Flatline

I flat-lined.

I was alone when it happened. I'd been alone for a while — ever since Claude died. Before Claude, AIDS had shown me the meaning of loneliness. Who am I fooling? Gay guys are born lonely. Really though, AIDS pulled me and Claude together, out of our loneliness. And then it pulled him away, dumping me back into loneliness. Only, it was a different loneliness the second time around. Claude made me think I mattered. When he was gone, I didn't matter anymore. People proved it, over and over.

I tried to blend in. I really did. But communication never worked. The words never matched the eyes and actions. Only songs could explain my world, and people don't talk like that. My loneliness became my sanctuary, and music kept me sane. The flat-line knew that. It gazed at me and hummed, and lulled me to sleep.

I always liked that word… flat-lined. It rolled out so efficiently. Like it looks. Clean, straight line. Everything was done. I was done. Mine was the smoothest flat-line I ever saw. Quiet. I could barely hear it. Apparently, no one else could hear it at all. No nurses or doctors came running. No alarm went off. The flat-line just calmly extended its green arm and silenced the machines with it's low, steady hum. Then it faded away, too.

* * *

I slept a long time. A day? A year? I couldn't tell. And I couldn't tell how long I'd been awake. It simply occurred to me, I had been floating weightless and naked, in total darkness, for a long time. I couldn't remember much at all. Except songs. And the flat-line.

I couldn't see a thing. Maybe my eyes didn't work anymore. Why would they? My ears worked, though. I could hear water. I heard it sloshing somewhere nearby, and a constant drip at varying tones. It reminded me of that Joe Walsh song; but it kept changing. I heard and felt wetness all around me, though I couldn't tell if I was actually submerged. It was neither cold nor hot - just tepid wetness, arbitrarily brushing me from various angles. I slowly waved my arm from right to left, trying to see if it felt like air or water. I still couldn't distinguish what it was. And I couldn't see my arm. I couldn't see anything.

At first, it appeared I was totally alone, which was fine by me. I sang and performed lovely little water ballets. Lovely in that I couldn't see them. And that my voice resonated through the moisture with tone and bass that rivaled a symphony.

And yet, I didn't feel totally alone. I must have drummed up some imaginary friend. Someone to perform for, I guess. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was the flat-line that stayed with me. I mean, that green hum never really went away. It became a comforting, protective presence. Claude left, but the flat-line would never leave. I'd taken it with me into eternity. I live in hotels, stare at the walls.

I don't know how long I hung there. I dozed off a couple times. I eventually remembered all the words to the Joe Walsh song. I even managed to force it to go along with the arbitrary melody of water drips. I could never get tired of that song. I kept giving it new spins like they do at live performances. I remembered a couple of Walsh's doozies. Life's been good to me so faar.

Wouldn't you know it, the song finally got old. Funny, I never thought that could happen. Eternity is longer than I realized. I contemplated claustrophobia, but the expanse had no end. What's the opposite of claustrophia?

Then I caught something out of the corner of my eye. I'd forgotten I even had eyes. But something made them turn. It was something besides black. As I peered around, I slowly began to detect some dark shades of brown and green, then a little dark blue, moving and flickering. For the first time, I got a glimpse of my watery environment. The silhouette of my body started to emerge, like a long, lost stranger. Even then, I still couldn't tell if it was water or air I was hovering in. But I could tell something was happening. My heart fluttered. I wasn't sure I wanted change.

It had been so long since I'd seen colors. These were messy, like the pictures my students created when I taught kindergarten—till they let me go because I made the parents nervous. I tried to remember the Crayola names. Forest green. Midnight blue. A little while later, I noticed the brown becoming a little more rusty and orange, and the midnight becoming cobalt blue, and the forest green turning into turf green. Turf green. Is that in the Crayola box?

I still couldn't tell whether I was submerged in water, but it sure acted like it. Colors and flickers of light jostled all around me, my nude flesh catching contoured reflections.

