Parallel Lines

When he was little, he used to walk down the line between two rows of tiles. He followed the thin line expertly, never leaving it. "It's normal," everyone said, "kids do that kind of thing, they make up strange immaginary worlds."

But as he grew and abandoned his childhood games, this particular habit never went away. He kept walking down the lines, imagining the thrilling instability of walking on a wire. With his gaze cast down and his arms out perfectly level with his shoulders, he fantasized about his surroundings, about the nothing he felt beyond the narrow space beneath his feet. Sometimes he tried to throw off his own balance so he could study the effect of the fear of falling. It was nothing like walking along the edge of a cliff, where one side leads to salvation and the other side hides a chasm: he was walking on a thread, aware that both sides were equally risky, and he drew a strange sense of satisfaction from this fact. When he stopped, he looked up. The world always surprised him in different ways, it always went against his expectations. People ran across the tiles oblivious to the line that he felt he had to follow. He envied them. They could talk, walk on the void without the fear of nothingness. So he told himself that he might be able to do it too. He looked down at his body and remembered that it was just like theirs in the end. Two hands, two legs. A head. He lifted his foot and raised it over a tile. But panic took hold of him and he couldn't bring himself to put it down. A sense of dizziness spread from his ears in, flooding his mind. In his head, he was screaming at the top of his voice, but nobody could hear it. Nobody should ever hear it. He immediately put his foot back on the line and lowered his eyes. He stayed still until the sense of instability had completely subsided, and only then did he begin walking again. Every attempt was a failure. He was overwhelmed by the desire to leave his normal route and join the others, but he seemed only to become more powerless.

One day, something unexpected happened. On the ground, just at the limit of his view, a strange light seeped in from a place that seemed not to have been there until a moment before. He decided to gather his strength, put his fears aside and face the unknown. Maybe this time he would finally suceed. He took a few steps and found himself submerged in this new discovery, surrounded by ephemeral rays of shimmering light.

He stopped and raised his eyes, and the word surprised him again, but this time in a way that he could have never imagined. After a moment he realized that the landscape belonged to a distant memory, buried in the depths of his childhood. There were so many details to see, to hear, to smell: fragrances found their place in spaces which had never been wiped from his memory, sounds struck chords which had remained silent for too long. Further down, the line finished in front of his feet, leaving only the chaos of the outside world and those sensations that were awakening in his mind, the remains of an ancestral past already lost forever. There was a time, there must have been a time, when everything was different. For the first time, he felt estranged from the world he insisted on closing himself off in. It wouldn't take much to abandon it. One step and his universe would be turned upside down forever. It all came to an end here; the vision dissolved as it slid away from the Earth, supported by his strong arms. The light disappeared and as the shadow flooded back in, so too did the fear.


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