He went out again for another walk in the desert, but he didn’t tell anybody. The time had come, he felt.

“I don’t need anybody holding my hand.”

He was partial to deserts. He respected deserts. They were beautiful to him, and he’d come to know them well and their twisters too.

But all of them in the past paled against the particular desert he found when he went out again.

He’d been inside a long time doing something he came to understand as important. He didn’t begrudge the time inside. He learned a lot. The time had come, however, “To give it another go.”

He missed the deserts, and he missed the twisters.

Time had handed him a new choice.

Now. Everything was up to him.

All his life he’d moved from desert to desert, twister to twister. It’s what he did the best.

Most kids didn’t care for that kind of life, and they never hesitated to tell him. That kind of abuse used to bug him a great deal. He felt alone, but somehow he never felt lonely.

He knew, even as a very young boy, his life was going to be about doing deserts. People sneered at him, and this bothered him, of course, but there was nothing he could do about that. He knew what he was doing. Eventually he got used to the abuse. He came to understand it was part of the package.

He knew there were many deserts waiting to be done.

This latest one, after going out again, was a broad, golden desert he believed he knew, but he really didn’t. It was a lot like the last desert he’d done a long while ago before coming in, but at the same time it was different. How exactly, he couldn’t say. He knew he’d figure it out. He felt this deep down. It didn’t frighten him at all. It excited him. The time was right again for that kind of excitement.

“Time will tell all,” he said out loud.

In the early years he enjoyed, in a matter of speaking, a more cavalier attitude toward doing deserts. He believed they were there to serve him, and in a way they were, but not in the way he believed. Whenever he came upon one he instantly embarked upon it and peaceably enjoyed the big sky and had a time of it. He felt free. When a twister appeared, as it always did, boiling up from sand to sky, he’d go right into it without hesitation.

“They were just exquisite,” I thought, “I couldn’t help myself. The twister rose up out of the sands, and my heart started pounding. It looked like a great golden snake that had slithered out of the desert into the blue to call me. It danced for me on the thudded, sloping earth. I felt special.

”Whenever it beckoned, I answered.”

The twister took him up. He ecstatically thrashed his arms, laughed, screamed, cried and tumbled head over heels over everything losing ground, sky and wits. This weird dance went on for what seemed hours, and when the twister vanished he found himself sprawled on the sands, scratched and bloody and out-of-breath. He rose up on bruised elbows, nodding, barely able to focus on anything and muttered, “Physiiickktphwee…”

A long time elapsed before he tried to get to his feet. When he tried too hard too quickly he passed out. His body ached from heel-to-head.

“Well, that wasn’t much fun,” he thought and sheepishly resolved to avoid twisters after that.

But he knew he had more to learn.

After a short time he started feeling better. He stood tall again, cocky and strong as ever, “I can do anything! he tooted.”

He was ready for another.

In no time at all he found a desert. He had a remarkable knack for finding them. Grinning ear-to-ear on his new walk-about, he waited for that next special twister to appear.

Friends and family watched him. They had no idea what he was doing.

“It’s what I’m about!” he said with a frantic grin, and when they asked, “What does that mean?” off he’d go.

They shook their heads.

Whenever he was on a desert and the twister called to him he told himself, “Maybe I’ll learn something new this time.” Of course, the same thing happened as before but with slight variations.

Everyone continued to wonder what the hell he was doing, but he never answered anymore. He just smiled and walked away because he knew they’d never understand.

“It was toughening me up,” he said.

With every passing ride his body hurt less. It took him less time to think clearly and to stand on his feet again.

This continued throughout a hundred different deserts with a hundred different twisters.

“Deserts, twisters, they went together.” He knew this, and he was really getting used to it.

He got a reputation, and many people avoided him after that, even his so-called friends. “He’s not eccentric,” as they used to think, “he’s crazy!”

“I don’t care,” he sneered in their faces, “I’ll do what I want. Weaklings!” And he walked away and looked for another.

It went on for decades, twister after twister, desert after desert, until at a certain point in a certain desert with a certain twister he had a certain experience that changed him forever.

He had become quite strong throughout his rides. Calluses covered his whole body. He thought this was cool,

“Calluses of the warrior!” he thought.

And a few other dudes admired this as well,

“Tough guy!” they said admiringly.

These guys weren’t like the other weaklings. They had a special light about them, and exuded power. They stood tall, strong and proud and took to their deserts and twisters with remarkable ease.

He began to hang with them, and it wasn’t long before they invited him into their own deserts. This made him proud.

