Monday, May 30, 2022

Chapter 32: Trees and Rocks and What Holds them Together


Chapter 32:

Trees and Rocks and What Holds them Together

If the Agua Fria Trail wanted to head directly into the Snowdrop Peak Mountain Range, it could have done it in 20 steep miles, but it had it's heart set on its singular, overall direction and so chose to angle slowly out of the deep woods in a slow merge with the formidable mountains. This set me on a weeklong gradual climb through a changing landscape. As the trees thinned and found breathing room, the Goldenflower Tree giants became even bigger, a quality accentuated from them rising to the very feet of clouds from an elevated position upslope of me. I was often looking up to where the trees even began, and from there it was many hundreds of feet perfectly straight up before they were finished.

At first it seemed as if I was running into Charlotte almost by accident at opportune moments along the side of the trail, but as I acclimated to her it became clear that we were indeed traveling together. I almost never saw her hiking the trail, but around lunch time, or at an important juncture, she was always set up, knitting or cooking, or simply waiting. We camped together every night, she keeping to her hammock and I to my tent. We slowly even shared meals though I did not like to watch her eat. She would sometimes provide fresh fish that I had no idea how she got. I often roasted them on sticks over the fire, a skill she taught me and that I slowly improved at. I provided her with salami. In contrast to Oliver she hadn't the slightest interest in Gorp, but took to my quantities of salami with a disturbing relish. I was glad to provide this meat from my collection as my long and close association with it was straining my relationship to it.

She never stopped being discomfiting, but she did gradually seem less alien to me. She was just so steady and thoughtful. She was far more forthcoming than Oliver, though even still if there was something she couldn't, wouldn't discuss she would simply fall silent for a bit and then say "Hmmm?" or "What was that dear?"

"What is it like being a god?" I asked her once while she was knitting and very slowly snacking on a chunk of salami (somehow at once?).

"Ah." She smiled. "What is it like being you?"

I thought for a bit. "Inevitable?" I said. "Nerve-wracking? Seemingly full of nearly implacable laws?"

She peered at me with her eyes. "There are just two" I insisted to myself.

"You see how hard it is to say." She said. "I am all the spiders within a hundred miles, maybe a thousand. The closer they are the more I am them. And I am you. Both you, and who you imagine me to be. I am something older. And I am myself, just like you."

"Do you have special powers though, like magic?"

"I can see the truth. It is a power you have too, when you dare."

"But can you travel in time, or see the future? Can you disappear."

There is a long, long pause. I think she has decided not to answer and is lost in her knitting.

And then she says "Yes."

With Oliver I had so many questions and he wouldn't answer them.

With Charlotte she would answer my questions, but I didn't know what they were.

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