Footprints

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There was nothing on the horizon. There never was.

Nonetheless, she kept walking forward. The sun hung above her, heavier and heavier every day. Her feet sunk deeper into the sand with each step, and the sweat was dripping down her forehead.

She had been walking across this desert for an eternity. Still, there was nothing on the horizon.

It was hot out here, unbearably so. But if she stopped walking, she wouldn’t have the strength to start again. She had to keep moving, even after the sun had set.

Day and night. Day and night. And still there was nothing on the horizon.

She thought about stopping. She thought about stopping every day, every hour, every minute. Was she ever going to find something out here? Should she just give up? She had been walking for so long. She had been walking forever. Maybe there was nothing to find. Maybe there was nothing but desert.

Her feet were sore and blistered. She was windswept, and she looked like a mess. Each step forward was harder than the last. She waited for the moment that her feet refused to move forward, but that moment never seemed to come.

There was a trail of footprints pressed into the cracking sand. The footprints went on for miles, and they only moved in a straight line. The further that she walked, the deeper the footprints became, her legs getting heavier, and her steps getting slower.

She wanted to give up. She wanted it all to stop. No matter how many steps she took, now matter how many footprints she left behind, she never seemed to be any closer to the edge of the desert. She was here forever, and she had come to accept that.

So why did she keep walking? Why was it that she kept her legs moving, kept scanning the horizon, kept waiting for something to appear? If she gave up, let herself die out here, then there would be no more walking. No more aching feet. No more hopelessness. She could lie down in the sand and let the desert take her, bury her, turn her into nothing.

And the desert would do it. It would take her gladly. It had always been hungry for her, waiting for her to surrender.

Night and day. Night and day. And still there was nothing on the horizon.

Someday, she would do it. She would surrender. But today was not that day. Keep walking. Don’t stop. There’s something out here. There’s an edge to this desert. And she was going to find it. Why stop today when she could stop tomorrow?

She dreamt of seeing something. A speck on the horizon. A smudge in the distance. She could picture herself running towards it, picking up speed. But it would never happen. There would never be anything to find. The desert was endless.

You are here forever.

Walk as far as you like. You’re not going to find anything or anybody.

Lonely wasn’t the right word. She liked the silence. She liked the crunching of her feet in the crack earth, and the whisper of the wind. She liked the feel of the sun on her back. But it all proved that the desert already had a hold on her.

When had she started walking? She couldn’t remember how she’d gotten to this desert. All that she could remember was the endless journey, the endless nothingness.

And when she remembered how lost she was, she felt angry. The desert became less than a desert, an empty void. Perhaps it didn’t exist. Perhaps she didn’t exist. All that existed was the journey, and if she were to stop, to give in, then it would all disappear. The desert isn’t real. It never was. And she wasn’t real either. All that existed were her footprints.

It was cold at night. There were stars, and she had names for all of them. She liked to think that each of the stars was watching her, waiting to see if she would stop. If she stopped, then they would finally win. That was what kept her walking, wasn’t it? Or was it only the false hope, that kept her legs moving, kept her feet sore?

There is nothing on the horizon. There never will be, and there never was.

She wanted to stop. She had to stop eventually. To surrender meant accepting defeat. Perhaps the sand would bury her. Perhaps a void would open, and this world would disappear. Or maybe nothing would happen, and she would only stand there, staring forward.

She would never find out. She kept walking.

Day and night. Day and night. And still there was nothing on the horizon.

She felt real. The desert felt real. The sun was real, and the stars were real. When she looked back, on those rare occasions, her footsteps seemed to be real. It was only the horizon that didn’t quite seem to exist.

Someday she would stop walking. But today was not that day.

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