I walk down a paved path next to the road marked with glowing lines. Vehicles with bright white lights blind me every time they drive by. My senses feel like they’re being prodded with pins as I try to take everything in without losing my balance. All the technological advances that were supposed to be in the past surround me now. I recall my grandparents’ words as I look up at the buildings and watch the cars roll by at speeds that seem impossible to a wild man like me. I am walking into a nightmare – one that so many people tried to escape from. There is so much noise, but no humanity.
I look out at the lake and think of the great water falls. In the near distance, lit up boats sail along in the darkness. At least those people have some reprieve from the madness ashore. I am grateful that humanity had the sense to leave the waterfalls wild. Nature is still out there even though it feels far away.
Bright, multi-coloured lights flash at me like a perverted rainbow. I remember my grandmother telling me about neon lights used in signs or at dance clubs. I look up at the moving pictures placed high on the sides of buildings and stop to focus on one. Two people are running on the screen wearing all-black outfits. A man and a woman are both dressed in pants and long hooded shirts. I shift as they jump over a cliff and fly like birds. The segment fades into an advertisement about wine. I feel ill and shake my head at the insanity of it all. Though televisions and electrical lights have existed for well over a hundred years, it feels like I’ve stepped a hundred years into the future.
“It’s a good thing I came here at night. This place must be littered with people and vehicles during the day,” I groan.
I come to a bridge and cross it as cars roar past me. I wonder how people here can stand such jarring sounds every single day of their lives. While the buildings are impressively high and the moving pictures on every other corner beg for attention, I don’t see how anyone would choose to live here instead of in nature. Despite how much the sights trouble me, I can’t look away. There’s something hypnotizing about this place.
A dark human figure appears and walks toward me on my side of the street. I tense up as the first person I’ve seen in the city approaches me. I look to my right at the water as they walk by. All I see is a reflection of the city. I can’t bring myself to look at the person walking past me. I don’t want to connect with anyone here. They probably don’t want to talk to me either. I feel strange, almost primitive in my worn out clothes and wilderness mind. On the other side of the bridge, I stop.
“There’s nothing more to see here.”
In the distance are hundreds more buildings and flashing lights. I could walk for days and still not see every street of this place, but it would look the same to me. I don’t belong here. As I look up to take in a final view of the cityscape, an image on the big screen to my left draws my attention. A statuesque, dark-skinned woman in a red dress lights up the screen. Her dress is so short that it makes her legs look a mile long. I blink several times as I focus on her face.
“It almost looks like …”
I walk closer to it, stepping out into the street. Her smooth, ebony skin and smiling hazel eyes contrast wonderfully to the white background. The woman is stunning, even to a bitter ex-warrior who hasn’t wanted sex for years. She makes me think of someone I shouldn’t be thinking of. I walk closer to the giant television just to take a closer look. A loud honk startles me. I race back to the sidewalk to avoid getting hit by a big car. They honk at me again, yelling angrily out of their open window. Trembling, I wrap my arms around myself. This place is cursed. I can feel it in my bones.
I spin around and run back the way that I came. On the other side of the bridge is a big poster attached to one of the tall street lights. It is the same woman from before. Her smiling face mocks me. I stop to catch my breath, not sure what to think. The model has pink streaks weaved in her long, black hair. It looks ridiculous. Her long, lean body is adorned with tight white pants and a small shirt exposing her toned waist. I look into those amber eyes that are lined with bright blue paint.
“No,” I say, shaking my head. “It can’t be her. No fucking way.”
My eyes travel to a caption at the bottom of the picture in bold blacklettering.
“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
I race ahead, pumping my exhausted legs and arms to move faster. The lights blur. I don’t want to think about it anymore. I just want to get out. Then I am flying through the air and landing hard on the ground, but I don’t stop. I’m rolling painfully down a hill. I claw in vain at the dirt to try to stop myself, screaming in anger and panic. I hit something hard and the pain gives way to darkness.
A soft, but pleading voice draws me away from a dead sleep. I look into the soft face of a girl with smooth, tawny skin and almond-shaped black eyes.
“Are you alright?” she asks softy.
My stomach gurgles and I look away, gagging. I feel sick.
“Oh my God! We need to get you to the hospital,” she cries.
“No!” I say sharply.
If they get their hands on me and realize I’m from the wilderness, they might never let me go.
“Fine. I’ll call a cab and you’ll sleep at my place,” she says matter-of-factly. “But only if you can stand. If you can’t even get up, I’m calling an ambulance.”
With a pained growl, I force myself to sit up on my knees. The world spins so violently that I can’t hold back the vomit that wants to spew out of me. I bend to the ground and empty the contents of my stomach in the grass. Panting, I take the canteen out of my pack and drink the rest of my water. The wave of nausea settles. I start to stand.
The girl’s eyes widen as she observes me.
“Are you from the wilderness?” she asks.
She looks up at me in wonder. She’s petite both in stature and in build. Her slanted eyes are kind. I didn’t expect someone from here to be so gentle.
“Your head took a nasty hit,” she says, looking away from me. “Come on, I’ll let you sleep at my place.”
“You’re not afraid to let me in?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve let a random person sleep on my couch. I’ve helped out a few drunks in my time. What kind of place would the world be if strangers didn’t help one another out sometimes?”
“I’m not a drunk.”
She smiles. “You need to rest. I’ll call a cab and we’ll wait at an intersection up there. You’re okay to walk? You’re not too dizzy?”
“I can walk fine.”
“Okay,” she says nervously. “Let’s go then.”
I follow her up the hill that nearly killed me and we walk back over the bridge leading us into the noisy, blinding city.