In my dream, I walked through my life in reverse chronological order. I started today, in a village, and just kept walking through my past. It was silent and I was alone. No cars, no people. Just me. It was sunny, the grass was green and the road was newly paved. Trees were everywhere and they were magnificent. The houses were modest but well cared for. The whole place was clean. And, nothing was out of place.
The only sound I heard was of me breathing as I walked. Feeling pretty content.
A block ahead of me were two people. As I got closer, I recognized them. A couple coworkers at a previous employer from 30 years ago. Two people with whom I shared mutual disdain. They weren’t moving. As I walked closer, I could see them glaring at me. I got within 10 yards of them, stopped and said, “Well, uh, hello. Yes, right. And, how’ve you both been?”
The only reply I got was their continued somewhat hostile looking stares.
I always found them annoying and this was no exception. “Oh, me? I’m doing fine. Thanks so much for asking.”
“Well, listen. It’s been thrilling speaking with you, your limited vocabulary not withstanding. No, really, I must be going. I gotta go…flush the radiator. Yeah, it’s urgent. You know how that goes. Cheers.”
I walked past them. After 100 yards, I looked back and saw them still standing and still staring.
After walking another block, I came across an old girlfriend. After our unpleasant breakup, initiated by me, she stalked me and even threatened bodily harm if I didn’t take her back. I always wondered what her thought process was with that strategy.
Next to her were two other women I had cast aside in previous lifetimes. I gave them a nod of recognition but they just glared at me. I kept walking and, appropriately in their cases, never looked back.
At this point, the day had turned overcast. The wind was beginning to pick up. The houses weren’t nice and tidy anymore. The vibrant color at the beginning was now getting gray. I walked towards 8 or 9 people standing together. They were ones who died when I was in my 20s. I was close with many of them. I wanted to run over and hug some of them but I didn’t because they were all throwing me some very angry looks. I didn’t stop to say anything.
I picked up the pace. It was getting darker and colder. As I walked back in time, those houses and buildings were decaying quickly The road was breaking apart. The warmth of the day was gone. The grass was brown and the trees were bent over with only a few leaves remaining. There was almost no color at all.
And, the people. All those people. The ones I left behind, the friends who died, the girlfriends I discarded or who discarded me. They just stood and stared at me. Angry, contemptuous stares.
I stopped. I didn’t want to walk further. I wanted to go back where it was sunny and warm. I turned around but all the people and places I walked past were gone. All gone. Instead, there were huge, random piles of trash. I couldn’t go back.
I stood in the cold darkness. I couldn’t return and I couldn’t escape. I had to keep walking but that was becoming difficult. The ground was cluttered with debris, potholes and broken pavement. There were now hundreds of people surrounding me. I had to sidestep them as I continued. They still said nothing but I felt their rage.
I walked past my college. The friends and teammates I left behind stood and stared. Sides of buildings on the campus were missing. Houses looked as though they were beginning to cave in. I walked faster. Past high school. It was too dark to tell for certain but it looked like someone torched the place. I tried running but kept falling down. I saw my elementary school. It was gone. Reduced to rubble.
I was exhausted and thirsty. My legs were tired, I wanted this to end. I thought about giving up. But, I kept going.
I ran into a clearing and stopped. I saw my childhood home to my left. It was barely standing. The windows were broken. I looked behind and saw thousands of corpses piled right behind me. All those people died. I looked at all the dead bodies and wondered what happened to them. Did I kill them when I left them behind? I looked ahead and saw blackness. There was nothing in front of me.
I turned back to my run-down and battered childhood home. The front screen door opened and Ken appeared. Ken died when we were seven. He was my best friend. His mother was behind him but partly obscured by the screen door.
I only saw Ken’s mother once. She had bruises on her face. Other than that, she was a voice behind a screen door. Ken never talked about his life at home and, even though I was only seven, I knew enough not to ask.
