Excerpt: Grey Daze


From the fourth chapter, entitled “The Precipice”

“Late afternoon and the desert is alive, still fresh after a morning rain. A cactus wren scolds me as I pass, derailing my dark thoughts. Sand and gravel crunch under my scuffed work boots in hypnotic rhythms. I’m startled by a sudden blur off to the left as a jackrabbit flushes from under a yucca and bounds off out of sight. I trudge up the arroyo, head down, determined to walk it out. Reminds me of the first time I ran away from home. I guess I was about six. Announcing my displeasure to my mother, I was determined to set out on my own, make my own rules, live free. She obliged by packing my lunch for the big adventure. I was back before dark. Have to laugh, she knew me too well. A wry smile crosses my face as I shake my head at the memory and continue up the arroyo. It’s been awhile since I thought of her. She’s been gone a few years now. I miss her.

I climb up one of the gully’s steep sides, crumbling hardpan layered with caliche. Scrabbling on my hands and knees the last few feet, I’m up and out, onto a finger ridge that crests at a cliff’s edge. I look down the sheer cliff face. Craggy fissures split the volcanic rock into rough-hewn pillars of stone, tumbled boulders far below at its base. Stretching out beneath me, an ancient valley scarred by eons of erosion. I stretch my stiff back, huffing to catch my breath as I gaze across a land formed before time, carved out of rock by wind and weather, as barren as the day it was born. I stand alone at the edge of this vast emptiness, overwhelmed by my insignificance, wondering why.
Sonja’s gentle tone fills my head. “Are you walking away?”

“To the point of no return.”

“You’ve been here before.”

“Seems like I never left.”

“At the edge of the chasm, staring into the abyss . . . step off or turn for home, it’s always a choice,” muses Sonja.

“A choice . . . yet I seem driven, always leaving, never arriving. Do I have a home?”
She pauses then whispers, “Yes.”

“Gone now, isn’t it?”

“It’s there, your choice. Just move in that direction.”

“Will I ever get there?”

“One step at time.”

“One step at a time, homeward . . . seems a long way off, like I’m out of time.”

“You have all the time you need. You’ll make it. Faith in yourself, your spirit, your good nature are all you need.”

“And Callie?”

“You can help—go be with her now. She needs you.”

“Can I go to her . . . without losing you?”

“Of course. You’re coming home to me.”

“I thought it would all be over after the Dr. Manson incident, thought it would die down, be less of a burden.”

“I wish I could tell you it gets easier. Truth is, there’s more ahead than you’ve ever imagined. Good news is, you’re in much better shape now. You can handle it. Have the courage to follow your heart. Go for it—go all the way. Sooner or later you’ll get here. It will all be worth it. I will wait for you.”

I can always tell when Sonja’s gone. My long dead wife, returning from whence she came. Doubtful that she ever goes anywhere in the first place.

I sigh and take a deep breath, ratcheting up my determination. I look out across the harsh land as it crumbles infinitesimally, disintegrating into dust eon after eon, oblivious to any spiritual presence, as though I’m not here. But I don’t care anymore. I’m going for it, going all out, whatever it takes.”

Copyright © 2014 by Michael Allan Scott, all rights reserved.

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