Sunday, December 6, 2015

Far Away, So Close

It wasn't until the second day on the sea that I realized how much I miss sailing. I hadn't done much of it back in Massachusetts, truth be told, but the opportunity presented itself fairly regularly in this unlikely world. I've sailed out of desperation, for survival and exploration, and I've sailed strictly for the leisure of it.

There was nothing easier than to follow a well-detailed map and paddle out of my atoll and aim for the sunrise. It was a chilly morning, surely, upon which I set out, and a stark breeze skated across the waves around me. Once the sun warmed up the surface of these dark waters, however, I was much more at ease. The clouds drifted overhead, massy, sleepy forms that spoke of supreme patience, and I grinned at them. Regardless of whatever occurred in this world, no matter who died, no matter the weather, these clouds steadfastly rolled along at their predetermined gait, no faster or slower for any occasion. I admired this quality to them, and I take some comfort in it. It is a good way to be, surely, to have this supreme confidence in oneself and believe unerringly in one's goals.

The monsters nearly drown themselves in impotent rage.
I'm sure I have no idea what this is like.

After a full day of sailing I encountered the far shores of my destination continent. Unfortunately, the planet had turned sufficiently away from the sun that the awful beasties had begun to emerge from whatever umbral cocoons contained them each day. I've yet to discern the science behind this, if there is any rhyme or reason to it beyond simply appearing once it's dark. Are they embedded within the stones, buried in the sand?

And so I saw the monsters emerge on the shores, and I swung by little boat quite near, just enough to flag their attention. I'd enjoyed such a peaceful day of sailing that I was not now afraid of them to any appreciable degree. Indeed, as the archer-skeleton took his shots at me, the plop of his arrows into the water around me was nearly musical. At no point was my livelihood at threat, as this particular archer-skeleton seemed less than adroit at his sole task, and several arrows sailed harmlessly through the air about my craft. I turned around to regard the monsters and was greatly amused to see they had actually launched themselves off their sandbar and were attempting to doggy-paddle out to my swiftly sailing vessel! They hadn't a snowball's chance in Hades, of course, yet there was the large spider, legs flailing ineffectually in the waves; there were two A.C.M.s, groaning and moaning, heads ducking below the surface of the water as they struggled to remain afloat; even the archer-skeleton attempted to wade into the shallow waters, his haggard limbs sinking without resistance into the sea, in his bid to line up a better shot at me! It was too comical, and I nearly capsized myself in my mirth.

A placid river divides the savanna and the desert.
I sailed on, the sun rose once more, and I passed many land types. There was the savanna, grassy with sprawling trees in muted hues, broad and flat plains stretching as far as vision may reach. Soon after—without logic—emerged a more alpine region, with tremendous mountains escalating up into the sky with riotous transports, a mineral expression of joy, perhaps. Its peaks were capped in pure drifts of snow, glowing against groves of tall, dark pine trees. Any one of these mighty karsts might have proved a suitable frame for any room I might carve into it, like a prefabricated castle waiting to be hollowed out, but I suspect I was only lured by the romanticism of the snow and pines and high-altitude retreat. That's not to say I won't return and do just this, but... I felt as though I were looking for something else.

And that is what I found. I went a little further beyond the alps and I found the marshes where the horses had been grazing, way back on that miserable exodus two months ago. There they were still, content with their fields and disinterested in my reappearance. I made a mental note to mark this region, if it were at all possible to locate it a third time, as I would like to try my hand at taming a wild horse. Given the unlimited resources and time here, augmented by my seeming inability to permanently die, there is no reason I may not practice and master nearly any project to which I set my mind. I think this is the hallmark of a burgeoning intellect and an untrammeled soul; that such aspirations yet occurred to me gave me a glimmer of hope that I was not yet broken in the soul.

So I sailed on, southeast by my reckoning, and after the horses had disappeared I imagined I must now be at the section of coast I first encountered on that dark and stormy night, thinking myself so clever until I realized I'd neglected to bring my map with me. I continued to sail on my path, something nagging at my brain like an intense curiosity to revisit a part of my past life and explore an aspect that I'd missed. Another desert opened up, and before it a lagoon, and as I've come to prefer and appreciate lagoons, I steered my little boat inside it, moored it more or less snugly against the sandy beach, and ran up a small dune to embark upon exploring the new realm. This felt right, this was my immediate impression. It felt very right to be at this bank, running up this dune, and then...

The sun rises upon a striking melange of unlikely elements.
There was a temple, rising from the desert sands. The right wing of it was still buried in a dune, but the majority of it stood, proud and distinct, in the clear morning air.

I paused to take it in: building upon its pyramidal base were two towers, flanking left and right, and one large portal facing me (as the sun rose behind it, the portal faced west, and later I will determine any significance to this position). There was a simplistic design in the two towers, simple yet obviously purposeful. Cacti were scattered about, as were desert scrub; far to the east, beyond the temple, were another set of alps, and north of those was another savanna. This region should provide no end of adventures to be had with many features to explore and document.

That all occurred to me later. What commanded my attention now was an appendix to the temple that stood out in failing to resemble the structure both in architecture and materials. That is to say, someone who had not participated in constructing the temple did, at some later time, build a stable upon the front of the building. I supposed this could have been another group of villagers, and my heart twitched in apprehension at the vision of a group of hostiles biding their time within the pyramid, waiting to overpower me at my naive intrusion. There was a horse in one of the stables, in fact, and he was healthy and well-fed, suggesting that there must be people living here still, or nearby, or else they had fled very recently. He was a handsome stallion, with supple flanks of smoky gray, and he did not shy from me when I approached, suggesting great discipline and sufficient socialization. Moreover, he was fitted with tack and harness, and these were tooled with considerable craftsmanship. I glanced at the heavy wooden door embedded in the portal and held my breath. I could hear no noise coming from within the building. Unwilling, just yet, to burst in and pitch myself into woeful surprise, I decided to circumnavigate the building to assess any alternate entrances or merely study the structure of the building.

I had only gone halfway around when I froze in my tracks, unable to move, forgetting even to breathe, having been presented with a wholly familiar scene.

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