Sensible, The Grey Man grows tired. Though the long road ahead of him tempts, he lies down in the tall grass to consider. To consider the passage of time, the sound of air moving through vegetation, the possibilities for things to articulate themselves. He crosses his arms on his chest and knows why he cannot close the eyes he does not have. He makes a fist. Sounds fade. So does light. The pasture strokes his newborn skin and calls up sighs. As he rests, The Grey Man feels the earth rotate beneath him; feels the activity, the endless change that is a constant, relentless unfolding. Beneath his back, is vegetation, growing from rich dark earth, among which mill the countless legions of insects, worms, incomprehensible single-celled varieties of life. Swarming and swirling, teeming over, and more importantly, under everything. Feeding and feeling and fucking. Endlessly busy. More riotous that the currents of the air, more meaningful than we imagine. The Grey Man feels the long stalks of greensward fold over him and knot. Knows the creeping things move up them, across him and begin to spin. They spin slender filaments of silk that cling to him, cling to the plants and stones. Across legs. Across belly. Across breast and shoulders and arms. Over the remnants of his neck they spin and bind. Until muscles struggle to flex and fail. The Grey Man is motionless, bound. Exposed to air and light. The army of the creeping take him, swarm across his body chittering. Some utter, in voices of such slightness they pass all but unheard, faint and single vowels. Others, a single digit, one simple number. Each of the sounds is insignificant, but collectively they build. Grow loud. And louder. Overwhelm. Numbers and vowels ringing in the rush of multiple legs. A howling. Until it stops and every living thing is silent for a time. And the bound man struggles again. Stuggles underneath the gathering clouds. The Grey Man sits up, startled awake. For a moment he does not recognize the space around him, or himself in it. Tall grass. Dim skies. But the road is still there, still stretches. The road is always open, always offers distance. This he recognizes first. This is enough.
Peter Dubé is the author, co-author or editor of eleven books including the novels Hovering World and The City’s Gates, the short fiction collection At the Bottom of the Sky, the novella Subtle Bodies, which was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, and Conjure: a Book of Spells, a collection of prose poems that was shortlisted for the A. M. Klein Prize. His most recent work is the short fiction collection Beginning with the Mirror.