The Tiny Dog Being Walked in the Park’s Dream
written by Mathias Svalina
I am alone in a desert of sand. Trails of footprints move in every direction. This is a windless & rainless place, so none of the footprints in the sand get washed or blown away. Some of the footprints are tens of thousands of years old, though there is no way to differentiate between the oldest & the newest footprints. The desert is a history of the movements of past peoples. There are so many trails in the sand that it’s difficult not follow another’s steps, difficult to walk one’s own path. I start out walking on fresh sand, & then, without meaning to, without thinking about it, I find myself following another’s trail. I notice, & change directions to my own direction, but then find myself again walking another’s path. At a certain point the trails of footprints start to join. What had been a seemingly infinite set of paths narrows, un-branches, accumulates, until all the footprints follow a single trail, the trail a record of millions of feet stepping the same steps over millennia, & this one trail leads to the prison. I walk the trail to the prison, stepping in the old footprints. From barred windows, thousands watch my approach. I reach the gates: they are wide open. I step inside. The cell doors are all open too, yet people cower inside the cells. You don’t need to be here, I tell the people in the prison. You can just walk right out. The people murmur & mutter. But I brought myself here, someone says. Yeah, another says, I chose to be here. People cheer. And besides, another says, how would we know how to get out? The only path is the path that leads here. I turn & see that in the windblown sand on the prison floor, there are no steps exiting. I take a step away from the single path. I turn. People gasp. Someone shrieks. I walk back toward the open gate. My feet crunch on undisturbed sand. I exit the prison. No one follows me. I walk to the one path that leads to the prison. I kick sand over the path, covering the millennia-old steps. I drag my feet over the path, obliterating the footprints, smoothing the surface into clean, clear sand. I hear a noise at the prison gate. Some people stand there, hesitantly looking out into the light. One by one, the people emerge from the prison into the vast expanse of unbroken sand.