Mid-afternoon sun beat on me mercilessly through a layer of grime, and the heartbeat thump of distant bass drew my jingling footsteps into a waltzing rhythm. Above me, the vault of the sky was a vivid blue, and behind me it curved down to touch black mountains and the flat, infinite horizon of blinding white. I had been walking, walking and dancing, dancing and walking, for hours.
The change in the light was what alerted me. I had a mere eight seconds to put my respirator on, to pull goggles into place and the chin strap down from over my hat brim. And then it was upon me, shrieking out of the south like a sandy-colored wall, slamming into me like the impact of a whole store full of feather mattresses. The very earth rose up in its fury and I, walking in contemplation in the vast and trackless expanse, could do nothing. And so I walked: slowly, carefully, keeping an ear out for signs of life and erratic veering vehicles that I knew from experience could loom out of the false-twilight of the storm like drunken banshees.
The storm moderated. Instead of a shriek past my ears, it was now only the sullen whipping noise of fabric in the wind; instead of walking into air grown thick and solid
, the whiteout retreated and I was walking in my own personal bubble, white gusts and twisters playing about the edges as I walked on. For several minutes there was nothing to see, nothing to hear but the sound of my own bells, nothing to steer by in the trackless obscured landscape save the sun above me and the angle of my own shadow below.
And into the semi-silence, I heard Her speak.You are alone, but you are not. You are lost, but you are not.
Trust in yourself, for there is only you to depend on.
You will find your way, and if you must, you will find it alone.
Others may follow you. But do not wait for them.
In that moment I knew the shape my steps would have to take, and the stubborn denial rose in me by force habit. The howling winds returned, buffeting me as if to knock me flat. The padding of my goggles grew soggy, and not from sweat alone. The filter of my mask began to clog, and I began to take great sobbing breaths through its protection, shaking my head and fighting against the wind which had suddenly grown thick and biting again with air-married sand.I have spent so much effort on it, I cannot give up now. I have poured so much love, so much time...
I have wasted so much time...
In the midst of the maelstrom, I did what I could. I dropped to my knees and muddy runnels formed where tears tracked the outside edges of my mask.You have to let go, in order to move on.Yes.
The wind dropped suddenly to a whisper, leaving my ears ringing. Sand began pelting gently down from the air above me as I struggled to my feet and looked around. I must have been a quarter mile from where the storm had overtaken me, and in the gusting wind I had turned away from my previous destination and toward - I squinted into the distance - toward friends.
A clean slate, if sandy.