The underground creek laid in the ground like a corpse, exposed to the sunlight. The entrance before me was a gaping maw. Graffiti lined the walls like ancient runes; closest to the open mouth was scribbling in red spray paint, like a desperate warning. There was another entrance, closed like a closet, skeletons laid farther in. I stood on the lip of the internal place, staring at the miracle grass that grew on a sandy annex, surrounded by water. I grimaced as a yellowjacket flew past me, into the grass.
I had realized, just then, that life passed me by.
This place used to be animated. The sand was like a continent, composed of pebbles of all sizes, a beach rounding the flowing, healthy stream of water whose origins were unbeknownst to my friends and I. We fought with sticks, our fantastical battles rocking the land. I was a giant in my element; the markings left by the soles of my shoes were the writings of the great. Sometimes I stripped my feet of my shoes and socks and tip toed into the water while whoever accompanied me on this particular journey would watch me. The water was cool and clear, comforting and cleansing. At times, I would be lead astray by the spray painted language that covered the cement, flowing like the stream.
The graffiti baffled us, even then. We ran our fingers over the script, our goal to decipher, never succeeding. New words and sentences appeared every visit, the messages without meaning. Sunlight would wane, causing us to climb out in a hurry. We worried that whatever wrote the colorful script would drag us into the bowels of the tunnels we so fervently avoided.
There were rumors of a homeless man whose residence happened to be somewhere within the depths of the tunnels. I would dare my friends to take an exploratory trip into one side, but they never followed through. They would dare me, and my face would brighten red with fear. Sticks collected at the other end of the stream, forming a weak dam that barely slowed the flow of the water.
As the continent eroded, the soft land carried away by the stream, we grew older. My friends and I gradually shifted apart, like the granules that sailed away to lands unknown. I would trek to the creek alone, stare at it, afraid to make the plunge into the world beneath my feet. At some point, the grass seeds made their own journey to the dwindling continent. They grew and flourished, just as I did.
The wind blew, bringing me back to the present. The grass whispered as the wind combed through it. Another yellowjacket flew past, but even faster this time. Some bird song erupted from the trees surrounding me. The graffiti transformed into an epiphany, the words a little less unclear. I glanced around, and jumped into my future.
The water was warm.
Photo by Lisa Racz: https://lisaracz.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/arizonas-jewel-of-the-desert-is-a-hiking-oasis-in-the-town-of-cave-creek/