Daybreak. The sun rises. The man rises. Here he stands. Runs dust through the palms of his hands, strokes the dead fire with his shoe.
Out in the distance, beyond the edge of this earth a beam of light shone through the infinity of darkness. Well I’ll be damned he thinks, goddamn sun’s rose again.
The man walks, one foot after another. They collide with the ground. Same way every time, same tap-tap like a clock almost. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. But more than a clock he thinks. More like poetry, music. No, can’t be. More than that he thinks. Scripture. God’s voice bouncing off the earth. Same way every time. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
the man reached what seemed to be the top of the earth from which all else descended and looked out. the man saw only darkness. A black cloud covering the horizon. He stood and thought Lord Jesus, they’re going to crucify me. They’re going to crucify me. I suppose god put life in this world and its god who is going to take it away. Ain’t no matter, the sun will rise without eyes to see it. The earth will spin, the stars will shine. Ain’t nothing human life got to do with any of it, nothing but seeing anyway.
One day we’ll die he thought. One day we’ll die and so will monkeys and tigers and dolphins, they’ll die too. Ain’t it pretty to think that we’ll all die together? He imagined the end of man. He imagined the horrors it might contain. He thought perhaps the end of man was a drought and not an explosion, a decay and not a bursting. He thought man had had enough explosions and bombs and Big Bangs and decided that maybe that was not the way he wanted it all to end. Thought man more than an explosion in a firework. No, no, no; it was all too simple for him, he imagined the end of man as a slow suffocation. He imagined all the families and the people who would starve and who would fade if the end was like that just a long ugly lack of oxygen. He even began to wonder if this was the apocalypse, if mankind would end today as ignobly as he began, naked and stupid, wandering around the wilderness fighting for life. No he thought mankind will survive this. For in my head I have seen the end of man many times and this was never one.
The man reached the summit and ran ashes through his hands watching them slowly fall upon their brethren. Grains of sand slipping in an ocean. What mighty whales lived in the depths of the ashes? he wondered. What hides beneath the surface of this darkness?
He moved down the summit a towards a little plateau in the mountain, felt his feet slide over the ground and down to the flat plateau. The man sat down. the man sat down and began to feel. He felt everything; the violent tug of gravity, the warped visage of sun, the empty tranquilness of the air; invisible, invariable; the earth, the stars, the gentle flux of existence; and he paused and noticed how everything collapsed upon everything else and how everything was in it’s proper place- soft and melodic, like music. The word was like music. The universe like music.
Please God, spare your servant he prayed for the tenth time that day. No use. Makes you wonder if anybody’s even up there. Probably turn out that the truth is this universe don’t care about you. I guess it’s arrogant to think that it would. You are a tiny little dust mote. You mean less to this universe than the lowliest blade of grass, than the tiniest grain of sand. If you could have seen it when it leapt into existence then you’d know, you’d see what an apathetic son of a bitch this universe really is. You’d see that there is a god up there and that there are angels and demons and Satan and everything- and you’d see that they couldn’t care less about you. These gods and these spirits they wouldn’t care a bit if you took a bullet to the head. The truth is you’re not going to heaven or hell. You’re not going to paradise. You’re not a miracle and you’re not divine. This universe don’t give a damn about you.
The man came upon a footprint. He examined it, examined it like a man examining a woman. It sat heavy and spiderlike in the ash. He reached out and touched it and smiled. Something exists even if I don’t no more he thought. How sad it is that the wind will destroy a print as beautiful as this. Death, ain’t that the beauty of art.
The man stood up, carefully avoiding the footprint, and continued on towards a tiny dirt-filled stream in the distance. The man leaned down and cupped water into his hands, drinking. The water tasted like wet dirt to his mouth. He old man stood up and made a move to continue walking along the path but something caught his eyes. It was a plant. It was ugly and frail with leaves like tentacles but it was still a plant. And it was alive. Alive he thought. Always alive.
Life. Always life.
That was his secret. What the man had wasn’t a state of mind or a philosophy or even a religion. But he had a word. He had forgotten all the other words in the English language, had forgotten how they sounded or what they looked like juxtaposed with a white page, but he remembered one. Life was what he called it. He called it life. He remembered how it stood out from the pale words surrounding it, he remembered the geometry of it, remembered the way the word somehow stood meaningful beyond the blankness. He remembered how the L stood straight and rigid like perfection he thought and how the dot of the i floated, a magic trick, and how the f curved like a tree casting shade over the tiny little e. In a platonic world it sat, an abstract geometric projection represented imperfectly in this world, indeed such a word so perfect must be metaphysical and more. How he thought How is there power in a word to make sense of an entire world? But there was. He called it life and he knew it when he saw it. He called it life.
From the other side of his eyes everything before him was black. Everything was dark and infinite on the earth, like outer space.
This is the earth, he thought, where space is hanged on pine trees and where time is swallowed in the cruel twisted body of the sea.
The man laid down on a tiny pillow of dirt he had fashioned. Dawn had come. The sky was flooded with stars. The man stared up and saw them. How small it is he thought. How small are the other worlds. Some call it big but how tiny it really is; the universe, only a couple of bright dots in our sky.