Zion of the Plains
Pain. That is the only thing I can clearly remember through the morning haze. I wondered idly if this is what a hangover felt like. There was a faint buzzing sound coming from my skull. The pain came from the base of my spine up into my brain where it reverberated; overlapping over each new throb till my grip on consciousness became tenuous.
All other objects were dimmed and I can’t recall them. I was thinking back on how I got here when my grip slipped and I blacked out again.
Again I woke up, although this time my head was clear and I was able to discern the things around me from the fuzz. While, my eyes adjusted I listened to the sound of the wind playing its bugle upon the grass. Yes, there was grass. It grew over my prone body and I could feel it impale my back with its burning needles of cellulose. The sky above was shrouded in thick covering of clouds letting through little light though its rains seemed to be held in check. A thought struck me ideally and in my hypnotic state it took a moment to feel its mark upon me. Where am I?
I pillaged my mind in want of memory but the last thing I remembered was sitting placidly at home writing up a story. Between then and my arrival here there was nothing. Nor a golden thread which I could follow back to the memory I needed. It was as though that knowledge had been exorcised from my head and I felt the pangs of regret.
I have always hated the bliss of ignorance. And though I knew that knowledge of how I came to be here would grant me no solace it was knowledge I needed. A memory hit me. I was reading a book in bed. It was a modern tome of those meandering mysteries of physics and was talking about how the universe was born from a great explosion, the Big Bang, which was not an explosion in space so much as an explosion of space. It talked about how that eventually the universe would recompress into that orb and all things would return to how they were before. That was a thought that brought depression for my eight-year old self. No matter what I did, how much I achieved it would all be for naught. I must have lain in bed for some number of hours just staring at the ceiling, tenderly caressing its hills and ridges and absent minded palpitations of the eye. My goal in life had been for years, and still is, though I’d like to believe otherwise, to shatter humanity. To twist the human collective consciousness around my finger and leave a scar upon society that even when my name is forget, even if my name is never known, they will remember so primeval recollection of a entity. They might personify it as a god or a devil, that made little difference to me, so long as they remember without knowing.
So much for that dream.
My remembrances had taken enough time and it was time to gain a better view on the situation around me. That would involve standing up. First, I stood up and twisted my neck in a circle to the scornful greetings of bones. Fortunately for me, I am still in the spring of youth and so needed to more acclamation to the morning around me. I stood up with my usual gravity that I bore when not around others. My eyes took in the flatland around me. I was on a plain. The grass was as level as the ground from which it grew and the ground could make paper seem the Rockies.
It was a 360 degree void around me. A empty wasteland of waving reeds that had gone untouched, unheard, and unseen by man since time immemorial. I didn’t know the direction I should head in order to go home and so stood their while the veil of nimbuses protected me from the eye of god.
Suddenly, breaking the moving stillness of the waving plains the clouds moved in such a way that there was an opening in the shape of an arrow pointing off into the distance. Grr…someone, something, is toying with me. Well, let’s just humor him for now. The person is trying to trick me I should go the other way. But what if its reverse psychology? Two halves of my brain passively slaughtered on another in a twisting brawl of indecision. I must have stood for hours just staring into space like a zombie on Ritalin. Ultimately, what decided me was that the wind was blowing against the way of the arrow. I would not walk with the wind. I was not so weak as that! Skeptically, I put my left foot in front of my right and began my journey home.
Arrival at the swamp
The plains gave way to a stinking quagmire at length. The mud of the swamp stuck to my feet and seemed to pull down words upon me. An incense of feces and vomit hung just above the waters and entered my nostril unobtrusively. Upon the sludge danced images of idle pleasures and from the depths of the fen bubbles came to the surface giving forth a disgusting sweet melody that enticed me to stay. It was a tune the sirens would have done well to emulate and it covered the noxious fumes of the swamp with idyllic twinkling of an inhuman voice.
