The summery breeze carried the eternal scent of wildflowers through the air, tousling my hair as I put my pen to paper again. The floral smell was almost sickening now. It was just strong enough that my nose wouldn’t get used to it and it always caused an uncomfortable headache. I was writing because I didn’t want to forget anything that happened and I was starting to get more confused every day. Everything I was writing was to keep some sort of sense, but if you talk enough sense then you’ll lose your mind. I didn’t want to be like the few people I saw around- empty shells of muddled memories and uncertainty. I hoped that I’d be able to tell Maeve. That’s all I wanted. I’d lost track of the days I’d been here- wherever here was. The night sky had only turned up a handful of times and never got much deeper than a purple twilight before the sun came up again. I didn’t know if this was heaven, hell or somewhere in between. At first, the uncertainty and helplessness killed me, but then I let it take me into its comfortable arms because there was nowhere else to go. I felt like I was waiting now, but I wasn’t sure for what. When I first woke up here, I thought I had to be dead. This world was too picture perfect and the last thing I could remember was drifting into unconsciousness before opening my eyes in a dim hole in a cliff at the side of the meadow. I don’t know how many days or weeks ago that was.
“Harvey Edward Davis, you took a long time to die,” she’d said from outside the mouth of the cave.
I remember her voice well. Warm and silky and somehow dangerously charming. She left me with no knowledge as to where I was or even how I’d gotten there. She didn’t even tell me her name. I stepped into the meadow to lock eyes with the same ones I’d seen before waking up in this world. Something about the coolness in her icy blue eyes and perfectly curly red hair made her seem other worldly.
“Who are you?” I asked, my eyes darting around, searching for something to call familiar. “Where am I?”
“God, Davis, you ask too many questions,” she leaned against the rock, the hem of her silk dress lifting from the dirt to reveal bare feet. She shot me a dirty look. “That’s what got you in here you know? As for where you are... well I call it Eroda, but I guess it doesn’t have a real name.”
“Eroda? Where is that? Why am I here?” I became fearful as my senses finally found me.
“You dug into something you shouldn’t have. Maybe you should have listened to that stupid girlfriend of yours in the first place.”
“Who the fuck are you? I’ll-” my blood began to boil and I stopped myself from finishing the sentence. I didn’t want to know where it was going. My jaw clenched tightly, keeping more obscenities from spilling out.
“You’ll what? Kill me?” she snickered. “Beat you to it.”
“Am I... am I dead?” I asked quietly, not expecting much of an answer from this woman.
“No, but you’ll wish you were,” her tone made the birds stop chirping in the trees.
I turned to her, red hot anger pulsing in my chest and gave her a look that could freeze hell over. I began to make my way down the side of the cliff into the meadow, expecting her to run after me or try to stop me, but she stayed up there for a while, with a smug look that made her face even more punchable.
“Where do you think you’re going?” she laughed. “You can’t get out of here.”
I kept my eyes at my feet, navigating the rocks and slight incline of the side of the hill. She continued to taunt me, throwing out random bits of information and insults as I made my way into the flowers.
“She thinks your dead. There’s no way she’s coming to save you,” she called. I stopped in my tracks and slowly turned towards her. I wasn’t afraid of her now, I just wanted her to go away, but instead she perched herself perfectly in the same place, arms proudly folded across her chest and refusing to evaporate.
“Who even are you?” I found myself saying. There were so many thoughts and questions going through my head, but that’s the only thing that came out.
“That’s a labyrinth of a question,” she sank down into the dirt at the mouth of the cave and put her head in her hands. “Who am I? I guess you could say I was someone like you. Someone who thought a lot and got lost in it... Someone who went too far. I can barely remember who I used to be, but sometimes when I meet a person that reminds me of myself, it jars the memory or two. Now... I belong here and in a way I’m a part of here. This place owns me. I know everything about it, everything I do is because I’m keeping up it in equilibrium. There’s a balance that has to be maintained in the world, you know? You can’t just do whatever you want without consequences and I learned that the hard way... so here I am, ruining other people’s lives to keep this reality open,” she looked down at me as if to check if I understood anything that she’d said and to be honest, I didn’t really. It was vague enough to convey sentiment and for a moment- just a moment- I felt sorry for her. She turned her head against the soft wind, ginger ringlets pushed back against her temples, and for a moment I thought I saw the shimmer of a tear in her eye. She snapped her attention back to me, her coldness returning. “You’re not going to get out. You’re going to be here until you die because that’s just how it works. Everyone thinks your dead. I put on quite an illusion to make sure they wouldn’t question a thing.”
