From my ongoing “Gravity Chains” collection, a short short story of questing and rejuvenation.
Out and Back
You are here † [He did not copy symbol to page for you alone]. And moving forward, your bootprints will replicate themselves. As the music duplicates the beat between our smallest participants [these being but copied and reshuffled segments of the linear us], it follows, then, that the green dotted line from the Crescent trailhead, repeated by way of naturally occurring speakers, will lead us to the final waterfall, and show to us the wrecked Life-ship hidden by its tumbling, sharp white flow.
It’s clear on the map. † See?
Graphically clear, if you know the symbols. Intricate for their size, the map icons show a long, narrow rope bridge at the halfway mark. If an inch is a mile, then that’s about twenty-three miles along the trail to this end of the bridge called Oracle’s String. We make our way there for better or for worse. The oracle will show us how to proceed.
† Mile fourteen. Fire in the lungs. Hinterhaven Crags climbed.
On the trail, the soft rain we appreciate for its cooling touch on the backs of our necks, is a harsh pounce of hell hounds for the insects of the wood. Picture drops, the size of your head and upper body.
“Malicious, truest friend, what tell your cards?”
“Cards? Cards?! You think living flesh, simple stiffened paper cards…?! Symphonic Hammer, you test me with your choice of words. Test me no further! The flesh sayers need oxygen.”
“No, Malicious. My words are but motivations. Only a show of pure flippancy would arouse one such as yourself to speak fully and with passion.”
“I see. The flesh has spoken softly throughout the day’s exertions, painting muddled landscapes of what might be. At the crossing of the bridge, the Oracle’s String, all will harmonize with the flesh tellers, and we will know what needs knowing.”
“And what of Christa Päffgen … will she be there? Will your flesh say what I long to hear?”
“At the bridge, Symphonic Hammer. At the bridge, it will become clear.”
† Mile twenty-three. Take us out of control, Oracle’s String. Turn us to poet donkeys in clay. Show us how to yield, so we might learn a new dance from our helplessness. String. String. String. Bring!
At this newest outburst of the cards, Symphonic Hammer turns to Malicious with a slow shudder; his shaved face turns pale eggshell slack. The air is water. Breathing it in is like pushing honey through the rear ventilation duct of a 2026 Saturn Helium-NINE. Warm and sticky.
Blurting out, “My father was a lowlands metalsmith, his hands strong and relentless.”
A crystal whip brings blinding light, elevating all senses and all time, till irises close. Bridge ropes and wood slats become crossbeams and turnbuckles, as the Ship of State materializes around them.
And from the highest mast, Christa Päffgen calls down: “Welcome, Symphonic Hammer, welcome and be welcomed always; the kingdom of Azores is reinstalled.”