The Gift: A novel

My project for A man finds himself alone on a paradisical island where has has no need to work to support himself. His life is spent transforming the island.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Chapter 27: Beati mundo corde

As the sun went down, the path ahead was almost blinding. The light of the sun, at its low angle, would have made sight difficult enough, but at the entrance to the path on the other side of the clearing lay a pass of fire. The path narrowed dangerously in a stone bridge between two large pools of lava. The path was wide enough to allow one person across at a time safely, but not comfortably.
The two men paused a few feet away from the bridge, heat washing over them even at a distance. Neither one spoke, but neither one moved toward the pass either. Finally, Cobb marked the position of the sun, and said what neither one wanted to admit: "The sun’s going to go down here in a few minutes. We can either spend it here in a pit with lava on all sides, or we can cross that bridge, and spend the night on the path with the lava behind us, downhill from us." Dranger nodded, and checked the straps on his pack. "Nothing for it then. Ready?"
At the very edge of the bridge, they halted again, startled at the sheer strength of the heat. They paused, wondering if they actually dared to walk the narrow strip of stone, but then Cobb shouted, pointing up and ahead. "I can see the top of the mountain! We’re almost there!" Forgetting his fear, he stepped onto the bridge and began the dangerous journey across.
His companion’s words had ignited Dranger’s lagging spirits, and he began crossing the bridge as well. The heat was staggering, and his eyes watered. It became impossible to look down; the heat coming up was far too intense. He lifted his eyes up to the darkening sky, and caught sight of the peak that Cobb had spotted. It lay just ahead of them, a broad flat line against the sky. He kept his eyes fixed on the park, the cooler air of the mountain top sweeping down and cooling his face. He could feel his head beginning to swim from the heat, and barely managed to stagger the few feet to the end of the path, and safety. The two men lay, gasping for air, for a few moments, then managed to walk a short distance up the path, to a place where the heat grew less. They saw two trees, one on either side of the pass, with their branches intertwining above the path. They lay down in the soft grass, energy sapped by the extreme heat through which they had just passed. Almost immediately, they fell asleep, stretching themselves out on the ground in the quickly growing darkness.
Cobb dreamed, though it seemed to him that he lay awake under the night sky. He looked up the path, and saw a young woman coming down the path toward him. She was somewhat plain, but her face was bright and happy, and as she wound down the path toward him, she was picking flowers and braiding them into a garland. She never stopped moving, but walked up and down the path all night, singing and weaving, until all the path and trees were strung with colorful braids of flowers. As morning came, she walked back up the path and disappeared into a garden at the top, swallowed up in the light of the rising sun.
At that moment, he awoke--realizing only then that he had, in fact, been dreaming--to see that the sun had, in fact, risen.
Dranger had dreamed as well, and also saw a young woman coming down the path towards him. She sat by the edge of a deep pool, and stared into its depths, watching the reflection of the stars. She did not move from the edge of the water all night, but watched the movement of the stars across the sky for hours. As dawn approached, she got to her feet and went back up the path, into the light of the rising sun.
He awoke, and saw that the sun had indeed risen, and that Cobb was awake as well. Neither man stopped to eat, but they simply got to their feet and began the walk upwards toward the top of the mountain, now only a few feet away.
He wasn’t sure when he had first begun to think of it, but he had finally realized that he needed to take some time off. His school years--though filled with many comings, goings, and doings--had been primarily ones of contemplation. These past years, however, had been full of action; necessary action, often, action that kept him from losing his mind in the long years of solitude. But the time had come for contemplation again.
He had not wanted to simply sit still, thinking, but neither had he wanted any activity that would take up too much of his mind. So he had spent the year tending the grass, pruning the trees, and planting flowers: gardening was often mind-numbingly simple, but also satisfying. It allowed him time to think, and gave him enough of a sense of accomplishment to sleep peacefully at night.
He looked up, realizing with a slight shock that it was nearly nightfall. He patted the transplanted strip of sod more firmly into place, and dribbled a few handfuls of water onto it. He dumped the rest of the contents of the waterpot onto his head and rubbed the dirt from his body. As the moon became clearer in the darkening sky, he laid down to sleep under the shade of the trees whose branches he had twined together.
As he slept, he dreamed. In his dream, the moon shone brightly on the path, lighting it almost as thouroughly as if it were day. As he watched, he saw a lady coming down the path toward him. Her hair was as dark and brown as the earth itself, and her skin as white and glowing as the moon. As she came, she gathered flowers, weaving them into wreaths. She approached him slowly, putting a finger to her lips, bidding him to be silent. She sat beside him, and they watched the moon and stars for the rest of the night. Then, as morning approached, she stood, turning to leave.
"Wait!" he called. "I need you to help me see! I can no longer see where I am or where I am to go."
She looked over her shoulder, and smiled. "Wait," she said. "The time is soon, but not yet."
As she walked up the path, the sun rose, and devoured her with its light. He awoke with a start, looking desperately toward the path, but she was gone. The sun was rising, and he rose with it. The day was young, and there was much thinking to be done.

copyright 2004 Elizabeth J. Weaver


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