Illustration by Octavio Contreras

When I open my eyes, I find that there is fresh dirt on my hands. My knees are scraped from the fall I have just taken. Someone—or something—is pursuing me. And it is not with good intentions.

There are large stars in the sky above me even though the sky itself is illuminated with hues of a deep purple, its contours intertwined with blackness. A cackling is heard in my ears and it informs me that those who are chasing me are too close for me to stop running. I brush the dirt from my hands and knees and continue forward, a long stretch of an eerie sidewalk guiding my path.

I continuously pass people on this pathway but they have no faces and hold no desire to hide me from what I know I cannot outrun. Tires begin to screech from my left and the bright lights of a pickup truck soon parallel my direction. I run faster and look at the vehicle that chases me. I am able to make out the figures of four or five different people, and they—like so many others—have no faces. They hiss and yell at me and shout profane words, but the strength in my legs is what urges me to run forward. I am not safe here, and I never have been.

Just when I am assured that I have outrun the daunting vehicle of my demise, I run into an invisible wall. Beyond it, there is no sidewalk; no street. No people. No danger. It is an endless vortex of a purple and black sky. My fists slam against the invisible wall and nothing happens. I cannot break through the vortex of safety this way.

I take a deep breath in and turn around, aware of the undeniable: I must face the danger before I can feel safe. I must face the danger because those whom I observe have no faces of their own. They have no faces from their inability to acknowledge and defeat what pursues them. We are all being pursued by mysterious figures, and will continue to until we lose sight of our ability to seep through the blind spot and the disfigurement of life that provides shelter and warmth only for a moment. The longer we avoid the faceless beasts, the sooner we lose our own.

My feet are planted firmly into the ground beneath me, and my eyes are temporarily blinded by the beams of light aimed at my face. The words these people speak are not clear to me. They only signal the breaths of peril. The beam of light encourages me to close my eyes, but I do not. I find an object in the middle of that light, hoping what I see will give me a sense of purpose by turning around.

The engine of the truck is revved and I allow my shoulders to weaken. I begin to run toward the truck, hearing a combination of many sounds: profound yelling, the truck’s engine speeding toward me, a whimsical humming sound from the barrier behind me. With one last urge of courage, I run directly into the truck’s path, knowing what fate awaits me. I am so close now that I can smell the gas secreting from the vehicle, and can sense the look of satisfaction on faces that never existed in the first place. The desire for these people to hunt me has removed their identities and they are nothing but empty canvasses. That invisible wall behind me still hums quietly, and the moment my body makes contact with the truck, I know that I have broken through the barrier that separates me from the danger.

Before the darkness encloses, I remember what I see within that beam of light. There is a mirror within it; a mirror that reflects an image I do not understand. I have no face of my own. It has been stolen by the hazards I refused to see.

I am not safe here, and I never have been.