Monday, February 07, 2011
The Earth was whispering loudly during the night.
It wasn’t animals moving. Not the crunch of feet or the scurry of rodents in the pine needles. Ulrich never appreciated how many unseen things move in the forest at night, but this sound was very different than those. As he curled in his survival bag and begged for sleep, his ear pressed into the ground. It wasn’t much, that imperfect contact, but it gave him a thin, direct line through soil and clay and rock formations, through never seen veins of minerals to the faraway boil of magma below.
The sounds were restless, making him restless. The cold made it worse. Bitter cold despite the Alaskan summer. It sounded random, but it was not. As he peeled back the layers in his mind, he caught a complexity deep within. Some kind of process was underway. A pulsing rumble flowed from the east. A snapping chattered in the west. The ground right underneath him was mostly silent. But once in a while, it shrieked. Like tears rending open under impossible pressure.
He sifted through the bottom of his pack for some breakfast after the long darkness. A branch snapped behind him.
Ulrich whirled, fearing another bear, even a cub. He couldn’t spare to lose any more of his ravaged supplies.
Instead, he saw a man who looked oddly similar to himself. A certain newness clung to his clothes despite the terrible onslaught of the wilderness.
He didn’t look like the bush pilot who left him to begin this journey. That man was worn and tested. Assembled piece by beaten piece. This man standing under the hemlocks still seem soft and vulnerable. But his eyes rippled a chill through Ulrich. Without any reason to think it, Ulrich heard the rumbles in the east when he stared in the man’s right eye. The left eye reminded him of the snapping in the west. In the middle, the blankness of the man’s face did not seem natural. At any moment, Ulrich expected hear the shriek.
(Another selection from Earthtide, my novel in progress.)