I was walking barefoot, earth getting stuck between my toes as I made my way through the prairie. It was endlessly flat; the only volume in the landscape was a trail of dust behind me as my feet dragged themselves through dry dirt. The sky was cloudless and a dim blue, like peeling paint in a forgotten boy’s nursery. The floor was flat and smooth, not even a curve where land usually bent down or up. The entire setting felt like something that would be used for a movie production, the land into front of me simply a large poster. But, none of it felt artificial. I could smell drying plants and taste the heavy heat that tied itself around my chest. The only sound was my footsteps and the breeze that seemingly wouldn’t stop but was too weak to be refreshing. I couldn’t see the end or the beginning of my surroundings, nor did I know why or where I was meant to be going. There was no road ahead of me, just browning grass that tried to curl around my ankles but collapsed with a sigh as I kept on. It never attached itself too tightly, just enough to make my steps more difficult than they normally would be. The sun tore its way through my back and into my head as time passed, leaving my brain pounding against my scalp. I had no shade or rescue from the harshness of heat, and the sun did not budge from its position in the sky. All I could do was keep walking; it was keep on and find whatever I needed to do, or sit down and remain lost.
I began to walk with my eyes closed, growing weary from seeing the blandness of it all for hours. I hoped it would stumble upon something different, maybe even trip over a rock or crush a flower. When I first started, I held my hands in front me, hoping that something would happen that would need me to catch myself. Yet, even the shadows and colors beneath my eyelids did not move or change, they just remained dull yellows. The hair did not move from my face, my clothes did not sway as I moved. I lost all my senses after I closed my eyes. After I began to feel pains shooting up my calves from straining my legs, I opened them again. It was closer to bearable when I could feel something new. As I continued, the fleeting pains grew into cramps that lodged themselves between my muscles and stayed there. They tore themselves a hole into my tissue and nestled there quiet comfortably, falling asleep and swelling with each snore.
I thought of feeling pain as a good thing until my body was shaking and my knees buckled with each step. My ankles were swollen and red, the soles of my feet had blistered and been bleeding for too long. Thirst clung to the back of my throat like bugs on fruit, and I lost my motivation. If I was meant to be somewhere, I would have already reached it. If something was meant to happen, enough time has already passed for the opportunity. I wasn’t supposed to be there. With that, I stopped walking. After being in motion for so long, the world seemed to blur in front of me before registering that I was no longer moving. I dropped to the floor, and my body jumped at the sudden feeling of rest. I let my hands dig into the dried-out earth around me, trying to stabilize myself. Even though it was dying, the grass began to stretch over the tips of toes and fingers. I let it happen; it was something different. I leaned back, letting my full body remain flat on the ground. I looked up, staring at the rooted sun and its unwavering rays of light.
“You have the freedom to move yourself where you want to go. Why stay planted here?” I called out to the sky, tired of thinking to just myself. I wiggled my body to make more of an indent in the dirt as I tried to become more comfortable with not getting back up.
“There is no freedom. And I wanted to see what you would do.”
The Voice didn’t come from any specific region. I heard it from the ground, from the sun, from the turf, from myself. It came from everywhere.
“Where am I?” I asked, pushing myself up to rest on my elbows. Maybe the Voice will be a friend.
“You’re Nowhere. This is a place for thinking and living freely.” The Voice sounded like the way wind does when it blows through palm fronds by the ocean, with water rolling into grains of sand nearby. Grass kept on growing over me and was beginning to pile over my shins.
“How do I get out of Nowhere? I don’t want to be here,” I whispered, my throat too dry to yell at something I couldn’t see.
“You don’t. You got yourself here in the first place, there’s no backing out.” The Voice whispered back, originating from the ground. I put my ear to the floor, straining to hear it speak again.
“How did I get here?” My question came out muffled; half my mouth was pressed against the floor.
“You walked. For a good chunk you walked with your eyes closed, so I don’t know what you expect when you say you’re lost.” The Voice came out muffled as well, as if the being it belonged to was buried not far from where I laid my ear.
“Who are you?” I began to sift through the dirt, hoping to stumble upon a bit of evidence that this was real.
“You’re really nosy, aren’t you?” The Voice took no pity to my cluelessness. I was in an unfamiliar setting that grew too familiar to my senses, I was lost as to where I was supposed to be or going. I grew tired of polite conversation.
“I’ve been walking for hours, looking for something to point me in a general direction. You’ve been watching me suffer in silence for this entire time, yet I’m the nosy one? You could’ve helped me way before this, and then you wouldn’t have to be pestered now.” My vision became dotted with specks of white and grey light, and I grew dizzier. I laid on my back once again and awaited a response.
“Just a little while ago you would’ve killed for somebody to talk to. You’re being ungrateful.” The Voice seemed to have raised in volume a little bit, just enough for me to feel the vibrations coming from the ground.
“I just want to know what’s going on. I don’t know what to do.” I sighed, rolling my head to the side to rest my neck. The grass had grown to begin covering my stomach, but I paid it no mind. It was a form of shade in its own way.
“What do you want? A pity party? It happened to the rest of us.” The Voice sounded like it was coming from the sunlight; not far enough to not hear, but not close enough to feel.
“The rest of us?” I tried to come up with responses to the Voice that weren’t questions in hopes that it wouldn’t get angry with me again, but I couldn’t help it. I was overheating and malnourished; my proper thoughts had left my mind in beads of sweat.
“You think you’re the only one who’s been here before? Who let the grass eat you up after you lost motivation? Nobody could escape it. We couldn’t leave, we couldn’t go anywhere. You can’t go somewhere else if you’re Nowhere to start with.” The Voice grew cold, and the sun dimmed. Clouds remained absent, yet the sky grew gray. I wanted something different, but I didn’t notice the comfort I took in familiarity until it was taken away. I lifted my head to look at the grass that had been taking over my body. I could see nothing but a flat prairie up until the beginning of my ribs. I tried to lift my arms and push it off, but they were stuck under what felt like thousands of pounds of dirt. I couldn’t even move my fingers.
“There’s more of you?” The Voice chuckled in response, merely pushing aside my rising fear.
“We are all the same. We sound the same, talk the same, look the same, feel the same. Individuality here isn’t an option.” The Voice was to grant me no mercy, no comfort. I suppose it was lost in its sweat, too.
“I don’t want to die here.” My voice was shaking, my chest was swallowed and compressed by the never-ending land. I didn’t want to have my voice join all the others in a chorus of a breeze in palm fronds. I wanted to keep mine, as shaky and scared it was.
“Nobody said anything about you dying. We didn’t.” The sky darkened to a dark blue, the sun dimmed to a single flame. I was almost apart of the floor completely, dehydrated sod growing into my hair and around my scalp.
“Is there a way out?” The pain of blisters and sore muscles disappeared, along with the feeling of consciousness and being my own being. I knew I was already lost to the ground.
With that, the grass wrapped itself around my eyes and up my nostrils, sealing my throat and lips shut until I could no longer comprehend the difference between the prairie and I. It was suffocating both my body and independence. I could feel myself dissolving into the dirt, my limbs dispersing and stretching into their own blades. The weight of the land was piling on top of me, compressing and spreading my being throughout the prairie. That was when I became a thought, nothing more. I could still hear the weak wind, and the sun was still beating down upon me. But instead of the intensity of the sun being on my back, it was spread all throughout me, or throughout us. I was no longer had my own being; I was a part of Nowhere.
“We didn’t die, but we wouldn’t call this living.”
I could hear myself in the Voice’s breeze.