the battles, and how it paralleled the world, he left behind.
He opened his eyes, laid on his bed and stared at the ceiling. His thoughts mulled over the extremely vivid dream he just had. He smiled with knowing weary eyes. If only the journey were that easy he muttered. He got ready for the day; dream overlayed with the panoptic schism of this world. His strength, the lion, roared inside — the reverberations energising him to tackle head on the day.