“Out on the roads the pilgrims sank down and fell over and died and the bleak and shrouded earth went trundling past the sun and returned again as trackless and as unremarked as the path of any nameless sisterworld in the ancient dark beyond.” – Cormac McCarthy
Another day had ended. The fire smoldered like the sunset. He sat under a tree and cooked a fish over the hot embers. Its pale snakelike body was covered in spines sharp as needles. He listened to the many different calls of birds being absorbed by the soft ground. There were chirps. There were hoots. There was the involved singing of a small black bird in the canopies above.
The fish’s skin had begun to crack, and juices dripped onto the embers and spread a luscious scent. He removed the fish from the heat and pulled out the spines. Then he attempted to take it off the stick but burned his fingers and sucked them. He leaned back against the tree and ate the still skewered fish while listening to the sounds of dusk.
Then there was a light in the sky that outshone the fire and the moon. A great light that lit the horizon like a second sunset descended into the mires. He got onto his feet in a futile attempt to see better. It kept growing in size and intensity until everything was bathed in light as if the dawn had arrived before night. The radiance was hot against his skin. There was a humming noise that made the water ripple. An enormous cloud of steam filled the air as the light came in contact with the water. It shone through the droplets like a colossal luminescent specter.
A wave went over the mires. The peat bulged into hills before breaking into millions of pieces. He held on to the tree as water surged over the island and washed away all that he had built. Peat overflowed the ground, toppled over the trees in its onslaught, scraped the island bare to the bedrock. He managed to climb on top of a plot of peat and rode it with the flow.
When all became still, he got up and set off over the puzzle of shattered peat. His eyes jutted between the light and the ground as he jumped, ran, fell and got up again. The light grew in intensity as he came closer. It burned his face like a giant fire upon the water. Sweat ran down into his eyes. He could barely see. Then the light seemed to diminish. It became dimmer and colder before disappearing under the water’s boiling surface.
The peat was cleared into a lake so big he could not see the other shore. There were lights deep down under. He continued toward the lake by jumping from one spot of peat to another. His feet and legs went through the ground and into the cold water beneath. He clung to the thin edge of peat that held him in a wet embrace. It broke into pieces as he attempted to pull himself on top.
Then he felt them. First, they nibbled. Then they bit. The creatures of the dark waters were drawn to the commotion and congregated around his legs. They ate off him as he tried to climb out of the hole. He kicked and thrashed with his legs helplessly. The surface around the plot of peat boiled as the beings fought over his flesh. Black and bristled eyeless eels breached out of the water in their fight over his legs. He kept trying to crawl atop the peat but made a wake in front of himself as it shattered. The eels ate him alive as the water turned red with blood.
He clawed himself to where the ground was thicker and pulled himself onto land. His gnawed legs followed limply out of the water. They were bloodied and chunks of flesh missing. His left big toe was gone entirely. He watched the lights fade until the water’s surface became still and reflected the moon’s image.
As if it all was interwoven, there was another flash, and the sky burned on the water. Another burning sign. A light like a falling star came down in the north where the black mountain had been. Now it was gone. He did not sleep that night but dreamed as he watched the burning trail of the light’s trajectory fade. As soon as his injuries had healed, he began his journey toward the direction of the fallen star.
It took him moons before there was solid ground under his feet. He had not eaten anything substantial since he left his home. Only the fruit and berries he passed by on his journey and the occasional carcass. Nor did he search for running water but quenched his thirst in puddles or crevices or squeezed the water out of wet moss. He went northward as his surroundings changed from misty marshlands into tundra and ice. He pushed beyond the barriers that for so many years had kept him away from the black mountain that no longer was.
The creaking of the soft white snow under his feet turned into sharp black glass crunching. An ocean of smooth obsidian covered the ground and shattered under his every step. From horizon to horizon stretched a desolate landscape where no animal nor plant could live. All drenched in half-light by a sun never disappearing. Followed by the pale moon, it circled the edge of the frozen world but never dipped behind it.
A rumble vibrated through the air and he turned around and saw the darkness rising. He ran, but the dust and shadows soon caught up. A rushing wall of howling winds charged him and carried with it shards of obsidian. The first stray bit of glass cut his arm. The next, larger piece, made a deep laceration in his scalp that exposed the skull. Blood ran down his forehead and into the eyes before the ever-increasing winds swept the droplets away. More shards came toward him. They cut into his flesh and bone. Bit by bit he was separated from himself. The storm of shards cut him into a billion pieces scattered over the Obsidian Fields.