Every footfall sent ripples chasing each other across the surface of the strange material he walked on. It was a translucent blue, and the sky, from horizon to horizon, was a uniform pink. The place, wherever it was, didn’t smell of much except the blue stuff, which itself had a faintly sweet, fruity smell. It tasted like raspberries, which he thought was odd, and any scoops he took gradually filled in again. It wasn’t poisonous, as far as he knew; he’d been eating the stuff for days and had suffered no ill effects. He hadn’t needed to excrete either, which was good because he felt a bit weird about eating where he shat.
It got dark where he was. He didn’t know how or why; there didn’t seem to be any discernible light source during the day (“day”, he supposed) and so nothing to disappear when it got dark. It just did. He started feeling tired when it got dark and would stop wandering, lie down on the blue stuff and fall asleep. It was comfortable, wasn’t sticky and moulded to his body. He had no covers but the air was warm and still. He’d had some good nights’ sleep on it. He’d had bad nights too, where he woke up sweating and screaming from nightmares in which the blue stuff suddenly sucked him down and he could only wave his arms ineffectually, staring up at the disappearing pinkness above him and suffocating.
Sometimes he saw other wanderers crossing the blue stuff. He would wave and jump and try to catch their attention, and most of the time he managed to. Yelling didn’t do anything, but if they could see him (which was when they were walking towards him, rather than away from him) they’d eventually look up and start waving back. At least, some of them waved back. Others would just look at him for a minute and then head off in another direction, one from which they couldn’t see him.
He’d tried walking towards a few of the ones he’d met. Some of them had even set off towards him too, but they never seemed to get any closer. It always appeared as if they were getting closer, yet they never arrived and, if you thought about it for a moment, you could see that they were just as far away as before. Eventually both would give up, one sometimes long before the other. He had seen people walk all day, not even stopping as the sky began to darken. He found the situation miserable and eventually stopped walking, seeing if they would reach him, and realised that must be what the wanderers that didn’t move when they saw him were doing. When that didn’t work, he started turning away from anybody who began walking towards him, just like the others.
He promised himself it was only when they began walking towards him that he would turn away though. He’d sometimes spend hours signalling to the other wanderers, trying to make sense of their movements and make them see meaning in his, but it never worked, everything was simply gibberish regardless of who he tried it with. Eventually he stopped replying to them and would just sit down and watch them, finding a break in the uniform landscape stimulating at a most basic level. The only real shared meaning came when he saw other wanderers do the same, and realised that they were thinking the same things as he was, and that the only shared language in this place was that of futility. Of wasted effort and unattainable outcomes.
Sometimes they would sit and stare at each other until the light began to disappear, peering through the darkness until finally everything was pitch black and nothing could be made out. When the light came again and he woke up, they couldn’t be seen. He didn’t know if they left in the night, if they had woken before him and left or if they just weren’t there anymore, and he supposed he would never find out.
One day, he was walking along and saw a pile of rags in the distance. He walked towards it, expecting it to maintain its distance, never reaching him, and it did. He stopped and stared some more. They were definitely rags, with some white, shining things sticking out of them and glinting in the sun.
Maybe, he thought, they are bones, sticking out of clothes that are slowly rotting. Maybe somebody found that the only way to escape this place was by dying.
But maybe it was just somebody lying down and staring at the sky, he also thought, as he had done some days, when the sight of blue forever was too much, and the pink nothingness let you drift away, if only for a while, and forget that you were.
He wondered how you would die here. He suffered no injuries and he didn’t age. His hair had not grown and his clothes had not faded. He had tried not eating a few times, but the hunger was unimaginable and he always gave in.
He walked away from the rags or clothes or bones.
For a long, long time, nothing was different. He met other wanderers and would sit and stare at them if they stared back, walk away if they waved or moved towards him, and wake up the next day with no sign of them around him. He ate the blue stuff and walked under the pink sky and put one foot in front of the other, sending ripples across the surface.
Then, one day, as he was walking with his head slumped, watching the ripples dance away from his feet. Something in the corner of his vision caught his attention and he looked up. A wanderer was stood still, staring at him. He didn’t know how long he had been watched. He stopped and turned to face the wanderer, who did not wave, or start towards him or do anything but stare back, just as many before had.
He looked at the wanderer, and the pink sky, and the blue ground, and he turned away and walked, not watching as the man behind him disappeared into the horizon.