Cody Higgins submitted this intriguing and hallucinatory story to Josh’s Worst Nightmare and we’re including it in its entirety. You can check out more of his writing at Zen Mob Publishing.
It’s Like Water
by Cody Higgins
The forest floor felt like home beneath my steps. Seemed I was most hesitant, of all things, about taking this walk in my bare feet. Of all things.
Was an odd space to consider, given everything that led up to this point. Given everything it was supposed to mean. That felt odd, too. Feeling like it was supposed to mean anything at all. That was kind of the point, for it to stop meaning. Stop meaning anything at all. But to do it in my bare feet seemed appropriate. The forest floor felt like home beneath my steps. Seemed I was most hesitant, of all things, about taking this walk in my bare feet. Of all things. Was an odd space to consider, given everything that led up to this point. Given everything it was supposed to mean. That felt odd, too. Feeling like it was supposed to mean anything at all. That was kind of the point, for it to stop meaning. Stop meaning anything at all. But to do it in my bare feet seemed appropriate.
Touching the soil with each step that took me closer. Not being in others’ feet. Some feet churned out from massive lines of workers who wore yet others’ feet. But, it was scary too. We become so distanced from our earth. So afraid to touch, to not be protected from it. Can be hard going back. Felt, familiar though… to go back.
I don’t know what I expected. Feet scorched by fire. Skin eaten off slowly as steps carried me further and further into the darkness of the trees. But in truth, the forest was brilliant. The sun needled through the trees and fell onto the ground in patterns that dared explorers to follow them to their conclusions. Was what this place was: conclusions. Or maybe that’s just what we made it become. Got hard to tell the difference any more. What things were meant for. Maybe wasn’t any-damn-thing that was ever meant for anything, anything in particular, and we only tried to force things to mean some, thing, force things to mean, any, thing. Those patterns were what I was forcing just then. In that beautiful space. Sun shining through leaves, spilling a green tint over me as I pushed through the arms reaching out for each other.
We are un-welcomed, it would seem, in the nature that we once called home. But it’s on the surface. Welcomed home as feet touch dirt, soaked into skin. Or maybe that’s just what I told myself. To make it easier. They say death is easy, livin’s the hard part. Is why they say it’s, it’s the easy way out, as though they know. If death were easy, we’d all be doing it.
From the looks of the forest, we had all been doing it. Not the insides, but that usually tends to be a different story, no, but to look at it online is to paint a much more contradictory portrait. The Aokigahara forest. Eater of man. Pulling thousands of footprints into its grasp only to take their own last steps. Seemed life was a long list of last steps. Each step the last before the next, and the last after what came before. Left us nowhere. And if I was going to be nowhere, it may as well not hurt so fucking much.
She’d asked me why I did it, as blood dripped down my skin. She’d asked me why without saying a word. That space when you hear more in a person’s silence than most hear within the roar of an arena. That silence which screams in a million voices all at once. She’d asked me: “Why?”
I don’t know. It relieves the pressure. It hurts.
It fucking well should. Idiot. (SILENCE CALLING THROUGH!!!). I didn’t mean that.
No. I didn’t mean that.
Silence. I’d been trembling at night, when I lay down to sleep. Took a few days, before I realized it wasn’t at night, night was just when I noticed it first. It was…it was constant. I was trembling constantly. It came in a dream. The trembling:
Began as a trip. A drive through the winding roads along-side destroyed cliff face. Up, up, as we twisted ‘round mountains built into the skies. It was a slow and strenuous journey. But there was a—a sense that it was meant for something great, we were meant to be somewhere great (not something, no, that is different). Viewing down from the skies, the skies above the skies, not yet space, there being no distinction, but instead only the dreams of those with wings, just as we gaze into the sky with our feet firmly planted into ground, fantasizing towards flight, those soaring also dream towards higher, it’s in the nature of being. Like viewing down from an ominous all encompassing space, till weight shifts and I’m staring out front windshield as we pulled up.
The house was suddenly all that had focus. As though at the very tip top of existence. But it felt like a summer vacation. Like that space in the horror film, where a car load of teenagers played by twenty-somethings pulls up to the cabin, happy, relaxed towards a weekend of debauchery, and only the audience knows they will all be torn to shreds…well, all but one.