The colors kept getting brighter, and so did my mood. I felt like I was in a kaleidoscope—a fantastic moving mosaic of golden yellow and rich aqua and some contrasting cobalt. Flashes of bright white highlighted the shadows and blurs, reflecting off the indistinct presence of water all around me. I never dreamed a little light could have such a big impact. Party on, dude! I swung invisible paint brushes to fling color at myself and the atmosphere, singing out my own, invented color names. I danced like a painted Martian in a strobe light. You can do what you wanna do, in living color. Well, I guess I can't say "living" color. Who knew dying was more colorful than living?

For hours, the colors remained bright and vivid, changing in hue and dancing around on the mist. While my eyes took in the beautiful display, the moist current lapped at my body. I closed my eyes to hear the ever-changing song of the sloshing and dripping. The flashes of color penetrated my eyelids. But then they gradually began to fade. I didn't see much aqua anymore, but I saw more cobalt and pine green. The yellows gave way to the orange and rust I'd seen earlier. The bright flashes of white subsided to little glimmers.

Eventually, all I could make out were wavering patches of midnight blue, olive green, and some shades of bronze. I was sad to see the colors go, but my eyes and mind were exhausted from the hours of the brilliant light show. My view slowly returned to black nothing, and I felt drowsy. Hello darkness my old friend. As I drifted off to sleep, I wondered if my friend the flat-line got to see the show. I slept like a log, back in the dark water world. A mindless log, floating oblivious for hours.

* * *

Then light again probed my eyelids, reminding me I had eyes. I opened them to flutters of cobalt blue and sea green, set off by little shimmers of bright white. I immediately remembered the flat-line. I actually wondered if it was the flat-line that caused the light show. After all, it was a colored light—it could happen.

As I prepared for another light show, I noticed the colors above me were becoming lighter, and below me, they were getting a little darker and bluer. I turned around both ways and looked up and down several times, to make sure I was not imagining it. Then I laughed. How absurd, to think any of this was real. The laugh quickly silenced me—it sounded real. It also sounded flat. The resonance and base had died out. I listened. The sloshing noise was only coming from below me, and the drips grew faint and further apart. I moved my arm slowly back and forth again. It moved much more freely.

Many of the colors faded away. I couldn't find some of the Crayola distinctions I was singing before. In front of me and above was a blurry mosaic of pale yellows and blues and greens. But the white flashes only happened below me. And they weren't little sparkles anymore—they were big flashes stabbing my retinas.

The skin on my upper body felt a little cooler. Eventually, I realized the current brushing around my head and shoulders felt more like a breeze than water. Finally, I was able to classify the substance as air. I took deep, long breaths. It tasted good.

I heard the water splashing and gurgling under me now, and looked down. I was floating in it from the waist down. I remembered people could do that in the Dead Sea. Maybe that's where I was. I moved my legs around to enjoy the brushing caress of it. I reclined on my back. I practiced my swim strokes. I tried walking in it.

My upper body gradually dried out. My hair opened up to an occasional breeze on my scalp. The air became clearer and brighter around me. The drips were completely gone, and so was Joe Walsh.

I looked up, and the pale yellows, blues and greens were far above me. They blended together in some areas, resulting in a grayish-brown color. Eventually, they all moved into each other and become separate patches of gray on a background of light blue, which stretched as far as I could see. It was beautiful. Even the word 'sky' seemed too restrictive. My eyes fixated on the distance; the sheer depth captivated me. I can see clearly now the rain is gone.

The waves gently rocked me back and forth for hours, while I tried to remember the words to my new song. The crisp air and endless view were so invigorating, I decided to go back to singing out loud—flat or not. For a while, I belted it out real loud. There was so much room for noise out there. It's gonna be a bright, bright, sun-shiny day. When I got to that lyric, I jerked my head upward. I hadn't even noticed—there was no sun! That bright, partly-cloudy sky showed no trace of a light source. I stewed on that for a while, then shrugged it off. What did I know? Look straight ahead; nothing but blue skies.