“The twister riders,” he used to call them, “just like the worm-riders of Dune!”

He loved science fiction and now, with these dudes, it had come to life.

All of the past deserts paled against the grandeur of this last one. It wasn’t just part of the world like the others. It was the whole world, one huge desert.

“One could do his whole life here.” He thought. “I gotta find a twister!” And off he went frantically in search of it, but he didn’t find it. It found him. It was not a twister to be found in the usual way.

When he yielded to it he came to know a strength he never imagined.

It was the mother of twisters, wider than any other he’d ever seen, with the fiercest winds, and he couldn’t see the top of it. He stood in awe and stared. He couldn’t move.

“Go, baby, go!” his new buddies urged, but try as might, he couldn’t move. So it came to him.

It took him up. It turned him around, made the up seem down, the down seem sideways.

It was like nothing he’d ever experienced.

He heard laughter, but he had no idea where it came from. His mind froze. It fixated on an image of a baby in his head. This calmed him.

He had no idea how long the ride lasted or where he was at any one point. He lost consciousness in the whorl. He’d never lost consciousness before.

When he awoke he didn’t move for a very long time. A day and night passed as he stared into a sky he didn’t recognize. The ground was cool.

He finally hunched himself up on his elbows and looked around. The desert had vanished. There was only grass as far as he could see. He sat up and tried to remember what happened to him, but the immediate past was a blur. He let that go and slowly got to his feet. This took a while. His legs felt atrophied and his whole body was numb. Fortunately everything worked.

He began walking in no specific direction. He walked a long time. Then it was night. He didn’t want to sleep; “no telling what dreams would come.” Dreaming was the only thing that scared him. He stayed on his feet.

Slowly he became aware of a peculiar sound in the distance, but he couldn’t make it out. The silence had been so thick for so long he welcomed the sound. It excited him. Sometimes it sounded like crying, sometimes laughter, sometimes something else. As he walked toward the sound it never seemed to get any closer, then its direction would shift. He adjusted with it, best he could, but again, he never got any closer. It changed over a dozen times, until finally, totally exasperated, he gave up and sat down. He closed his eyes and immediately he was asleep.

He dreamt.

He was floating high over a wide expanse of water. There was nothing else to be seen. The sky was a brilliant blue. He dreaded something. He closed his eyes. A hot breeze stung his face. When he opened his eyes he saw a huge, naked form over the water. It looked human. As he got closer, the feeling of dread mounted to fear then became terror. He saw the form clearly, a huge wet baby. It was writhing, but it made no sound. He opened his mouth to scream and suddenly awoke. He was on his back. The sky was blue. His fear had passed. He heard a sound. It was a baby crying. When he got to his elbows he saw a tiny wood frame house surrounded by a hedge and a few Oaks and Maples. It stood alone on that wide expanse of grass.

Everything was suddenly different, and he knew it too.

He ventured into the house. It was plainly adorned like a Quaker Home, very simple, very functional, and very clean. It pleased him. He sat down on a chair in front of a window. The crying was still there, but he ceased to care about it. It didn’t interest or annoy him. It just was, and this thought calmed him.

He got up after about an hour and walked up the staircase. It was surprisingly long. It creaked, and this filled him with nostalgia but he didn’t know why. At the top was a door. He opened it. The room within was unfurnished but for a chair and a plain square mirror affixed to the wall across from a single window. He expected to find the baby. But it wasn’t there.

He looked in the mirror. His face seemed different, but he couldn’t say how. He had no feeling about it, so he turned toward the window. On the grass below stood all of his new buddies. They stared up at the window expressionless. He stared back. There was no desire to go out to them, and he wasn’t afraid they would break in; in fact, he knew they wouldn’t; they couldn’t. Then it was night.

He sat on the bed. The fact there had been no bed before didn’t surprise him. It had been that kind of day. Although not panicked, he felt dull, emotionless, kind of dead, but he knew somehow this room was the place to be. He was going to stay.

“This dullness would pass,” he said to himself, and indeed it did, much sooner than later, and he experienced something he’d never known before.

There was no name for it.

He spent many days or weeks or years inside this new room learning. After a considerable time, he began to appreciate completely what he'd become, how he looked. He spent hours in front of the mirror going over his strange new reflection, inch by inch.

And when he had decided, "It was ok." he said, “I need to take a walk on that desert again.”

The time had come.

“I can do anything!” he said with a smile.

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Short Story
writing philermon
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