Aye, felt like that. Only the real version. Where there wasn’t all but one. There were those with me, those twenty-somethings, but I couldn’t see them, hear them, only know they were there as my footsteps carried me into the house. It was yellow. Which doesn’t matter. But it was yellow. Times when a moment is all you need to continue on with the story. I never liked the word yellow.
Inside was a nothingness, a nothingness in perspective, because what would follow would redefine the term. Surrounding it was a staircase that spiraled up along a wall of black. I could feel my steps. I could feel their steps, those ones I couldn’t see. And as we ascended, the nothingness seemed to grow deeper, deeper, thick with a foreboding sense that this was no longer just a dream. And at the top, at the top was a door. I knew this, but again it wasnt something I saw.
Things shifted, as dreams tend to do, as life tends to do, and… in trying to describe the space to lovers I’ve had in my life… I found myself on a lily-pad blackness floating high inside a pure and nothing emptiness. A Ganesha figure the only existence, other than maybe myself. Though it was also up in the skies. The skies of a void. If there can be such things. And I knew I would always be there. Forever. And as I awoke, I wasn’t sure I could believe the things around me weren’t nothing. Soon after, I noticed the trembling. Even now, I’m not sure I am not surrounded by nothing, nothing at all. Nothingness in sickness.
If I were a carpenter, the other ants would carry me off to die, alone, jaws clamped in breeding ground, stroma fruiting through my flesh, alone but for the unilateralis turning insides to sugar. ‘Tis sweet, to have such a sweet death. Lonely too, at times, to be sweet. It’s a sad look at how we deal with death, how nature deals with death. But to catch spores in skies digging ways into brain? Hard to blame the living for wanting to stay as far away from sweet sugar spore death as they can.
I’ll only infect you.
I want your infection.
Kisses on sticky honey lips. I want your infection.
Always saying the right things, even when I’m dying from fungus turning my insides to sugar. Even when we’ve lost sight of who we are because we’re so busy being others. Better to find myself here, where I felt alive, than to be a zombie ant infecting everything around me. Was funny, and I giggled to myself in the quiet forest air, feeling alive in a place like this. Must have been the fungus talking. But then again seemed maybe that’s all it ever was, the fungus talking. Though this was different. This was, peace. This was far away from all the infection that floated around. Was far away from the dream that floated around.
I had come to see you. But they wouldn’t let me. All I wanted to do was see you. And I stood waiting on the porch. It stretched all the way around the building. Type that house comfortable story telling late into the hot summer night, lemonade drinks in hand, ice melting faster than clinks on glass can keep up with. But they wouldn’t fucking let me. I could feel it in me. Everything I’ve wanted to do for so long. I told them one more time to move.
I pleaded with them. “Won’t you please move, I just want to see her?”
But they wouldn’t. Said nothing, stood there, in the way, just like always. And so I stepped forward. In the day today I’ve wanted for them to do something, give me some reason to take out all this aggression building, and it never happens. Here though. Here was my chance to see how it played out. Something took my attention, for only but a second. Something in the windows. Someone in the windows. Some… ones in the windows.
Children. They watched. Waiting. Curiously wondering at what would happen next. And it caught me for long enough to second guess what I was about to do. I didn’t want them to be afraid of me. But more importantly, offset thought from stimulus, I didn’t want you to be afraid of me. And in that hesitation, they turned, and the door closed behind. There’s a darkness that defines us all. We come from it. The darkness of the guts inside mothers. I let my darkness out.
Cutting through wrist. The blood gushed out. The blood smiled as it spilt down my frightened flesh and soaked into the wood of the porch. I don’t know why I did it. I ask myself, why? But it’s a dream. Who wonders at motives in dreams?
Then you came out. You rushed out to me. I didn’t want to tell you, the real you, cause it’s like, a reward, like killing myself on your front porch will get you to hold me. That’s what happened. You held me as I slumped down. My blood covered your dress. You looked so beautiful. And.. and it felt wonderful. Being with you. I knew I was dying. The scene started to fade. But I was with you. So it was okay.
What colour was the dress?
The dress in the dream?
It was white.
Hmm… were there flowers on it?
There may have been. No… I don’t remember…no.
There comes a point when we have to question what we remember of dreams. And what dreams remember of us. Why? WHY WHY? It had settled. The smoke in her eyes. And there could have been a million years, the death of infinity, in her pause. She did it to drive me crazy. Did it so I’d have to think more than I aught. I think I was there. Dreaming with you. As you told me, as you told me the story, I felt it. Like you were only reciting an old space that we both remember from so many years ago.
