art by Jeffrey Redmond
A Measure of You
by C. Richard Patton
You are there again. Near the rock. In the blackness; in the void. I know that it is you, even though I cannot see that it is you.
I know it is not me. I am not there. Not there, where you are. You slump against the rock. It is a small, unnaturally round, boulder. It supports your back as you recline against it, uncomfortably. You roll to your left, twisting, and push off the rock, into a standing position. You lift one foot, place it on the rock, for reference as much as for support. Your faded trousers, cut off below the knees, show a gap of hairy calves above sandaled feet--or they would if it were less dark. You still wear your glasses, useless though they are in this continual night. You have no shirt; you are comfortable enough and you are easier for me to monitor without it. You step up, onto the rock. With this exertion I can sense that you are in good shape, your muscles are lean and your joints smooth even though you have begun the second half of your natural lifespan. You step carefully off the rock and amble forward into the dark.
You haven't quit--not just yet. Finding the rock again was a blow to your spirit; that was obvious. Not a blow at first--it was a shape in an otherwise utter and empty blackness. It was a relief to you--you'd found something in the void; that the something was an object that you had already explored was eventually a disappointment; but first came the hope of discovery, then a suspicion of familiarity and, impressively, a thorough exploration and determination that it was, in fact, the very same rock in the middle of your "nowhere." Your nowhere consists of this artificial rock and a bottom: a floor that is as smooth as polished steel and as hard and unmarkable as titanium, with no perceptible texture. And there is air in your nowhere. No wind, no smell, but a heavy, humid, and very normal (tasting, feeling) air in this non-place. Everything here has a uniform temperature: just right.
So you came back to the rock. You found it for the second time after the equivalent of four of your days. But you don't know that it has been four days. You are certain it is longer than four hours. You are less certain that it has not yet been four weeks.