Monday, October 24, 2005

Dream of Sleep

written by
Bill Totolo

September 23, 2005

I couldn't continue on this path with her. I can't articulate why. It just felt it. So did she.

We separated where the high road meets the low road; I hate when I run into a metaphor. The trouble with the high road is it’s so dense. I guess it’s true what they say about the road less traveled.

I began ascending when I noticed she had already made some company on her trip. I could see through the brush that a handsome man with two dogs had engaged her in conversation. He was exercising the beasts by making them run after softballs.

This is when I noticed the abandoned leather ball on the path I was now walking.

I wanted to get home while it was still daylight. If she wanted some companionship for the walk home who was I to judge? I had my own matters that needed attending.

As I entered the forest I noticed the density of the canopy. Light still broke through the leaves. It wasn’t dark but its diffusion took on an almost mystical quality, like a church. The patterns cast on the ground would make for a soothing walk on the way home allowing me to meditate on my thoughts.

It was then that I remembered the monkeys and why this was such a lonely traveled road.

Though they can look pleasant enough monkeys are actually quite vicious little creatures. At less than forty pounds a man could easily fend one or two off but not a dozen, not several dozen.

My walk slowed. I held my breath, and like a child who takes comfort in hiding beneath his sheets, I did not want to look up. But I knew I must.

And when I do, I see them.

They are there in number and I am frozen. The monkeys are everywhere in the fresco ceilings of the forest but they are still.

I fear that completely stopping, turning around or looking over my shoulder will alter my rhythm and cause the monkeys to take notice of me. But as I continue to gaze up at the monkeys I realize they are asleep. Of course they are! The sun is at its zenith and the monkeys sleep in the mid afternoon heat to keep their bodies cool. They’ll be active when the sun begins to set so I must not delay.

But then a horrible memory haunts me at the precise moment that my eyes set on the terrible danger that lay in the back of my mind. I knew there was a reason to hesitate and now I remember why, as my eyes shift from the monkeys I see the horrible shocked expressions on the faces of the naked corpses who’s numbers must be in the hundreds.

Fastened like flies in a spider’s silky web are the bodies of unlucky travelers who have been marauded by the monkeys. The eyes are all locked open and I can see the whites but I cannot see pupils, which leads me to think these people died in abject horror, terrified. But I also wonder if these people are alive. Their bodies are withered but they are not in a state of decay. Do the monkeys sustain them so that they may feed off their vital fluids? Oh, what horrible fate is this! Surely this is worse than anything in Dante’s ‘’Inferno’’?

I look to make sure I do not bump into a tree or step on a thicket so as not to alert the monkeys. Surely if these lifeless beings are left stuck to the ceiling of this deadly canopy, this abattoir of a forest, there will be no one to come for me. I hesitate only a moment to judge the distance I have already traveled into this macabre labyrinth and estimate how far it will be to the end.

I am nearly at the midpoint. It makes no less sense to continue than it does to turn back. I wonder if the unsuspecting considered the same thing just before meeting their fates?

I notice that dead leaves are scattered across the path that lay ahead and I must keep a careful eye not to step on them, which means I must not look up at the trees. Damned.

I do not want to take my eyes off the monkeys because surely if they haven’t attacked me yet it is because they lack the element of surprise. But that is only in my imagination, if I step on a dry leaf the monkeys will awaken and descend upon me en-masse. If monkeys are like dogs it will not go pleasant when their sleep is disturbed and I may not be afforded the luxury of the poor souls above me. I have no choice but to continue.

I do not alter my pace but it feels as though I am wallowing through dense waters. My pace is slow; my heart beats heavy, the sweat on my brow stinging my eyes. My body temperature rises and I can smell my own sweat. I begin to hear my breath heaving as I lumber toward the exit. And as I begin to anticipate my escape I hear a stirring. A few branches, a few more, a few more. I do not slow, I do not look. The sound becomes more and more prescient as I pull the sheets over my head and pray for sleep.

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