by Katie Lumsden
I walk slowly. My feet are reluctant, as am I. Of course this must be done; it must be done. In order to protect the sanctity, the beauty, the empty glory of my cathedral, I must leave it, for the first time in years, years, years, with money in my pocket. I will step outside of my safe happy world and step into one I do not want to be in. I hope I will manage it. I hope I will be safe. I am not good at coping.
I have, gradually, grown used to the sight of the strange girl who now haunts my cathedral with me. The sight of another person, a hiker, older, male, as I cross the land beyond my cathedral, makes me stop and shudder. What if he goes to my cathedral? What if he keeps on walking in the wrong direction? I watch him, terrified. He turns to the side. He is the second human being I have seen in many, many years.
Following the map she drew me, I make my way towards the village. My hands are shaking. My whole body shivers and I must admit that I am terrified. I do not like this outside world. I do not like people. And now I can cope, just about, just about, now that we are in the countryside. When we get to buildings that are not ruins and streets crowed with people, I do not know how I will manage it. I should have asked her what day of the week it was. I should have made certain that it was not a Saturday or Sunday for they would be busier.
The names of the days of the week have not passed through my thoughts for years.
I am forced to stop almost every ten minutes, to stand still and close my eyes and attempt to relax, to stop the awful beating of my heart, the awful fear flooding through me every moment. I feel dizzy. On and on. I must walk. I remind myself, every moment, that if I do this they will never come, they will never invade my cathedral to look for the girl, they will never find me. I am afraid that if they do they will think I am mad. I remember when I was ten and refused to talk to anyone at school my parents took me to a shrink. I did not like that. It would be worse now, worse after everything that has happened, and considering how I live. Then I shouted to my parents, “I am not mad, I am not mad,” and my brother picked me up and set me standing on a chair before him, as though he were a doctor examining me, and he said, “I declare this child is as sane as any,” and we laughed, and I felt better until the next week when my parents took me anyway. I remember that. I do not like remembering.
I feel sick.
Walking on, on, on. I will make it eventually. I will pay her bill and I will be safe.
When the countryside fades into houses, my head begins to ache. I walk past brick houses where people, people, live. I see cars, motorbikes, people in windows. One elderly woman is on the phone, standing looking out of the window, and her eyes skim over me. I want to run, to run back to safety, to my cathedral. My cathedral which will, of course, no longer be safe unless this is done. I force myself on, and keep my eyes to the ground to stop myself looking at the living human beings passing me by. I follow the map she made me.
I pass groups and pairs of people, and some on their own. I pass faces, and some stare at me, and I swallow hard and feel dizzy and my head spins and I walk on. I suppose I look strange, and that is all. I should not be afraid – but then again, I should, for the most dangerous and terrifying things in this world are human beings. I wish I was not one of them. I wish I was a bird or a fish that could be free forever, swimming, flying, hiding from people and their horrible stares.
I spend the whole day on my own, sharpening sticks, gutting fish – not the nicest thing ever – and sorting out seeds to be grown. The system he lives by is pretty incredible. Every day I’m getting to respect as well as fear this odd, strange man. I wonder how he’s getting on, if he’s managing it. If I let the lonely magic on this place work on me for as long as he had, I think I’d have problem leaving it too.
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