By and by, the sourceless light in the air grew dim, and the colors above and below me began to fade. The lighter blue above faded into gray. The darker blue and green water below dissolved into black, and started to look a little scary. I pulled my feet up closer to me. What was going on, anyway? Shouldn't I be in the grave by now? Or hell? It's a known fact, all gay guys go to hell. I'm on the high-way to hell.Must be they're on a waiting list. Maybe this was pergatory.

Soon, everything got dark. My singing fizzled down to a tiny peep, and then I just quit. I'd grown spoiled to the light. And I was not comfortable with half my body engulfed in pure liquid. Funny how changes can shake a person's confidence. I felt alone and nervous. I missed the flat-line. Where was it? Was it gone? I'd been so engrossed in the details of the changing environment, I forgot all about my friend. Pink Floyd chimed into my head: Wish you were here.

I floated there in the darkness, pulling my feet up for security, then letting them down for relaxation. Pink Floyd still sang to me, We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. I wished there were two. At that point, it only felt like one. How did I not notice the flat-line leaving? The vast sky had consumed my attention.

I considered calling the flat-line. But then I thought how stupid my voice would sound, out in this dark, open expanse of air. Plus, it couldn't even hear me if I did call. Flat-lines don't have ears. They don't interact with people. I listened to the silence. It wasn't silence. I heard the water lapping softly. And I could enhance the whir of the breeze by turning my head in different directions and let it catch my ears.

I could not feel flat-line. I grew nervous at the prospect of being alone. Eternity is a long time. I decided to call it. But what to say? "Hey there!" Nah. That seemed disrespectful. "Flat-line!" Nah. "Presence!" Nah. I floated there, wondering what to call out. Wondering how loud I'd have to yell for it to hear. Wondering if it was just a figment of my imagination. Finally, I got my nerve up, took a deep breath, and opened my mouth to shout whatever came out.

All that came out was a tiny little whisper, "i need you."

My face got hot from blushing, embarrassed at my stupid, pitiful, talking-to-myself idiocy.

Then I felt it. It was there. It was all around me. My heart filled up. My body felt like it was being wrapped in a protective cover. My nervousness was gone. I completely relaxed. Flat-line had stayed with me, even when I forgot about it. Somehow that amazed me more than all of the extraordinary events of the past two days combined. Days? Where those days? I drifted off to sleep in my Dead Sea waterbed. I aroused several times in the dark, felt the flat-line's presence, and fell back asleep.

* * *

Much later, light again probed my eyelids to open. The breeze had picked up, and the water I was submerged in had become quite a bit more wavy. My hair blew all around. I noticed it had grown longer, and a beard was developing. No need to shave—how nice. I closed my eyes and stretched my whole body, and yawned myself to life. Scratching my whiskers, I tilted my head back to look into the sunless sky. It was still spotted with the gray patches I saw coming together the day before. But there were more of them.

I looked around at the surface of the water. The waves were a little bigger. I kept thinking something was coming out of the water. As I watched them rise and fall, my eyes wandered further and further away, till I saw the horizon. I hadn't noticed that line the day before—that stark contrast between dark water and bright sky. Now it seemed like some kind of shocking statement. It looked like the flat-line.

It occurred to me that the same body of water I was floating in, that I'd been a part of, was touching the blue expanse above me, right at that line. I wondered if I was touching the blue expanse as well. It didn't seem like it. It seemed like it was far above my head.

I looked back at the bouncing waves. I realized one of the appearing and disappearing bumps seemed to repeat itself in the same place. It was off to my right. I did a twisty dance to turn my body that way. I fixed my eyes on the spot, and sure enough, it was a stationary protrusion that kept getting covered and uncovered by waves. I took a mental inventory of possibilities, checked the flat-line was with me, and swam toward it. It had to be land. On the way, my knees and feet brushed over other hard spots beneath the surface. I reached the one exposed little mound and climbed up on it. It was a rock. I sat on it as the waves rose and fell against my legs. I could not comprehend how the rock didn't move, when the water and I did.

