There is a certain type of madness, they say, to living under the sun. A lack of punctuation; days that blend together in a ceaseless feast of light. Your body, the deepest most secret programming of your biology thrown into disarray. The eyes don’t want to close. The mind cannot rest. The boundaries between what happened, what could have happened, and what you say happened become harder to discern. Maybe even impossible to differentiate.
Let’s say you saw a shadowy figure crossing the lava field on the way to your hotel. You couldn’t pick up much detail, except that the body was exceptionally small, like that of a toddler but with the head of an older, wrinkled man. He was dressed in the same colors of the landscape, a mix of basalt and moss. The car was going so fast, and there had been all that drinking the night before, but you recall a pointed stare coming from the man before he disappeared. You rubbed away a chill that crawled down your arms.
Let’s say you mentioned the shadowy figure to the farmer who rented out his barns to tourists that summer. You arrived much later than the other guests. With the sun still blazing, you forgot to eat dinner. He fixed you a meal, joined you at the table, regaled you with stories of the hidden people. The world laughs at us, he said quietly, but we know. Mostly it’s just harmless pranks. Tools that go missing. But sometimes it’s a dog. Or a horse.
And sometimes, he whispered, a person.
Let’s say you retired to your room and locked your door.
Let’s say you were so very tired. You fell quickly into a vast, solid sleep. You were still asleep, in fact, when the officers knock on your door. A woman, a fellow lodger, your neighbor, they say. Gone missing in the night. Her luggage, her phone, her passport, still in her room. No signs of struggle. Did you hear anything? See anything? Oh God, you say. No. How terrible. You had been asleep after days of not sleeping. You heard nothing. The officers take down your info, your rental car plate, your itinerary. They’ll be in touch. If necessary.
Of course, you pack and prepare to leave. There’s a darkening over the place, a shadow hovering over you, the farm, your entire trip. Like hands around your throat. An impending suffocation. You walk briskly to your car, but cross paths with the farmer. You sense something in the lines on his face. Suspicion? I told you, is all he says.
Let’s say you get to your car, but you pause at the trunk. Are you going to put your bag in there? For some strange reason, you put it in the backseat instead. It’s so dark in the trunk, you think. The sound so muffled. It might just be the only place on this whole tragic island that the maddening sun cannot reach.