Endless crunching across a plain of pristine brilliance

The crunch reverberates in his mind. One crunch, then another, and another. Endless crunching across a plain of pristine brilliance, freshly fallen and not yet in a state of decay. Slim shadows from nearby gangly giants protect the surface, and keep it intact. Towering above all things, keeping watch, older than the eldest memory conjured by the weak creations of flesh that seek the safety of the giants. They see in no visible spectrum, speak in no language known to exist. The audible signs of life a howl of the wind through the myriad of appendages and a tired yawn of the bough. They tower over him and demonstrate their power; he continues along slowly, aware that the pride of these mighty giants can be felled with a swiftness as such elderly things are not aware of. As he crosses a chasm of what could have once been flowing life he steps over a fallen giant, and plods along in silence save for the jarring crunching of his boots.

He remains on the path as it has been decided, marked by bright poles of ore and colorful woven flags designed to catch the attention of passers by, marching onward to his destination. It, the goal he seeks, lies far ahead, though he is not certain for the frigid corners of the world are unknown to him. He is of a different place full of warmth and drying plains; a place between the lands in the sky and the buried secrets beneath the vast bowls of wetness; a place no longer wanted, nor needed, existing far behind and even further ahead. It is now in the pallid that he bears witness to that which he has never seen, nor touched, nor truly ever dreamed. It is not as they write about, and images are false when compared to such a scene as that which is the real thing. The sheer lack of flat, the unshaped beauty of imperfection, it rolls down towards the valley lying thousands of feet below. Sending all manner of fallen things cascading down the cracks and crevasses between the amassing of frozen life and death and the once-organic shale of stone that supported the creatures that dwelled beneath a massive ocean. The man wonders of these things though he does not fully understand, for although well-traveled is he, learned he is not. Like the rest he simply observes and is content to see that which few men see.

He bares witness to the haze of miles far ahead, jagged peaks discernable yet clearly not true. The peaks rise high, higher than the one on which he marches, and expand to fill the horizon with their gray and misty visage. They fill the land, and stand in a vigil over the lands to the West, once guardians now reduced to silent witnesses to the end of the old times and the beginning of the new. They will remain there to the end, and will continue to remain as new ages begin again. The hazy peaks will forever see that which even the old giants will miss when they die and fall down, down to the valley below. They will exist now and forever. To observe, contemplate, process, and accept such hazy peaks would be to accept that which is beyond him, grander than him. There are decades of training to undo before the hazy peaks may be seen as they are, rather than imagined as faint illusion. He cannot fathom, nor does he care to for he has not the time in his quest to pause and reflect on such things. The hazy peaks are, at the very least, contemplated.

Behind him lies the center of all things civil. Vehicles, bright and shiny underneath the giants (“beautiful!” they exclaim) and across the slippery black, march in unison as they search for a place in which to stop. They looked, they slowed, they saw a man and chased him down only to be turned away when he revealed he did not plan to leave. The great building, made up of strips of the giants' corpses, lay near the bare black square and provided a place of temporary warmth and familiarity for those who cannot take the unfamiliar cold and landscape draped in shadow. In it are directories and helpful types, but only helpful when one knows what he seeks. He did not know why he was there, not truly, and they served no purpose other than provide a smile and a tangible memory to be forgotten in a box (though some would argue that $7.99 for a memory is quite the fair price). Outside, the blare of the search for a place in the civil world continued, and he placed his memory in the pocket of his coat as he returned to his own place in the line. He, too, did not plan to leave, but merely to collect the bag of his belongings and sustenance, for he would need these on his trek across the sharply angled land. He waved the seekers away; they continued along in silence to seek their place. As he headed to the path a sharp sound, a rather hoarse cry, echoed to him. It was a familiar creature, although was unlike any instance of the species that he had ever seen.

