This land of utter neutrality is not terribly unlike the small town in which I grew up. Meager one-story, flat-roofed houses painted a dull gray stand out against the lighter gray of a watery fog. Each of the near-identical houses are spaced apart the same distance, resulting in a rather dull looking town that, after being viewed for any extended period of time, becomes sore on the eyes.
The people that inhabit the houses are not unlike their dwellings. While each of the inhabitants have at some point or another known the excitement of living a full life, the dreariness of this place has beaten their souls into an expressionless submission. Sometimes, when I watch people wandering outside looking for food, I am startled by the way their colorless flesh blends in so perfectly with the fog. Their skin hangs from their bones with a lack of purposefulness like a zombie’s flesh.
There is life here, but no purpose. There are no extremes: no joy, no sorrow; no rage, no forgiveness. Apathy and indifference are the only hints of emotion that can be seen in these people’s soulless eyes. I could never begin to imagine the agony of such a pointless life, though I suppose for them, having lost all sense of purpose and having long forgotten the lives they once had, they are void of agony. They are pitifully and frightfully bland. This place frightens me.
One night, I ventured into the heart of the town. The only building that people leave their homes to enter is the grocery store. They need food just like any other creature, in order to carry on with their clockwork lives. The grocery is a small building, though larger than all of the town’s residences. It bears the same flat roof and gray color.
As I entered the building, the worn floorboards creaking loudly beneath my feet, I was surprised to see identical brown boxes lining each of the store’s thin metal shelves, except for the bottom rows which were filled with gallon jugs of water. The clerk behind the counter looked up as I entered and his blank eyes looked right through me. They didn’t seem to see through me, they did look through me; he was so unconcerned with the sight of me that his brain had not bothered to process the information that his eyes had sent. It’s a wonder that his ears had been able to momentarily awaken his mind from its apathetic slumber.
I walked toward one of the shelves and picked up a box. There was nothing on it. No text, no pictures. It was like a cereal box devoid of the colorful imagination of youth. I tore open the top to reveal what appeared to be dry oatmeal. I looked up at the man behind the counter and he was staring into space. I walked out of the store with the box, and his eyes never even followed me out.
I’d been so hungry, but I didn’t want to eat the mush in that box lest it make me like them. I didn’t bother to hide in the bushes any longer–these people didn’t care who walked among them. I sat down in the middle of the street with the box in front of me and I stared at it for close to six hours. It grew dark and I fell asleep. When I awoke the sun was shining and the box was still in front of me. I was still hungry in the sense that my body yearned for nourishment to help it function. But as a human being, with my emotional wants and needs, I no longer cared about the food. I reached out reflexively, dug my hand into the box, and shoved a handful of the oatmeal into my mouth. I didn’t taste it. I didn’t care to taste it. I didn’t really care for anything after that.