I have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. I close my book, put my pencil on my desk and walk over to my mirror. The face I see does not appear to be the face of someone so young. The dark circles under my eyes and my pale complexion tell the tales of days past. I glance around my room at the scattered books and papers, the unmade bed and stacks of empty Coke cans. I need a break from the monotony and a change in scenery. I put on my coat and my shoes and leave the confinement of my four walls for the first time in forty eight hours.
The night air is cold but inviting. Its welcome frigidity burns my nasal passages and stings my face. In the darkness no one can see my aged features. I walk along the dimly lit sidewalk avoiding the hallways of the buildings nearby. My legs thank me for stretching them as does the rest of my weary body. I continue to walk down the never ending strip of concrete until I reach a row of neatly trimmed hedges. Their flat tops end just above my head, not allowing me to see what they protect. I follow the row to its end, then cautiously peek around the corner. Before my bloodshot eyes lies a large open courtyard sprinkled with trees and sculptures. I like this place, and I think I will stay a while.
I walk up to the stone blocks. The dew drops on their surfaces shine in the bright moonlight reflecting each beam in a million directions. The large grey rocks beg to be climbed, and I comply with their wishes. The moisture slowly begins to soak into my clothing. Coldness diffuses throughout the fibers and covers every inch of my frozen body. I lay there motionless, unable to stop winter's invasion of my anatomy. The blocks remind me of something that I can't quite place. Cheese! The blocks look like cheese. The colored rocks embedded in their surface are pores in the Swiss wheels. The cheese begins to melt under the weight and warmth of my body. Its pliable form fits my outline, hugging my every curve, inviting me to stay. I open my eyes and notice that I am not alone. The leaves directly in my view are whispering to me. Their shapes are outlined in thick black magic marker and colored in with a dull crayon. The image is too sharp, and the color's not right. I turn my ear to hear their words but realize that the wind has blown them across the courtyard. As the letters tumble head over heals across the desolate grassy plain, they are mixed in with the lifeless ancestors of my colored friends. The chatter above me stops; the leaves know their whispers will be lost in the winter gales.
My focus shifts. The small white dots behind the leaves are more important. They wink at me and call out for me to join them. These cut-outs in the blackness become my world. My surroundings disappear as I float to meet the sparkling specks in the distance. I am enveloped in the darkness with only my soul in the stars' spotlights. I dance with them; their collective music moves me along the dust clouds and comet trails. I am mesmerized by these tiny flames in the night. They seem to be able to see through my eyes, into my soul. They have learned all the secrets and know the answers to the questions even before they are asked. They share their knowledge with me; they enlighten me to the secrets of the universe. The liquid information is poured in through my ears, my eyes, my nose and my mouth. Some of the juice spills but is soaked into my pores. I refuse to lose even a single drop of this precious nectar of the gods. I can feel the power I possess, as invincibility shoots through my veins. With each contraction of my heart muscles, strength surges throughout my body.
To my surprise the new knowledge is extremely heavy and adds weight to my otherwise immaterial existence. I am no longer able to float among the stars, and I begin to fall toward the earth. I want to stay with my new friends and to dance freely in the darkness. I flail about struggling to regain my weightlessness, but I am fighting a losing battle. The freedom from gravity is gone forever; I am confined to the surface of the earth for eternity.
I sit up and cross my legs Indian style, or lotus position according to my yoga instructor. I survey the rest of the courtyard which ends with a large spotlit building. The huge structure smiles at me with a wide sadistic grin bearing its column-like teeth. Atop this creature's head sits a concrete beanie resembling a large cereal bowl. The monster tries to scare me. He growls and snarles and tries to suffocate me with his hot moist breath. The gas invades the air around my body, but I hold my breath refusing to inhale the stench expelled by the loathsome beast. I have the power to defeat this creature, but I do not have the courage. I cower under the glowing eyes before me, the eyes that see all.
Suddenly, I hear voices above me. I lift my eyes to find their source but see only the salt-scattered darkness of the Milky Way. As the volume increases, I realize that the noise is indeed coming from the wise little flames in the sky. I listen intently to their encouragement and try to convince myself of its validity. I have the knowledge to slay the evil creature; therefore, The courage to do so must also be embedded somewhere in the fibers of my being. I reach deep into my consciousness; I dig into the ooze that makes up my existence hoping to find the element I so desperately need. My shovel hits something. I carefully wipe the dirt from the lid of what I hope to be a treasure chest. A gold colored emblem is stamped across the top of this large box, and a tarnished pad-lock holds the lid tightly in place. How do I open the box? I look to the sky, to my friends and teachers, for the answer, but they will not give me the answer this time. They say I must find the key for myself.
I have to find the key by myself? I spend hours each morning trying to find my shoes; finding a key will be impossible. I retrieve myself from the depths of my mind and stare down at my shivering body. I can't remember if I am shivering from cold or from fright. The teeth are now just columns, but they still scare me all the same. Where can I find this key; where should I start looking? I decide that the big wet rock is not the place to begin my search and hop down onto the thick green carpet below.
The sky has become a pale shade of orangeish-brown and my friends have gone to sleep. No longer can they guide me in my search or encourage me along the way. I am alone. I must make this journey without someone to keep me company or hold my hand, and I must fight the monster without any army beside me. I look up to the leaves gently swaying in the morning breeze; their mouths are tightly clamped shut as they watch me begin my quest. The letters that were piled on the ground are now gone. They have all been erased by the swift hand of time. All that is left before me is the monster. His features have hardened and become stone, but they are still distinguishable; his eyes still mock me.
I begin to walk across the empty courtyard. Soon this place will be filled with sleepy-eyed joggers and backpack wearing students. Are they afraid of the monster? Does it stare into their souls and laugh at their failures? Maybe they can help me find the key. Wait! I can do this on my own. I don't need someone to tell me where the key can be found. As I utter these words to myself I realize I am standing only a few feet from the mouth of the monster. His breath still reeks of those who have been devoured in the recent past, and his eyes glow in anticipation of the next meal. I look down at my now quaking body and wonder if my will is strong enough to move my feet. I stare directly into the eyes of the beast. I refuse to blink or cower in their presence. My feet free themselves from their glue covered shoes as they bravely begin to move. I glance over my shoulder to the realm of my true friends and whisper a soft 'thank you' as I walk into the mouth of the monster. I feel the key is hidden here, and someday I will find it.