17,454

17,455

17,456

With each step forward, I move another space on the board. Closer to the future. Closer to the goal.

Closer to the end of the maze I’ve entered.

17,464

17,465

17,466

I walk the streets. I see the people. Do they see me? To-and-fro they walk in time, and my footsteps fall into rhythm with theirs. We make music together, the slap of our souls on the pavement.

I see the people. Hiding behind masks. Their true faces remain hidden. A smile here. A nod there. Ambivalence in between.

I walk the streets. They walk the streets. Their religion is The Book of Job. Not the prophet, but the profit. The hows and whys are lost in their constant drive forward. Where they’re going, they, like I, do not know. But do they care? Do I care?

How will we even know when we’ve arrived?

The carrot drives us forward, dangling forever unattainable from a frayed string at the end of a stick. We will never reach it, but still we continue forward. Onward. Onward, Christian soldier.

Perhaps one day the string will snap. But by then will the carrot still be something we desire? Will we donkeys muster the last of our strength to lunge forward and pounce upon our trophy, only to find it dry and shriveled and transformed into bitter poison?

I try to disconnect. To walk alone. Still, my footfalls match the rhythm of those around me. I cannot break free. I cannot walk to my own beat.

It causes discord in my heart.

18,323

18,324

18,325

The streets are a maze. A maze with no end. Only a destination. Where are the dead ends?

No U-Turns are allowed.

18,401

18,402

18,403

Where do the beautiful people go when they are no longer beautiful?

They are replaced and no one notices they’re gone. For loveliness distracts and holds our gaze until something else beautiful enters the frame. Hidden behind their swirling masks of complacency, they show not who they are. Each one paired with a silhouetted follower, cast black by the sun.

Walking in step.

Following the leader.

I cannot march outside the rhythm. The drum beats on.

A stranger smiles. I avert my eyes. Six blocks to go.

18,521

18,522

18,523

Keys

Locks

Clocks

Boxes

Tick tock

Tick tock

Tick tock

Click.

Continue to Chapter Twenty-Five.