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The Cloven Sod

It has been said that every man is his own island; but would they be the lesser if the tides neglected to withdraw? Would these analogous men be forced to sail away in their little boats, borne up by a gust of wind previously unimagined?
Our man was a sane man, as fit as a fiddle in body and mind. Any contention as to the former and the Vitruvian man could feel free to make his merry way downstairs, thanks very much. His bluster having once been just that, this is the account of how his pretense met omen. After all, years spent alternately hollering at, eating, and living alongside animals of such stature as the jackrabbit, goat and coyote could excusably serve to normalize (perspective-wise) a condition such as his. In the perpetual position of a child at the starting line of a wheelbarrow race (being the pseudo-vehicle in question, that is), from the very first he saw little point in ingratiating himself to the company of folk who saw time spent with him as “their Christian duty”.
Like a hunchback of fable, once grown he had opted for a life apart from his own kind. “The edge of the map” having proved problematic for real estate agents, their frustration was compounded by his helpful qualifier “let the cartographers label my backyard ’here be dragons’.” A near-barren quarry in Nevada was the eventual compromise. The construction of a yurt wedged in the cheek of that yawning valley served as a permanent accommodation. He had never been fond of neck-craning architecture anyway. The blazing sun and eddies of sand made for a location comparable to a personified Nature airing the laundry, and no one fought him for it, remote as it was. He loved the place.
Mutual apathy made quick work of any possibility for long-distance friendships (the exchange of platitudes at the cost of seven cents per letter seemed to him a case of begging the question). Once having weaned his mother off all communication save brief updates to the epistolary of his hermitude, forgetting the world outside of his valley became simple.
Having been raised on a visual diet of suburban lawns tended with a ferocity paralleled only by the Crusades, the man soon found himself longing for the sight of that same verdant ground cover when the land’s arid tonalities became too oppressive to behold. The drought of thirty years acting as but minor deterrent, he managed to coax a margin of the parched land into bearing a plot of grass. Octagonal in shape, it grew lush and green as envy under his tender ministrations.
Less sedentary than one might expect, this Quasimodo loped along the red-rock terrain and through many a dust storm with the best of them. Them, it must be clarified, being the goats that roamed the area, cropping the sparse vegetation clinging to the bronze shale cliffs. He considered the goats comrades in arms; hardy and utterly indifferent to their iconic depictions as familiars or in his case, a product of, devilry. It became habit to sit at night, hunched like a pensive orangutan, in an unfamiliar stretch of desert. Different variations of isolation became his refuge. The musings of hearth and home tainted those of meditation on alien sands; in turn, the latter interfered with his communing with goats. What did they care of divinity? The matriarchal nanny had contracted a smelly case of mange, and soon the flora in the western cliff crevice would bloom!
The singular clarity of being he felt in uttering the guttural benedictions of those animals, conscious of the dim, ancient pulse of that land in all it’s vast indifference; perhaps that was the factor that accomplished his end. Whether the following qualifies as a descent catalyzed by solitude or rather a mode of ascension that only a bovine mind is privy to - we can only speculate. Regardless, the man’s adoption of less simian mannerisms was not conducted with, say, the semi-detachment of an animal lover seeking emotional sanctuary, retaining humanity even while shunning it, but rather the glad abandon of a burn victim to an inferno. The changes manifested at first with obvious shifts, primarily regarding diet and the shedding of all pretense of upright posture. Never chatty, the transition to muteness was in itself not a dramatic one; rather the magnitude of his shrugging of that human hallmark rendered it a powerful symptom of the animalism that so possessed him. One ritual of habit was retained, albeit adjusted in method; the tending of the grass.
A living monument to the decadence of his own roots, the octagon resided on it’s ill-gotten ground with what seemed to him a presence surely imagined… nevertheless, it exerted a certain control over his actions. The man felt compelled to water and trim the grass, even as he degenerated. The fringes, vivid in contrast to the ruddy soil, were first shorn and then, eventually, raggedly chewed uniform by bicuspids nesting in the skull of one who scoffed at the “evolution” of his fellow men. No measures were spared in it’s botanical pampering, even as the land thirsted with a vengeance. The valley fissured in spasms of want, plants withered and the man and animals stumbled through the days in delirium. The necessity of driving his starving companions from the grass nearly killed him; indeed it broke him, his enfeebled mind registering only a terrible clash of urges. To preserve, was internally shrieked - but what? The world delights in the beautiful breaking of characters with an audience, and so the straddling of a primal Divide ended not with a crescendo of plate tectonics, but rather a resigned plummet into Limbo.
It was night, and hot. The stars blazed their frigid light over the bodies of beasts rattling their last, glazed amber eyes fixed upon the man dismantling his dwelling to a wooden shell. An awkward structure was built, he shambling to and from the wreckage of the yurt with the timber of its construction re-purposed. Cool rivulets of sweat and kerosene dripped from his tangle of beard as he surveyed the makeshift pyre. No venture will be made as to what perverse version of thought last crossed that unnatural mind, but a wolfish smile was evident as the man reclined, enveloped in the foul wet smoke of burnt grass. Within hours the first drops of rain, forty years absent, patteringly extinguished the smoldering ash.
Every story demands its pound of flesh, this being no exception. And so the valley flourished, with the exception of the octagon of charred earth. No organic endeavor could persuade the soil to host life, saturated with death as it was. The animals regarded it with unease. Following generations too avoided the fertile Eden of the valley and the burnt blemish that betrayed it. It had become a monument of a different kind, the site of more than just a human cremation. And so away sailed a lonely man, an island at his back.




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MacabreMacaw said...
today at 6:28 pm:
I have a tendency of doing that, thanks for the critique. I'll try to curb the pompous ramblings in the future :) 
 
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WonTonFred1This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
yesterday at 9:42 pm:
Interesting as a whole, however the beginning wasn't very explanatory. Using huge words doesn't make the story more interesting, it makes the reader sound more intelligent, but it fails to help the reader picture an image in their mind. Perhaps it's simply my dull wits that need sharpening, but I believe if you simplified it and took out some of the adjectives you would have a very fine story. It's not about how well you can use a thesaurus, it is about whether you can think up a... (more »)
 
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