It was like an oasis, this tiny little bird bath in a garden with no name, for a boy with no name. He couldn’t remember how he had arrived in the splendiferous little patch of land, neat paths and plants blooming in green at all sides. He couldn’t remember what he liked to call himself, aside from ‘clothed’.
These were the facts of his current condition: he was naked, and he was thirsty.
The bird bath was the only place in the garden that seemed to have drinkable water. He had his doubts about just about everything else, but he knew the water was drinkable. Even if it didn’t look like it, exactly.
All he knew was, there was no other option for him to choose. The garden seemed to stretch on in every direction, paths winding about here and there, through sharp plants and bushy plants, plants in bloom and plants that were withering, all of them blending together as if to say, ‘There is no escape.’
And he knew that it scared him.
This was one more thing that he knew. He was scared, he was naked, he could not leave the garden, and the only drinkable water was contained in a bird bath. And he was so very thirsty.
He thought about it for a few moments, and he could not figure out why, despite his thirst, despite the water being mere feet from him, he had not yet taken a drink. He hesitated, and something told him that he shouldn’t drink the water, not until he needed to. He should not drink the water from the bird bath, because while it was drinkable, he could not bear it.
He knew that was true, but he did not know what it meant, and that scared him.
He covered himself and his shame as he walked, and wondered why he wasn’t cold. He was aware of a chill in the air, and he could see his breath puff out in front of him, but his body wasn’t tense from the cold, and his skin wasn’t riddled in the goose bumps. But he knew, as he knew everything else, that it was cold. He worried that something was wrong with him, that he couldn’t feel the cold, and he stared at the bird bath suspiciously as he wandered about the garden.
He never let it leave his sight. He knew that he should never let it leave his sight, because those who wandered too far from the bird bath sometimes found it hard to get back.
And that, he realised, scared him even more than anything else, because it was the first time that he knew he had not been alone in the garden, and could possibly find someone else again.
He knew this, and he knew that it would require him to leave the bird bath and search the unending garden, and perhaps never find his way back to what was undoubtedly the only source of water in the garden.
And yet, even knowing the facts pertaining to the bird bath, even knowing that he could die, he could not stop himself taking another step away from the bird bath. He took a few more, feeling a sense of panic rising up through his body, until a branch from a small tree fell in front of his face. He pushed it away quickly, but he could no longer see the bird bath.
With nothing else to do, he accepted his fate, and ran. He ran between plants that scratched at his legs, and between plants that irritated his skin, over a path that wound and wound and wound and never seemed to find order. Even turning around the corners changed direction, so that he always ended up in a new part of the garden wherever he went, and all of it was similar.
The more he ran, the greater his thirst grew, and he knew he had to find a person or the bird bath or he would die alone and thirsty, and he could only manage one. He knew that he could only withstand one such fate.
He knew all of this, as he ran and grew tired and thirsty, though still he could not remember his name, or how he had found himself waking up in the garden. He knew that there was no end to the paths, no end to the plants that stretched in every direction, and only one source of drinkable water in the unending garden: a bird bath that had gone missing behind a branch and never returned.
He decided then that he had given up, and could not understand why in that moment he could see the bird bath. His lips were cracked, a rash had spread across his stomach and back, and his legs were covered in trickles of blood. He stumbled weakly towards the bird bath, and onto his knees with a thud. He dipped his hands into the water, and took a deep gulp of water.
He fell to the floor of the garden, and he felt a chill running over his body. He felt his mind go blank, and the skin on his legs pull taunt and heal over the fresh wounds, and just as the world went dark, he heard a voice calling his name, and immediately forgot it. And in that instant, the paths shifted, the garden changed, and he was alone.
It took him some time to stand up again, and he was naked. He did not know how he had arrived at this garden, but he knew that it stretched on forever in every direction and he knew that the only source of water was a bird bath. He knew these things were true, and he did not know why. All he knew was that he should not stray from the bird bath.
This story was written using the following photo as a prompt: http://writingpromptphotos.tumblr.com/post/77317332762/a-bird-bath-photograph-copyright-2013-paul