The man stood at the cliff of a chasm black as black could ever be.
The Hole in the Ground?
The man stood at the cliff of a chasm black as black could ever be. Perhaps he was old, perhaps he was young, but such little significance was this in an era of personal peril. The rocks watched him and judged such a man. The scrutiny of their ancient eyes -- yet they had none -- shook the man inside. Yet he stood in a self-induced haze, for perhaps then would the chasm melt away. He hoped it was but a puddle in his mind, a shallow mirage soon to evaporate and the sun would be his savior; but his mind only pounded urgently, as a potential guest pounds on a door and calls, “I know you’re in there!” To him, it was one of those unwelcome yet persistent neighbors who all but break into a conservative and comfortable home; for he was quite conservative and comfortable himself. His thoughts had been so cordial to him before, always welcome guests, but now they hollered at him, and though ever he tried, he failed to hush them.
He stood as stone as the boulders who had squatted upon the earth forever. They continued to stare as they had at many a man who had stood there, just as this one, contemplating the chasm. The man took a timid step; perhaps the most feeble step of all his life, for this abyss truly led somewhere, or maybe nowhere, who could know? Even the cranky stones did not know. They simply lay where they lay, not to be bothered nor nudged by the likes of a man’s petty vision. The man ventured to peek into it, but his neck clutched him too fervently. He drew slowly back. The chasm exuded an air of timelessness, as if during the Creation God had power-drilled a hole straight into the core of His blessed child. The man could not fathom such a thing. He only wished to wrap himself in the baby blanket of desertion and flee, flee from the horror of his mind beating behind his eyes, and of what he inexplicably surmised what peril waited within. ‘The horror! The horror!’ a second voice in his mind whispered to him. He found himself at the threshold of understanding, of comprehending all the stories he had ever been told, -- the stories that had ever been told to everyone, -- and every belief that he ever held, -- every belief that everyone had ever held, -- and he did not yearn for it. He prayed. He wanted none of it. He felt wisps of good and evil eddy in complimentary, contradictory essence from that air; the invisible smoke choked him. Thoughts of wonder, mystery, and knowledge wafted into him, and he quivered from the greatness of it all; all those things faraway that had always slept beside him. He pined for wings, marvelous wings that could carry him to...somewhere else. But men cannot fly. Silly. Yes, in desperation he had turned to silly thoughts and they amused him not a trifle.
The sky spread grey far beyond him and remained aloof, for the Heavens offered no hand to the land where he stood. Never had the man been so thoroughly alone. The gorgeous land around him might as well have been entirely whitewashed, an empty purgatory of only him and the abyss. He was forsaken. He kicked a pebble into the endless void, yet the pebble bounced back to him like a happy ball, and settled back at his toes. This depth exists for every man whoever was, whoever is, and whoever will be, but this day, it existed for him. He knew this, for he created it, though had forgotten it long ago; it was his, yet it did not belong to him. It was the will of forever that he should stand here and greet whatever this was. He had known this time would come, this meeting with the hole in the ground, and he had sought to prolong the arrival of this moment indefinitely, to stretch the band far and pray that it never snapped; he could flee no more.
But curiosity ruled him in tandem with fear. The wonder of the chasm arrested him indeed, and sliced his will in two. His awe guided him to his knees. The stoic, solid ground pressed against the bones draped in flesh, for the sensation traveled all the way through. It felt colder than ice to him, yet it had not the insufferable burning chill of winter. Unsoft and unwarm as it was, the solid ground comforted him as much as nothing could. Within him he knew he was conjuring up some fairy godmother, but again desperation inspired silly thoughts.
Mystery drew him again. He sprawled out with shaky care, and the ground embraced him as he lowered his belly. He brought both arms to his ears and extended them parallel before him. He breathed. Enchanted compulsion nagged him to continue, but fear cursed it. The two quarreled inside him for awhile, and he laid there faced down with his nose kissing the stone. He closed his eyes and sighed as he felt them playing tug-of-war with his will. Neither gained ground. The battle held him still.
Then he felt his fingers tug him, and his toes nudge him. This peculiarity could not be said to be against his will, but apart from it. His body dragged forward an inch. Then another. It was one of those inexplicable happenings that fall upon a man every once in awhile. It was a gentle spur and he thought he would be wise to obey it. So on he slid, fingers pulling and toes pushing, inch by inch.
Just as he had settled himself comfortably into his wormy journey, thinking only of budging over stone, his fingertips found the Edge. He gasped and withdrew them immediately. A pang of shock struck him. It was so terribly close to him, too close to him, that well of everything he did and did not wish to see or know.
