IX. The Vision

This is the passage; a fanged tunnel where the stalactites drip with something not water and burns on his palm which caught a drop. He looks down the tunnel and hears his voice again. It is a dream or he has died, at last, and proceeds toward the darkness knowing it is as strongly behind him as it is before him.

The rider is free from the light.

He walks slow and feels occasionally a rock under his foot. It is kicked away to avoid falling; the bouncing echo follows him and runs past then dies. At the end of his path there is an eye of light. Soon it grows like hands opening in offering. It does not feel warm but blinds him and he shields his face.

The rocks beneath his feet crush softly and he pauses. No longer in the tunnel; the rider stands in the naked forest in winter. He feels his skin bump with the cold and the hair on his forearm rising like blades of glass. There is a grave marked haphazardly with twigs. He knows this grave. The wind teases his neck but it sounds like a woman’s laughter.

In solitude he sees the mist of his breath and a figure between two dark skin trees. It is a doe who touches her nose to the ground and stares, black eyed, at the rider. He tries not to move but smiles when it does not run. She walks slowly toward him and looks up to meet the gaze of the rider. He reaches out to touch her fur and finds his hand passes through.

The doe is gone. He stands in the desert at night. There is a howl and he sees the stars which are numerous overhead. A candle guides him to a table in the open air and it has two chairs. Cards are laid out in a game of poker; there are no chips only bullets. He reaches to turn the next card on the deck; it is the eight of spades.

The card becomes a gun and he stands on a hill near a forest. It is spring or summer; everything is green but still night. He does not see the stars anymore and a campfire is smoking making his hand look orange in the dark. His Colt is aimed at something; a figure. This person is half a person and his hands grip leg stubs. The rider cannot see his face; the shadows have swallowed it even as he tries to scream for a name.

He cannot move his arm and the gun fires. He did not pull the trigger but he cannot stop it from shooting and it does, many times, till the bullets are gone; till the rider is screaming. When it stops he drops the weapon like a flame and it is eaten by the earth. He sees now that the figure is no longer a man but, in the fire light, a bible. Its embroidered words reflect golden and he sees the shadow of the bullet marks. They are bleeding—the book is bleeding.

The rider screams himself awake and his skin is crying in the dark.

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