We traversed a realm of water (this, I remember now, is a recurrent theme), following ancient streams and rivers and canals, hopping from bank to bank when the river was narrow enough, across rocks and islets and fallen trees when we could, and using boats or rafts or each other when that was necessary, making our way around ponds and lakes in a similar manner, bounding across seas and oceans (sometimes we felt like gods, although we were something less, something far more human than we’d remembered), chasing something important, something critically important, that eluded us, both in fact and in thought.
The water always speaks, though it doesn’t always say the same thing. But even the most quiet of ponds whisper under the buzz of mosquitoes and the croaking of bullfrogs. Being human, being a god, I forgot to listen, until it was too late, and the sound of the water rushing was a roar. We were pulled, inexorably, by the current, even when we abandoned our tiny craft and leapt to the safety of land; the land broke off under our feet, the whole world fragmenting into small bits that crashed dangerously against each other as they hurtled toward the source of the great roaring.
Most of us were scattered. Most of us I never saw again. Linda and I lashed our bits of soil and rock together, using vines and twigs, and held on for our lives, hoping not to be thrown from our islands, or capsized, or crushed, as even the waters came apart around us, crashing down in blocks through empty space, coming to rest, finally, in another world.
We were shaken and exhausted when we came to rest. My arms and hands and mind were sore from holding things together for so long, the tips of my fingers bloody from scrabbling at the vines, at the rocks and the dirt: the effort had worn away and ripped the fingertips of my work gloves.
“I guess I’m going to need new gloves.” It was a thought. I didn’t say it out loud. But something heard.
“No,” it whispered. It? Perhaps they? I’m not sure whether the distinction between singular and plural makes sense. I also don’t think that it/they were whispering; it sounded more like a cry of something tiny but infinite. “That is how we hear the world.”
I stared at my fingers. They hear the world through our fingers? I think, now that I look back, that some of them said “hear” while others said “see” or “touch” or “smell” or “taste.” It’s my limited cognition that melded the disparate voices into one word.
Linda raised her hands, her gloves likewise tattered.
“That’s how they hear the world,” I said, softly.
“You heard it too?”
I nodded, and she took a deep breath, let it out slowly. There was fear in her face, but there was also, in greater measure, relief, and joy. She smiled, and there was a tear in her eye.