My body began to relax and my mind began to slow. Searching for thoughts was like reaching through bales of cotton to find a pebble. My brain emptied its sentient processes upon the ebbing waves of the song that danced around me. My knees gave way and I fell into the sugary syrup of the swamp. My eyes closed and upon the lids a rainbow was lapping and shivering in innocent play. In my fantasies I opened my mouth to let a growing ocean of drool escape its confines, and upon doing so the liquid of the swamp entered into my mouth. The flowed through my body and began to tear my organs out of me. I could feel them tugging at my brain stem, trying to yank my brain out of my mouth but I didn’t care I was in to much euphoria. This was the best death any one could ask for.
No. Pleasure is for the weak and I shall be weak no more! Joy is for mortals and happiness for maggots. I began to close my mouth and the liquid receded from inside me, leaving an acrid taste in my mouth as a departing gift. A memory came to me. I was idly playing a video game enthralled in the euphoria of the television screen. In another image I was hunched over a keyboard typing scrawls upon an unread wall and trembling bodily with the unholy energy of ideas. I was a nervous wreck not on sleepless night away from collapsing into a twitching mass of limbs and demagogic words. At this point I opened my eyes and gasped “fresh” air once again.
I crawled out of the mud like some hideous primordial being from the soup and I spent the next couple minutes hacking up globs of obsidian liquid. After I had coughed as much up as I could I heaved myself erect and began to walk my mind in body in more pain then when I had entered the swamp.
Remembrance of the hand
I walked out of the swamp and into a deserted city. The city seemed to glitter and sparkle like a golden gem but the streets were quiet and empty. The sky was darkening now but the light of the neon signs illuminated my rainbow path in silence. Complete silence. I heard a fuse burn out as one of a myriad of flashing lights died mid-glimmer. The lights were dazzling but they gave off no heat and the chill of night began to settle into my bones. The roads that forge straight lines through the enlightening darkness seemed to be paved with gold. However, up a close look it appeared to be merely pyrite.
A shuffling came to my ears and I stopped. My head swiveled on my shoulders in an attempt to pinpoint the sound. From the windows and doorways of the glowing buildings a red mist began to come and it amalgamated at ankle height. Surrounding me, it closed it ever tightening circle of gaseous blood. It gathered at my feet and began to crawl up my body, completely covering the clothes all the way to the neck where it suddenly cut off. The red mist faded as it entered my body.
I lost control. Below the neck my body was in spasms and disgusting images pervaded my head. My hands groped at my neck so that they could tear the seat of my knowledge from its mount and have their way with my body’s natural instincts. A memory came to me. I was lying quietly in bed waiting for sleep to take me when my hand began to tremble. It was my right hand, the hand where my manual dexterity had been concentrated and now it was being wracked by seizures. It began to grab my body and move around looking for something. Using my left hand I tore it off my shoulder were it was feeling around and slammed it against a near by wall. I could feel the reptilian part of my brain begin to whisper longingly to me to succumb. Finally, the hand began to calm and I collapsed to sleep with exhaustion.
In the forsaken city my hands were still digging at my neck. Using what little will I had I put my hands in front of me and writhed upon the ground until I lost consciousness and the red mists went elsewhere.
Across the gap
I woke up sometime around noon and began walking forward once again, my steps more labored then they had been the day before. The sun had move on fist across the sky when I came upon a crowd in front of an altar. All of the people were kneeling and had rags tied around their faces so that they covered their eyes. On the altar was a large wooden lo, standing vertically, and in front rested a small stuffed animal. The animal was stiff and fowl smelling with age and in several places the outer lining revealed half-rotten stuffing. Near the altar was an axe that everyone wearing blindfolds had not noticed. Suddenly, the crowd spoke and they told of how they desired and prayed to go to the city on the other side of the woods. I looked around and noticed that there was indeed a small city on the other side of a copse of trees. The trees were widely spaced and there were no bushes or thorn plants between them so that if the people wanted they could have easily made the crossing.
Curiosity got the better of me and I went to investigate the small city. When I stepped from the woods I saw burned out buildings where more blindfolded people walked while faceless soldiers watched them. They smiled as they picked bugs out of bowls and at them, licking bits of exoskeleton from their lips. Fear, made me run back to the congregation.
