At the very back of a long, long line that seemed to continue infinitely to the fore, a young man stood. His body unconsciously danced at his place in the line, filled with nervous, impatient dynamism. He looked about himself eyeing ahead first from the left and then the right standing on his tip-toes and squinting in a desperate attempt to see all the way to the front. There seemed no end to the line. Confounded by the imperceptible distance to the fore he struggled to comprehend his station in the line. In an attempt to ascertain some measure of the line he turned around and looked back. What he saw surprised him. When he first stood in line he was sure that he was last. He was also certain that he hadn’t felt himself move an inch forward. But somehow, he found himself ahead of the woman who had been standing in front of him. And behind her he saw that the line was also extending infinitely to the back further casting confusion on his already deep lack of understanding about this infinite line in which he stood. His mind thumped in physical pain at the outright absurdity of the situation.
In an effort to find out what he was experiencing, in the perplexing line, he turned around once more to ask for information from the woman directly to his rear. She was by default the person with which he was most familiar in this line. But when he turned around to ask the person he saw standing there was not her. She was gone and in her place was a young girl. She looked to be no older than seven or eight years of age. “What could she possibly know?” thought the young man. He wanted to ask the woman. She was considerably older and so he imagined necessarily considerably more knowledgeable. A rational thought at the very least. So he looked in both directions standing on his tip-toes and peeking about the line to find her. And there she was; twelve people behind him and staring off into space as if the line was the least of all her concerns. He immediately jumped off to the side of the line but when he made a step forward towards the back of the line he found that he was unable to move in that direction. In utter disbelief at how he could so clearly see her but could not get closer to her, he took a defiant stride experimentally. No again. As unbelievable as it was, he could not move backward. Testing his range of motion he moved to the side, step by step and noticed that just as he had been able to step out of line he could easily move laterally. And childishly he spastically jumped from side to side of the line experimenting with the limits of his ability to move in this direction. To the left he took off in a dead sprint running until his ribs began to ache from heavy panting and he could feel the heat of exertion rising in his head. He looked at the line from where he stood so far off to the side of the line and started to notice just how expansive the line was. From where he stood he could still not see an end to the line in either direction. The people of the line blurred together forming one straight piece of geometry too large for him to comprehend. He stood there for a second and gathered his breath. He pondered the line for a moment and then turned to face the direction in which the line moved. He took one timid step forward. There it was! He could move forward. He could walk freely forward parallel to the line. He was free to move as he pleased laterally and forward. And so he ran again this time in a diagonal line going forward and across back to the line. He hurdled in that direction with boyish exuberance in the freedom he thought was lost when he was unable to go backwards. He ran all the back to the line and jumped through to the other side knocking over an elderly man who stood in conversation with the man in front of him. In his excitement he forgot how the sharp pains of exertion in his chest and lungs. He didn’t even notice that he had knocked the man down. He ran forward farther and farther and farther and farther. The people in the line watched him go. Some cheered him on. Some mumbled “the fool” in admonishment of his energies. He didn’t even notice them. He ran.
Eventually however his legs began to tire. His feet began to hurt. The pouring of fat droplets of sweat like the rain of a humidity laden summer storm began to sting his eyes as they deposited salt in their creases. Awareness of his aching lungs and pounding heart reduced his speed slower and slower and slower until he could no longer run. He sat down on the ground and rested. He lie down and slept.
Sleeping deeply and unaffected by his surroundings the young man dreamed of a young man who looked as he did. Who ran as he did. Who thought as he did. The only thing different between this young man and himself was that this one could run and not tire. He could run in all directions; backwards, forwards, diagonally, laterally. He could move as he pleased and go without limitation. This man ran on the hills of the piedmont and then up to the mountains. Without stopping he ran off the mountain and down to a valley and without pause for rest he continued on to follow a river cutting through the valley all the way down to the sea. This one would not tire. He leapt from the shore and into the sea and found he had no need to swim. He stood on the water and ran atop the waves and out into an expanse of blue so monochrome that sky and sea seemed an impossible distinction. Whether he ran above a sea that was under a blue sky or ran below a sea that fell into a blue earth was of no consequence because this one never once considered his breathing. He was limitless and infinite in energy and so the thought of any line was inconsequential to him.
But dreams do end and when the young man awakened he found himself lying on the ground far off from the line which ran to the left of him. He sat up and looked at it, pondering this strange formation of souls stretching out in a line that seemed to never end in either direction. He could only tell which way was forward by noticing the direction in which most of the people were standing. A few had their backs to the front, conversing with the people directly behind themselves in line but for the most part everyone was aimed in the same direction. The line of people was so odd, unreal in its condition. He had no sense of its motion whatsoever. And its oddest feature was just how comfortable the people seemed to be with its stagnation. He sat on the ground hugging his knees into his chest with his chin resting upon them and just watched as nothing seemed to happen. Perplexing to his very nature as a living creature was this long sessile snake whose head and tail he could not distinguish.
The line gave him doubt. Its unknown end. Its unknown purpose. They vexed him so into he reached a confused misery that he was unable to think through. He didn’t move from his place. He sat, then lied, then sat again, alternating his position but not his mind. He was hopelessly lost and of the three directions in which he could move he was want to choose none. He wallowed in angst there on the ground until he drifted back to sleep.
