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Where the Earth Moves
Cold is a word to describe the absence of heat. When there is an absence of heat the ice is allowed to play its cruel games on any who do not understand the rules. The crystal flakes thrive on the adventurous nature of travelers, and their unfit desires. The flakes never know what the unwelcomed come to search for, only that they are easily lead astray.
An incessant absence blew a tenacious trick over two wanderers. The freeze fogged their goggles and penetrated in between the interwoven threads of their gloves. Their mouths were moist and dripping with saliva from wearing padded scarves, their bodies dealt with the odds of unbearable cold and unquenchable heat. The sun grinned over the cold. It taunted the wanderers, promising warmth but only blinding their eyes.
The first traveler was named Legrend. He had pulled farther ahead from his companion, Roswell, who was tripping over the laces of his boots, of which he was incapable of tying. The absence of heat gave Roswell an absence of feeling in his fingers. He feared bowing down only to be buried alive by the unfaltering wind, which carried with it the means to create a quick and icy coffin.
Legrend pulled together the strength to unwind his crooked back and look ahead for a way to escape the wind and sun. The flakes blew across his field of vision until he saw through them, a safe haven. Using a long pick axe, Legrend assured that his quick steps would also be sturdy. He had been walking for days, and within that time he realized that not even the ground was given the right to be immobile. Roswell still had his back wound and crooked, and had no intention to take his eyes off the ground. His footing was far more important than his sense of direction.
Without stopping to look for his partner, Legrend was able to reach a boulder to which he could avoid the unruly wind and malevolent sun, which had begun to take its toll on Roswell. From his safety, Legrend saw the ground begin to reanimate slowly. It had been two hours since the last, and it seemed that the earth was now beginning to recognize and despise his presence. He cupped his hands with muffled gloves, and shot his voice in Roswell’s direction. The flakes denied Legrend’s attempt to save his friend. The jocular specks took the sound of Legrend’s warning, and tore it apart, scattering the shards of concern to nowhere of need.
Roswell’s spine shifted along with his weight. He began to cry, holding still, hoping the earth would not feel his insignificant body pushing down on it. Without warning, the wind died. There was an orchestral pause. Legrend inhaled slowly as to not make a sound. Roswell’s body twitched with morbid anticipation. The imagination of a man near death never slinks past the present, and in Roswell’s chest, his heart beat with rising speed. Soon, his heart beat too loudly to remain concealed, and for the first time in his life, Roswell wished it had stopped. The earth took notice.
The floor of ice cracked magnificently, creating a wave of glacier that dashed Roswell, tearing his body loose from gravity. Legrend shouted out his friend’s name, hoping the laws of nature would be stripped of jurisdiction. From where he stood, Legrend could have sworn he saw the ice flash a smile at him. He could have sworn he saw the eyes of a massive frozen beast trudging through the snow with Roswell on its spiny back. The glacier suddenly changed directions. Ice was swept off the top of the cold boulder as it spun towards Legrend. His eyes centered, and his knees stiffened, as he saw the glacier dash towards him. Something strange happened, the beast lost momentum. It toppled and smashed into the floor with an incredible finish. All that was left was Roswell, curled up like a broken doll.
Legrend dashed towards his fallen friend. He bent down and placed Roswell’s head on his knee. With shallow and short breaths, Roswell breathed. Crystal specks floated effortlessly on a static wind. The specks glimmered and danced back and forth with each breath Roswell stole. A muffled noise came from his scarf. Legrend quickly tugged at it to give his friend a chance to speak. Chapped and flaky lips uttered strained words.
“Why are we still here Legrend? It isn’t worth the risk anymore. Even the earth is against us now. This land wants to remain undiscovered, it fights against us,” said Roswell. Legrend pulled back and spoke.
“The moving earth is a mystery we can conquer. It taunts us relentlessly, but soon its tricks will exhaust themselves.”
