Walking north

It’s hot out, but there’s some breeze, so it isn’t too bad. I’m wearing my backpack with my belongings in it, including some blank books. The batteries for everything else ran out long ago. The country is flat, and I’m trudging up the empty highway toward— I’m not sure. But going there isn’t a question, it’s instinctive. The skies are a brilliant blue, with occasional white clouds drifting along, the kind of view beloved of tourism directors. The trees and scrub by the roadside are richly green, but silent. I can hear water, though, somewhere in the trees.

I walk for days, it seems, but night never comes, and I meet no one. The silence settles into my heart.

Somewhere north of Vero Beach I arrive at the— what? Castle, villa, fortress, library? An enormous structure, five, ten stories tall, broad as city blocks, carved from huge slabs of coral rock. It stands alone and imposing, time worn and algae-stained stones rising into the sky, surrounded by an expanse of soft, thick grass, a park? Other people are there, travelers, standing in small groups talking. Young people mainly, but some as old as me, some older, but few. I find a spot in the shade of the stones and sit, resting. Three young men are standing near me, speaking in a language I don’t understand, that I can’t even identify.

I climb the carven stairs in the side of the stones and reach the courtyard, a tremendous plaza thirty feet in the air, formed of the same blackened stones fitted together with precision. On opposite sides of this plaza are buildings, cathedral-like structures extending the width of the courtyard, with dark oaken doors the height of five men, doors which are banded with iron and closed. From high up the faces water streams, keeping the stones wet, and collecting in pools where stones have been removed from the courtyard. There are dark windows, too, glassless but forbidding. I know there are people inside, but no-one enters of their own will; you must be chosen.

The travelers live here, on this coral rock plateau high above the lawns. Bright flashes of color mark our presence, at a distance distinguishing us from the gray and black stone. In the shadows of the towers it is cool, almost cold. We drink from the clear waters spilled from the stone walls, sleep in small crevices, or the occasional stone stairway which leads down into darkness, ending at a locked wooden door. Sometimes outside these doors we find offerings of bread or fruit, which we share with those near us. I listen at one door for a day, and hear nothing, as if there was only blank stone beyond.

The world has changed, and few have survived. Of those who survive, fewer still feel the calling, and make the trek to the stones. I don’t know why I was chosen for the calling, but I know that I dare not squander this opportunity. I talk with those around me, telling my stories of the time before, and wonder if one day I will be among the elect, chosen to pass through the secret doors into the world inside.

[March 31, 2002]