The Mountain in the Clouds, Part Eighteen
I was in the black space.
I wish it were a space of nothingness.
But something was there.
My lowness was there. The feeling that the world as I knew it had been pulled out from under me. It was not unfamiliar to me. But it had been some time since I had felt it. That low place. That place where the mood dips so far down that the flow of life itself seems to dry up. A place where trying to fill the cup produces nothing. No joy, no love, no peace.
It was like a river that had gone barren. A land that was parched. A lifeless, hollow place of despair.
This place used to occupy my life with frequency and at times severity. When there I would question my very existence, even debate my options for ways out. But there is only one way out of life. And that was never a choice that I truly desired to take. As low as I had been, I never took that step.
But I had come close once.
And then there before me, a dark memory re-lived.
It all flooded back to me. That night after I was banished from the city of Ham. That night I lost my family, my children and my love, never to see any of them again.
It seemed to me then that perhaps the townsfolk had been right. Maybe I was an awful person, deserving an awful fate. Maybe it was my lot to be punished. The choices I had made in my life had brought me to this place. So I had no one to blame but myself.
I hated myself. I hated that I had done this. I hated that I had ruined my life. That I had lost all I cherished. That I couldn’t undo it. It was a nightmare I could not wake from.
And I felt so low. I was severely depressed. Feeling that way made me want to do something to end the pain. Not just ease the pain, but completely annihilate it.
It seemed to me that to do this meant only one thing. To take my life. To take away that very thing that kept me tethered to my pain. If I ended it all then, the pain would have subsided. I don’t know where I’d be, but I wouldn’t be hurting.
And who would miss me after all? I could not return home to those I loved. They would never see me again, anyways. And I knew of no one else to turn to. I didn’t even know where I would eat, where I would sleep, where I would make a new beginning.
My life may as well have been over already.
So I contemplated the ways which I could do the deed.
The thought struck me that if I wandered long enough in the dark, I may not have to do the deed myself. I may run into bandits who would oblige to slit my throat.
Or I may find worse. I may stumble into the lair of an archebeast. Or be found by the malik riding their fearsome cave dogs. Though the thoughts frightened me they also made me laugh. At least then I would not have to be responsible for my suicide. I could just let death find me and carry me away.
That said, my stupid sense of self-preservation would not let me be careless. As I walked that dark landscape outside Ham, I was on edge. I constantly looked over my shoulders. I twitched at every noise. I avoided wooded areas but dared not venture too far into the moonlight. It was unfamiliar to the comforts of the city life I had known.
What other ways, I pondered… Drowning, too difficult to pull off. Letting my blood out… all I’d need is a blade, and I didn’t even have one… Jumping to my doom, possible….
It is a dark and twisted place to go in the mind, to think of these things. It made my spine tingle and my heart cringe. I decided I did not like it. I would persevere.
And then I thought, to what end? My life is destroyed. My kids… I would never see their faces again, never see them grow. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye, give them a last hug and tell them why daddy had to leave.
And my love, Maniea. The most amazing person I had ever known. I would never again hold her in my arms, feel her skin against mine, see her face light up to see me, hear her gentle voice soothe me. And she was to be locked in some awful cell for the remainder of her life. I did not presume to think her safe in that place either, with those corrupt magistrates to have their way with her any day or night. I shuddered to think of it…
All of my family, my community, my work, my sense of belonging… it was all ripped from under me.
This part made me angry to think of. How dare these people condemn me, do this thing to me, to tear me apart and cast me aside like some piece of rubbish.
But the anger did not lift me much. The sorrow overwhelmed me. The dark, demoralizing, self-deprecating thoughts continued. The pain was unbearable.
I must do it, I told myself. I will kill myself tonight, I thought.
I turned all my resolve to hold this thought. I began seeking my salvation in the landscape. Where can I cast myself off, what cliff can I find, what river can I be swept away in, what waterfall can I dive from?
There! There was one.
It was a beautiful waterfall. It almost made me smile. In a better mood I would have really enjoyed this place.
The water cascaded off the rock face maybe twenty meters overhead. It shot forth into the air, free as free can be. It glimmered in the moonlight as it tumbled down the long drop. Mist and spritz and spray bellowed forth from the fall like a bubbling, spitting thing.
Now to make my way to the top.
It was a difficult climb. At first I found a small trail leading up the side of the waterfall. It got me maybe halfway before it became impassable on foot. But there was a potential to scale the rocks from there.
I don’t claim to be a great rock climber. And the rocks were wet and slippery. And it was dark. It occurred to me that I might not need to jump from the falls but may kill myself in my ascent.
Whatever works, I suppose.
I kept struggling my way up. I sought any footing I could, gripped any stone sturdy enough to support my weight. Once or twice a rock came loose from the muddy cliff side and tumbled to the ground below, clacking noisily all the way. I gasped and found myself holding on for dear life.
What am I doing? I thought to myself. I am trying to kill myself.
But somehow the act of tossing myself from the summit of the falls seemed a more glorious end to my life. And so my goal was still set: get to the top.
As I neared my destination I was panting from exertion and my arms grew sore. I did not know whether I would have the strength to finish my climb. I struggled and heaved my way, gaining ground more and more slowly.
Finally my hand grasped the top edge of the cliff. With one last push of effort I launched myself over that last span of rock wall and onto the grassy outcrop above.
It took me a few moments to rest and catch my breath, sitting on a small patch of land between the cliff I had climbed and the next one that sloped above me.
I looked to see the path before me, a thin strip of muddy ground that led towards the waterfall. I could see now that it was only part of the waterfall. There was a smaller section of falls just above it coming through a slit in the cliff. The stream must come from behind that wall.
I edged my way carefully towards this slit, pressing my hands against the slick rock face. Inch by inch, nearly slipping, I managed to reach my goal.
There I was, at the top of this powerful stream of water tumbling to the rocky basin below. There the stream continued its journey eastward towards it eventual destination in the sea some miles away.
I could join the sea, I thought. When my blood merges with the waters here, I can live my afterlife in the Elgan Sea. How nice.
I had made my decision. There was no going back. I ignored the tugging of life wanting me to turn around. I ignored the feelings of depression that had brought me here. I knew what I was about to do and why and I was prepared to do it.
Here goes. One, two, three…
“Magi!” thundered a familiar voice. The sound startled and shook me so much I nearly plunged headfirst over the falls.
The enormous, bumpy face of the giant, Gumpelthwomp, moved into my vision, peering straight into my eyes.
“I didn’t expect to see you again, Magi,” he said, opening both eyes wide with wonder. “What are you doing up there?”
Catch the continuation of the story soon to see what happens next in our protagonists’ strange journey.
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Blessings to you,