Cull Strider | Joey To
Little survived this far up the summit. The rocks still above him sharp, cool. A knuckle flashed white as a slick hand clasped stone.
A breeze sighed. He hoisted himself farther.
The man could see it no longer, the cabin nor the summit it lay upon. Earlier, squinting against the too-bright sky from the valley below, the cabin appeared like always: more distant than it should have been, a flickering, shy apparition with red roof. There he had feasted on fresh memories, now long since rotting and overripe. He also left many times; of those he usually remembered but once. Her eyes struggling and shimmering, like a frozen river beneath spring sun.
Wind picked up steadily over the last hours, pressing the heaviest clouds closer. Soft drizzle grew less timid.
Images from his past had not assailed him today, the man thought. No, not them, his companions of solitude: only the jealous sun that pierced so angrily when he averred eyes upward. Yet the man found himself impatient and searching for the cabin, again.
Fingers wove deep through a thick carpet of lichen, a firmer hold than rocks. Feet kicked away shale while the man pulled himself forwards, straight up.
Rain began to fall from stars now, wind howled. The man muttered something back. Alone, he took another step. Alone, yet finally, in what was an age, not empty. The man was full with hunger from hope, dread, then hope again for the summit.
The cabin door was absent. A slate roof full of holes. Floorboards all rotted through to mud. Cascading raindrops large as marbles gathered within to greet him. Moonbeams darted.
He entered, came to rest between embracing shadows. He readied his voice, worried if he still knew how to speak her name.
“Noora?” said this man, forever-yet broken by guilt and loneliness. Her name was said with eyes down, back bent, in something that was less than a whisper but so much more than an expended breath.
Echoes reached long through the hollow.