I believe we all search for something. A fountain of youth, a well of love, an absolute truth. This story was inspired by Britton‘s fabulously intriguing Into an Inn, An Unknown Inn. It soon took a life of its own, starting a moshpit of imagination in my mind and now I cannot quite explain this story of mine that followed.
So once again, I leave it to you. Let it play in your mind and enjoy! May the search begin.
For one brief moment I saw your form, just before the dawn peeked behind the thick pine branches to blind me. Even through its hue I still caught a glimpse of you, for your halo was brighter than the light itself. Squinting my eyes, I grew uncertain whether it was you or the morning that had so dazzled me. And then you were gone, faster than I could blink you into focus.
But I was sure, absolutely sure for one beautiful second, that you had danced on a primrose, bounced carelessly from a petal to petal the way laughter echoes in empty halls or a thrush prances in the trees. From then on, you were the voice that filled the desolate rooms of my heart; you were the dizzying wind under the wings of every thrush I witnessed. Of course, in reality, I didn’t know what you were at all. A bird, laughter, an angel, or just a bittersweet illusion that disappeared into the ether. No words could capture you.
But feeling could, a feeling of soul-purifying clarity, of your life being transformed into transparent silver glass for you to marvel at. All your dreams in rainbow sparkle made concrete in the first rays of the sun, hitting the frosty ground. The very beauty of my being looking back at me all around. That’s what you were for me, you were all the bright shades of life that had ever touched my soul.
And I picked that primrose you had left behind and I wished it would blossom into a whole garden of goodness, into a horn of plenty full of love and answers. But soon enough, it died.
So I searched for you in the spring. I looked for you in primrose and coltsfoot, in crocus and netted iris. But none of them ever grew in my mind into anything as beautiful as you, instead I smudged their petals with my frustrated search. It dripped onto them from my mind, like venomous black tears, ruining their beauty. The more I yanked at their roots to find any traces of seeds, the beginning of all beautiful things, the more fragmented my memories of you became. I killed all the spring flowers. Accidentally of course but nevertheless, I killed them. I was too awkward, too hard and clumsy.
I couldn’t find you. I started to believe you didn’t exist. Slowly I found myself slipping into a dream world of papier-mâché grayness. I forgot the life outside myself. Inside, winter came and blew away the torn petals, the rotten left-overs of love and warmth I had tried to guard in my soul.
And that is when I found you, found life again, in the most surprising place. You came to me as an itch, a sudden urge that lifted me up out of my body to be beaten fresh by the winter winds. To this day, I do not know if it was you gently guiding my muscles but I watched myself from outside as I picked up a stone. As I closed my fist around it and felt its rough surface, I returned to my senses in a rush and a peculiar heat seeped into my body, a kind of anticipation.
And that is when I saw it. A small hole in the ground the stone had covered. It was perfectly shaped as if by a maker. What little dwarfs or grand gestures of gods had mined it, I did not know. But I was certain it was meant for me. I bent closer to look
And as I peered down the whole, oh , I could not possibly describe to you what I saw!
It was as if I was watching life through a magnificent microscope that zoomed in all and reached even the hot, moving heart of our Earth. I could see through every grain of sand and as I looked deeper into the mantle, I saw it hid entire galaxies that spiraled in and out of my consciousness. The humble gravel turned into stars as all the secrets of life were unraveled to me in front of my eyes, slowly, like an old papyrus patchwork, sown together from the precious elements of earth, air and eternity. And so, curious and enchanted, I bent down just a little closer… a little closer… just so I could see what the lingering black matter enveloped inside itself.
That was when I suddenly saw the waves of a supernova approaching me with speed. They illuminated even darkest corners of my mind, their force deafened me and as the supernova hit, it send me flying chaotically into the air. I was certain that I would be grinded into stardust by its immense energy. Apocalypse! Apocalypse, dust, my throat burning, then… help!
I fell down, down, into the whole. I felt an aching vibration tearing me apart as every molecule in my body tried to abandon me and find its birth place in the open vastness I had entered. I fell through time and space, my vision was filled with flashes of beauty and light, my skin was burned and shed to be reborn. I saw moonbeams dancing on my skin the way they dance in the surface of a tranquil pool at midnight. I felt the coolness of air and rain clouds clutching onto me till I was numbed by the glory of it all.
That is when I entered the beastly blackness.
It was thicker than any fog, it was coal slime blocking my airways and paralyzing my legs. I breathed the intoxicating fumes and felt myself sinking further into nothingness. I travelled through unforgiving deserts and dead valleys, mangled dwarf planets that could not exist. I tried to find a foothold in dried up riverbeds. I watered coral with my tears to revive its strength but it remained crackled and dead. If I tried to focus my gaze and find a way, the horizon started twisting like a caterpillar having a death stroke. If I tried to invent a road, all the paths I created rose parallel like a mountainous walls to challenge me. There were bottomless gullies too and looking at them made me feel peculiarly sleepy and faint till I almost tipped myself over into their Venus flytraps shaped out of stone. They were always trying to snatch me and take me down to where I do not imagine.
