Wednesday, December 3, 2014

the valley

Each step became successively more difficult. The air was thin but far too warm. The brown-red rock of the barren mountainside loomed upwards before him. Scranson paused in his ascent. Catching his breath, hard eyes traced the trackless and nearly sheer rock face before him.

He clambered ahead, often stooping forward. Every misstep and loose stone tore more flesh from his hands and knees. The mountain continued unrelenting, nothing but hard sharp angles.

He’d already climbed a mountain of scholarly books, forgotten folios, and yellowed journals. He had sat through hundreds of self-important lectures from shamans and learned men and traveling mystics. All their variegated verbiage pointed to the same place. All the tales had the same beginning.

This was the place they’d all come from. The hot thin air of this lonely ridge marked the point of demarcation for all the races of man. Cranson had found it. He and he alone.

He could just spy the charcoal gray break of a bleak and unwelcoming sky ahead of him. Hard red stones leaned and leered in his periphery. He pressed breathlessly ahead.

Sweat poured into his eyes just as he crawled across the knife’s edge of a crest. With a furious shriek Cranson dashed the sweat and blood from his vision. He then sat down and wept.

The wide valley below was a nightmare of fire and bone. Great horrid serpents soared through the black gaping sky; even miles away Cranson could hear faint echoes of their hideous sibilant laughter. Mostly he heard screams. Voices screamed in fear. Some bellowed in rage. Far too many wailed in abject terror and loss.

He could also feel more plainly the pulsating tug pulling him back from this place. Some ancient force continued to close this living hell away from the world. He turned his back on that valley of bloody truth and slid sobbing downward.

Sometime near nightfall as he listlessly stumbled back towards civilization an image came unbidden to him. A woman, hard and sharp like the stones of the mountain, crossed the threshold out from the valley. She turned and offered her gnarled, strong hand to a man built of the same stone. He was marked by the same terrors. Together they helped many more cross into the green, wet world of living

Cranson smiled thinly. If the progenitors of men could cross through that dread valley, then perhaps there was yet still reason for hope.

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