It poured over the land until the ground caved in on itself and I never wanted to stay in the first place, so I made my way north where perhaps where the light would break the atmosphere. But I didn’t go because I was alone. I didn’t go seeking the comfort of civilization. I went to find the unfamiliar, and what better way to do that than to walk to Canada, sometime when the clouds actually part and all that seems unattainable tiptoes closer.
The west, the north west, is certainly a world of it’s own; return to your suburbian life after coming here and you will suffocate in your duplex. Just north of the park you can usually take 89 up to Livingston, but now there is nothing but cracked earth beneath your feet, nothing but obliterated land and silence. From there, a little east there once was the Mission Field Airport, but it all lays flat now under an undisturbed molten blanket. The purpose of the journey comes blurred by the thick hot air and darkness, and I think how great it would be to be able to fly instead of trudging across this charred, uneven ground. My feet drown in the ashes of a dead land. The grounds trembles. The legs want to collapse.
And then, just after the instant when this world of it’s own seems like the only world at all, 89 descends to 87, then 2, then into what would once introduce itself as Alberta, but now the signs are veiled in the embers too. And now this is Alberta, with air slightly cooler and slightly thinner, and I can finally decipher day from night. Here trees are broken but still stand upright in miles of forest dulled by soot. Here spurts of grass are only half dead and lakes only partially seasoned with the grey volcanic dust. The vibrancy has vanished. As far as civilization goes, it has vanished too. Not completely: buildings still tower over streets in choppy lengths, “open” signs still hang in store windows, the river still dawdles under the bridge, signs of life are sparse but present. The city is quiet, abandoned and waiting. They will return though. Perhaps when ash has blown away and the image burned in their minds has faded. But they will return.
If I were truly intent on finding the unfamiliar, perhaps I would’ve gone south, somewhere where I had never set foot even before all this eruption of decay. Where tongues are peppered with drawled accents and the citrus fruits are bountiful, but instead I headed north, where my sense of direction remains intact and the black billed magpies still swarm. This place was a world it’s own too; faded and still with pale mountains keeping watch in the distance. Concrete and red brick surround stacks of windows that won’t catch the sunlight, empty cars and stores lining lonely roads. The farther you walked the more signs of life, of food, of the past, made an appearance, but the more foreignly hollow it all became. For a month I tramped the northern terrain and slept in strangers empty beds and became very sore and lost. I crafted weapons from nature's sharp edges and stole abandoned goods and did not think much. At the end of the month I realized in my own lonely civil ways that weren’t really civil at all, this place had reminded me too much of life before the eruption, and I knew it was time to go home.