“There are no tricks!” exclaimed Roswell, a hack followed his shriek. “The earth moves, the sun laughs, and the flakes of ice deceive us. This is not an illusion!” A wave of anger trickled down Legrend’s face as he raised his voice.
“Think of all who died here on this land! Some were thieves looking for treasure, rulers that came here looking to conquer, but most were only those simply crossing, unaware of where they were. If we can find the curse put on this land and destroy it, we can let free the spirits held captive by their grudges,” said Legrend.
“It’s them!” shrieked Roswell. “The one’s that curse this land and animate it, it’s them! Those that died have come to laugh with the sun and deceive with the flakes. They seek revenge on those that offer them help!” The argument ceased as Legrend’s attention focused on something below the mountain on which they stood.
His eyes flickered in focus as the wind picked up the pricking snow. Beyond the distance of reliable vision, was a shifting and charcoal figure. Legrend got up and stepped back, and he saw the blot move forward. The sun grievously smirked behind Legrend.
“There is a man near the base of the mountain,” said Legrend shallowly. Roswell’s muscles tensed. He reached out and grabbed Legrend’s pick axe, clutching it thoroughly in a violent pose.
“Where is he?” Roswell whispered vehemently.
“To your right, he’s there.” The undecided being wavered at the bottom of the mountain. Roswell stared into the blizzard, and caught a powerful glance at the inky man. He exhaled uncontrollably, thrusting the pick axe in the ground and pulling himself farther away from the image.
Legrend could not decipher if it was a man, or a curse that was staring at them from afar, he simply know they had to keep their distance. With a jolt of energy, Legrend lifted Roswell onto his feet and commanded him to walk. An initial bout of intense pain tore at Roswell’s ankle, but he acknowledged that a sprain would not make him drop his dignity, and have him slither on his stomach. There was a high escape, a mountain appeared through the snowy drapery.
They pressed against the thin rocks, hoping that sufficient footing would keep them from falling. Underneath their feet, they could feel the earth shift with rounds of traveling hills. At times they held onto these moving globes to travel up the mountain. Roswell was grateful for these rides, as the pain from his ankle caused him to curl up like a struck centipede. Legrend found that striking the earthy globes made them shift faster around the mountain. Roswell decided to take the act one step farther. With a powerful strike of his pick axe, he impaled the globe. The sphere bolted around the mountain, with Roswell holding on tight with his axe. Legrend followed his example and bellowed with excitement as the mound shot up the mountain.
Both of the wanderers laughed at their fun. They had forgotten about the frost that might kill them and they forgot about the moving earth that could crush them. Roswell looked down at a lower end of the mountain.
“Were there two beings that you were trying to show me?” asked Roswell with a stoic look carved on his face. Just as close as it was before, Legrend saw the blotted man, this time, with another. He jumped back fearfully and he saw the figures sway confidently closer. The shades drifted ominously behind the continually spinning curtain of snow.
“They’re following us,” shivered Roswell. His hand sporadically reached for the flare gun chained onto Legrend’s jacket. With a swift and direct swipe, Legrend broke the eager hand away from the gun.
“What do you intend to do?” shouted Legrend.
“We need to make an example! We kill one and we scare off the other!”
“A flare gun will not kill!”
“A flare is fire, and fire burns, and flesh is a fuel for fire’s flares. Man’s death can be achieved through fire,” responded Roswell with an informative message on murder.
“Your mistake is assuming that those are men following us.” Roswell grew silent. He looked down at the gloomy figures as they appeared to disintegrate and pull together each time a heavy wind blew. Roswell did not reply. “We need that flare to signal for help if we find ourselves in a situation in which we can’t leave,” said Legrend. Roswell nodded in false agreement.
The mountain flattened at the top, and lead to a vaster wilderness still unexplored. With his eyes still connecting down at the two figures, Legrend tugged Roswell’s coat to tell him that it was time to walk. Unwilling and resentful, Roswell stood, and slunk on his good leg, following Legrend.