My heart leapt into my throat when I thought of Maeve believing I was dead and suddenly, now I was the one that wanted to disappear so I turned back towards the meadow and made my way across without looking back. I still felt the presence of the woman behind me and sometimes even now I’d still get a hint of her looking on from somewhere, but I never really saw her again and I was glad. My black oxfords and grey slacks I’d put on that morning contrasted the flowers I crushed under my feet as I stomped through the meadow and tried to find some kind of path out of this place. Leaving the scenery behind me, I didn’t even realize how it looked almost exactly like the field Maeve and I used to go to.
I don’t know how long I walked down the dirt road or how I somehow ended up back at the field where I started every time, but it was a cyclical torture. I walked for what seemed like at least ten miles and passed people along the way, but they were focused on something else and didn’t speak to me. I remember the first people I saw: an old couple that were content looking into each other’s eyes and feeding pigeons from a bench near the sea side.
“Hello?” I called, picking up my pace. They didn’t respond, but I thought it was just because I was far away. “I didn’t know there were other people here.”
As I grew closer, they did not look up to say hello or even acknowledge me with their eyes. It was just the man, the woman, the birdseeds, and the pigeons. They had tunnel vision, mumbling little phrases to each other every few seconds. They looked happy in their own little world with nothing to worry about but a few birds. After a few moments, their focus would shift and they’d stare at the ground in a daze before looking at each other and asking where they were. When they figured out neither one knew, they turned back to the birds and happily fed them again. It was like they were caught in some sort of cycle and I couldn’t do anything to pull them out. I thought it might have been their age that made them forgetful, but I ran across a few others that seemed caught in the same cycle- some more than others. One girl around my age I recognized from the newspapers as missing. It was like she could almost hear me. I called after her and she turned towards me, knitting her eyebrows like she was trying to concentrate on my voice, but after a while, she gave up and went back to what she was doing. So, I walked farther with no information on where I was even going or what I was doing other than getting out of there. I just knew I had to get to Maeve.
Finally, the sun went down one day. It was the first time I’d seen darkness since the first day I arrived and it didn’t last very long. I was absolutely exhausted from walking and my legs felt like they were going to collapse beneath me, but for some reason, I still couldn’t go to sleep so I decided to write everything down in a small notebook I had stuffed in my back pocket before leaving the house that morning. My mind raced as I tried to think of all the things I would have to explain to Maeve. Would she even believe me? I mean, it did sound ridiculous. I thought back to how I’d ended up here in the first place. The last thing I vividly remembered was kissing Maeve on the forehead before leaving the house. Everything after that felt like a muddy dream. If I closed my eyes and really focused for long enough, I could remember going to meet someone and it must have been the red haired girl from before because I could just barely recall an image of her handing me something to drink before I sunk into a black hole of sleep.
After some time passed, I began to forget that I’d walked the dirt road along the meadow, past the sea and I’d return to the same spot in the meadow to open my notebook to the first page once more, shocked that it already contained my writing followed by tally marks:
Note to self: you walked the path around the field already. it is not the way out. find another way.
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My body would sink into the ground, frustrated with myself and this tragically beautiful place. I was caught in the cycle just like everyone else. I was allowed only a few minutes to remember, write another tally mark, cry, and scribble a few more things in my journal that I didn’t want to forget. One day, I pushed against the cycle, remembering the cell phone in my back pocket. I didn’t know if it would reach her because I didn’t even know where I was, but I tried anyway. I was surprised when it rang for a few seconds, but then it just went to voicemail. After trying a few more times, it slipped my mind as to what I was doing with the phone in the first place. Everything was slipping. At first, I was concerned with remembering the things I wanted to tell Maeve when I got out, but now I was concerned with remembering her. My hell would be forgetting her. I turned the pages to see her name scratched recklessly between lines and every time I reopened the book, I remembered less and less until her name was the only thing I could recall without reading my notebook.
Maeve Peterson loves you. She loves you more than you deserve. She has light brown eyes that look like the most perfect cup of tea you’ve ever seen. She has brown hair and looks like a girl I’d write into a book to make the main character fall in love with in a library. When you hold her it feels like the world belongs to you, or at least everything that matters in it. You fall in love with her again and again every time you look at her in the morning and you never get tired the way she takes up the whole bed even though you complain about it. She moves hands a lot when she talks and she covers her mouth when she laughs so hard she can’t breathe. She pretends to hate your stupid jokes even though she secretly loves them and I know she’s missing them right now. She also pretends to hate the smoking- well she probably actually hates that, but I know she misses it right now too because if she’s anything like me, she indulges herself in anything that reminds her of us. I do that too when I remember. I stop and smell the little patch of lavender in the meadow because it reminds me of her lavender detergent she washes her clothes with. And sometimes, when I get really lonely after remembering her, I trace little patterns on my face with my own fingertips like she used to when I couldn’t fall asleep. After everything, seven years together, she still chose you every single day and you wouldn’t dream of not choosing her back. You have to get out because you have to see her. You cannot forge the reason why you walk that stupid road every day. It’s her and it will always be her.