The white beast. Sharp ears erect, black glistening nose twitching as it peered from side to side. The legs of the lanky body twitching, muscles rippling as it sat ready to spring upon anything it beheld or flee, as the situation required. How it stared into the distance, regal, almost, though clearly not as that is a quality not imagined by the white beast but by his overseer. The blood memory in the white beast, the rich history it held – it must have been a true sight to behold. The white beast, ancestrally not white at all but flecked with streaks of grays, browns, blacks, and all manner of visually pleasing yet practical tones, once roamed across this land on which it stands. The white beast once claimed prey and ate the bleeding remains in the times before it waited patiently for bowls of nourishment. It hid beneath the land in wondrous dens that served their purpose and nothing more. It roamed from giant to giant, hazy peak to hazy peak, never marveling (or perhaps it did, though it did not occur to the man) at the land it passed through so freely. And free it ince was, for no creature guided the white beast. The instinct and blood memory of a thousand generations served as its compass.

“Sitzen!” A fast and rather unattractive sound from somewhere near the white beast. The man glanced to the side to see a man in green; a seemingly affable one, this green-man was the white beast’s director. The white beast’s head turned, and it sat upon the ground. Tongue waggling and eyes frantically darting as it returned from its memory-state to the present time. It rolled, and leapt, and let out its hoarse cry. Yelped, held the ball, lumbered from corner to corner. A spectacle for eyes to see, and how they did gather around to watch. The man did not see the white beast play, as he was already walking to the path.

The memory of the white beast comes to mind with every glance at the landscape and hazy peaks. The white and pure terrain, unknowing, uncaring. The sun still shines brightly upon him, as he does not dare attempt the quest when the sun is low in the West and the moon threatens to rise. Such is the time of dread and cold. Rare indeed is the creature that would dare to face such horrors as those that occur when the cold becomes too cold, and night too dark, and perhaps that is why there are so few creatures of the night on the high peaks. They are built for such trials and have honed the skills necessary only after generations behind them have struggled and perished. He is not equipped, this man, but someday perhaps he will. For now he must be content to observe as the day wanderers did in their time before his species.

The ground becomes harder, the grasses and sod giving way to rocks and stone. The giants begin to spread out and give him room. The colored flags have disappeared; the steps of past trekkers long since vanished. Along his left side a grand cliff rises. The sheer rock of the peak exposed before him, free of life and not encumbered by the vegetation of the low lands which it originated from. As he stares at the ever-rising cliff he feels his eyes water, struggling against the blowing winds of the high peaks. The exposed patches of skin across his face drying and growing pale. Onward!, he thinks to himself. His goal is close, he knows, for the air grows colder and dryer with every step taken. It may seem agony to some, an annoyance to others, and a challenge to a select few, such as this man. He is encouraged to return to where he comes from, where he belongs. The man pays no mind (perhaps at the risk of health and life, but such men that would continue on despite the danger are men not to be argued with).

As he nears a rise in the path growing narrower and narrower by the minute a distinct sound rises. At first a whisper, then a rustling, and eventually a loud echo, the sound does all it can to call the man’s attention.

His attention it has.

His pace quickens, and his legs grow tired as the man ventures over the boulders that block his view of the origin of the sound. Every step taken and rock clamored over brings him closer, and upon reaching the top of the boulders, before he has seen that which he knows is there, the sound overtakes him. Nothing, not his boots on the rocks nor his own labored breathing, are audible over the vast and overbearing roar that flows past him, through a crag in the cliff and along to the right where the peak has suddenly become steep and unmanageable by a body that has experienced a lifetime of unnatural comfort. He stands upon the highest boulder overlooking the thunderous roar, his back stooped low and hands resting upon the same boulder. He stands there.

Distracted by the impassable wall in front, and shadowed by the wall to his left, the man allows himself to remain still until at last he returns to the mind that brought him to this place. His goal lies far ahead of this place and higher than he cares to imagine, yet as he observes his surroundings he knows that such a thought is a lie. He looks in both directions; to the left there is the cliff, gaining altitude still as it resumes past the crag from which the roar emanates and around another bend in the path; to the right there is the sudden drop to the sides of the peak below where the man once stepped, and even further still to the valley below, where green fields and smoke dot the land from which he came; in front of him is the roar itself. There is no visible means of crossing the chasm of thunder. The man removes his pack, placing it on the boulder beneath him, and then removes his gloves, one after the other. His hands are instantly stung, and no amount of warm air from between his lips can warm them.

The goal ahead is a lie indeed, for it can never be attained.

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