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It all started with a step. That was all it was at first. Then another. For a while, it was just the sound of my feet throwing themselves forwards through my punished shoes onto the dusty body of the hill. Then sight manifested. I didn’t really know where I was going. To see something, I suppose. I didn’t know this was the beginning of it.
Another step drew me in further. I was overcome with sudden impatience as the hill’s crest edged closer and closer towards my breathless body. And then…
Finally. On top of the world.
All around me, prancing in the winds, was shocking, brilliant green from which whispering energy seemed to seep into nothingness: our lemon groves which now seemed… alien. It seemed to rush, like wildfire, into my heart, my very consciousness. It was just so alive, so strong! It stunned eyes, confronted the imagination. The hill was as an island in an ocean, while the sky arched tranquilly, without a cloud ordaining her gemstone surface.
Something from far away then knifed through my ecstasy. Most probably Abiel was calling me.
A sigh brought me running down the hill. I swore as my feet were nearly thrown off ground by shapeless stones, traps that suddenly sprang into being as I skimmed the angles of the hillside. Suddenly I was on calm earth. Abiel stood in front of me.
‘Ready to go?’ His voice was always placid, hushful.
‘I suppose.’ That was the next one, my second step closer to it.
Abiel tottered to the passenger seat of our car. ‘God, this car is too old,’ he said, like he always did. And it was. A husk of steel blotched with paint, it contained seats that were so bedraggled they would have been unrecognisable when usable. A steering wheel rose out from the half-broken dashboard a little reluctantly. ‘Still,’ he talked on, ‘the lemons don’t sell themselves.’
I opened the driver’s door and fell into my seat. ‘Do you need help?’ I asked Abiel, who was manoeuvring himself into his position beside me, painstakingly slowly. It was awkward for him. Every day, more so.
It was then that I realised he was dying. Steadily he grew a little less alive. Something came upon me like a presence, something dark, something like a weight.
I didn’t move for a while. My great uncle’s stare was simply glancing off me.
‘Itai?’ came my name. ‘Itai, are you alright? Itai?’
Consciousness reached me, and with it came real life. I turned to my right, to be greeted by a concerned, cataract-ridden gaze. I knew my silent smile did not reassure him.
We drove forever. No-one else graced the roads. We passed kibbutzim –‘Communism but not cocked up,’ Abiel explained – and fruit farms like ours, trees whose shade battled the ruthless August sun, and vast swathes of crops, standing, like crowds. Livestock noted our passing figure as we drove on with earth billowing behind.
Border controls greeted us, then the city, at last. In stark contrast to the countryside, humanity was here was in thick concentration, the streets crammed with businessmen in austere suits, bustling women in burqas, people by fountains. Metal fences snaked about, ugly rubble scattered itself carelessly, blood the colour of lava soaked into saddened earth. Children played, then young. No-one knew.
Nobody bothered to protest when it happened. It came and it went. Energy rushed underfoot, an unholy sound violated the ears, and then that harsh force, dragging me through the air, and I was finished.
He had died, that I knew. Tears flowed, dragging nothing out of me. I was no-where. Gone afar, like driftwood. I was blind. But I wasn’t sleeping. I wondered if I even had breath. I wondered if the bomb had stripped of me of my lungs.
My eyes were shut and I saw so much. Light was shed. I could see the truth. I was looking on, recoiled from where humanity was starting fires everywhere, to all of creation. We came from the beasts, we rose, and we destroyed. And now we fall.
I heard rain. A beautiful, tactile, organic sound. And it made me sad, the way it did not hurt the earth, but breathed life to it, fed it, gave something back. Everything we do not. A hero from the clouds