I see the traveller below. I try to drag myself towards the edge, but the pain in my leg intensifies, making me scream. He stops and looks around, puzzled. He has heard something but isn’t sure that he has. I shout again, a desperate and incoherent cry, but the moment has passed. He shakes his head and keeps walking, and soon he’s past the bend in the road. “No,” I cry, grabbing hold of a rock ahead and pulling myself forward, clenching my teeth against the pain. It takes me a while, but I get a good part of my upper body over the edge. With my last bit of strength, I swing my legs around. I’d planned to climb down to the road using every foothold I could reach, but the momentum of my lower body wrenching free of the ground proves too much. My fingers lose their grip and I realise that I hadn’t planned this through. As I’m free-falling, I hear the clattering of hooves as a horse-cart hurtles along the road; the road on which I would soon take up a position as a speed-breaker.
I wake up in what I think is worse pain. I can’t really remember the pain I had been feeling before, but I suppose it couldn’t have been any worse than this. After all, I’ve just taken a tumble off a cliff and been run over, haven’t I? I look around slowly. I’m several feet away from the edge of the road, half hidden under a bush. There is a trail of blood from my location to the middle of the road. From the middle of the road to my position, I correct myself. How considerate of them to drag me away from any further traffic. I laugh, spitting out blood. How low I’ve fallen, ending up as fucking road-kill.
The cold has now seeped into every fibre of my being. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been lying here, so I guess I’ve been here all my life.
I push my head up when I hear laughter. It’s been a long while since I’ve heard it.
“Over here,” I say, and she turns.
“What’s the matter?” the man with her asks.
“I thought I heard someone,” she replies, walking to the side.
She’s within a few feet of me when she stops. I take a good look.
She is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen; not that I can remember any other person I’d ever seen.
Little farther, I try to say, but I choke on the words. Suddenly, I’m gasping for air, unable to make a sound, unable to move a muscle. She looks around, and I’m reminded of a few thousand years ago when someone else had stopped and looked around like this. Hidden as I am in the bush, with skin and clothes coated in the same mud that stretches for miles in all directions, I have no hope of being seen, not with my luck. No chance of being seen, rather. Somewhere, somehow, there is still hope.
A slight breeze picks up, bringing me a whiff of her perfume.
“Let’s go already,” her companion says impatiently.
“Look,” she says, pointing at the blood.
“Whatever it was, it’s probably long dead,” he says, pulling her along.
She wrenches her arm free, but still follows him.
She shoots back one last glance, her eyes following the bloody path all the way to me.
She’s looking right at me now! Her eyes almost register the broken boy in the bush. She looks at me long enough to almost make me cry in relief, but then turns around.
“Slow down,” she shouts, running to catch up with her friend.
In five minutes, I’ve forgotten what she looks like, what she smells like.
Only my heart still pounds, adrenaline courses through my veins, and moments before I pass out, I recall vague memories of somebody walking towards me and making me hope for a miracle.
Know if a falling tree
Makes a sound
If there’s nobody around to hear?
Am I not speaking
For lack of witness?
Might I as well
And then perhaps
It wouldn’t matter that
The tree fell at all