In the middle of a stride a memory came to me and for a brief second I floated not touching the ground. I was somewhere in the woods near my home and I was sitting calmly in the middle of a clearing. I could hear a nearby stream run its way calmly though the shrubs and trees. I began to lights threading their way around my hand in a soothing manner. I began to feel a calming hand on my shoulder. It was at this time my self-loathing begin to tickle my rage and masochism. I pushed away from the calming aura to stand cold and alone in the nearby stream.
When I arrived back I noticed that behind the vertical log was a gap and across that gap was a ledge that wound its way up the mountain. The mountain had been growing in my eye for sometime before this. It was a sandy tan and a few lichens dared to show their heads on the rough stones. I took the axe and began hacking at the back of the log and once it was unstable enough I pushed it over to span the gap. The sound of its fall broke the people from their psalms and they started shouting at me to be gone. In a fit of rage I took the stuffed animal they had been praying to and with my axe decapitated it. The men and women of the congregation may have been blindfolded but they some how knew of the death of their idol and descended into chaos.
I used this opportunity to scurry on all fours across the log. After I reached a wave of fatigue washed over me and I knew I could not go further without rest. I pulled the log, which had gotten very light after I had crossed, and cut it up for fire wood and took time to sleep.
When I set out the next day there was a strong wind blowing into my face trying to push me back. I smiled slightly to myself; I wouldn’t have it any other way. The clouds in the sky that had been hanging for the past two days began to move… against the wind... at my precise speed.
I made slow progresses up the path that wound its way up the sheer face of the mountain. The wind was blowing hard into my face forcing me to lower my torso to decrease air resistance. I came to another gap in my path and the only way to get across was to jump across three teetering columns of stacked rocks. The rock formation seemed unnatural, as the rocks were very precisely balance vertically on top of one another. More discomforting was the fact that the wind was making them sway dizzyingly and they didn’t look like they would hold. I could hear small pebbles falling free and falling and falling and finally hitting the bottom.
To my lift was a small cave with a large boulder blocking passage into it except for a small, rat-width hole. I looked over the side of the gap and staggered back in a swoon. I didn’t want to miss these jumps and I would need to hurry the stones didn’t look like they would last longer. That’s when I heard the shout for help. It was coming from behind the boulder and sounded like a small child…a girl. I didn’t think I would have to time to both save the girl and cross the towers. I glanced between the boulder and the stones and finally decided to move the boulder. I got a grip and moved the rock.
From the darkness appeared a young girl who had that look that made it seem that she existed for the sole purpose of being cute. A person could not imagine a little girl like that growing up and doing any of the less…innocent activities that normally came with maturity. She had bow tying back her hair and had a frilly dress that went below the knee. Her adorableness was such that she could be used in a medical kit to calm the stomachs of matronly ladies and function on men and boys as an image used to induce vomiting.
She thanked me and asked me if she could go with me until I came to a town where she could find her parents and I agreed. It was at that moment the towers began their death spasms and I grabbed her little wrist and began jumping from stone to stone. I dragged her behind me, her weight pulling me back slightly before each jump. I would have made the last jump, no problem, if she hadn’t been with me, but because she was there it would be close. My instincts took over and I let go of her wrist so I could get both of my hands on the ledge. I pulled myself up and turned, looking down, just in time to see her hit the ground and turn into a red spot.
I my stomach released its contents to follow her descent. My mind decided it would be a good time to think of what my vomit hit the remains of her body might look like and I entered even stronger convulsions. Eventually I ran out of stuff to send splattering down the cliff face and rolled over, away from the edge.
Silently and unwanted, a memory came to me. I was helping a friend of my mind grasp some esoteric concept for an up coming test. I remember the difficulty the person had with it and how only by memorizing what I told him was he able to memorize the functions. When he took the test he passed but when the exam came later in the year he failed and was later held back a grad because of it.
Help from a stranger
I once more returned to traveling with a sick stomach and footsteps that sent shockwaves through the mountain. The path had degraded and more and more often I had to climb a rock wall to get to the next flat area of the path. The wind still beat against me even though I was had completed half the circumnavigation of the mountain and it should be behind me. god it seemed wasn’t so kind.
