tractorAfter the world inevitably ended, things got pretty quiet. Once everyone realized it was over and there was no reason to rush about in worry, things generally settled in to a nice easy pace.

I took a few weeks off to catch up on all the sleep I had missed in the past few years.

I woke up one night during an incredible storm. It had been raining consistently since the End of the World, but this was thundering and violent. The rain fell in huge, nearly frozen drops, each one the size of a small dog. It sounded like a petting zoo crashing down on my roof. I imagined the damage would be severe, maybe beyond belief.

There came a horrible sound from behind the closet door, some indistinguishable banging and clatter.

I jumped out of bed and stumbled over a mountain of books and old clothes, I kicked a path in the broken devices and lost possessions littered along the ground. I fumbled close enough to reach and open the closet door.

Pieces of the wall started to give under pressure from the rain, crumbling apart and spilling in on the bedroom floor. Large soaked cords of wood folding out past the door, too much to all be from the inside of my closet.

Long, soggy beams, strange connecting pieces, crumbled chalky drywall. I could still hear the rain on the roof and some horrible smashing and grinding coming from a distance, far off, outside the closet and away from my house, out there inside the darkness.

I stepped in, avoiding a chaotic wood pile butting against the door jamb, making it all look like an old decrepit silver mine, or some sort of wood lined cave.

It was utterly dark. I walked slowly into the darkness. The hall descended but seemed to have no end, a pain twisted through my heart when I realized I had easily gone further than would account for the length of the closet, and I was either under some secret section of the house which I did not know about, or I had passed the length of the house entirely and if I were to go straight up from where I was, I would probably be near the edge of my yard, I might even come up in the alley.

I saw a faint light ahead. I recommitted myself and started toward it. I could soon recognize my surroundings. The mud walls had been cut at a nearly perfect and consistent angle. Under me planks of wood served as a walkway, but underneath the cave continued its beautiful symmetric curvature.

I continued toward the light, and soon bumped against glass. The glowing light shone through and faintly described my surroundings.

I stuck my face close to the window. Outside I saw a clear moonlit night and the sky lit up with stars.

I wondered when it had finally stopped raining. Through the window I saw a large yard and an old farmhouse lazily settled into the front. The high unkempt grass over growing yard resembled wheat, brown and brittle near the top where it was too far from the soil to get any water and so had withered and crisped.

In the middle of the yard, mostly hidden by the high grass, a woman sat atop a big, red riding lawnmower.

Her face was lit by pale moonlight, her eyed canceled out by shadow. I couldn’t tell if she was asleep or just alarmingly still. A stature sculpted to forever ride the old rusted mower, decrepit and useless.

I was a strange sight, a still life landscape beyond this tiny window somewhere deep within the womb of my house.

Three shadows moved quick through the high grass, across the yard. They got close enough so I could see it was three children, traipsing and playing without any acknowledgement of the woman on the mower, and she neither gave any sign she saw the kids. Echoes of laughter broke through the silent night air and rattled the glass in my window.

The children became quiet in a few minutes, their noise and activity winding down. Finally they became motionless, but all three stood rigidly in place and appeared to be staring directly at the mower and it’s driver.

One child approached her, no one else moved in the slightest. Once the child was close enough, the woman on the mower began to tell him something or sing, I couldn’t tell, I couldn’t tell from where I was, but her mouth seemed to move in a very structured and meaningful way. As she continued, the child gradually came closer, and I recognized his face as my own. I was frightened and nauseous, I wasn’t sure what I was watching or when. Was this a dream or a memory from my own past? Or was it happening now? Was the child a younger me, or was it a coincidence of appearances?

I tried but couldn’t recall anything in my memory about the queen of the riding mower, but many corners and crevices of my mind were shrouded in darkness lately. I wished I could hear what she was saying or signing, I felt urgent to know now that this boy might be a younger me.

I watched more intently now, and agonized to find some reference to this scene in my own past. Which thoughts was it buried under?

The woman was still again, and so too were the children. I watched but lost track of time. The children eventually slunk away through the high golden grass, leaving the woman atop the mower silent, and completely unmoving. I continued to gaze on as long as my eyes would let me, but nothing else happened. The children were gone, and the mower and it’s driver showed no sing of life.

The rain made a gradual return, soon enough pelting the window with heavy greasy water pellets, and the thunder struck a fist against the sky every once in a while to scare us a little and keep us alert.

I made my way back to the closet door and returned to my bedroom.

I slipped through the wound of crumbling drywall and fell onto a precarious tower of books, accented by various papers tucked into their pages, built on a foundation of trinkets and cassettes and old car keys and crushed flat aluminum cans and every species of long-lost possessions, known and unknown. I stick a foot down to test the surface below; had I found the bed or was this another mirage?

I seemed to be in the place, so I dug my shoulders into a pile, descending through in search of the blanket pile, already yawning and slipping toward slumber. I thought of the treasures still buried beneath, and the archeologists that might one day come to reclaim them.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

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