There he stood, just come in from that bare and desolate wasteland, into the well lit hallway with its dreams and ghosts of movies long dead and gone and shorn of all meaning. He'd walked through the tangled mesquite brakes and up beyond the south fork of the river to where the movie theatre stood skeletoned in the burning sunset. He'd stood at the ticket office, the clerk jaunty and misbegotten and he'd bought an ice cream and so burdened he'd made his way through the bloodred reefs of moviegoers to that long, haunted corrider where the theatre doors broke away left and right. Somewhere a tap dripped and dripped, counting away the days and nights and other days and nights of the world. His tie hung canted, angled, a chimera cast perhaps in some demonic tiemaker's forge in the iron dark of the world. A tie whose stripes spoke of that lost dream. A camera bulb flashed.
You're not smiling, the woman said.
I reckon you're smiling enough for both of us, he said.
Did Billy bring the horses in?
Yes mam. Crapped all up and down the hallway.
He'd woken that morning from a dream. In the dream a great black shape had risen from some far off cave across an oily black river and he'd watched as it turned into a thunderhead blacker than any he'd so witnessed before.
He leaned and spat.
His horse whinnied.
It ain't nothin he'd said.
His horse nodded. They rode on.
So riding they came upon a road of bones and among those bones a single flower lay half crumpled but green still and it grew greener as he stood watching. He crouched, passed his hat across his face. No reason, really, he just liked to do that. And then the flower began to rise on the breeze and he rose with it and it grew then into a twig then a branch then a trunk then a torso until what stood before both man and horse and other men and horses (as a crowd had gathered) was a woman. She turned, glanced down for a moment then turned and walked out across that foreland plain where even the vaqueros wouldn't ride. She leaned and drank rainwater from the rockpools, her face lost to them. She walked until the narrator bid her to stop. She turned at last to regard them. Then she was gone. Lost in that thunderhead. He awoke. A thousand years older.
Where did you get those boots? said the woman in the theatre.
Texas. Where did you get that outfit?
There's a cafe in the lobby, she said. You a coffee drinker?
Coffee? he said. I once shared a coffee with an old man, just south of Testeverde, New Mexico. He sat in a field in a highland plain where the winter sun turned the grass a burnt umber and the horses milled about, hazing among the flowers whose pollen hung in the sun like powdered gold and...where'd she go?
(A thousand apologies to Cormac McCarthy)