Eager with a new table on which to commit more enormities, the elements of the land began to expand on the intricacies of their tortures. The wanderer’s feet began to weaken in pace. They could not steady their momentum with the craggy terrain, or balance themselves properly over the ice. It seemed as if the earth had already claimed victory. With the sound of a gunshot, the ice would erupt and spew out glaciers only meters away from the two weary men. The travelers now walked on the plate of a child bent on playing with his food.
The sun smiled with a tone of melancholy. It would shine just enough to melt the collected snow and have it seep into the coats of the men. When the water had gone deep enough to touch their increasingly paling skin, the sun would blot itself out and have the water freeze.
Roswell’s sanity began to spin on the crooked axel of a record player. His eyes fluttered lazily over the gun, as he could feel the deep absences of light bending and cracking as their steps echoed his. He retracted his finger, unfeeling from the cold, imagining how the trigger of the gun felt.
“The earth can’t see us,” Roswell began. “It can’t hear us,” he said slamming his ear with the palm of his hand. “But it can feel us.”
The earth’s movements were concise, elaborate, and beautiful. It shifted like a blanket under their feet. Under the thin sheet of snow, Legrend saw caverns of blooming shards of ice, carved by a faceless artist. Frozen waterfalls and static winds, all beneath the feet of a traveler. He began to think. Why would such things of beauty kill? He reached the conclusion that the earth didn’t have a mind, that it simply moved because it had to. But the earth, how it moved, challenged that conclusion. Maybe the earth did not know how elaborate, how powerful, and how beautiful it was, and that he was just an outlet for its anger. Or maybe the earth knew these things well, and it viewed him as unfit to survive under the eyes of its faceless watch.
“The earth can feel us,” said Roswell. Legrend was again pulled into the deep absence.
“What the earth can and cannot do is not of our concern,” he responded. Roswell stopped his feet. He reached into his pocket, and tore it at the seams.
“But what we can and cannot do is of our concern! We have the option to kill! Those being behind us are the emissaries of the earth! They are the calloused eyes, and hollow ears of their careless master!” bellowed Roswell. The flakes formed around his voice and stretched it to a magnitude of which Roswell himself was frightened by.
“Whether we kill or not, it doesn’t matter. You will kill me. I realized that the earth cannot kill us, that it can only change us, it can only frighten us. It’s all a trick, it’s a magnificent show that you have participated in and will follow unless you drop your anger,” stated Legrend.
Roswell felt a mass of steel in his hand, he could feel the gun. Thoughts of the initial meeting between he and Legrend tried to convince Roswell to scold his hand for searching for a way so malevolent. For many days Roswell had walked through the sterile land of white and freeze. It didn’t take long before he had forgotten why he had entered in the first place. The snow was far from claiming him, but he felt it was only because he was slowly conforming to its ways.
He remembered how he saw Legrend. The man was so distant, Roswell believed it was a reflection of himself. When he was closer all he could understand was that Legrend was in the same situation he was in, but he was not lost. He was looking for the answer to the question as to why the earth lives. This was a way out for Roswell. This was a way to have purpose, and remain where he was. His mind pulled back to the present.
Roswell smiled and showed Legrend his teeth.
“Maybe I am the earth,” he laughed crookedly. “I feel like am to kill you in a gorgeous show of indifference!”
“Then my charity has been wasted!” exclaimed Legrend.
It was time for the final trick.
The sun opened its core exposing the thousands of violent explosions within its cavities. It inhaled and fell into itself, raising directly over Legrend and Roswell. The sun held its breath strenuously while laughing in a muffled tone. The shades grew farther apart, and taller in size, they multiplied, splitting effortlessly and shifting under the gaze of the sun.
Roswell’s spine bent and his arms stretched out in an aggressive and violent pose. The beings outnumbered him now and he waited for the first to come and attempt to steal his life away, throwing it deep into the earth as to become a servant.
Legrend looked directly at the sun, his gloves parting the light from his eyes and softening its tone. He smiled as the evidence in his mind began to develop. To assure himself he looked at the blotted figures. They looked like nothing but masks now, silly poorly made masks. He stared at his feet to see that the shades were deriving from him, their tails attached to his shoes. Legrend laughed and turned to Roswell.