Eventually, the water receded down the side of the rock, and the waves didn't reach me anymore. Other rocks slowly appeared. On rubbery legs, I stood up on my rock, and felt very tall, towering over the waves that were once at my waist and chest. The cool breeze caressed my body. It tickled my genitals and the hair on my legs. I stood for a long time, legs planted firmly on the rock, watching a landscape slowly emerge from the water. Finally, I tore myself away and walked around on the rocky ground, checking out the hills and crevices and plateaus. The horizon was no longer a straight line.

Soon, the crevices and plateaus began to take on a greenish tint. Eventually, the bottoms of my feet were caressed by a soft moss. I sat down and ran my hands across the green velvet.

Over the course of the day, sprouts began to appear all over, especially out of the crevices. At first, they looked like tiny green loops. When I stayed in one place long enough, I'd see the tiny loops I'd found earlier were bending open to stand upright. Some of them unfolded leaves. Some blossomed flowers. Some grew straight and tall without leaves. I walked around to find more; it was a constant discovery process. I spotted hundreds of various plants. Some even had budding fruits. I wasn't hungry, but I snagged a few berries just for fun. Everything looked green. The air tasted fresher and sweeter.

I could not see the plants growing, but every time I looked back at one, it was a little bigger. By evening, many of the sprouts had developed into bushes and trees taller than me! The variety of colors and blooms was mind-boggling. I laid down in a meadow of soft weeds. Looking up at the darkening sky, I wondered where the flat-line was. The best I could come up with is that it was there, in my head. That was good enough for me. I felt at home, and drifted off to sleep.

* * *

The morning light persuaded my subconscious to roll over in my stringy green bed. A long strand of it tickled my nose, and brushing it away woke me to consciousness. I sat up and looked around. Large bushes and trees had grown up around me, shrinking my meadow bed down to a small clearing. I saw through gaps between the trees, and the greenery went on for as far as I could see. I yawned and laid back down in the grass, looking up at the blue and gray splotched sky.

When the sleepiness wore off, I got up to take a walk and pick some fruit.

After a little while of scouting out the terrain for new munchies, I noticed the sky on one side of me was much brighter than on the other side. I climbed up on a high hill to study the difference. My eyes scanned the bumpy horizon line to the brightest point, and there, I saw a tiny bright spot. Hello old friend. It radiated a yellow-white light around it, but only above the horizon line. It got bigger and brighter, and took on the shape of a half-circle. It got so bright I couldn't look straight at it anymore. I looked around.

Half the sky had already gotten much brighter than the other half. I kept glancing back at the sun, and saw that it had become an entire circle. A huge, intensely bright ball, slowly rising above the horizon. As it rose, the entire sky got very bright; much brighter than it had been in the previous two days. My eyes ached from the brightness, and I found myself looking down to avoid it. But that ball of intense light was so massive, I couldn't help but sneak a peek at it occasionally, and get momentarily blinded by it.

And then there was heat. At first it felt good, like a warm bath. But soon, it seemed to take away some of the crisp air. It got a little harder to breathe. I started to sweat. I looked for somewhere to go that wasn't so bright and hot, and saw that the trees had developed shadows. So I headed for a tree and sat under it. Immediate relief. My eyes didn't hurt anymore, and I felt a cool breeze on my perspiring skin.

I spent the day wandering the land, escaping into shady spots when the brightness and heat were too intense. Nevertheless, I kept sneaking peeks at the sun every few minutes as it followed a straight path across the sky. I found a place where the land met the water again, and saw again those old familiar waves. Tiny little things, compared to the California monsters I grew up with.

This new beach was more beautiful than I remembered from the morning, now that I'd seen different scenery. The ground here was soft and sandy. The junction between the land and water stretched as far as I could see, just like the horizon line. I knelt in the water every so often to cool off and reminisce about the good ol' day in the fish bowl, two days prior.