Maybe my dreams remember you… were there flowers?
Maybe. I don’t know. Embroidered maybe.
There was certainly a, texture to it. It caught the blood in designs.
Yes. That was it. Blood flowers on white fabric. Soaked in. Like the wood.
There was a long space between. Spaces creating what’s more to come. And I proceeded, though I knew I shouldn’t.
I’ve been having these dreams. Where, when I wake up, everything is the same. It’s all fucking the same. And I can’t tell if I’m awake. I have to ask myself, all the time, if I’m awake. What if I forget and…
What if you forget what?
What if I forget and I never know?
Forget yer awake? Dreaming?
No, what if I forget to ask? What if I wake up next time and my wrists are cut the fuck open? I don’t… sobs, tears streaming down stubbled face… I don’t wanna die.
That seemed like so long ago. So long ago before she disappeared. So long ago after she was gone. I can’t tell the difference any more. I only wander, aimlessly, through wooded forests waiting for me to wake up. That’s not entirely fair. It’s not been aimless. A deep, certain, purpose in my movements. Feet touching ground always in exactly the spot they are meant to. Ground knowing the footsteps. It has felt them all before.
I was tired. So tired. Like elephants searching through endless sand for just a bit of water. Sun beating down onto thick heavy hide. I knew of hide. I knew it was hard to pull moisture from. Had to go over the same spot more than once, and even then. Sometimes the most we can hope for is a little trickle, spilling down golden legs, like God parting the sea to bring us wine served on trays lined with the hide of elephants. Elephants endlessly searching, stumbling through the haze of sand burned sky, for some, little bit, to drink. Walking. On and on. For days with nothing moving them on but the hope, the certainty of hope, that there’s water somewhere up ahead. The sand constantly brushed into the sky by winds that laugh as the poor beasts drag heavy trunk through crusted dirt. The young follow behind. Tired.
They try to slow, the little ones, to rest just for a bit. But mama nudges them along. You’d think the giant shadowed body of the grown would help block babies from sand storms. Nothing blocks storms and the little giants become blinded with the same dirt crusted over ground. They stumble into small, dying trees as they lumber on, the sky stained earth falling in upon them. And still. They march on. Baby elephants, dying from dehydration, blinded by sand caught in eyes, push forward with each heavy unsure step they can muster. But not like the full giants. Like the grown. They move forward with a hope. With life’s unending drive to beat out death. They move forward for water. The babies, well they push on because mama says so. And when mama is gone, they are lost in the wind, earth broken sand torn and thrown in their eyes, alone and blinded. The story of the elephants put a smile on my face. But it drifted away faster than I could notice it. As if pulled off my skin by the wind like sand in the desert. I imagined my smile breaking into a billion tiny parts as it crashed into the trees, lost forever, in the sky. It felt like a fitting end, or an ending fit, whichever sounded better.
My feet had been torn by now. Carrying me further and further inwards. I wanted to be in the heart of things, to make sure I had the heart, to do what so many had come here to do. I’d waited in line just like everyone else. And now it was my turn. Number drawn, called, and scratched off the list. Wondered what number I’d of been if we were taking. Maybe I could choose. Maybe I’d be.. well… maybe that’s for a different story all together. Tree bark covered green with moss. Its branches reaching out. Seemed to reach out to me. Maybe in a dream. Maybe in a dream she dreamed with me, long ago, when there was less blood making everything sticky. Green, fuzzy bark would make a perfect backdrop. And if I looked close, was that a, yes, maybe a bit of heart.
The rope creaked round neck. Was a space that I had been afraid of for so long. That dying time. But now. Here. It seemed so easy. Reckon dying was the easy part. Felt familiar. Was getting’ to the dyin’ that was hard. Never the less, tears rolled down, leaving trails in sand as feet trembled to be back on ground, back on dirt. Elephants wearing salesman suits nailed signs to forest trees as eye sight blurred. Signs that read, Suicide Forest.
I can remember thinking, as heels brushed back and forth against soft moss covered bark, I missed her. Aye, that was it.It was time to wake up… or… go to sleep, I’m not sure which is which. And really it didn’t matter any more. That was the point. It didn’t matter any more. I had grown so tired of searching for water, like baby elephants, blinded in the endless storm, and so I slowed, to rest… just for a bit.