Strawberry Dreams

The soil, moist and soft, recalled safe memories; its cool touch embraced my underside as I lay, drifting. It is in these times that we are free– loose the chains of gods and governments, loose the hold of hunger and strife; it is in the surrealism, the weightless space-drift of dreams that we are what we have always been. I nestled in the tall grass, shaded on all sides. Sunshine came only in saffron moments, a reflection from elsewhere that never touched me directly. I slumbered.

Great men are a rarity, and possibly only existing the fables of perception, but in my dream I’d been a tall man, bearded and seasoned, with slick gray which fell in a dark frosting of curls. Any man who’d seen me, or any woman, would think to themselves, “There is a great man. There is a man of distinction, a man of wisdom.”

The woods stirred with quiet life, the creatures which live their lives in hiding, daring sound only when unseen. I wondered what they must think of me, a giant, unafraid, knowing fear as only something seen in the eyes of others, only in the fallen shoulders of defeat. My footsteps fell heavy, crushing branches and twigs. Things scurried into the dark emerald shadows as I neared.

Small voices rode the still air, sounding like the cackles of children. I waited at a fork in the path, not knowing which from which side they would emerge but knowing our paths would cross at this place.

Both paths bent around and outward, preventing me from seeing, so I ate wild strawberries I’d found earlier as I waited. The red juice stained my beard as the berries chilled my teeth and tongue, exploding onto my gums.

There were hundreds of them walking behind a man, taller than the rest. The front man was flanked by four horsemen dressed in black tunics, two on each side. None of them were any taller than my ankles. Some carried small books, worn at the bindings. I wondered how I’d even be able to read such a small thing. Some carried crosses made of twigs spun with twine at the joints. The crosses never touched ground.

One of them said, “Bow before God.” and the rest began to chant, the number of voices swelling into the air, then raping the silence in waves. “Bow before God.” they chanted.

Strawberry juice ran down my chin as I chewed, and I said, spitting red, “Is this your God?”

I pushed another handful of strawberries into my mouth. They were small, half bitter, half sweet.

The one in front wore a tall and pointed white hat, and then it changed, becoming a tightly wound turban. His skin grew darker and then his head became a yellow ball of flame, like the sun.

“Is this your God?” I asked again, knowing gods exist to give meaning to the meaninglessness, an echo from the abyss.

Strawberry skin coated my teeth as I spoke and the small men trembled for a moment before chanting again.

“Bow before God. Bow before God.”

The cool shadow of my foot fell over him before the weight of my boot crushed him into the soil. The horses fled, horsemen still mounted.

“Is this your God?”

I twisted my boot into the ground like putting out a cigarette. Lifting my foot, parts of him still burned, embers smoldering into the rubber sole.

The chanting silenced, and still there was no reply to my question. None of them moved. Crickets, cicadas, and furry and winged wild things which had stirred in the deep green became silent as well.

“You are free of him then. You are free. Go now.”

But they stayed, silent.

I awoke remembering– there is a pain which is beyond pain, where nothing is even felt, except nothingness, an eternity of it, endless dead-wheat fields of futility. Turning my body, I could see that the lower part of me had been crushed by a boot, my brown and yellow innards now fallen outside of my skin, coated in soil. The ground trembled with their determined approach; the ants were coming, thousands of them, and I, born as a earthworm, crushed-pink, wrinkled, and half-paralyzed, could do nothing but writhe, waiting for the end.

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