Eventually, the sun began to go down toward the water, exactly opposite from where it came up. It also picked up color as it headed down, white to yellow to orange. As it touched the water, the orange light radiated out from it like a liquid, spilling a long trail into the sea. It was much easier to look at, and so beautiful.

I got a funny feeling the flat-line was pausing to watch with me. In his company, I leaned back against a sand dune and watched the big ball melt into the water. It happened so quickly, I could see the downward movement. Then, right as the last bit of orange fell behind the horizon, I saw a brief, green flash of light. And then it was gone. Flatline? Was that you? Did you say something?

My eyes remained fixed on the spot, mesmerized, for a minute or so. Then I looked around the sky. It was a beautiful blend of pinks and purples and oranges, and behind me it gradually faded into a dark blue.

It was getting dark again, so I figured it was time for the eyes to close. I arranged the sand into an ergonomically correct bed, and laid down in it. Looking up into the darkening sky, I was surprised to see a familiar white ball which got brighter as the rest of the sky darkened. Then came another, smaller bright light. I knew that one. The first and brightest star. It's one of the planets. The only thing my dad ever taught me. Which planet was it? I couldn't think of a single planet. For that matter, what did my dad look like? Man, my memory was gone.

I also noticed other little speckles of light appearing all over the sky. I tried to count the small speckles, but more kept appearing, and I lost count. As the sky grew darker, they all got grew brighter, looking like they moved closer and closer to me.

I laid there looking at the stars, listening to the waves, and wondering if the sun would come back. In my ergonomic sand bed, I was lulled through the night by the gurgling and sloshing of those funny little waves. My mind wandered back to the first day, when I watched the dazzling light show to the sounds of water movement. The Joe Walsh song dripped through my dreams.

* * *

Once again, the brightening sky of the morning pierced my eyelids to wake me up. As my eyes opened, I turned to face the ocean, and saw the sparkling, jostling waves, and the straight horizon line. I remembered the second day, when I saw the watery atmosphere separate and that flat-line horizon appear.

I sat up and stretched, and noticed the dry ground I was sitting on. I thought back to the third day, and the moment I saw the first solid protrusion from the water, and climbed up on it. Looking around behind me, the vast array of colorful plants, flowers and fruits reminded me of the moss I first saw growing on the rocks, and the first bite of fruit I tasted. I got up to go find something to eat.

When I stood up, I saw the brighter half of the sky, and remembered the giant ball of light that came from that direction. I grabbed a banana and climbed up a small hill to see if it would come again. Sure enough, that tiny rounded edge of it peeked over the horizon. It moved steadily upward and grew to its massive proportion. Within a few short minutes, it was fully above the horizon, and I felt the heat on my skin. Sunshine, on my shoulders, feels so lovely.

My eyes combed the sky while I finished my banana. I saw clouds with beams of light stabbing through them, light streaking down onto this world I seemed to have all to myself. Pergatory was alright, I tell ya. I hoped it lasted a millienium. Suddenly, a screech shot through my ears and into my gut. And then another. My nerves jolted me like an electric shock. Once I calmed down, I followed the noise and ended up back at the ocean. Several white birds flew over the water and walked on the sand. Their shiny black eyes looked at me sideways. Then some little brown birds hopped toward the water.

So this was how it was gonna be? I'd have to share my pergatory with critters? A slow-moving train of big gray birds sailed a few feet over the waves. Their heads were almost as big as their bodies. What are those things called? My mind was going blanker by the hour. Sheesh, use it or lose it, brother. Whatever they were, I always thought they looked prehistoric. I didn't mind sharing my world with them. One dove down into the water and came out with something wiggling inside its huge beak. I walked into the water, till I was ankle deep in it. Staring down into it, I saw small, silver fish darting around with each wave that came in. I tried to grab one, but they were too fast for me.

Then something pinched my foot, and I almost jumped out of my skin. Jerking my eyes downward, I caught a glimpse of a crab scurrying away sideways. It looked so funny, I forgave its violation and laughed out loud.

