Hoar frost paints the fields, dappling a hazy whiteness over winter’s brown expanse. Waves of snow ripple to the horizon, if not stopped dead by broken hills. Some creature crawling over the horizon. . .
In time it resolves into a figure coming towards me in long robes. I could change direction, but the gravitation of two bodies moving out among the nothingness is powerful, and inevitable.
The distance between us slowly closes. It is a woman. Layered in fabric and fur her eyes are like mirrors. I nod. She greets me with a question.
“Do you think the devil knows where we are?”
“I’m not one to speak for the devil, but I can’t be certain which one of us he’ll find us first.”
She pointed to the clouds above, and says “they know. I started seeing what she was seeing, the longer I looked. Angel ships. Maybe she was right. Or were they just fractals?
I asked where it was she was going. She evangelized that the devil was after the young.
“The beast goes after the most vulnerable of the flock. That’s where you’ll find him, whispering temptations. So the cycle continues, ghost-people being reincarnated, over and over again. We must unite to stop it, we who see the truth.”
“Whenever I thought I’ve come to truth, there is usually a lie peaking from behind it.”
I leave her to her demon war and continue my trek over the earth’s back.
The dunes are the stop-motion musculature of giant sand slugs, united into one, birthed of a continental ice mother and crawling at glacial pace. An ocean frozen in time, petrified in dust.
Dog spirits in the sky. A curving gravel road.
Gambling Temple, up ahead.
At the foot of a looming horse effigy I approach the doors, where men big as bears guard the entrance. Cameras are not prohibited.
I wander around the dinging lights. Mostly elderly people there, bussed in from the city.
An old cat pays for my coffee, insisting on it. He himself is enjoying a malted milk. He wants to tell a story so I sit with him.
“I had myself a band years ago called the Tippy Tractors. We played weddings and barn parties. I passed on the gift of music to my daughter and son. I seen them on their knees before the television and I knew they needed a different teacher. Now you can see the spirit going through them when they play their instruments, to the glory of the almighty. Well, they’ll spread their gifts when the time calls.”
I tell him about the woman I met on the dunes. Maybe this is the answer she was after, that music was a force to defend children, a protective power to infuse them with.
A performance starts just as I’m about to leave, so I linger a while before letting the music carry me out the door and back into the dune lands.
Drummers and singing echo behind me, spirits driven to dance, and the devil nowhere to be found.