On the top of the mountain the cacti stopped for a rest. Exhausted. From there they could see the ocean. These cacti were making their way from the desert to the coast, trampling one clean line through the sand. They were thirsty, on a pilgrimage, looking for transcendence. Wanting to find that there was more to life than the desert haze.
They were all part of the same family. Each a little different, but sharing the same unlikely obsession. With tracking and mapping their way around. Dressing and readdressing each other and themselves. Seeking new growth. The largest hoping along first in line, and each one smaller than its former. But when they see the ocean, woah, it is greater, vaster, bluer than they dreamed. The stories of birds and insects had been true. They work out a downwards path, and then race towards the shoreline.
They reach a fringe of homesteads along the mountain’s base. A dog runs at them. There’s no way they can escape. Not fast enough. It catches the third largest. Puts his jaw around. Can’t eat it up, can’t chew it, and recoils and coughs the cactus out. But it can’t cough up the spines stuck in its mouth. It runs off whimpering. But the third largest cactus is already torn apart, mangled up. They stop there, sleep there, for many days. The others bring water, and tender care, but it does no good. The cactus withers up. Can’t replenish. The others travel on to the coast.
By now it has been months since they left the desert. They are homesick for the dust and the scorch. They’re looking for transcendence in all the wrong places. The water is whirling and sickly salty. The waves crash loud. This ocean is not what they had hoped.
They crawl around, find themselves collapsed against a fence. They soak up in a storm water drain. And they choose a new home for themselves one cloudless night. Crawl around the house, creep in through a window. There’s a woman asleep. They discover. Alone in a large bed, curling up under blankets, but they aren’t covering all of her. There is hair spilling around her neck, and her torso bare, stomach flopping over the line of her underwear.
The smallest cactus crawls over to her. It can feel the warmth coming from her. The woman doesn’t stir at all. The cactus coils itself up, and crawls between her lips. Up onto the roof of her mouth. The space where the warmth collects. And inside there it’s warm like the desert, wet like the ocean.