Watching humanity move with the measured flow of blood.
"I'm somewhat tired", he said.
Grainy colours and light begin to drip into the empty room in my head, and then it all pours in at once and sprays the walls. I snap awake and try to pull in a breath, but the air is thick and resists. It's like drinking through a straw that is too thin. As I gain a stronger hold on consciousness, I realize that I am lying partially in mud, and with a thick sucking sound I pull myself free. I'm on the shore of the lake, about twenty feet from the water, and it seems to be quite late in the evening.
For a moment I sit still, gazing around. It is foggy, but it's a frozen fog that refuses to swirl or shift. I stare blankly into the wall of cloud that hangs motionless around me, then give a sigh and straighten up. A blanket of moss and woven weeds falls from my shoulders, as do wispy traces of memory from my head. Though I can't remember exactly why I'm down here, by the lake in the cold white fog, I don't see any point in worrying or overthinking. I ignore the mossy blanket at my feet. I also ignore the perfect circle of stones that has been arranged around my sleeping body. These things are of no concern to me. Spitting once into the mud, I trudge out of it and up the grey grassy hill to the cottage at the top. Before going inside I turn to watch the lake. It is still. As far back as I can recall, I have never seen a single ripple or wave on that lake. Wind and rain avoid touching it, and so do I.
Inside on the kitchen table is an empty mug and a full teapot. I dip a tentative finger into the teapot. Cold. So I've been gone at least an hour. But it's full, which means I had made tea and left the cottage without having any. That's curious. I might as well make more, then. I turn on the faucet, and fill up the kettle with one hand as I dump the old tea out with the other.
When the water boils, I pour it into the teapot with the leaves, and set it next to the mug (which I hadn't moved) to steep.
From the town, the clamour of bells sound their way over the hills and the colourless lake, and I count them absentmindedly. When they stop at nine, I slap the table with an open palm, and swear. No time for tea now. I walk into the back room of the cottage and open a closet door behind which hangs a red rope. I pull it once as I am required to do, and the bell on the roof rings out in response. Then I grab an overcoat, run out the door, and head down the path towards town. If I wasn't in such a hurry, I would have heard waves lapping the bottom of the hill.
Waiting for the Flow.
The link-boys wait and warm their hands.