The mud seemed thin enough to cross. On the shore, it looked daunting. But we were told by everyone around that if we took it one step at a time, we would reach the other side. Now, in the muck, I can’t remember what was supposed to be on the other side. But I imagine it was great. Why else would I be crossing this bog?
I wore all of my clothes, which seemed like a stupid decision as soon as I’d taken the first steps, and the soggy, sticky, membranous liquid seeped through my shoes. These shoes were designed for land conditions, not amphibious excursions. My pants were of heartier stuff, and did not give way immediately. However, eventually my entire bottom half became consumed, and then I had trouble moving.
I stopped to survey the land. Aside from a few pieces of wooded flotsam in the bog, the grey sky and grey water seemed inseparable, as if I were trapped inside some giant grey room, uniform, without end. I lost faith in the direction I was facing. Had I strayed from the path? Was I still approaching the other shore? Had I turned around, unbeknownst, and begun to travel back? Had I passed that branch before? I thought I might have. But there were so many branches that I had been near and passed, maybe I was the one mistaken.
I decided that I was, in fact, moving in the right direction. As I continued, the mud continued to rise. As it took over my torso, I moved slower and slower. All of my joints seemed to be gearing down, like the muck had entered my very marrow. Still, it was an indication that I was headed in the right direction. Any moment now, I should be able to see the other side.
The mud rose up over my neck, then hit the underside of my chin. I cocked my head skyward, towards the uniform grey ceiling. Even at its deepest point, I knew of others that had made the journey. Maybe all I had to do was take a deep breath and make it through. A little bit of submersion, then the mud would begin to recede. I would be past the halfway mark.
Weighed down by these dirty, clinging clothes, I took a deep breath and lowered my head into the mud. Pressing forward toward the moment I knew was coming, even as I felt the mud close over the top of my head, I knew it would recede. It was just a matter of when. Until then, I would hold my breath.