Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chapter 1, Section 2

Wind and Sand

The sound of wind and surf woke him. The water ebbed up and down his legs. He lay there enjoying the feeling of the water on his legs and the sand beneath him. His eyes remained closed and the world around him was a mystery. This was a mystery that he was less than anxious to solve. What lay beyond the thin layer of flesh separating him from the outside world? The sand beneath him was hot and the water coursing up and down his legs was cool. The world could still be on fire and he did not want to wake up to such a world once more. A man can not stay in his dreams forever, though. Eventually, he would have to open his eyes and face whatever appeared before him. Still, he decided to lay there for a moment more, determined to put off such a confrontation for as long as he could.

When his eyes opened he almost wanted to shut them once more. The fire island had been teeming with unnatural life, where new rock and sky were constantly being born. Here, in this new land, there was a complete absence of life. Had the fire island been given life at the cost of life in other lands? He had washed upon a land contrary to the one where he woke up in. All around the world was barren. An abnormal quiet had festered in this place. Even the seas seemed muted, devoid of life. He should have heard the wind rusting among the reeds and grasses near the shore. There should have been the sounds of birds screaming for food, and fish splashing in the water. This was a new world. So full of life, and yet devoid of life at the same time. Before his lengthy slumber he thought he had seen all the world had to offer. In truth, he had only scratched the surface. Endless desolate seas, empty barren beaches, flaming scorching islands inhabited the world now. Perhaps the only thing that gave him hope was that the sky did not reflect the land. Stars still dotted the celestial landscape and the moon still hung in the sky. What other astonishing things awaited him? What other horrors?

For a moment he expected the gods to answer him. For a moment all was still. The gods were toying with him, no doubt they would wait until his guard was down before raining down destruction upon him once more. For now, nothing calamitous appeared to be coming his way so he began to decide upon the myriad of decisions that befell him. In truth, there was only one real option. The remaining decisions were merely of the where, the when and the how. The direction; now or later; by water or by foot, these were the choices. Each of these choices were equally valid. He could only hope that what he chose would lead him to civilization, or at the very least a place where the old rules of the world still hold true. His journey began with this hope planted firmly in his mind.

He waited a day before leaving. He slept during the day. He had already seen what daylight had to offer, now was the time to see what surprises night had in store. He awoke to the sun on his face, something that relieved him more than he had expected. Since his initial awakening he had not seen the sun. He had suspected that it still illuminated the world above the clouds of smoke and ash, but he had had no real evidence. The shore stretched towards the rising sun and, as far as he could tell, so did the barrenness. He chose his direction. He would follow the setting sun. This way he would have more daylight with which to explore this new land. Since this direction ran parallel to the shore, he would not be in short supply of water. That is of course, if he could find a way to remove the salt.

He did find a way to freshen his water. A clever system using large stones from the sea and the sun's powerful rays. This though, did not make his trek any easier. In fact, the system reversed his earlier decision to journey through the night. Since he had to wait during the day for the water to collect, his movements were restricted to the night time. Travelling in the night was cold and dark. He would injure himself upon unseen obstacles and often found himself having words with the ground. There was one unexpected boon about this though. He did not have to see the barren wastelands around him.

As far as he had gone, he had still not found anything that could be considered food. Either there was nothing there, or they were very adept at hiding away from him. A week passed and he was finding himself increasingly fatigued and lethargic. Stomach pains plagued him throughout the day. He began to see hallucinate. At first, he was amused by these visions. They would relieve his loneliness. That would soon change when the images began to taunt him. He would see food off in the distance. He would chase after, only to find that nothing but swirling sand.

The sand too was a danger. Some days, dark days, the wind would pick up and the sand would pierce his body. No travelling was done these days. He would hunker down and pray for the wind to stop. Sometimes he would be lucky and there would be a dune, under which he could take shelter. Other days he would weather the storm as best he could. Not a great deal of time passed before he realized he was dying. Either the sand would kill him or the hunger would. He tried to drive these thoughts away, but he longer he stayed in the desert the more persistent the thoughts became. He found solace and no little amusement in a single idea. The idea that his death would provide evidence to future peoples that there was life in this land. His corpse might one day be the source of academic discourse. A barren land with a single life.

His dreams of being an anomaly would end abruptly. In the distance grew a settlement of some sort. Unlike any he was familiar with. The closer he came, the more he realized that this was no mirage of his mind or of the desert. At first he was irked. One dream had died and he could not paint an ironic picture in the history of the land. This feeling passed, and it passed very quickly. This was solid proof that there were others besides him. He was going to live, and he would no longer be alone. He arrived in the dark of night, and he would not truly see the city until the next morning. When he did, the sight took he breath away.

Great stone buildings littered the land. Each building was exquisite. Each seemed to be carved from a single stone. The buildings were diverse in design. Despite the diversity, there was a harmony among the buildings. Towards the centre of the settlement the buildings rose higher and higher, culminating in a single spire that seemed to touch the sky. He had difficulty comprehending the sheer size of the city. Even the largest of his peoples' cities paled in comparison. This city must have housed many hundreds of thousands, perhaps more. And so many houses. Each inhabitant must have been given their own abode. This would be unheard of in his society. This city was so strange, yet so wonderful at the same time.

He would later learn that the appearance was not the only wonder the city had to hold. The central spire's apex was obscured as the spire pierced the clouds. He couldn't fathom why people would want to build so high. The air above the clouds was thin and cold, the wind especially strong. Then he heard it and he understood everything. It, in this case, was the song of the city. The spire acted as colossal flute. The gods would play the flute using the wind itself. A powerful melody swept the city. Though the purpose was unknown, the music was beautiful. He could imagine with ease the people of the city stopping to savour the sound.

The thought brought him back to the moment. He had still not seen anyone. He was not surprised though there were plenty of explanations. A civilization such as this could build down as well as they could build up. They would likely be underground, shying away from the searing sun. They would come out when the sun set. He did not wish to offend them by invading their abodes before then. So he waited. Darkness was a long time in coming. He wasn't sure if he minded. The anticipation was intense. Did he mind the anticipation? Not in the least. Even if there were no people here, he knew that the world had not been remade anew. Here was proof that there people still dwelt on this world. He would find them.

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