My sweat chilled me in the morning air, and then the sun soaked into my clothes and warmed me up again. Reflexively, my mind strained to interpret this and translate it into some kind of analogy for my condition. If this labor produced anything, it has since melted like a thin drift of snow and I mayn't record it here.
Tired in my limbs and tired of myself. I stared off into the featureless blue sky, an unending and consistent hue of robin's egg. No birds, no clouds. No squirrels chittered or sprinted up rough bark; no children laughed and shrieked in the distance. Biter slid from my fingers as I stood there unsteadily, entranced with nothingness, in the broad sea of sand.
The muscles around my chest and ribs twitched and seized, and I was compelled to gulp a large, long breath, which I held for a moment before sighing with a great sob. So tired of myself. I looked at the gory sword lying in the sand; I knelt to cleanse it with that fine abrasive, then sheathed it once more. It took particular effort to rise and stand once more.
|Anvil Rock: the forge of the gods, for all anyone knows.|
It was a mineral hillock that rather resembled an anvil, as though the Creator of this strange realm had shaped every material here. Mostly I do not believe this, for it is an absurd daydream, but so much of this world is inexplicable and counter-intuitive, such a myth couldn't make much of a difference in daily operations. I did, however, suspect this would be a useful fortification for a new base. I had only to mine enough stone, melt it down into bricks, then embed three walls into this mountainside for an impressive-looking fort.
Not that there's anyone to impress, here. I wondered where Gorluin went off to, when he walked away. So wrapped up with the sacredness of the moment was I, it did not occur to me to track him.
Then a resentment began to well up within my body, as I stared at this impressive feature. This rocky ledge was not designed for me. Who created this world was not aware of me and did not plan for such instances that would delight and engage me. I stalked off, though this ledge is not very far from the temple and I'm sure I'll spot it every day I stay here.
|The valley of karsts which cradles angst-ridden Thoreau.|
Internally, I screamed at my mind to shut up for five goddamned minutes.
There were waterfalls in the valley, so I went to lose myself among them. The roar of the falling water should overwhelm my ears, I imagined, and the constant barrage of water upon my frail person should disrupt any kind of cognition. I ran to the falls and, yes, while they were cold and wet, they still flowed as gently as leaves upon the autumn air. Still, I let the cold soak into my limbs, stiffening my muscles and embedding into my bones. How patient all of nature is, the trees that relentlessly reach upward, the waterfalls that unthinkingly pour and, over time, wear even through solid stone.
When my mind tried once more to fantasize Nature's lesson for wretched Thoreau, I was ready to tilt my head back and inhale deeply, to fill my lungs with clean mountain water, to see if I couldn't make good on this death or any other. Something had to end me, I was so tired of myself.
"This is not for me!" I screamed, my voice bouncing off the karsts. "This is not about me! This damned world, or any other! You are your own entity, a world unto yourself!" My eyes rolled in their sockets and I thrust my fists against imaginary foes, whirling awkwardly in place. "None of this is about me, it's not for me! Nature is not my personal tutor! You aren't even aware of me, are you?"
My echo receded and died away, as I stared up at the sheer stone cliffs. The waterfall continued to dump gallons and gallons into the valley, and these soaked into the arable soil and went away. My knees buckled and I collapsed to the ground—not in a swoon, O my reader. Fully cognizant was I, laying in the cool grass, staring up into the empty sky. I was simply tired of myself, my tedious, petty, trite self. Everything was some God-forsaken lesson for my growth and development, every stork or toad had its lesson to impart for precious Thoreau. I recalled to mind my retreat to the cabin at Walden Pond, how I showed up with an axe, used it for everything an axe was good for, and borrowed everything that wasn't an axe.
Which is to say, everything. I begged and borrowed everything I needed, which was everything. Frogs don't do that. Otters use tools, but they don't hit up their neighbors for them. I'm not so great at discerning the patterns of Nature and following its rules, no. No, I'm not.
It was strange, in this moment when I finally closed myself off from Nature, when I acknowledged it as separate from myself... never before did I feel so natural. I closed my eyes and imagined it running on its own, its wheels and gears and cogs spinning celestially, growing and decaying, rising and falling. All under its own power, without my approval or awareness. When I saw myself as a small, accidental beast outside the astounding balance and operation of Nature, only then did I feel as though I could begin to...
No, I'll let that go. I will not analyze this to death. I will simply let it exist, honor it, and leave it alone.
|There is no explanation for this. What the hell is going on?|
On the way back, by a different route, I found a rocky outcropping, or so it appeared from one angle. From another, as I circumnavigated it and discovered, to my surprise, that it was at least partially constructed from stone bricks, not unlike I'd planned to do to Anvil Rock (as I now call it). Only partially, for it seemed like the ruins of a small fort built into a stone ledge, but then it appeared to be further covered in stone, as though the mineral was growing and spreading over its exterior, like ivy or moss, to cover and assimilate it. I marveled at this, not even beginning to understand how such a thing was possible—is this what stone can do over centuries, millennia? It did not seem reasonable, but I was beggared to produce an alternate explanation. I would have to explore this in the daytime, as already the nightmare beasts were beginning to emerge.
But I did not, the next day. I'm sure the structure is going nowhere, and I may return to it at my leisure, or not at all. Whether I do will not change the taste of mustard, as the saying goes. Nature has its designs, a fraction of which are understandable to us, and that is as it should be, even in this surreal and contradictory world.
Instead, I journeyed out to where I knew the wild horses grazed. I'm not going to do without a horse, as it is so useful for exploring and ranging to greater perimeter than my aging legs can manage. I will, however, redouble my efforts to protect it from harm, throwing myself into jeopardy before I allow another such noble beast to perish on my watch.
I found the horses easily and, having brought a store of apples from prior adventures, befriended and tamed a likely fellow, a gorgeous bay. I will not lose the sleuth of this one, so I swear. Also I swear to think upon a handsome name for him.
Additionally, I espied a small group of donkeys, and as there are two stables at the desert temple, why mightn't I fill them both? I found a cute little fellow who seemed to like me well enough. I promised him, as I record it in this journal, I will not hitch him to labor but will only take him out for pleasure and hiking, such as we both may enjoy.
It is with no little solemnity that I undertake this task, and it is my dearest wish that we, all of us hapless creatures, find our peace and joy in this aberrant world. Except the nightmare creatures, who will ever fall under my sword, and there are none here to call me out on this modest hypocrisy.