I cannot remember the accident. It is a hole, a blank spot, an infinitesimal chasm in what was my cognition. The moments leading up are hazy, as if viewing them through layers of gauze. It is the first moment I see most clearly: the day I realized that my only two options were starving or going under these red mountains. No third option. There never is. Everyone wishes there were. In the end you would rather sign away your life than let it wither and crumple in the basement of a salvation center.
The days between bleed together. Drawn together in caverns of crimson, watching the sun and moons disappear as the carriage took me deep underground. The same charges and detonators, the same carts filled with discarded rock and salty lithium. The same fear of missteps or overlooked cracks, same red dust creeping through the same gap in our same masks, crawling down into our same lungs, same self-assurances bumping round our same boiling brains.
Same. All the same. Until it isn’t. Until that permanent moment some contingency falls into/out of place and throws the never-ending parade of moments into the endless air of deep existence. Don’t call me ghost. Don’t call me anything. I do not remember it, but I know what it did. Sent us sprawling into the interlocking crevasses of these mountains, these hills, these endless stretches of bedrock. Obliterated me, us, the very idea that we might be a me or an us. Instantaneous fusion between sinew and dirt, ancient stone and nerve endings, reshaped and gnashed together like cogwheels’ teeth.
I do not remember, but the gulf between the moment and the vast sky had dissolved even before it happened. The liftoffs and landings, the calls to “a great future among the stars” are faint, drowning in the mammoth expanse of what is regardless of want, happenings bigger than comprehension. Folk songs and legends briefly emerge before being washed into forever.
I remember what these mountains remember. Of me there is only memory left. Memory in every inch of glittering stone, pounded and shaped by eons of sand and wind, slowly worn from jagged towers into gentle slopes. Deep transformations, the kind that unfold under the gaze of dying stars, imperceptible until something tries to cheat time, to reveal with explosions what took eons to forge. As we did. To find what could be traded, but should stay put. An affront. A foolishness. A necessity. I do not remember the accident, though memory is all I am.