Nov 15, 2007


You are high up on a cliff, in an large hole in the rock. Later, after you've died you think, 'oh yes that was like the Indian dwellings at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.'

But actually this is much, much higher. As high as the World Trade Center. The cliffs are sand-colored but looking down, miles below, the rock turns from sandstone to granite, to the color of burnt steak.

There are a series of indentations in the rock. Like a string of rock bunk beds 60 stories high. The beds themselves are unmade, strewn with blankets, red, green and gray. The blankets are dirty and smell foul.

The problem is to get down. You are alone and you must descend. That's all you know. It's less a conviction than a compulsion. And the very idea of going down is terrifying because there is no way to go from one bunk to the one below. You have no ropes and nothing to tie them to if you did. Very quickly you come to the conclusion that you may die here, that there may be no way down. What would that be like, you think. Starvation, the elements, withering you away.

And so you resign yourself to descend. And that's all you can think of, how you can do this and you imagine all the scenarios in great detail. But then finally you realize that the imagining is all a distraction and you have to start. The longer you wait, the less energy you'll have to try this miracle journey. And there is no hope that you will be rescued. In fact, rescue is not even a thought. And so how could you go down just one level. Could you pick through the rock and make a hole down to the next cave? There's only a few inches of stone between the two but you have nothing to dig with.

You go through all the options. You imagine that perhaps there is a trick to this, something ridiculously simple. You're making a drama out of nothing; you need to be merely clever. Instead of going down, what about going up? You lean out over the ledge to look up but you can't see anything and when you glance down you have that overwhelming fear of gravity getting wicked and suddenly you're sliding off, so you scratch with your nails into the rock, but it does no good and you make a last great effort to scurry back on the ledge.

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