Cut Quill

Contentment Is

Climbing, climbing. The peaks stretch fog-loved into the land at the horizon. Never before have I seen only mountains — always the sight has been looking down on the world below them.

Unseen to me, perhaps, but not unknown, are the worm-tunnels numberless as a horde of gnats. Blind troglodytes, clawing with sinewy hands through the dripping dampness of fog seept through the cold rock. Somewhere deep, a splash — a pale, flesh-eyed fish snatched from icy water that has travelled so many miles down twist and turn to gather in a black pit finally for all eternity. Out of such eternity, it is strange that one can die. The little goblin-hands pluck and tear at the pale flesh, and ice-cold blood drips on hairless toes and smooth-worn floor.

Among the peaks again, startled from my carefully-listening reverie by a shriek. A grinning banshee leers at me over a crag immediately above. Another shriek, and the banshee showers me with snow and disappears.

I press on, peak to snow-wrapt peak, shrieks around me, and Cheshire-grins coming and fading about me. This horde, which needs no port from which to appear, or by which to avaunt, now harries my every step.

I slip, loose snow puckering me with cold. The jeers and shrieks of each wind-spirit physically beat me back. I force my way through biting frost and wail, and suddenly stumble, panting, on a dim, cool glade, far from any snow.

Dewdrops, like crystals in a spiderweb chandelier, send lancets of sun down to burrow among leafy shadows and half-decayed shadows of what once were leaves. A spider scuttles away from a spot of brightness to disappear under the mould.

I probe the thick, lifeless coat on the ground with my toes. The leaves give easily and come to pieces underfoot. Myriad things with myriad legs commmune with my welcoming feet, and I am content.

"contentment_is"