Monday, December 9, 2013

The Hill of the Apocalypse

Partly inspired by the writings of St John (What he was inspired by is still the subject of debate):

The man had reached the hill by cutting through the bushes with a machete. The last half mile had taken him nearly two hours. As he began to climb his shirt clung to his body and sweat dripped from the brim of his hat and ran down his face into his nose and mouth. The vegetation on the slope was sparser but the track was steep and now there was no shade from the blistering sun. He climbed with a rhythm that never changed, despite the burning in his throat and in his legs. Until reaching the top he would look only at the path in front of him, the next step, the next rock, the next branch which might trip him or cause him to stumble or twist an ankle. He had no need to think of anything at all, as long before he had instructed his will on what it had to do, and it was doing it perfectly.

His reasons for climbing the hill were no longer human reasons. The man had grown with the hill as part of the landscape. He had lived much of his youth, and part of his adult life, not in its shadow, but aware of its presence. He had always wanted to climb to the top, at first because it was there, it appealed as it would appeal to any adventurous child. Then he had created dragons in the thicket and castles on the summit and had wanted to find them and show he was not scared. Then it had challenged him, rising sometimes into the clouds, mocking his dreams with its proud impossibility. Then it had ceased to matter. He had left those thoughts behind and the hill became a landmark so he knew how close he was to home, a view to enjoy when he rested and raised his eyes, something to forget was there.

But all this had changed, because he had changed. The man now knew that the answers to everything he had ever failed to understand, to all the questions he had never thought to ask, the doubts he had not put into words, or had never consciously recognized as existing, were on the mountain. It had slowly been revealed to him that from the summit of the hill he would see such things as would give meaning to his life, to the world and to his place within it. He would no longer care that he was mortal, that he would not be remembered, that he was, in any human sense, a failure.

Once he had climbed the hill he would have knowledge of his rightful place in creation, an understanding that no one else would share, he would see things that nobody had seen or would ever see, and they would make him more important than all of those who were unaware of his existence.

He would know. He would know why he was born, why he existed, why only he was truly conscious, why he, who was obviously the centre of the world, was not recognized as such by the lesser beings, automata almost, with whom he came into contact. He would know this and understand it, and be satisfied.

So he had chosen a day, some time in the future, in early summer, to allow him to prepare everything, he had determined that nothing would stop him from keeping that promise, that appointment with himself. No illness or injury, no circumstance of the weather, no event in his life that others might tell him must be attended to, no act of God or the Devil would keep him from climbing the hill and finding the answer.

He prepared himself physically, walking many miles, always during the heat of the day, seeking out steep rocky paths and losing his way so he had to navigate by the sun and the distant landmarks. He learnt to do whatever he had to do, to observe whatever he had to observe, to think whatever he had to think, no more, no less. To give up, to be tired, to feel weak, was not only impossible, it became inconceivable. It could not happen.

He had eaten the food that soldiers eat when they march, that wrestlers eat when they train, that athletes eat when they run long-distance races. He had made his body sleek and strong, his muscles hard and tough, his skin resistant to the rays of the sun, the biting wind, the chilling rain, the stings of the insects and the rubbing of boots and clothes.

His mind was a diamond, hard and bright and uniform, a single structure, every facet flashing the same thought. It was a pool, clear and blue, rippling and drifting, but every drop the same, and the whole was the same as the drops. Nothing occupied his mind but his task, his dream.

The toughest of machetes had been daily in his hands. He had destroyed a number of them during this period by hours of hacking at the broadest and strongest of branches in the thickets about the village. His arms acquired the power to cut their way through forests at will, without tiring. His legs could carry him for miles up the steepest hills and the roughest rocks. His heart could desire nothing but to climb the hill and observe his life and his fate and his purpose in the context of the entire world.

He knew what he would see from the top of the hill. He could not have described it or explained it until he had climbed the hill, but he knew it. It was unclear in his head, foggy as he tried to make it out, but he knew it. He already knew it. The visions were already in his head, and it was only the meaning of them that was missing. The hill would reveal their meaning.

And so he climbed, cutting his way through and up the thickness of the bushes and trees which had not been penetrated by any creature larger than a rabbit for many years, hundreds of years perhaps. Nobody ever had need to go there, and so no one ever did. The seekers of silence and beauty, the few poets and philosophers the land had produced, the shirkers, the young lovers, all those who climb hills for no reason, had found other places from which to look out over the world, easier places to reach, of comparable beauty, they told themselves. There was no need to fight your way up this impassable hill.

He reached the summit. The world was below him and before him. It was beautiful, it was clear. The purpose of his life was there, clear and certain. The explanation for everything he had been and had experienced, and everything he would be, and would one day be no more, was there. It was perfectly transparent and terribly simple to understand. He welcomed understanding and peace.

He saw what he had been, what he could have been, what he should have been, what Ihenever was and never could have been, and why he did not become those things. You should not need to stand on a mountain to find such things, for they are not beneath you but within you. But the mountain helps you to understand what is too close to see.

He had not opened his eyes; he had not even raised them, and he would not. He had no need to see what he knew was before him. He only had to be on the summit to understand. He knew now that he would never again open his eyes, and that he would not leave the hill. This world had nothing more that he needed.

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