In the emptiness of stars and sand, in the silence of the moment, when one could barely sense the slow motion of the gears of time, the traveler gazed into the coming night to perceive that the mission was the other stranger, the shadow now emerging upon the mesa, and not the ghosted plaster of the old white adobe building or even the secret letters and pistol he carried in his coat.
It was in the other land on another planet. An island washed by green oceans, with rusted mountains of snowy peaks, ash-gray fields and great mesas of red sand. For a long time, the shadow stared into the sea through the open window. Sometimes, he painted the walls. At other times, he stopped, holding a paint brush or a box with both hands, staring at the window again. The sky and sea called; the wind called. Something infinite was missing. And he almost remembered. The shadow went downstairs and out the door, crunching his way through the gray and red sand. Night was falling. It always seemed to have been falling forever when it fell, and yet distant and impossible when it had not yet fallen. The shadow was barely distinguishable from the darkness now. In the middle of the great field, he began to shovel up the ash and sand until he found his own skeleton. After digging it out, he ran his hands over the bones, brushing off the dust until the skeleton awoke. The skeleton whispered and tried to stand, but was too weak. The shadow carried him on his back. The lights from the house by the shore guided them. I should have brought some dust, the skeleton whispered. Then the world might return. Do not worry, said the shadow. He carried him into the house and up the stairs to the bedroom, laying him on the clean white mattress on the iron-frame bed. A lamp with a broken shade sat on the floor of the almost empty room, pouring too much light onto the ceiling and walls, radiant with their moist new coat of blue paint. It’s like a real sky or a robin’s egg, the happy skeleton exclaimed. The shadow was pleased. What now? the skeleton asked, but the shadow had fallen into a trance again, staring through the window, waiting for something–perhaps the sea, the sky, or only the wind.
In their travels, the wanderers encountered a sunlit, dry planet of scattered clouds, snowy mountains of stone and rolling plains of golden grass and scattered trees. There were soft seas that washed the semi-arid deserts and steppes. It looked like a good planet to cultivate. One day, as they walked through a plain, explosions of dirt and smoke fatally dismembered several comrades. The rest of the crossing continued uneventfully until they came to the coastal mountains where it began to rain what could only be described as bombs coming out of both clouds and blue sky. After a deluge of phosphorus fire, naptha, and other deafening fireworks burning the ground and leaving black, smoking craters, the land had rest for another thousand days. The wanderers came to discover that these unpredictable mines and bombs were organic, though inanimate, and really no different than weather. The silence was not friendly, though sometimes preferable. It is difficult to safely study an explosion one cannot define or test. In time, there was only one wanderer left intact, a lone shadow walking slowly and thoughtfully over the strange landscape.
In a colorless dream of nocturnal blue flowers, the sleeper asked the corpse which one of them was more blind or awake, for they had lost their candles and exchanged shadows because of the infinite calculus of stars they had forgotten to number together.