The Traveler

Disclaimer: This short story (technically not a short story) is a part of a new project of mine, called God, The Devil, and a Man walk into a bar.

Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Antonio Machado

The traveler sat down on a sand dune and saw nothing. He heard nothing. He feared the worst. He had reached a truly godforsaken place: a vast, mournful pan of emptiness where anything sentient resented anything else that was alive. Every sun-scoured scrap of fauna had barbs, hooks or thorns, every animal had poison, paw or claw. Scorpions scuttled and snakes hissed and slithered while they went about their grisly business of survival. Even sand was an enemy. It burned his feet raw, it stinged his eyes and acted as a surrogate for pain.

His skin felt like scraped by sandpaper, his tongue was cloven to the roof of his mouth. His eyes felt like they’d melted into the back of his mind, making everything seem mirage-like. He knew he was alone, abandoned, and doomed. A colorless heat haze had blurred out the background and his vision had become myopic.

Yet, through the silence, through the nothing, something throbbed, something gleamed.

“His mind is not infinite,” the traveler whispered. He placed one hand over the edge, the air trembled feverishly around it. He could not see what was beyond, but he could feel it. Nothing. Infinite emptiness. Just as it had been at the beginning of time. He closed his eyes and tried to reach for it. His hand felt cold. He opened his eyes. Beads of sweat trickling down his temples. He took a deep breath, shook his head, looked around at the vastness of the desert. The air was clear, the sun drilled high against the sky. He glanced at where his hand was supposed to be. Nothing. He could still feel it, could move it around, but he could not see it. He curled his fingers into a fist and slowly pulled back. The hand appeared once again before him.

“The mind of God is not infinite,” he mumbled and fell down on his knees. He looked back at the never ending expanse of the desert. The world and everything in it was there, behind him. Everything God had ever imagined into existence. Everything, there, but a line.

On his knees like a penitent, his heart a fist trying to break free from the cage of his ribs. “Don’t be a beggar,” he said. “Have some faith.” His eyes brimming with tears, he urged himself to have some courage. Some hope.

The journey was over.

He stood up, rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand, and stepped over the edge of the world.

It felt like walking on water, but it was not water. Darkness in all directions. No, no. It was not darkness. It was the absence of light. There was no light. Something elusive held tight to him with claws of steel. He tried to pin down the feeling. It was not death. He had seen death, had smelled death, had even tasted death lingering in the air around him, an aftertaste at the back of his tongue. No. It was not death. It was the absence of life.

He could no longer feel thirst or hunger. He could not see, but he could feel. It felt like floating, yet his feet moved. He could hear his thoughts as if having a life of their own.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, he thought. He could hear nothing, not even the beating of his own heart, which made him feel empty, as if someone had carved his soul out of his body and set him free. He felt this freedom in the emptiness that surrounded him.

Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

He continued to walk.

In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

He stopped. In front of him was a dilapidated wooden building. He stood there for a long silent time, staring at the windows and the door, at the blankness that surrounded it. He tried to figure out what it was, what purpose did it serve. Was it a cabin of sorts? A cabin over the edge of the world. Who put it there? Why?

He asked himself a dozen different questions before deciding to step inside. It was a large room, one that he could recognize. A bar he had seen once in a movie or TV show perhaps. Few tables. Chairs turned upside down on them. An old man was playing the piano. A lazy and melancholic tone. The strong miasma of liquor hovering about.

The floor creaked as he walked towards the old man.

The man turned around. “Ah, there you are,” he said and stood up. “I have been waiting for you, my son.” He grabbed him by the arm, his blue eyes smiling at him. “Shall we have a drink?” he motioned the traveler towards one of the tables.

The traveler glanced at the piano, shook his head. It kept playing all by itself.

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