On Time (3 of 4)

The third part in a creative writing exercise of mine. The first part  was On Beauty, and the second was On Faith.

(cc) batintherain on Flickr

(cc) batintherain on Flickr

He followed the path, now more a road, away from the crumbling church. The dead were likely grateful his noisy interruption was at an end and they could get back to their conversations with the worms and the soil.

Around a small bend in the road, not too much further ahead, he reached the edge of a town. In little better condition than the church, broken walls and collapsed piles of rubble were all that remained. The grass and green had reclaimed much of the place, taking the land back from the brief loan it had made to man.

As he walked the small, main road through the town, it felt more haunted, more sad to him than the cemetery he had seen before. In the graveyard was a sense of peace, while here was a sense of interruption. Of loss. It looked like a place people lived, and their absence made the resulting silence all the louder.

Past the town the road split in several directions. Checking his map, he took the leftmost branch. In a few minutes he heard the gurgle of a small river.

The wooden bridge that once spanned the water had long ago rotted away, but large rocks at the crossing still made it simple to get to the far bank. There he sat down to fill his canteen.

He looked back at the town, only a few buildings visible from his spot, and wondered what became of them. What drove them from their town and their lives? He idly plucked blades of grass and flicked them into the river. He didn’t see the usual scars of war.

Glancing down at the river, he saw his blades of grass were gone. The long green pieces already carried far downstream, or churned under the water to feed the fish. This was the same river the townspeople probably used for water and washing, yet all the people it once carried were gone. Washed away in the currents, but the river itself remained.

He wondered if anyone knew what became of them. If their children in some far away town told tales of their fate. Or if it was a secret only known to the river at his feet, and the water long since washed out to sea.

He topped off his canteen and, after taking a long cool drink, continued onwards.

On Faith (2 of 4)

The second in a creative writing series I did. Part one was On Beauty.

Photo (cc) nuskyn on Flickr

Photo (cc) nuskyn on Flickr

The path led down through scrub as it wound around the mountain and dropped towards the valley floor. The brush gave way to trees and long grass, but nothing as thick as on the way up. The way was shaded heavily from the peak behind him, and while some days this place would likely see brilliant sunlight, that was not today.

He was quite chilled by the time he hit the floor of the valley and the space widened around him. Trees gave way to grassy fields and rough rocks. He stuck to the trail, which itself grew into nearly a small road. More traffic had come here once, just little had gone back up the trail to the sky.

A wide space broke open to his right, and in the middle stood an old, ragged stone wall. High and wide, it was once part of a powerful building. Now it was just the last piece to hang on before all of its stones once against returned to the earth. He turned from the path and walked to it, tall and gray in the sunlight. It was far enough from the base of the mountain that the sun was starting to hit the world around him again.

He stumbled, nearly tripping over a squat stone. Chipped and worn, it was man-made and not part of the building ahead. A tombstone. He stepped more carefully so as not to trip again, and more soft stones seemed to nod at him from the long grass. Their faces no longer held names or years or kind words. Just a familiar shape to tell someone what lay in the soil beneath.

Reaching the wall, he ran his fingers on its face. Smooth from who knows how many years of weather and wind and time, yet carved with ornate bricks and features that still stood clear. This was a church, once upon a great while ago.

He pushed against the wall and it did not move. The earth would not get these rocks soon, he thought, but the earth was patient. The sun felt good against his face and he needed a rest. Sitting down in the rippling grass, he leaned his back against the big wall and kicked out his legs. The tombstones did not protest and gave him room.

He felt a calmness there, sitting with the forgotten dead, sharing their simple breeze. He could feel through time all the mourning and grief that once surrounded each headstone as they were first put into place. He could hear through the wall’s thick rock the songs and prayers that shook the church from the inside, long before it fell. The dead were probably grateful for the silence.

The warmth of the church wall felt good on his back, the stone giving back the sunlight it had been soaking up all day. The breeze kicked up in a small gust, and in the calmness and comfort of the moment, he fell asleep.

On Beauty (1 of 4)

A free-writing exercise that turned into a four-part, loosely connected story. I’m a big fan of letting the mind loose in creative endeavors to see where it leads. This chapter was written in one sitting and only edited for typos and minor word-echos and clarifications.

Photo (cc) barynyz on Flickr

Photo (cc) barynyz on Flickr

The path was long and winding but you could not see far ahead. The trees and brush had grown tight against against the trail, but the bare dirt was so worn and packed beneath his feet that it held fast against the the vegetation on either side. Perhaps animals still used the path, but while it was once heavily trod by people they had long since ceased coming this way. The leaves and limbs pulled against his coat as he hunched and clawed forward.

A sharp jag of blue finally peeked through from far ahead. It gave him a renewed strength, a renewed determination, and he pushed the final branches out of his way. The blue grew with each step, the green finally relenting until he stood in the open.

The sky stretched far and clear into the horizon. He stopped at the sight to take it in. The trail wound around the edge of a cliff, but now only gray rock guarded him on his left. To his right was nothing. Space. Falling free and wide into the canyon below. He looked down the canyon, up across the far side, and past mountain top after mountain top into the far distance.

It was so stark, so empty, and so beautiful. Behind him the trees hid the path he had followed. The gray and craggy mountains made the path he fought against for the past hours seem lush. The leaves and branches that had been a hindrance now seemed rich and full of life. Life that refused to go where he now stood.

He leaned against the rock and watched the lazy clouds roll across the sky. Simple and clean and far above any influence he had but to watch. Somewhere down below he could make out the faint rush of water, but it, too, seemed detached and impersonal. The scene before him drowned him, lost in its expanse. He felt small and yet part of all that he saw. He looked at the distant peaks and knew he could never reach them if he tried, yet they touched him at their distance as if he stood upon them. In a way they touched him more than if they were truly under his feet. He took a deep breath of the cool air, taking it into his belly and through his nose. He absorbed all he could of the moment, the small slice of the world, from the tiny corner in which he stood.

He kicked a pebble down the canyon. It clicked and clacked as it tumbled, until it was silently out of sight and hearing. He smiled and committed all he saw to memory, willing it to be a part of him he would never forget. A place to which he could return no matter where he went from here onwards.

He stood up from the rock and continued on around the bend and away from the open, impersonal, majestic sky.