Taking a deep breath, I go to the desert. It is dry but not extremely hot. It is warmer than here in my home, but moderately, at most. Everything is tolerable, except the sandstorm. I do my best to shade my face from the wind while still trying to see where I’m going. I am back in my jeans and moccasins. My poncho protects me from the swirling sand, and I make slow but steady progress through the storm, but it’s not easy.
It is as Anna said. I am not walking in sand, but on rock, slick rock, similar to the terrain in Moab. I recognize the feel of loose sand gliding over the sandstone beneath my moccasins. Looking around, I cannot see what is around me. It is a blur of gold and tan. After what seems an impossibly long stretch, I see a dark form taking shape in the distance. It is faint at first, but I assume it must be the cabin.
As I move closer, I see this cabin is not identical to Amber’s. It is similar in size and shape, but it has a porch along the entire face, with a shaker awning. Four wooden posts lined one after the other along the front edge of the porch support the awning. It reminds me of some of the cabins I’ve seen in old western movies. It is rectangular, with the long wall facing forward. There is a door in the center, with windows on either side. Without this porch, this cabin would look almost the same as Amber’s, except for the materials used to create the structures. This cabin is made of one by four wood slats. Amber’s cabin is log. Though they are drastically different on the outside, I know from what I saw during Anna’s description, the inside of this cabin will be almost identical to the other.
I wonder if he ever saw the outside of Amber’s cabin. I wonder if the interior layout is alike because he failed ever to see hers from the outside. His work with me has been internal. All of the self-loathing comes from deep inside. His thoughts feel more like my thoughts than my own. It is difficult to describe, but the best I can say is he becomes me, or I become him. Either way, he would need a mirror to see my exterior, and I have the distinct impression he is likely to avoid mirrors if he can.
I get closer to the cabin and realize; while the shape and layout are similar, they look nothing alike. Amber’s cabin is clean and fresh. The logs are reddish-brown and well maintained. This cabin is dilapidated at best. The almost grey wood is dry and curling. Nails pull loose from the support in areas where the slats have curled away from the frame. The porch changes the appearance even further. The logs used to hold the roof are gray and cracked, like the cabin itself, and the shakers look one good windstorm away from freeing themselves from the awning.
I do not wonder why he has a porch on his cabin and Amber does not. I recognize it for what it is, protection against the blowing sand. He lives in the pursuer’s world, where a sandstorm can come to life at any moment, driving at him with immeasurable force. This cabin is a perfect metaphor for the kind of damage created by verbal abuse. I understand the metaphor completely.
This man would have lived his life facing a constant assault of words, words like sand thrown at him, each more stinging than the last. I understand how single words, like pinpoints of sand, constantly bombarding bare skin can make one raw and vulnerable. I have experienced a sandstorm in both the physical and metaphorical sense. Both drive tiny stings upon your skin, an endless barrage of burn after burn, leaving you raw and open. In the end, any touch, even the kindest, is painful. He lives the way his cabin looks, raw and vulnerable. This cabin makes total sense to me, and though I loathe his tactics, I understand his pain.
I lay my hand against one of the awning supports before descending the stairs. I am thankful for the protection of my poncho, as the wind and driving sand are much stronger here. As I look down at the steps—three of them, just like Anna’s dream—I pause. My nerves are suddenly taut. I do not want to enter this place, though I know I must.
Taking another deep breath, I descend the stairs to the porch. The cabin is slightly beneath the level of rock on which I was standing. Now, I understand Anna insisting that she climbed up the stairs when she passed through the door. I kept picturing a raised porch and insisting in my mind that she must have climbed down, but she was very persistent in saying she had climbed up three stairs. I couldn’t comprehend how that worked. Now that I see the picture clearly.
The porch looks submerged beneath the rock. There is a natural lip here, and the three steps descend onto the porch, creating a hollow space. While I realize this would also serve as additional protection from the driving wind, I wonder how the sand does not gather here. Just as I ask the question, my mind’s eye opens, and I see the other side of the cabin. It sits upon a giant precipice. The cliff on the other side drops dramatically and exposes an enormous canyon. It reminds me of Delicate Arch in Moab. It’s similar to the view you get when you stand on the edge of the bowl and look beyond the arch.
The sheer size of the canyon is both unnerving and also breathtaking. The sand does not fly here. I can see wisps of sand burst from around the cabin and into the open air, where some of it returns with its momentum back to the ridge. Most of it drops hundreds of feet to the canyon floor below, like powdered sugar sifted over a caramel-colored pastry. The ledge is a whirl of blowing dust, but beyond the shelf, the canyon is still.
As I come back to where I stand, the winds are mild. There is still sand blowing, but I can now see the rest of this cabin’s surroundings. While approaching this place, I walked through a large canyon. The path was about fifty feet wide. The canyon walls were sheer and climbed a hundred and fifty feet or more, narrowing toward the top. Looking back, I see it is a slot canyon carved deep into the mountain behind me. From the canyon floor below, it would look like a crack near the top of the canyon wall, with a small cabin perched upon its ledge, like an eagle’s nest. Now I understand what this is. It’s a nest, but not the nest of an eagle. It is not a proud bird, with expansive sight, capturing healthy, strong prey. It is a vulture, watching and waiting until the sandstorm weakens its victim.
This self-loather watches the barrage of words tear at the person’s soul and waits until they are too weak to move, then he consumes what is left. It was not him speaking to me in the cave. Those words were of someone far-seeing. He does not see well enough to know these words. The ego I sensed earlier does not belong to this man. It is his pursuer who is so arrogant and bold. This man is no more than a parasite, feeding on the souls of those who become lost.
I know, before I enter the house, there will be a large bay window, just like Amber’s, but this window will offer a view of the expansive canyon below. As I step through the door, the window is the first thing I see. The image is spectacular, with gold and cream swirled into canyon pinnacles. It is a glorious view. The sun shines here, lighting the canyon walls to a brilliant shade of orange. The color and light through the window are a drastic contrast to my surroundings. Inside the cabin, it is dark and monotone. There is no varying shade to the pallet, only different depths of the same gray-brown color of dust. Everything has been ransacked and lays toppled and torn. I see a kitchen in the corner. The same place it would be in Amber’s cabin, but it is dirty, and dishes fill the sink. There is a thick layer of dust over everything.
The bed, similar to the one where I lay recovering, is disheveled and dusty. Even the blankets are the same shade of gray. The colors of the canyon sit in sharp contrast against the drab pallet around me. The room feels like being in a black and white movie, with a Technicolor screen in the background. It is like one world in the Wizard of Oz vs. the other.
He abandoned this place some time ago. I imagine it was when Amber went to the cave. This cabin was just an extension within him, where she lived. It was her place within him or his within her or maybe both. There must be an extension of me in this world as well, and I must find it.
I turn to where the rocking sat in Amber’s cabin, but it is not there. Instead, there is only a staircase. I know there is no second level to these cabins. At least, there is not one I can see from the outside. Still, I understand the concept of going down the stairs. I remember descending the stairs at Amber’s home. I no more want to see what is under these stairs than I did those.
There is a door this time to fill the frame. I take a couple of steps toward it, and the door slowly begins to open. It is the same door that opened in Anna’s dream. The movement is so slow it is barely perceptible until light explodes from the opening. A knot tightens in my stomach the minute I see the light. He is inviting me to join him under the stairs. I see the commonality of this story and Amber’s and even Anna’s ‘bad thought’ starting with her going to the basement in my home. This man is inviting me to go with him and see what I only felt under the stairs at Amber’s house, and the worst part is; I am going to go.