As the sun descended over the hills ahead, my foot pushed the gas closer to the floorboard. This race with the fleeting light was one I intended to win. Just as the sun touched the horizon, a break in the hills ahead revealed my destination. It seemed the sun and I were locked in a dead heat. I nudged the gas a bit further.
As the shadows of the trees around me grew longer, I could sense the anticipation of the creatures of the night. So powerful the darkness of night, and yet so scared of the sun. They would wait until that last sliver of light disappeared before they emerged from the shadows to claim me. I had no intention of being food this night, so I shoved the gas pedal to the floor.
The trees became a blur as my vehicle sped faster, and faster still. No earthly vehicle could travel this fast, and still I felt the pull of acceleration. I wondered where the limit lie, and decided I would find out. The entire world around me turned to mist, until the only point of focus was the sinking sun, its lower half now hidden behind the horizon. The upper half perfect framed my destination within its glowing arc.
As I continued to accelerate, a thought occurred to me. I had always thought the creatures of the night were terrified of the sun and its deadly rays, but could the sun, perhaps, be just as terrified of the night? It was always running. Always fleeing. Always followed by the darkness. And yet, it was the fun that banished the darkness, in a cycle without end.
I shoved my rumination aside. There was no time for this. My foot had released the gas slightly as my mind had wandered, jeopardizing my victory and thus my survival. I pushed the gas back to the floor.
The landscape around me turned to water. Dolphins swam alongside my vehicle. They were speaking. I shook my head to clear it as I realized I must be hallucinating. The dolphins couldn’t possible be speaking. That would be madness. No, they were communicating with me telepathically. And so I listened.
“What are you running from?”
“The darkness,” I thought. “It’s coming to take me.”
“Nonsense. This is just what you do. You run.”
“I don’t want to die.”
“You don’t have to. At least not right now. Stop and listen to me.”
“No, I don’t have time. I have to get to safety.”
“I said STOP!”
Suddenly I was no longer moving. I was floating in an eternal darkness. Emptiness. The night had claimed me. Or had it? There was no hell around me. I felt no anguish. In fact, it occurred to me, this was something close to relief. Euphoria washed over me. What had I been trying so desperately to reach? I could no longer remember. Had my salvation been right here all along? Had I merely needed to stop running long enough to look around me?
“Now you see. And now we can talk.”
The dolphins! I realized they were swimming in the darkness with me, forming a semicircle around my floating consciousness.
“Are you real?”
“Then let’s not waste our time with useless questions.”
“Where are we?”
“Any correct answer I give will only sound like a riddle leading to more meaningless questions. Instead, I could say that you might reach this location in space by traveling from your star to the star you call Sirius—The Dog Star. Or, depending on your perspective, you may be floating in water on the planet you call Earth. It’s your choice.”
“Choice? How do I know? I don’t know what to choose. Everything I know is on Earth.”
There were no more words, but I could feel a resigned disappointment flow through the telepathic bond.
The darkness took on the texture of warm water, and I realized I was floating. A slit of light appeared above me, and hands reached in to extract me. Had I died? I seemed to be inside of a dark, comfortable womb, and hands were pulling me into the harsh light above. I wasn’t ready, so I began to cry. Part of me wanted to laugh. Just minutes ago, it seemed, I was running from the darkness as the sun’s protection faded. Now, it was the darkness that made me feel safe. This tunnel of light led out into the unknown, and I was terrified.
I remembered how I had conquered my fear of the darkness. I had merely stopped running. And so, as the light invaded my home within this new mother of mine, I chose to accept a new life. A new mother. A new round of life. My birth was complete.
I took my first gulp of outside air before pointing my eyes toward my new mother—and my breath became a gasp. This was not what I had expected. This was no mother. It was a container, filled with water.
Memories rushed back. The drive, the comforting reassurance from the lady behind the counter, the exchange of money. I remembered immersing myself in the warm water. The darkness descending. The sudden shock at the loss of all sensation. The nothingness. And then the running. But I couldn’t run fast enough to escape the darkness. So I drove. Toward what? I still can’t remember.