I was walking home through the park one rainy evening. I was deep in thought, as for the last month or so, I was hard at work and spent many sleepless nights trying to solve the age-old question–are there more faucets or doorknobs in the world?
As such, I was not really looking where I was going, and I stepped on a toad. I can still remember the squishy sound it made as it got crushed beneath my foot. I winced a bit, looking down at the penny-sized massacre. The poor toad’s soul had already leaped out to better grass and sweeter dew.
“I’m sorry, little guy,” I said, and continued on my way home.
What could I have done? Accidents happen and, according to an unwritten law of nature, the more so the smaller you are. Some toads, in the countryside especially, benefit from road signs. But here, on that narrow path in the park at dusk, there was no sign, no toad crossing, not even a croak from the victim to honk me out of my musing, alert me to the tiny pedestrian presence.
I was not really looking where I was going, and I stepped on a toad. I can still remember the squishy sound it made as it got crushed beneath my foot.
Life marches on, indifferent to any single one of her soldiers, and soon enough I had resumed my urgent calculations. As was often the case lately, I couldn’t sleep that night. The difference, this time, was that I didn’t brew myself a strong tea and go to my study. Why—I don’t know—but I put my coat on and headed down to the park for a night walk, something I rarely do. It was a cold night, and as soon as I entered the dimly lit park, the wind carried to my ears faint croaking sounds. Or maybe it was just the wind, but whatever it was or wasn’t, it strangely reminded me of the toad I had stepped on. I tried to remember the exact spot where the accident happened and headed over to see if it was still there. Looking back at it, I wonder what drove me there, what did I think I will see there, except for a squished toad?
The wind got stronger. It stirred the grass and the leaves of the trees in cold gusts, raising from the dark corners and labyrinth of shadows on the ground a crescendo of croaks and caws and bawls and howls. I started to feel slightly uneasy. I wrapped my coat tight, and the strange feeling came to me that swarms of eyes were watching and sizing me up from the dark.
One fierce gust of wind, colder than ever, and a long wailing sound coming from an indiscernible distance, sounding close and far at the same time–made me reach the sudden conclusion that I had enough of a walk on this particularly inhospitable night. Time to go home. I still hadn’t managed to reach the spot where I had stepped on the little toad. Taking a quick glance around, with the wind blowing from all directions at once, I realised I can’t even remember where it happened.
“Surely that can wait,” I said to myself, and headed towards what might as well have been the general direction of the exit to the park. But the path kept twisting and coiling beneath my feet; the more I walked, the longer it stretched in front of me. I stopped and took a moment to compose myself. All this was beginning to resemble a bad dream. I mean, the situation should be quite simple: I was in the park a few hundred yards away from my house, a park I knew by heart. But presently, in the thick dark, punished by the wind and oppressed by the eerie sounds coming from everywhere and nowhere, I hadn’t the faintest idea where I was. It felt like having gotten lost in my own bedroom.
I went on, but the path had no intention in leading me out. It dawned to me that since the park wasn’t really that big, and the path had proven to be so antagonistic, I could simply cut my way through the greenery, up to the nearest fence. Shoulder-high, it would be piece of cake to climb over it and steal my way back to familiar, warm, good old city street lights.
But the bushes were thick–I didn’t remember the park being so overgrown–and it was pitch dark. I must have hit my head on a branch, or slipped on the wet grass, or maybe–because that’s how it really felt–the entire park twitched and slipped from under my feet, leaving me hanging in the void. I found myself falling–or rather blown by the wind at the speed of gravity–the colossal, insane speed with which the Earth travels through the cold, the everlastingly cold and lifeless expanse of space. Who dares fly there in the middle of the night with just a shabby coat on his puny shoulders?
I didn’t remember putting a moon in my bedroom. Nor, for that matter, were my sheets made of rabbit’s fur. White, soft rabbit fur, quietly glowing silver beneath the monochrome prism of the moon.
It all lasted one of those unfathomable moments, when time grows limp, like a river spreading out into the marshlands, and the fabric of the world loses its structure. It becomes just a disorganised heap of… what? Of nothing in particular? I couldn’t for the life of me discern what the world was made of any longer.
Through this darkness and confusion, I found myself lying on my back on a soft mattress, slowly caressing a crumpled sheet. I opened my eyes with a sense of relief. Of course, it had been just a dream. I woke up as soon as I started falling, as always happens. The crystal light of the moon greeted me with its unusual indifference. She would never fall from her place. But still, something was off, for I didn’t remember putting a moon in my bedroom. Nor, for that matter, were my sheets made of rabbit’s fur. White, soft rabbit fur, quietly glowing silver beneath the monochrome prism of the moon.