And then there was me. My hunger, the worst trap of all.
For somehow I knew that I had created this place and I could hear it singing nauseating love songs to fool me. It pressed me down and held me a prisoner and wherever I roamed I was penetrated by the fear of being eaten alive. I could hear the teeth of the underworld scrunching beneath me, hungry for my flesh. Worse still, that world and the world above and this in-between land, they were all me. So I felt that hunger myself, in my own bones. It was a pulsing, longing sensations. It felt as if I was sprouting blisters on my insides, so badly did I want to gnaw myself motionless.
Then… and then… what?
Oh… oh.. then, there were the moans of the sheep.
They were the most unnatural noises, screeching, mumbling, lulling me into a slumber as I tried to learn their language. And they weren’t sheep at all but gruesome gargoyles, some sick caricatures of their earthly siblings. They gathered tight around me, circled me and nudged at me with their snappy muzzles. I allowed the sea of them push me and pull me forward and back for what felt like an eternity and no time at all. I felt curiously bound to them and could not leave them behind, and they seemed to know this for they stalked me ever more. But for some reason, I could not bear to look at them. Every time I tried an insane, irrational horror strangled me. And when I finally braved myself, I wish I hadn’t done so. For they were indeed terrible.
As I looked at them, I could see they were wearing masks carved out of human faces, faces that I thought I recognized. But they changed and soon the heads of all sheep were sucked in and only a hole was left behind and from eachwhole a massive, unblinking eye stared back at me. They were unseeing, dead eyes, reflecting only my worn-out posture, an image that engrossed me the most.
- What are you? I shouted to the sheep then, in rage and fear.
Some of the sheep died before I could finish my scream. The remaining answered, in terrible monotone. They took me to a bottom of a hill and I was afraid it would have eyes too, eyes with jaws tattooed around the iris, ready to chew away my sight for forever.
But the hill stood there, in front of me, silent and peaceful. And on top of it, a leader.
This was the promise of the sheep. And to get away from these deformed mirrors of myself I believed them. So I ran up, up the hill, to the very top. I panted, panicked and my body crumbled. And as I laid there, I saw the hilltop empty. There was no-one, no leader, only wind playing in the hollows of the ground.
All is over. All is over.
That sentence and a feeling like a serpent filled me up. In a flash, I was down the hill and battering the empty air in front of me. I was an animal, a predator. I chased away the sheep. Luckily, all of them managed to escape. Except one, an old one, that surrendered to my feet. I could not beat it then for I saw it had already been beaten. It was worn and its breath fluttered like a butterfly in a glass jar. I pitied it and sat down to keep it company. That was when it’s expression changed and I saw it was looking back at me with my own eyes, gray shining orbits filled with tears. It seemed sorry.
- What are you? I asked faintly, afraid of the answer. I had reached my breaking point, the point of destruction hidden in human mind. Even a whisper could have ruptured me then.
So the old creature remained silent, allowing me to read the answer from its eyes, from my eyes.
- We’re your fears, stalkers of truth. We follow you loyally but lead we cannot. Go back… up.. you are..
I nearly shook the sheep then but something stopped me. It was the feeling of loss, a realisation that shaking would make no difference at all. No matter how hard I would shake, life would not rattle inside that poor creature anymore. And so I lifted it to my arms gently, afraid to break its feather-light body, and buried it on the bottom of the hill.
I felt something leaving me then and I too became lighter. The bear traps caught on my limbs were removed and that is when I heard your call in the wind, asking me to come back.
So I struggled up the hill, stumbling and exposed. I could feel like watching over me now, waiting, anticipating my next move. I felt as if I was laying naked on a vast glacier under a magnifying glass of deities. I felt weak and strong at the same time.
Just before the top I closed my eyes for a moment and breathed in the newborn trust in me. I could feel you looking at me, right now. But no! As I opened my eyes, I saw the hill empty still. That is when I gave up. Loneliness took hold of me and almost carried me away, over to the other side of the hill, to lands cloaked in mist if looked at with waking eyes.
I fell to the ground. And there I saw two footsteps, imprinted onto sand.
The leader! Life! The leader had been here! You! Where are you?
As I kissed the ground you had walked on, I suddenly recognized the imprint. They weren’t your footsteps at all.
They were my footsteps. It was only me who had climbed that hill.
In wonder I stared at them, realizing that the lines on my soles were the only map I ever needed. By my own feet , I was lifted up, higher and finally, I found you. I found your song in the most surprising place. Your song lived in me, the song of life.