He walked towards me. He was still seven years old. He had on his favorite sweatshirt but there was blood all over it. He came closer. His eyes were jet black. There was a messy bullet hole in his forehead. He looked me over for a long time before he spoke. He stopped four feet in front of me. He was looking amused.
“What the hell are YOU doing here, you pariah?”
He tilted his head and smiled.
“Nice to see you, too,” I replied. We stood motionless and stared at each other.
“So, decided to visit the scene of the crime, did we? Or, are you just checking property values? Perhaps I might interest you in a dame de la nuit. Got a dozen of ’em ’round back. Take two, they’re small. Maybe you feel like getting your ass kicked some more. I’m sure I could find hundreds of people willing to help with that. In fact, I could….”
“Why are you talking like this?”
He snapped back, “Why are you here?!”
I had no answer.
“C’mon, Squire! What sayeth thou, eh?” He’d adopted a British accent. “Didja walk all this way with a purpose or have you simply lost the plot entirely? Out with it, Mate! Why…are…you… here?”
“Well, I can’t exactly turn back what with the big pile of stiffs behind me. I could have kept going, I guess.”
Ken looked puzzled. “And, yet, you didn’t keep going. You stopped. Right here. Of all places. Why didn’t you run when you saw this place or me?” He had dropped the British accent. “I would’ve. I’d be gone already. So?”
I glanced back to the bodies and wreckage behind me. I looked at what remained of my childhood home. It looked so damaged. Pitiful. And, sad.
“Ya know, Ken. Ever thought of doing a little makeover on the old homestead there? Not to be critical but this place looks like….”
“That’s a good starter word. But, I’m here. I got nowhere to go. It’d take months to climb over the dead bodies behind me and this definitely looks like a dead end street. So, I’ll help you fix the place.”
I got the puzzled look again. “Fix it? Make it better?” He paused. “Did you come all this way to fix things around here?”
I said, “Well, no. I was just trying to get away from…”
“Well, YES!! That’s exactly why you came back here!!”
My unclever retort was, “Uh, okaaaay. Well…hell, who knows? Maybe that is why I’m here. I dunno.”
Ken smiled. “It could use some fixing, no doubt. Do you think you can fix all this? Things did get pretty bad here.”
“Well, okay. I, uh, suppose…”
“Good. Where do we start? We need to get rid of all this garbage once and for all.” He actually looked anxious to start. “Everything that went bad goes. How about everything that went wrong? That’s gone, too, right?”
“The pain? The hurt? Would you be able to get all that out? I mean, you came here for a reason.” He sounded excited.
“Ken, I don’t quite know what you’re…..”
“Oh, and the shame. Gotta fix that, too. Fact’s a fact. You came here to fix this whole thing. I know it even though you don’t want to admit it.”
“I think you’re making more of this than there is. I mean, well, I just….”
“Dude. You came all this way just to exchange recipes? No. No way. You are here to fix things here that have been broken for a very…very long time. And, you know it. Took you long enough. Shit, you’ve been wanting to fix everything here for decades.”
I stood staring at the house while Ken continued. “Finally! You’re here! Right here, right now. It’s time to get to work and get this taken care of. You KNOW you want…”
“Okay, fine! Dammit. You win. I’m here to fix the whole damn thing! All of it. I have to fix it and I’m going to fix it. And, when I’m done, I’m gone. Outta here. I’ll fix this damn thing, make everything right and never come back here…ever.”
“Great. Let’s get moving. If we’re gonna fix all this. No time like the present. To make it right, you said? Well, good. Oh, just one small thing about fixing this and making it right.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
He shot me a big grin and turned around.
I watched as he slowly walked back into the house. His mother opened the door to let Ken in. Before he walked in, he turned to me, smiled and said “See you on down the road. Or, not.”
After Ken walked into the house, his mother threw open the screen door and stepped out. She stood before me. Before going inside, she smiled and waved goodbye. There were no bruises on her face.
I looked back. The bodies were gone. I turned to look at the house again but it was gone as well. I looked ahead and saw a road.
Nothing but road.
I started walking.