The rutted lane was crossed with rills and pitted by winter ice. It sprouted both root and rock, revealed through the slow action of seasonal rains, making my footing treacherous. I stepped carefully, still managing an occasional stumble in the darkening gloom. The enfolding bowers of the forest gave nothing away; its sounds were its own sounds, the sky hidden, the direction of things kept secret. There was the lane, and the wind, whiffing through old oaks, like the rustle of a crepe sun-dress in a quiet room. An uncomfortable,waiting quiet, a hush of nature.

I squinted at the yellowed card, and checked my Geo-positioner. I can't explain my interest in these Geo-quests. Monkey curiosity, perhaps. About twenty meters more, then left, somewhere to the north. Probably a trail, for the greenery was too dense for cross-country travel. Then there it was, a hole in the damp,cloistered wall of crossing limbs and thrust-up bracken.

Almost, I quailed to make the turn, so dark it was. I felt my way forward, more careful with each step, slower with every inch gained. The light of the Geo-screen a blue firefly, barely able, it seemed, to reach from my hand to the hollows of my face. It was an insular universe of timeless pushing forward.

The confining press of this insensate gullet ended at last, and I hazarded a match. Its flare filled my blinded eyes, but holding it away and cupping it caused the dark to retreat.

A candle. I had one in my hip pouch. The catch eluded me, and I fumbled after it one handed as the match burnt lower, lower, and out. I caught the clasp, just as blackness returned, and in the seamless pitch, groped out the soft waxy stub. Concentrating on that, I touched candle to match. Eager to share, the match-flame doubled. Its twin quickly grew to dance upon the wax. It held on to the thin wick as if it were afraid it would slip off and fly away. Satisfied, I pushed the stub forward as far away as I could.

Slowly, my eyes adjusted and by the fluttering glow and my surroundings slowly resolved. Virescent foliage defined a round open space, as if flattened against glass, a reverse terrarium of writhing brown stem and green leaf, tan branch and yellow creeper. A further black hole graced the far side of it. I was not alone here, for vines chained a thin form against it to my left. I stood nonplussed in pooling yellow light, considering the bald, emaciated form of a bound man. It was as if he was grown into the verge of it. He hung, oblivious to my presence. I approached, and reached out to touch him, finding heat and life within his white, papery skin. Eyes opened. They had an inward looking, reflective quality and focused only with effort upon me.

There was a folding knife in my pouch. I reached for it. "Let me cut you down."

"No. I am of all this, and at peace here. I am the point of the spear of creation, the culmination of all that has ever grown. You were sent to learn; do so."

"What is it you can tell me?" I asked.

"Everything about you, for you are the summation of all that comes before you. Your needs, the needs of life, your talents, desires, motives, all grown from the forces of nature, to forward its continuance. A history in carbon. A need to thrive."

At a loss, I introduced myself. "My name is John. Are you sure I can't cut you down?"

The wrinkled forehead further creased, his head shook. "Not even if you tried, and I wished it. There is no end of me to cut away. I extend back to the moment of creation, and before me there is nothing to cut."

"What am I to take away from this, then?"

"Give me your hand."

I reached out to his right fist, held flattened against the wall of greenery. It opened and a seed dropped onto my palm. The kernel sunk into me, infused me. I sensed the driven nature of life, and along the rooting threads of the seed, I followed its logic, feeling for the imperatives acting on me, the origins of will, love, hunger, pain. All that I had ever felt.

"Now you know. Leave."

I ponted to the ajacent hole. "Where does the other opening lead to?

"Nowhere of importance. You have what you sought; go."

Regardless, curiosity drove me to explore the further bower. I knew the origin now, of my need to quest, fulfilling life's dictum to seek ways to expand, to find new places to grow. Still, the urge was no less sharp.

I went forward, jealously protective of my scant and fragile flame, and the darkness enfolded me again. Once more the vine woven passage opened.

The wick capriciously bloomed, and light shot away in all directions, ending hard against a granite cliff, bounded by the same tangled thatch, but without a covering vault. Mica in the rocky sheer picked up the candlelight and set it dancing in reflective glitters, ending to merge at the top with the welkin above. It was as if ground and sky melded into one whole. The closed in feeling left me, soothed by the empyrean vault above.

There was something else here, A someone perhaps. In the reaching bloom of the candles light, a presence tied by an umbilicus to a thriving mound of green in the space's center. Feminine of form, golden winged, it fluttered and strove upwards, pulling and tugging at the strand connecting it to the mound. Lucent orange and green, shot through with a web of vermilion, it stretched finely crafted arms to the heavens, as if reaching to snatch at the impossible.

Noticing me, it turned, pleading. "Release me! Cut the cable that holds me! Let me go, on to the heavens I seek!"

I approached, astonished, pulling my knife out as I went. "How is it you are trapped here," I said.

The lithe form's wings trembled, slowed, it descended almost, to the mound top, one perfect foot a hair-breadth above it. Clearest eyes of green pleaded soulfully with me.

" By what? Almost, it seems, by my first thought. Aid me!" Again it shot up, until the chord tautened, arms once more straight above in yearning obeisance to the starred sky.

I grabbed the chord and brought the blade to it, then stopped. The chord pulsed in my hands, and examining it, I saw veins and arteries carrying life blood to the ethereal thing above.

"I don't think I should; it seems to be a part of you. You could die."

The delicate thing turned , and came to float above me. Her perfect hand reached down to my head. "Tell me why you have come."

I showed her the card.

She reached into her silvered hair and pulled forth a jewel. I could not determine it's type, but it scintillated like the stars themselves,and was as small as they seemed, a grain really.

"Perhaps this will help you to find a way to free me," She said.

I took the jewel, and it, like the seed, vanished into me. A sense of wonder, of future horizons filled me. A need to be more than I was. The essence of striving.

"Go, there is no more for you here – yet."

I left, returning to the riverbed of a road, having satisfied the curiosity that drove me to such quests.

A blush of dawn touched the east. I had not abandoned the two, for they, through their gifts, came with me, were within me. I felt the seed of those strong ties to my past, to the truth of my own biology and its purpose, and instilled with the jewel of need that made me to always reach for that which was beyond my grasp. I turned the card over and re-read it's quest line.

"Know Thyself"


About the author


Bio: So, I write largely science fiction and fantasy, and fantasy/humor. I do novels, short stories, Serial short stories, Novellas, all that. If all goes well, I expect to be posting a good deal of both here. What else can I say? I like walks in the rain and ice cream? I sketch, play blues harp, have been known to program for fun. Gamer? Yeah, I'm a slacker. Ran Plotters of Dreams for writers before it was virtually shut down save in title by Yahoo cuts in service, for ten years and counting. Ive moderated other groups, and obviously, writing is a passion. -Want to make peoples day, send them on vacation, make them chuckle occasionally.

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