by Daniel Costa
The final journey for one is but the beginning for the other, upon this hill they stand.
|Chapter One: The Bench, The Night, the Fire Hydrant
There are moments in life where something strange and unexpected will appear in your path. Most of the time, it will leave you to contemplate its existence as you carry on, nothing more then a whimsical thought, a philosophical moment of wonder.... and like a nut falling from a tree it is gone from you, ready to be distracted by whatever it is that wishes to intrude your path next. There are however, those rare times where the wind blows and you stay planted, the only thing wandering further being your mind. In these moments of rarity, maybe, just maybe, you will be transported to a place you never thought existed. A hidden world amongst, where all you have to do is draw the curtains, stop and ask the question.
What is this? Why is this? Everywhere there are windows to other worlds, this is a story of one such window, found by a red fire hydrant, on top of a mountain.
The day was cold and windy, and as I began my ascent of this small mountain, it only got stronger. The late afternoon sun providing little warmth whenever it decided to spy on us from behind the clouds. I've been on long walks up this mountain many times this week, it wasn't odd to still find men and women jogging and others walking their dog this late in the day considering how close to the city it is. Few, like myself have come for the simple gentle breeze and the escape from the city noise that is now a mere soft hum in the back of the mind. All of us, however, are found wanting, to be rewarded by the majestic view from the top and feel freedom blow in our face as you watch the city that keeps us all prisoner often times.
I gather my thoughts every time I come on this walk, and at the end like everyone else I gaze at the city we have created. It is strange to think it a prison, but also at times rather poetic in how its nestled between an ocean and a desert. Like an oasis hidden in the empty land.
Now usually I walk straight to the top, enjoy the view and peace for a little while and be back home in time for dinner. This day being my last day in this city, I had decided to drink in the sights and stop every now and then to enjoy it a while longer if only to imprint it in my memories.
Atop the mountain, there is a lone bench, all bushes and shrubbery trimmed down or entirely removed so as not to mire the view. It is here I sit every time, it has become a tradition of sorts, I have even developed a strange attachment to the left side of the bench, sometimes awkwardly standing around till it becomes free from strangers. There was no competition this time, it was completely empty, a few people choosing to stand at the edge of the cliff instead, so I sat down, waiting for the sun to meet the ocean. Men and women came and went, dogs sniffed by and raced away, the clouds dispersed providing the setting sun with no blanket, suffice to say... I was at last alone.
The stars were waking up now, the final red fingers of the sun reaching out to the sky as it sunk deeper. Possibly it is the silence, or maybe its the emptiness. But for the first time, I had noticed there is a red fire hydrant, half hidden amongst a nearby bush. Fiddling and tapping my feet, I crossed them and tilted my face slightly to the sky as if suspecting it for tricking me with illusions. It did not obviously, but I stayed the same fidgeting and pondering 'has that always been there?' leading me to shift again and ponder 'why is that here atop a mountain?'. The logical answer would be in case of possible fires, 'but here? Atop this mountain on such dry land?'.
"Maybe it is as simple as being a reminder of the city, for dogs to relieve themselves and men to ponder on more than just trees, bushes and shrubs."
This I said aloud, thoughts transpiring through my mouth and bypassing my mind. Distracted by my thoughts and keeping a firmer check on my mouth, lest I show myself as the rambling man on the mountain. It was no wonder that I hardly noticed the sound crunching gravel between feet and the deep panting of what I could only describe as a dog. Looking over my left I expected to see a very late dog walker, only to find an empty path surrounded by the darkness of night. About to return to my pondering and wondering, turning those cogs in my head, I was given a small startle that encouraged a hiccup upon noticing there was now a tall man sitting beside me on the bench. Like most who sat next to me there was little to no talking except for the polite 'hello' and 'good evening'. Usually this is common place, but with the night, emptiness and my usual imagination it was entirely something else. Especially when the voice of this stranger was as a deep as a drum and his dark skin stretched as tight as one.
I was a little uneasy.
Nothing could be done regardless. We both stared at the view, sharing a strange bond as our breathing relaxed and became in sync, the mountain hypnotising us with its calm. My thoughts could not afford to wander with this stranger beside me, and so my senses flooded me, not as a rush, but as a gentle mist that cocooned me. I could hear the leaves play there music in the wind, branches creek and the soft grass rattle. Suddenly rethinking, these senses only further shroud me with feelings of foreboding. The only comfort tonight being the serene view of the city, its lights reflecting the sky as if a clear lake. I needed to dismiss my thoughts and ignore chilling sounds, I decided to spe-
"Beautiful" The deep voice from my right drummed.
This man interrupted me and said what I was about to say. Any other man and I would call out their rudeness, but I could do no more than agree. It is a beautiful night. I acknowledged him with a nod. Taking in his appearance for the first time this night. He was wearing a suit of fine material, old, but fine and looked after. Not a single speck or loose thread, it was as clean and black as the night we enjoyed that moment. His blazer unbuttoned and his tie missing made him seem more casual if you can even imagine that. What stood out, was the red shirt, standing out from the rest of the attire as a mysterious torch at the end of a dark tunnel, inviting you further in despite the danger you feel humming in your ear.
He continued to look over the city, never turning away. As if I was not even their. Very strange, but stranger still, a heavy gust blew, as it does often times this high up, so I clung my coat tight to keep the cold out, my hair blowing back. Glancing to the side to keep any dust from my eyes, I witnessed the second peculiarity of the night. This man was untouched by the wind. My eyebrows knitted as I watched, leaves swirling at his feet and small dust clouds rose, yet his hair stayed, not a single strand moved. His blazer unruffled. This man whoever he was, dark as night with a chest the colour of deep fire and skin tight as a drum, denies the wind itself.
"My name is Xolo, are you ready for the afterlife?"
The wind ceased.
He looked at me.