My lips have become bark, my saliva a thick paste. My joints feel like those of an arthritic man in his early seventies. I’ve grown accustomed to the cramps that have lodged themselves into my ribcage. I feel the blisters on my feet with each step I take, like someone is rubbing sandpaper on an open wound every time my foot hits the ground.
I’m about to give up on my quest when I see the tree-lined street that leads to the houses with the white picket fences. The hope of one day reaching this paved road is what got me through the days and nights that I walked alone through the desert.
I want to cry when my feet first hit pavement, but there isn’t enough fluid left in me to fill a single tear duct. After walking on the scorching sand, the smooth black asphalt makes me feel human again.
Once I’m close enough to the neighborhood, I notice a man exiting his home followed by his wife and daughter. He gives them both a kiss goodbye before walking down to his car on the driveway, a briefcase and coffee tumbler in his hands.
The man is blond with blue eyes and a medium build. He sets his coffee on the roof of his car and scrambles for his keys. Then he catches a glimpse of me as I slowly make my way down the street.
I attempt to smile, but my lips are so parched they break apart instead. Warm blood drips down my chin as I come closer to the family. The man quickly ushers them back into the house, his tumbler and briefcase forgotten atop his sedan. I decide to keep walking.
Before I make it past his house, the man re-emerges holding an assault rifle. He is still wearing his work clothes, a red and blue striped tie tucked into a white wrinkle-free shirt. He cocks his weapon and points it directly at me.
It feels like my blood has been instantly replaced with ice water. All of the hair on my body stands in terror. The shock paralyzes my jaw and my bloody mouth hangs open. My lungs fill with a numbness that almost suffocates me before I can take another step.
I peel my eyes off of the gun for a few seconds to look for help. I see a man in a white lab coat and light blue scrubs outside of the house across the street. I remember the Hippocratic Oath and I am filled with hope again. But my hope for humanity quickly fizzles as he gets down on one knee and pull back a crossbow aimed directly at my heart.
The way that they have positioned their weapons gives me the feeling that they want me to turn around and walk right back to where I came from, but that’s not an option for me. I can only move forward. I would rather die than go back into the desert. In fact, I will die if I go back there.
The thought alone gives me the impulse to continue my journey. Every step I take might be my last, but I am okay with that as long as my last step is in this direction.
After a few steps, the blond guy with the striped tie warns me not to step onto his property.
I slowly make my way past his yard and inch closer to the doctor with the crossbow. I see a stethoscope thrown on the driveway next to a small carton of orange juice that has emptied itself onto the stamped concrete.
When I reach the doctor’s house I find him calmer than the blond guy, but this could only mean that he is more comfortable with his finger on the trigger. I am terrified to look into his eyes, so I look into the window of his house. His wife is standing by the window in the kitchen rinsing his breakfast off their dishes without a care in the world.
The confusion makes me want to scream until my throat is swollen shut. I barely make it past the doctor and his wife before the entire neighborhood has been alerted of my presence. Every property owner is on his or her lawn with some form of armament: bats, whips, maces, guns, swords and crossbows.
The more I walk, the more narrow the street becomes. At first I think it must be an optical illusion created by my fear, but before long the street is two feet wide. It’s almost as if they’ve designed it in a way that would give them a reason to kill me.
I begin to experience vertigo and feel like throwing up. As much as I want to stop, I realize that I have nowhere to go.
Soon, my journey becomes a tightrope walk. My ankles are wobbly and my feet tremble, begging me to give in and just fall to my fate. Right before my knees begin to buckle, I reach the end of the road.
To my horror, the narrow street ends on a cliff. At the bottom of the cliff I see the desert. I look down at where I came from and try to decide my fate. If I let myself fall, I will die before I hit the ground. That seems like the most humane option.
Although I am ready to die, there is a question in my head that keeps my battered body from giving in.
Before accepting my fate, I turn around and look at the people with their weapons. Their apathetic faces incite a fury in me that I have never felt before. They are ready to push me over the edge without hesitation, but I refuse to make it so easy for them. My desperation turns into a hurricane that rips through my lungs. I open my mouth to scream and a gale force wind rushes through me.
As soon as the word escapes my mouth, my body begins to disintegrate. I become part of the sound waves pushing through the white picket fences and trees, past all of the people outside of their single family homes who wish to do me harm.
Gravity has no effect on me anymore. Like an eagle who has finally been set free, I soar toward the sea because there is nothing stopping me anymore.