Then a windy wistful echo of courage called to him from a distant world he had forgotten, and he wanted to feign deafness; but the cry was of a hostage and a herald, and faint though it was his denial had not yet grown so thorough.
He cursed the summons heartily and bound by a thread of duty he blindly extended trembling hands. His fingers reached the drop-off and clung to it and intended to never let go. Then at length he pulled himself. He noticed his elbows bending and his hands approaching his face. He rested his chin on his thumbs for a moment. Then his head tipped cautiously forward, and his eyes finally got a peek.
There is no word for It.
It is beyond imagination, yet the Mother of dreams.
The man shut his eyes tight and tore himself from the spell with might he had not known before, flung himself away from the Edge, and rolled onto his back. His mind hammered in his skull again, now a merciless brute. His hand clutched his heart to check if it had stopped and left him. Perhaps a greater man could withstand It, even welcome It, but he knew such greatness could not be found within him. Bravery of that breed, he could not fathom. Nothing of It could he ever fathom. Ever! Yet he understood It all, as utterly as he understood himself now.
He was so exhausted he felt he might fade away, and the thought of it vaguely appealed to him, for he longed for a merciful peace. But he felt It infest him from head to toe like a furious colony of ants and in spite of his inward flailing and slapping and swiping, he failed to drive them away, as he knew he would forever on; for that itch, natural and supernatural, could never die.
His eyes softened and drifted leisurely open. Stars curiously peered at him from their heavenly perches, for the earth had turned away from the sun during that little adventure of his; and he saw that it was good. He mustered a sort-of smile in an attempt to be polite; their gaze humbled him. They exist for every man whoever was, whoever is, and whoever will be, but for this night, they existed for him. The beauty of that night sky ailed the maddening itching for a moment, and an aimless desire washed over him. The full moon sat on that great, plush cushion of sky with all smiles and no troubles, and he glowed with the subtle pride of the rare man who has lived all his dreams. Soft blacks and deep blues and pretty purples swirled whimsically up there, ageless and free and friends for eternity, playing cosmic games forever; they were deep, faraway dreams rather than colors, to be felt rather than seen. The stars twinkled and winked at him and if stars could sing, they were singing to him. He pined for wings, marvelous wings that could carry him to...somewhere else. He sleeplessly spent the night with the sky.
As the moon drifted back down to the earth so too did the man from his silly reverie. The ants pestered him again. He rolled himself over on the rocky earth and his legs hoisted him upright; fatigue rendered his body deadweight, and he staggered and swayed for a moment. His back was purposefully turned from the chasm, as if to shun a wild heretic who threatened to dismember and debase all of belief. He would hike far away from this thieving hole in the ground, for it indeed had stolen some unnameable and precious thing from him.
The man gathered himself and prepared for departure: he passed his fingers through his hair and shook the dust from it, patted the gritty ground rock powder out of his clothes and smoothed their wrinkles, and stretched and relieved stiffness from his limbs. He had brought no possessions or supplies with him, he simply came all by himself with nothing, but he would return with just a bit more of him.
The long road from whence he came met his eyes and waved to him in the distance, and oh it was such a long, long way; he paused and entertained a thought. But the thought unnerved him, and a brisk shudder shot through his nerves. He shirked it from his mind, grinned in grim satisfaction, and carried on without further doubt.
He hiked as hurriedly as his exhaustion would allow; he yearned to return to his familiar, comforting places, and he wished that his curiosity were not so well fed and his fear not so well exercised. The wind kindly whispered to him all the way; it encouraged him and strengthened his spirits, but he heeded not the words it spoke to him; indeed, he did not hear them at all. And so after a time the wind tired of being ignored, gave up on the man, and blew away.
The man found himself alone yet again; he passionately missed his gusty friend and wondered as he wandered for hour upon hour why the wind had left him. He felt helpless without his wind, and he became disheartened, and in desperation he rifled through his memories of his company with the wind. Then he recalled how the wind had called to him once. At last, he understood. He did not understand why, but he understood.
He halted, inhaled shakily and as deeply as he ever could, and turned back.
The man bolted and flew over the last stretch of the long road, a second wind by his side, silently blowing, for he had discovered courage at last; he questioned himself no more. His feet threw the road behind him and then they pounded on cold, stony ground and then they left the earth altogether.
The man launched himself into the air, arms outspread, and hovered over the ever questionable void for an instant.
He flew into the hole in the ground.