A good way along the path a man, who seemed to be feeling the preliminary blizzards of old age’s harsh winter and who was sitting calmly by the road side, asked if I needed help with my journey up the mountain. My legs were by this time hot with pain and the aid seemed welcome. I agreed and we continued our journey up the mountain.
The man-possessed skill when it came to ascending the small cliffs and rock faces that would appear in our way. He would often climb ahead of me and offer me a hand to grip near the end of the vertical scrambles and, even though I knew I did not need the hand he offered, I accepted it without thought.
I was during one of these times when he offered me his hand that the rocky ledge, which could not bear the weight of to men, crumbled and with both plummeted to the ground several times my height downwards. I lost consciousness on impact.
I woke up not long there after and saw the man with his neck twisted at an impossible angle and knew him to be dead. I myself was marginally luckier and had only a break in my left arm. Using the mans clothing I fashioned myself a crude sling and began to ascend the cliff face as best as I was able with only a single arm but my progress was slowed considerably.
Under the influence
I had been walking for some time when I came to a hole leading through the mountain. I had a perfectly circular entryway and was pitch black within as benefited such cave. There was another entry a long way up a steep incline so I decided to settle on this point of ingress.
Moving from the light of the day to the darkness of the cave, my eyes adjusted but even then the cave was a world of outlines and half seen objects. I began my decent into the earth when I slipped on a mucus-like liquid on the ground. Try to stand up again I slipped. And again and again and again, I kept trying to stand but kept crashing to the ground. Finally, my frustration boiled over and I punched a nearby wall with my good arm. At least I though it was a wall but a stone jar loose. Then I hear a cracking as the roof, loosing the foundation of a supporting structure, began to collapse.
I scrambled as fast I could and I managed to avoid being crushed, but only by hairs. I slipped his way up the slope and back into the sun. I turned and panted for several seconds. Waiting patiently for the entire cave to collapse, which it did five minutes later with and stoic groan. Rocks covered the entrance and my gaze wound its way up the incline next to the cave and let out I fatigued sigh.
Shackles in the dark
I was becoming thankful that the memories and stopped coming as I began to walk into the other cave. A rock outcropping outside the cave blocked the sun from shining into or near the cavern and so it was darker then the other tunnel.
Another unwelcome difference between them was that the blowing of the wind across some hole in the cave made it sound like some beast was in there, taking huge gasping breaths. It was worm and I felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen.
After what seemed to be forever I saw a light it as I got closer I could tell it was the exit and I broke into a sprint then suddenly is stopped. The “breathing” had altered and I began to tremble. I was trying to tell my self it was just the wind changing direction, when shackles closed around my neck, unbroken wrist, and ankle.
I was paralyzed by terror. I didn’t move for fear the beast that must be in hear would hear the shackles and come after me. I just stood there in the darkness staring longingly at the light. The darkness seemed to swirl and ebb coming closer and closer.
Then I heard my self-loathing again. It told me to head into the mouth of the beast, as the expression goes, and run towards the light. That the pain I felt from his trailing bites would be no less then what I deserved for being a failure and a coward.
I took the first step and it was as though my feet were lead. I took the second and the third and didn’t feel resistance from my shackles other then the weight of the chains. By the fifth step I realized that the shackles were not actually connected to anything and, with this revelation, I broke into a dead run for the light. I jumped out of the cave and look back, afraid to see the maw of a colossal beast snap at my heals. The cave was silent.
I fell to my knees and lost consciousness to the ravages of an exhausted sleep.
Triumph on the edge
I awoke the next morning alone near the cave and began following the path that wound its way up the rock face. The wind was still blowing hard into my face and my steps were heavy, both slowing my progress considerably. The land beneath my gaze was empty and desolate and filled with death. The dust on the ground played its way through the desolate bones of so many animals as to make it the ground seem white with new fallen snow.
The clouds were darker then they had ever been and though the ground beneath was faintly illuminate with grey light the clouds were jet black and it seemed impossible that whatever light allowed me to see could be coming through them.
