♣ Scroll 26
The flowers had been acting strangely ever since the sun went down. I seldom saw them after midnight and just assumed that they were behaving as flowers always did when left alone in the dark. But what I saw last night was unearthly. Although there was not a breath of wind, each flower was swaying and waltzing on the beach like drunken Viennese on New Year's Eve. Stalky women with their arms extending as if to catch the ghostly moon, their necks craning as if to escape from their own shadows.
They seemed to be afraid of standing still but somehow stayed rooted, even as the weather changed & the ghost crabs scuttled past them to the water. The sharks hovered following small fish, squads evaded ejecting ink. The ocean's another battlefield like every one I've ever known but, tempting as it was to join the battle, that night the rising wind gave me a clear sense that I should pay attention—something was up. I walked slowly backwards, because the waves began receding and the sands escaping from beneath my feet.
I hardly could keep standing when I realized that not only was I moving backwards, but so was time. With each step, I was receding slowly into the past, and with each step I sensed ghostlike human shadows increasing in number around me. I had no fear of them, only felt they were willing to talk with me rather than threaten me, and had the clear sense that they were more frightened of me than I was of them. As I moved deeper into the jungle, I lost my sense of body position.
I had no idea where I was heading for in the tangled vines and trees until I felt myself swept up and off my feet, tossed like a rag doll through the forest, and landing hard against a tree. After some time I was able to stand, and looked around and found only an expanse of blue water before my eyes and the white sand around me. Forlorn on this white island, I regretted having not listened to what the ghosts had tried to tell me, and knew now that they had been trying to warn me of the dangers that lie in the predictable, comfortable, sunlit world.
Desperate to return to the darkness I took a final look around at the past, and gradually a familiar landscape came into view. I heard someone whisper in my ear, "Dare to be lost...." I realized that I had even stopped dreaming in the broad sunlight, let alone hoping for gleams of light in the darkness. With a single step forward, I began the journey back the present, step by step, until I met face to face with my shadow, which looked like following the movements of my mind. Moonlit, it swayed as if practicing dancing, as if trying to hold me with its extending arms.
Photo by James C. Hopkins: Koh Phangan island, Thailand.