The sun shone brightly within a dream. A man within moved briskly and brightly as he walked along the bridge. Moving forward with confident steps, he looked to the right and observed the metal rails of the structure, a dark reddish brown in strange contrast against the bright greenish blue and swells of foam that extended below. Without taking more time to question the discordant pairing, he looked forward as the railing extended endlessly along the path before him. Suddenly he realized that he did not know where the bridge began or where it would lead. He paused briefly, looking backward upon the path that remained behind him. As a mirror it similarly extended into an unknown. Then, as his mind remained fixated on that which remained behind him—“Where? When?”—he felt his body resume the comfortable steps forward and his mind gradually calmed. With a confident gait and a clear mind, he continued forward between the bars.
The bridge seemed similar to a rainbow though. There was no discernible beginning and there was no end in sight. Meanwhile, as he continued walking, the man could remember an assemblage of concepts, familiar objects and people, having a mother and father, and other memories from his waking life—the source code and building blocks of his dreams. They were swirling about as faint whispers within him as his attention oscillated between the bridge and the lingering questions. So much of where he came from felt blurred as it rose within him, calling him to a place that he couldn’t quite picture anymore.
Looking within himself though, he could see multiple paths from which he might have come to find himself within this strange dream. However, as he delved deeper, a bombardment of images, there were no answers, and, a chaos swelled within him, like the sudden urge to vomit, a rising anxiety pushing him back into the external perceptual field. Suddenly, he looked around himself and felt the uncanniness of the constant landscape—the immaculate bridge, the calm ocean, and the blue sky endlessly containing him. Thus, after regaining his bearings, he took a moment to focus on the thoughts that had, only a moment before, been racing in his mind. He could see their faces in memories more distinctly, the people from his life as scenes unfolding, but, yet again, the deeper he dove into his mind, the stranger their forms became and a discomfort began to swell. His mother’s face was familiar and yet distorted, melding slowly to become unrecognizable as she began to blend into a million familiar faces, variations on a theme. Meanwhile, his father’s appeared too, and in the very instant that the shift in his mother became discernible, that face blurred into an unknown man. The façades of friends, lovers, acquaintances, strangers began to appear too and soon they all felt like strangers lost within a haze. Thus, with each step forward, he began to realize a truth, that he had been and will always be on this bridge, surrounded by an ocean. The only tangible reality was the pavement touched with each step, and yet, he saw this path extending forward into the horizon, the sky above, and the ocean below, between two edges.
His attention shifted then, relinquishing the illusions within. The twin seas surrounding the bridge—gaseous clouds and watery depths—were in movement. The waves continued to lap gently against each other; however, the sound began to fade. Its monotony, rhythmic monotony, gradually melded together with the wisps of the sea breeze. The only sounds that disrupted the rhythm were the footsteps of the man, but only once he realized the nature of his surroundings—the unreality of the dream, the absurdity of the bridge—broke the patterns of his steps—right, left, right, left, wisp, right, left, in perfect cadence as the waves gently accompanied the beat of his steps, steps that had tapped the pavement like a metronome, each step perfect, two feet between each step—and began to think, to observe, and to feel the weight of his mystery.
As he continued to ponder, he began walking backwards to discover where he had come from. Surely, he thought, the answers exist behind me. Eventually, he began to run, ever faster to find the truth, each step to a unique beat dissonant with the prior harmony. Thus, the waves began to stir below, the sky grew darker, and, suddenly, the call of a bird thundered from the distance and the piercing cry echoed, causing the man to stop dead in his tracks. He was familiar with the concept of a bird, a flying creature, and he scanned the sky, yet there were none in sight. As the sea continued to churn, as the waves began to crash faster and more wildly as if they were symbols in the employ of an unseen percussionist, he spun frantically in search of the only other sign of life that he had detected, yet all that he could see and hear were the instruments of indifference, pure nature surrounding him, engulfing him, imprisoning him on the bridge.
As such, he began to run once more, unsure of whether he was running backward or forward. The spinning had disoriented him; the darkness of the sky and tumult of the waves had engulfed all that was seen, all that could be heard. He felt the spinning continue within him as he ran, panting, staggering, growing dizzy and weak prior to pausing, leaning against the rail of the bridge, growing limp, feeble, and unable to support the weight of his body as it began to sag against the bridge, to bend downward forcing him to encounter the gulf between him and the unknown that existed beneath the surface.
He felt petrified. Unable to move he stared downward at the embroiling surface of the ocean. He could feel it pulsating, growing closer, a current reaching upward pulling him downward, bending his will. The pressure upon his body grew more intense and his head began to throb, his muscles became constricted, tightening as if caught in an invisible vice grip, and as he attempted to emit a cry of panic, but no sound emerged. It was then that he felt ever so briefly the sensation of letting go, of his feet losing contact with the ground, of a weightless sinking as the ocean appeared to rise. The waves grew more violent still and suddenly a faint spray brushed his face, shocking him back to conscious awareness. Slowly at first, and then swiftly, he regained his footing, stood upright, and felt his inner world at peace for a moment. The world continued to swirl chaotically around him—clouds roiling, waves crashing, and the wind howling—yet he felt a renewed sense of presence, awareness, and awe.
Everything extended infinitely—the ocean, the bridge, the sky, and whatever might exist beyond them. Everything repeated itself infinitely—the ocean, the bridge, the sky, and whatever might exist beyond them. Everything had been monotonous except for that moment. He had felt everything in that moment. It felt like flying.
Copyright: Thomas Christopher Elliott, 2021.