His sleep was beautiful. What fear he had was gone. In his dream he was in a place just as foreign but simultaneously familiar. In his dream he did not sit and wonder. He wandered in wonder. He ran again and did not tire. He went aimlessly atop the mountains high and the valleys low. He ran to the sea on stood on its tumultuous waves with no fear. Fog surrounded him in a thick, palpable cloud. He stepped upon the mist and ran up through the clouds higher and higher until he was above all, drifting on a lush cotton carpet. Without a single doubt he stepped off of the clouds and floated back down onto the sea. The clouds disappeared and opened unto of night sky of a billion stars. And he looked out onto them observing the wall of an entire universe on display. He took it all in. He breathed in cosmic air and wished to be closer to its beauty. So he ran towards it. He ran to the end of the waters and jumped into space fearless of any fall. He grabbed a star and held it to his chest. It illuminated his skin. It embered incandescent yet somehow simultaneously expelled a brilliant light outwardly that should have been blinding. But he held in his hands and stared at it unblinking. The star thumped like a beating heart. He felt the urge to have it be part of him. He thrust it into his chest and it became his heart. In his chest it felt as if it had always been there. Reinvigoration coursed through his body and all the stars felt within reach. He ran into eternity without need of assurance that there was any end to it all. Running tireless through forever. And then he awakened.
He awakened to the world of the line with tears in his eyes. He covered his face and cried. Sobs like a river streamed down his face and his face felt hot to his hands. He was jealous of the dream. His legs twitched as if remembering the free flying strides they had experienced in the dream. Compared to there this place was hell. He was so unsure here. He was confined to rules he didn’t even understand. And where was his bravery? Where was a heart that would not tire? He cried and cried and wallowed in pity for the imaginary times of the dream. The dream was so real but so was this place. Eventually his mind began to crack. His heart began to crumble and in fantastical rationalizations he forced himself to contemplate reality. He argued with his mind and convinced himself that it felt as if he had never been awake before that very moment and he taught himself to wonder in earnest what was the dream and what was reality. Was the young man who fearlessly ran without exhaustion his true self or was he the boy too afraid to move, sitting frightened off the side of an infinite line. In the panic of a man who realized he was on the precipice of the deep plunge into insanity he curled himself into a ball and waited for sleep to come again. He wished it so. And it hurried to him like a dog being whistled to his master.
Another dream came and another wondrous boy appeared. And this boy ran with a glowing star as his heart. He started in the eternal heavens, upon worlds unimaginable. He ran across entire worlds and at their ends his legs thrust him out and up to fly among the stars. Free of motivations with a heart unclouded, a shining star, he flew only forward until he awakened. And there depression set. It fell upon him like heavy rain and with umbrella he sat until sleep returned.
Dream. Wake. Dream. Wake. Yet no wakefulness. He shunned the world of the line. His wakefulness a mere night terror that he had to endure just long enough to be the young man of star blood again. Sleep and wake, sleep and wake, sleep and wake until he convinced himself that the dream was truly life. For time unknown and for cycles uncounted he continued this until one day he awakened to something new in the dull world of the line. He saw the front of the line. It was some unknown distance away but it was in sight. There in the distance was the end of the line. The line ran into a massive set of red double doors. The doors dwarfed the people in the line. They were immense and of an incomparable scale. Although they were open, whatever was behind them was obscured. Their scale harkened him back to the unfathomable possibilities with the world of the dream. Was he awake? Or was this still the dream? He questioned realty and the heart of the embered star began to beat within him. He rose aroused in wonder. Looking upon the line he noticed many other young people pushing their way to the fore. They contrasted loudly with the stationary line making them immediately noticeable. Their movement made them seem like little grasshoppers leaping in mass in field being mowed on a summer’s day. In excitement and not sure of where he even was anymore, the young man ran toward the line. He got back in line fearing that being too far off to the side would leave him unable to enter the gate. He stayed near the line and made his way forward. As he moved forward he noticed that his range of motion was narrowing. The closer he got to the door the less he could move to the sides until he couldn’t move to the sides at all. Still urging to quickly get to the door he pushed his way past others in line. He got caught up in the race that seemed to be going on between the grasshoppers flying toward to the gate. He pushed his way past trying to keep up with them. In his excitement he continued without tiring. He pushed past man, woman and child until finally he reached the gates. Even though staring forward into the wide open doors he could still not see what was inside. The doors cast no shadow. They were just there. Close enough to see others go through, he watched as others disappeared into nothing. As fantastical and magical as the dream was, this was even more so. They simply walked into nothing and nothingness. His courage from the dream world overtook him in this world and he had no fear. He had only the urge to explore and to experience. He had only the urge to know; to know what was on the other side of those gates. He pushed past that same elderly woman who was there at the beginning and would up in front of the little girl just as before. He flung them back and stared into nothingness. He would be the next to go through. The star in his chest thumped with excitement. From behind the little girl, grabbed his hand. He looked back only then realizing where he was and who she was. She smiled up at him. “How are you here?” he asked. “I ran to the front of the line.” he said half questioning the statement as he made it. He looked behind her and saw the old lady behind as well. “How can you both be here?” he asked. They gave no immediate reply save both smiled and waved at him. “The stars sure are beautiful aren’t they?” said the little girl. He looked up and saw a sky of stars that surpassed the dream’s by immeasurable degrees. Exquisite and greater than infinite were they above. And then he noticed it. The ground was lush green to the right stretching out for infinity. To the left were waves that rolled within a plain of blue so variable in hue that they confounded the eyes. And behind was a mountain peak that from the unbelievable distance that the line ran was still visible as a purple silhouette. That embering heat of the star, in that moment was extinguished. He suddenly realized.
A force moved the line forward and he was pulled into the gate. He tried a step left and nothing. He attempted one right and nothing. He caught one glimpse of the sky. And then nothing…