“They’re just us!” he exclaimed with a certain and lighthearted voice. Roswell turned to him and shouted.
“I don’t need you to try and derive a meaning from our deaths! We will not kill ourselves! They will!” Roswell could not understand Legrend’s calm disposition.
“They’re just our shadows Roswell. Look at your feet, and you will see where they derive from,” said Legrend.
The earth could not allow this moment of realization occur, so it sent the flakes in a rush beneath the two men’s feet as to conceal the shadow’s tails. Roswell looked down only to see that the flakes had engulfed his feet. The words Legrend had spoken connected in terrible way within Roswell.
“The shadows? I have no regret! A man who does not remember cannot feel as if he has wronged! So you’re saying I need to confront my own evils? I have none. However you, you are the evils! You came here because the earth killed your youngest son. Is that not true?” Roswell pointed at a shade. “That might be him right there! Why don’t you wave to your son?” Asked Roswell with a leading expression of intimidation. “I am here for reasons unknown, but you came for revenge, and your revenge shall not kill me!”
Roswell lunged at Legrend. In response Legrend shifted to the side, Roswell’s hand still clutching the flare gun attached to the chain. Legrend struck Roswell across the face and kicked him in the stomach. Roswell’s lungs were squeezed and they let out a wind of cold air.
“We need the flare to signal for help! I have shown you what those monsters really are!” exclaimed Legrend. Roswell tightened his grip around the gun.
“They are you, and I, as you said. While I may save you from yourself, I do not have the decency to save myself.” Roswell took both hands around the gun, and twisted it, snapping the chain off. He grabbed Legrend by the collar, swung him down, and attacked.
Killing someone was easier than Roswell thought it would be. It required no tact, no conversation, no misleading, just a strike to the skull to tear out the conscious.
Half the shades were gone now, their skin flickering under the sun. ‘I’ve killed them. The man was the one causing those demons to arise,’ he said. Roswell looked at his feet, watching as the shadows tails wriggled with anticipation.
“He may have been too weak to fight his shadows, but I will take action!”
Roswell aimed at a blot and pulled the trigger. It hissed in the barrel and broke free, tossing heat and light out of its body. His comprehension sped as he watched the missile fly towards the blot. A smile spilled out from his lips, and he waited for the impact.
A hollow blunt noise came and went. Roswell stared at the fallen flare. It kept continued spitting out dirty sparks from its top, and this let Roswell see.
Over the flare, was a sheet of snow seven eight feet high. Roswell walked over, and lifted kicked the flare to the side. There was his shadow, populating the cold canvas. When he moved, the earth moved these sheets, so that he was always looking at his shadow standing upright. There was nothing metaphorical about Legrend’s speech.
Roswell pressed his numb fingers against the ice. He pressed his fingers so forcefully against it that his nails left marks on its face. His head rested on the sheet, he faced his shadow.
“Do you aspire to be me? I doubt you do. You won’t kill me, so I’m left here to hate the earth for years to come. Have you left me no escape?” he paused and ground his forehead against the ice. “Have you left me no escape?!” Roswell took the gun and smashed it into the ice. It broke elaborately like a thick plate of glass. His shadow, having been robbed of space over the ice, poured over the expansive earth. It’s darker nature contrasted with the sterile white.
Roswell stared at the length of the shadow. It stretched for miles. He now had eternity to walk, and he decided to make use of it.
“All I have left is to follow you.” Roswell slunk over the ice, and followed his shadow.
The journey was timed, but it was unknown to Roswell for how long. He walked the same paths he had walked with Legrend. Nothing was after him, the sun simply stared at him without an expression on its face. The earth found a proper place to rest, and the flakes settled on the ground. His eyes stared at the same angle and they shifted lazily from left to right. He was in a self-induced trance.