The air this high in the mountain was thin and my breathing became labored even though I was not pushing my muscles hard relative to what I knew they could do. What’s more the air contained no heat and I could feel the tendons in my joints began to freeze and become brittle.
I continued trudging when a large wolf stood in front of me. It arched low and stood ready to pounce and said that it was guarding the way and that none shall pass beyond it. I grabbed the axe that I still had with me from chopping down the log and fought the beast.
I won in the end and laughed mockingly at its weakness. I outstretched my guard letting the wind fall upon my glorious fight as I stood near the edge with my back to wolf. I yelled out over the field of bones if there was anyone to match my skill. Then I was staring straight down and falling.
The beast had hit me from behind and were both careening down the ledge. I grabbed onto the beast and used it as a shield against impacts against the wall. I landed on the beast and lost consciousness.
Ravages in the bone desert
I awoke and stood up surrounded by the bones of dead animals. Each animal appeared to have been large and moving in the exact same direction when it collapsed. The exact opposite direction the wind was blowing. At least the wind always showed me the direction I need to go.
I waded through the bones and any bone I stepped on was ground to dust under my weighted tread no matter the size or thickness. Nothing could support the weight of my body after all the things that had happened to me. Not even me.
Fatigue coursed through my body and my knees kept threatening to buckle underneath me. My mind kept thinking of resting, just for a little, and recuperating from the shocks and wounds that the trek had wrought upon my mortal coil. But each time my thoughts hovered tenderly over the notion the stark white skeletons with the wind playing beautiful music with the empty sockets reminded him what had happened to every other living creature that decided they needed a little rest.
I had never felt so tired. It was like my legs had filled with sulfuric acid, which was slowly devouring the tissue and making me weak. My knees buckled but I kept crawling unwilling to submit to the power of the wind or to thirst that had taken me. I shambled to my feet. The desire pounded in the back of my head to sleep. It whispered in my ear how much stronger I would be but I shut it out. I sacrificed my sentient thoughts and my sanity; the laurel I received was a easing of the agony in my legs.
No! I wasn’t going to sacrifice who I was just to avoid the slings and arrows of temptation. I smiled and I let the pain flood through me and I lapped it up like a traveler at that precious oasis where he may sate his thirst amidst the smells of vegetation in a land of dust winds. A memory, like the vultures I had half expected to be following my corpse through these barren wastes, came to me.
There I was sitting quietly on a bench in a calm park. I could see a woman across the concrete covered path and she was singing. She asked some higher power to protector from the temptations of evil and ease the pain. To save her from damnation and to forgive. I was young then, I didn’t know here for what she was. Weak.
I let the pain be my succor, my solace. And it did not disappoint. I can’t tell you how long I walked but by the time I arrived the sun had set at least five times.
A view of home
I came to a place I recognized. It was a small house perched atop a knoll letting the sweeping gaze of its front windows take in the driveway that would around a small wood. I was standing in that wood and I felt the longing to throw open that door and let the smoke of my fathers cigar waft its acrid smell into my lungs, probably damaging my lungs for life but I wouldn’t care. Watch my mother mindlessly peck at her sewing, forming from loose threads blankets that would enshroud the furniture like a girl’s inadequately sized skirt. I sighed and collapsed to my knees. I knew I could not go back. I was a warrior now. I was a scholar now. I was God now.
I fell onto my back and stared into the sky and the clouds that had been threatening rain for so long finally broke and poured their blood upon me. I let it baptize me in a faint mockery of an ancient religion that was long dead to me now. The ground around me turned to mud but I stayed prone. The mud did not stick to me and the rain did not touch my clothes. I was Clean now. I was dead now. I was alive now.
I stood up and looked to my right. Embedded in the ground their was a sword and upon it was written “Schmerz und Macht werden immer sein”. I drew the sword from the ground and it was like lifting the world itself. I set it on my shoulders and turned away from my home. I spared it on last glance as I began to walk away, my feet adjusting to the new weight they would bear. My head turned forward and I began to sprint, silently, under the darkening sky and a furious wind.