I walked back out of the water, not sure about the critters.  It was like a party. The little hopping birds chased the waves out, then ran back as the water rolled back in. I stood at the water's edge smiling at them for a while. I snapped to attention when a white deposit fell from one of the white birds flying overhead and splatted on the ground beside me.

I climbed over the dunes to begin my day of exploring and checking out all the new attractions. I passed a family of ducks waddling in single-file line toward a pond, quacking to each other. In a patch of woods, I heard a stuttered "hoooh hoooh" sound, and followed it till I spotted a big-eyed owl looking down at me from a tree. Its head swiveled to follow me as I passed by.

Late in the afternoon, my wandering brought me to some tall, rocky mountains and canyons. I heard a screech echo through the stony walls. High up one of the cliffs, a large brown bird with a white head sailed in a circular path. In a moment, it flapped its wings and headed over to the cliff, to a mass of sticks piled on a ledge. It landed on the pile, and leaned down into it. Another bird appeared in the nest, much smaller and completely brown.

The smaller bird was nudged to the edge of the stick pile, teetering and trying to keep its balance. Then, the larger bird pushed the smaller one off the ledge. The smaller bird fell down the cliff, frantically flapping its wings, but to no avail. In desperation, I hopelessly watched it flutter and plummet toward the ground. But from out of the sky, the bigger bird appeared, shooting down like a bullet toward the smaller one. With wings spread wide, it swooped under the falling bird and caught it on top of its wing. Then it glided back up to the ledge, and deposited the smaller bird back into the pile of sticks.

I stood there in awe, my heart pounding from the scare. Life was a little easier with Joe Walsh. I sat down to watch them for a while, but nothing else happened. Eventually, I made my way back to the water, so I could watch the big ball go down again. As the sun headed for its hiding place beyond the horizon, I took my same seat at the sand dune to watch it go down. Again, right when it touched the horizon at the water, the red-orange color seemed to spill out onto the water.

Right at that moment, a huge, black tail burst out of the water. In a rather slow motion, the black tail fanned across the surface and back down into the water again. Then a smooth, black hump rose just above the surface, and a burst of water sprayed up. Then another tail. What a greeting!  I couldn't wait to meet those guys.

There was just a smidgeon of sun left at the horizon. Its shape was distorted by the reflection on the water. After it dropped out of sight, I dug another sand bed and laid down.

No sooner did I doze off, when I was startled awake by a screech from somewhere in the woods. With my heart pounding, I froze and held my breath, listening intently for anything else. I looked around the beach in the moonlight and saw a huddle of seagulls sitting quietly on the sand. After a few minutes of rustling trees and gentle waves, I relaxed and closed my eyes again.

Screech. It happened again. And several more times through the night. Various night birds calling out their songs. It amazed me how much of an impact the noise of living creatures had on the atmosphere.

* * *

After a very long night of frequently interrupted sleep, I finally decided to call it morning. I figured it would take a while to get accustomed to the sounds of live creatures. It was still fairly dark out. I couldn't see the moon anymore, but I could make out the waves beside me. The cluster of seagulls was milling around now.

As the sky slowly lightened, I got up and made my way to the sunrise lookout point. On the way, I passed some grape vines and broke off a small clump for breakfast. I plopped down in my now-familiar overlook spot. Up came the giant ball of light, and the air warmed up. I experimented with different ways to eat the grapes without eating the seeds. I spit the seeds out beside me, and watched in amusement as birds ran up and snatched them and flew off. I peeled them with my teeth, just to drag it out. The peels tasted nasty, so I spit them out beside me. The birds took those, too. I was feeling quite friendly with them. I could see why flat-line would want the companionship of living creatures. Being alone is lonely.

By the time I finished my grapes, the sun was beating down on me. I wandered into the shady, bird-chirping woods, till I found a cool pond. I sat beside it and extended my feet into the water. In a moment, I felt some movement around my toes, and leaned forward for a look-see. A small, shiny black circle, with a point at one end, bumped into my toes. Then I saw a lot of them, all darting around and bumping into each other and my feet. I felt kind of squeemish about it, so I pulled my feet out of the water. Drowsy from my restless night of sleep, I laid back in the grass and took a nap.