It occurred to him that a few hours ago, he had killed a man. It had taken a while to grab hold of him. Maybe it was the anti-climactic nature of death. It wasn’t as difficult as he anticipated it to be.
It occurred to him that he ran away into the absence. He began to understand that it was very possible that running away was easy for him, and that he couldn’t remember for that very reason. He must have had no family, no friends, no values in the outside world. All that was left for him to value, was in here, the vast meaningless space.
An ambient sound came from ahead. Roswell snapped his eyes forward as saw a massive Icicle tipped on its side, held up by two boulders. The frozen pillar was inside a shallow cave, where light still reached it fully. Overhead water droplets fell to the tips of smaller icicles and froze instantly.
A fully formed icicle shook from its foundation and snapped off. It glazed the massive overturned icicle and as it did, Roswell could have sworn he had heard a part of his name. A soft ring opened with a bold middle, and then a quiet finish.
“Was that my name?” asked Roswell in the open.
The cave shivered and the water froze quicker over the icicles. As they reached completion they would fall and glaze the instrumental ice creating a concise sound. The ice spoke using the icicles to strum its voice.
“Were there not two men?” The ice asked. Roswell stepped forward. His lengthy relationship with the earth had robbed him of amazement.
“There were, but he proved to be dangerous,” responded Roswell. The cave stopped shaking. Inside, the water did not freeze and small droplets of water fell over the instrumental voice. The water created a mournful voice.
“Was it not you who was the one who murdered, are you not the murderous one? Was he not good to you?” the ice cried. Roswell paused, his feet stood on dry ground. The voice of the ice spun methodically in his ear. It was an annoyance that struck him first, and then guilt. He thought of his inability to remember, simply because actions were unimportant, but he remembered killing his friend. He remembered the murder over his birth, his life, and his escape. It must have meant something.
“I have done wrong!” he wept. Out of anger he fell to the ground and punched the craggy ice. He held his fist closed, as a thin layer of blood exposed itself over the joints.
“Do not hurt yourself,” said the ice. “Your already caused pain to another”
“Why did I kill him?” asked Roswell with his nose as wet as his eyes.
“Fear is what killed him. You feared for your life, so you took his. He feared for a lonely existence, so he helped you,” replied the ice. Roswell lifted himself up and pointed angrily at the ice.
“Don’t make his actions sound selfish. He was good to me when I could have died aimlessly!”
“Then there can be good! Walk out of this place, it is evil, and it has already begun to live off your guilt,” exclaimed the ice.
The earth shook violently. Roswell shifted closely to the ground as to hold his balance. The cave began to split from the pressure. The plateau on which stood shifted left to right, climbing higher with each increment. It felt as if a gear locked into place, and the mountain fell back and sounded with a crack. Roswell waited in the silence, and then the platuea spun upwards, soaring higher, leaving behind a perfect cone of ice and show on which to stand on.
Roswell could see all of the vast absence. He saw the earth pull together like a blanket to feed this growing mountain. They passed the clouds. Roswell turned to the cave, which was glowing brightly. He looked back over the horizon, and saw a city covering the entirety of a mountain side.
“Is that where I lived?”
“Yes,” responded the ice. “Slide down this mountain, and you will have a second revival. You can go back to your life, and create new and meaningful things to remember.”
Roswell cried. It wasn’t from the sun that now bloomed so benevolently, it was from a straining guilt.
“If only Legrend was here to see this. He would be overjoyed to see the end, and be able to be a part of it,” said Roswell. The cave lowered its voice.
“But I am here, and my charity will not be wasted if you leave. The earth is indifferent towards us, but we have the ability to lead meaning. Go down the mountain, and my charity was well spent.”
Roswell didn’t smile, as he was still guilty inside, but he realized that now he had a chance for redemption.
“Thank you,” he said, and with a long leap he slid down the earth.
On his back he slipped and turned back to see the cave. He had killed, but now he resurrects. The sun breathed light over the path, and when Roswell reached the bottom, he took off his shoes to feel the grass, and feel the presence.