It is surpassing strange that reality is something that can be all of one thing in one moment, and be some entirely different thing in the next. Take for example the experience of sleep. We wrestle with problems, sometimes even solve them, and then awaken to sort out whether any of it made any sense. I have come to the light of a new day with that day’s work well in hand. I have also rubbed my eyes and discovered that for some hours I had been rolling a square ball around a square circle.
There is also the moment, like an awakening, when we discover that suddenly all the rules have changed. My very good friend Bob had an experience of this sort while he was driving in the mountain west late at night. Perhaps he was solving one of those interesting puzzles that make a carpenter’s work so engaging. But quite suddenly, there was a disconnect, a resetting of the big switch. Everything was different; everything was right now.
Bob awoke, not from his dream, but from an extreme case of shock. It was daylight and for some weird reason he could not move. The human mind hates these non sequiturs and very soon Bob had pieced together a coherent explanation for his new immobility. He must have fallen asleep. His truck must have left the road and cast itself into the canyon. He must have been thrown free, for how else had the truck followed him so deep into the canyon and landed so firmly on his leg?
Bob’s first and only plan for getting the truck off his leg and himself out of the crevasse, was to shout. He shouted for three or four days. The realization came to him as the product of calculation. He had no food or water. He was in what could only be thought of as crushing pain. He made the decision that he must face the fact that he was down to his very last shout. Perhaps it should be saved.
Bob’s position in the crease of two mountainsides, with the road so high above, became normal to the creatures who were the indigenous sort. Mice visited him, sat on his arm, commiserated at length. He thought a good deal of the calories thereon and the liquids therein. But without company, what does it all mean? He settled down to a program of listening and carefully slowing his breathing.
Bob told me this story some years later when we found ourselves camped in adjacent sites. He had come to my hometown to be fitted for a leg with a computer inside. We huddled in vinous conspiracy at the table after my wife had crawled into her bedroll. He told me a secret; that on the sixth day, the Shadow Man came. Bob knew he didn’t have to say anything. He just knew that all I had to do was just to relax, to say okay, to call it a day.
That night must have been a very long one, keeping vigil against the return of the Shadow Man. But the day did dawn. The sun rose and the hours passed, until a stranger stopped high above him to piss. Bob heard the door and the crunching on the gravel. He checked his account and found himself one shout in credit. He spent it desperately. He told me that it took another full day to get the crane up the mountain and the truck off his leg. Then there were helicopters and doctors.
Bob is extant, ambulatory, and in love. He does not run anymore from the Shadow Man.