Soon, I was awakened by more movement around my feet. Sitting up, I saw some of the black, swimming circles had sprouted legs, and were now hopping out of the water. My eyes followed the edge of the water around the pond, and I saw a lot of hopping creatures around it.

Then three deer walked silently out of the woods and came to the pond. They leaned down and drank the water, beautiful and graceful. I got up and took a walk to see what else might appear. Squirrels and field mice scampered across my path. Cows and sheep hung out at the edge of the woods. Giraffes and lions lounged out in the meadow. Every time I looked up, a few birds cruised the sky. The once still and quiet landscape was now bustling with the movement and noise of a myriad of different creatures. It was almost too much to take in. I made my way back to my lookout point for some familiarity, and perhaps an overview.

Soon after I sat down there, I noticed something moving on a small hill not far from me. The movement came from a patch of dirt with no greenery on it. The dirt was moving, gathering to one place and becoming a small pile. I stared, frozen, while the pile slowly grew.

I wasn't the only one who thought it was weird. The three deer walked up to the base of the hill and gazed up toward the growing pile of dirt. Then some birds landed about midway up the hill, and they too stopped and looked toward the top. Little by little, more and more animals came to the hill and stared at the growing mound. They acted like the king was coming.

The elongated mound grew to about six inches high. I had a pretty good idea of what was happening, and I didn't like it. I didn't want to share my new world. Gradually, it took on the shape of a human being, growing more and more defined over the course of a few hours. And all the while, more and more animals arrived on the scene and stared up the hill. I half expected them to take a knee. I got up to leave, then sat back down. Where would I go?

Finally, in the early afternoon, the dirt stopped moving. The human form was complete and detailed, and male. It laid there facing up, lifeless, still and gray, a fantastic sand sculpture. For a while, nothing else happened. I couldn't tell if animals were still arriving, because they'd already spread out as far as I could see.

Then, the animals started to get restless. They took their eyes off the top of the hill and looked all around. They shifted around and made noises. Some moved back and forth in their crowded space. Some shook their heads up and down. It started to sound and look like chaos. I'd had enough. I started my hike back to the ocean. Back to simplicity. Back to my flat-line.

Then I felt it with them. It was an energy. The air seemed to be replaced by a pressurized electrical current, pounding in my ears like a heartbeat. I wanted to go back to the beach, but I had to turn around and look. The sky turned bright yellow. Clear waves of distortion radiated through the air. They lifted my hair. They began to converge over the hill, and condensed even more over the dirt statue. The gold light illuminated the upper portion of the form, and the energy waves caused the edges of the shape to look like they were moving.

Within the condensed column of radiating waves positioned over the statue, a bright light gathered into a thin line at the center of the column. It reached from the body to the sky. The stream of light zeroed in on the nostrils of the figure, and got much brighter and thicker for a long moment. Then ever so slowly, the rough dirt began to smooth into skin. The gray color gradually lightened into flesh tone. And finally, the chest rose with a deep breath. Then another large breath, and another.

Soon, the figure was entirely flesh, and breathing smoothly and regularly. The statue was now fully man. The stream of light faded away, the radiating energy column died off. The sky returned to it's previous state of blue and partly cloudy. And there he was. Bound to wake up at any minute. Bound to see me as unfit. Bound to show me how much I didn't belong there.

I went back to the beach and sat down in the sand. The late afternoon sun watched me patiently. I stared at the horizon. The endless straight line. I just stared at it, as the aging sun crept closer and closer to it. When the liquid fire spilled into the water, it reach across the surface toward me, and I poured my soul in with it. Together, we melted into the water, diminishing minute by minute. At last, the fire blinked out, and the bright green light extended its long, straight arm and took me home.

 

2006