Always the Old Ways

You fall asleep, lulled by the hum of the ship’s engines. In your sleep you tell yourself this story:

You are walking across a wild field, grasses high around your waist, though heavy with dew. You walk loose and confident, like a cat, and don’t even think about the ticks and fleas and burrs that could be climbing your pant legs. The sun’s just coming up but you’re walking in the broad shadow of a mountain. There’s another mountain ahead of you like a face in the sunlight. It’s quiet with early morning birdsong and you’re tireless.

By the time you’ve made it to the top of the mountain the valley has filled with sunlight. You stand there, swaying against the long drop, breathing in the air, one hand resting on the shaggy trunk of a cedar tree.

There’s a step behind you. “Morning,” a voice says.

“Morning,” you say. “Gonna be a hot one.”

“Could be.” He puts his hand on your shoulder and you lean back against it, until all your weight is resting against that one point of contact, like a boulder, immovable. You take in the wide bowl of the valley and the wide bowl of the sky and fill your lungs with one deep breath; just then the boulder rocks forward and you leap out into space.

You wake up right after you hit the ground. The last sound you hear, the one that follows you up out of sleep, is the dry, almost intellectual *snap* of your neck breaking.