I stumble across the neverending desert, sand filling my shoes and rubbing skin from my ankles. Sunlight and heat glare and roast my tired body, and I continue to stumble forward, frustrated and angry. I’m just as aware of my unlikely survival as I am of the maggots wriggling while they eating away the pia mater covering my beautiful, broken brain.
I don’t know how they got there, or how I got here. My throat is scorched by sand and I am drenched in sweat. Sand occasionally flies at me in a fury to rip away more skin, more bits, more of my sanity. Maybe that’s the maggots, or maybe it’s me going mad. I don’t know. How am I enduring this?
More than the burning of the sand and sun shredding and cooking my flesh, it’s the maggots that terrify me. What will happen next? How deep into my brain will they go?
They’ve chewed away my glia limitans, the only thing left to protect my cortex. Their writhing bodies buzz in my ears and raise goosebumps on my body.
I somehow remember the mantra I’ve repeated for the last several years and calm washes over me for a moment.
Refuse to feel, anything at all. Refuse to trip, refuse to fall.
I can’t not feel the maggots obliterating my very core, though. I can’t stop tripping as the tremors in my core and legs toss me to the ground with such force that pain shrieks through me as my body begins to fail.
They’re in my cortex now, the maggots. They multiply rapidly in an orgy of bodies, eating as they sustain themselves on my brain matter; absorbing me at my core.
My amygdala causes me to weep and scream in terror and rage as they devour it. Movement evades me, my eyesight blackens once my occipital fails; finally, I’m not half blind.
Refuse to trip, refuse to fall. Can’t be weak, can’t stand still. I watch my back since no one will.
I’ve fallen forward, wiggling determinedly on my stomach through the dunes, just like the tiny bodies in my head. I have to find a way home. Have to find a way to be useful again. I’ll rebuild, somehow.
I’m alright, I’m alright.
I can’t fail. Won’t fail. I somehow wriggle on, forcing myself to find strength to get home. Useless and alone, I’ll find my way home. Home to the one who’s never left me. I only need to keep moving. How am I still alive?
Stay the fuck alive.
I wake drenched in sweat, my mouth dry and my throat tight. My legs are tense and tired; I think I was running while I slept. I drift away again and finally don’t dream.
It’s the nightmare I’ve had for the past several nights now. I always wake before I’m able to reach ‘home’, so I don’t know if I ever make it there.
Just like the other times, I look at the darkness of the early morning sky and smile at the hints of sunlight peeking over the horizon. Unlike the other times, I smile, take a picture of the sunrise, and stretch the aching tension from my legs. This time, I get up.
I’m going to run again. Someday. Because I’m alive, and I’m alright.