An Eyeless Gaze
They were expecting him, it seemed, as the mists became haunted by bright and lustrous rainbows as soon as the falls came into view.
The waterfall crag was monstrously tall, towering before him like a monolith constructed in reverence for an old god whose followers had long since perished. The splash pool was murky from silt tossed up by the crashing waters. The boulder which split the twin falls bore down on Albey with an eyeless gaze, one which seemed to challenge. He would climb the wall of rock, then – the Mad Poet had no choice, it seemed – and sit atop that crowning boulder and gaze out across his woodland isle. He would see the tops of the burnwood trees and he would see his cabin and he would see the endless wood which stretched out all around it, and then he would close his eyes.
And then he would listen.
Without thinking, Albey stepped down off the bank and braced himself to fall bodily into the splash pool and drench himself in its frigid waters, but drench himself he did not. His foot sank just a hair above the ankles then stopped, caught by soft sand. The splash pool was deep on either side, that much was without question, but in the middle there seemed to be a bridge, a passage hidden from plain sight so only those who sought it out could find it. Albey stepped down with his other foot and walked across the pool to the shadow at the foot of the crag, then craned his neck to stare up at its crown.
It was not quite as steep as it appeared from the other side of the river. In fact, it appeared to slant back as it rose, the boulder up top sticking out like a fallen lakeside log whose roots had not yet let go, a sort of board from which one may dive into the welcoming waters below. It was the boulder’s shadow in which Albey stood – high noon had come and gone, but the sun was still high in the sky. The reprieve from its heat was cool and refreshing like the water around his feet.
The mist dampened his clothes and the rocks were slick with moisture, but still Albey tried to climb. First his hands reached, then his hands pulled, then his feet pushed. Slowly he made his way up the slippery crag before grabbing what presented as a handhold but was only a slight bulge in the rock, relieving him of his grip as he began to pull. The rocky crag was suddenly moving before him, and he did not want to land on the shallow bridge; Albey kicked off the crag, throwing his weight to the left, and crashed into the splash pool below. The torrent hammered him as he tried to surface, so he swam until his outreached hands bumped against the back side of the pool, then filled his burning lungs with air. He made it further up the rock than he thought he was going to, and that was more than enough to convince him to try again.
And so Albey the Mad Poet did try to climb the crag again, he tried and he tried and he tried, falling to the pool again and again with each successive attempt until finally he found his path. At long last his hands, covered in scrapes and shallow bruises, gripped the boulder sitting atop the crag. He hoisted himself onto the rock and rolled over to face the sky, his clothing soaked and heavy, his hair stuck to his face and neck, his eyes closed and his mouth open wide, gasping for breath. And he laughed. Albey the Mad Poet laughed and laughed and laughed in the fashion of a ‘man who thought he had nothing to lose only to be stripped of his sanity a moment later.
Before gazing out at his riverbound island, Albey rolled onto his stomach and lifted his chest off the rock. An idea occurred to him that he might continue on from here, the cabin in the clearing be damned, but then it left when he saw what he saw. It was a massive spring, a gigantic pool of glimmering water which caught the blue of the sky and amplified it to depths azure Albey never before conceived. Many rivers fed this spring, and the cliff upon which it sat expanded out to the horizon before his very eyes.
“There’s a whole other world up here,” he whispered beneath his breath before turning to gaze upon his land. The only words which came then were, “By the divine…”
The cabin, and the clearing in which it sat, and the burnwoods which surrounded it on all sides, were surely an island down below, yet from atop the twin waterfalls they were but a blade of grass in an expansive meadow without a treeline in sight. The burnwoods were an anomaly, it seemed, existing only in a small patch that looked like a whirlpool the way it sank in towards the tiny sliver of gray which was the cabin’s stone chimney. Outside the burnwood trees there was the forest Albey came to know and love over his many strates spent wandering – syrupy maples, sturdy steelwoods, oaks both black and white, little groves of cherry trees with leaves pinker than the sky at sunset, ghostwoods with their branches bare, as ghostwoods grow no leaves (they’re said to live off the souls of those who die in their forest, do it please ya) and many others with which Albey was less familiar – racing endlessly towards a blue horizon it will never reach, the very horizon it defines.
An old saying came to Albey then, a piece of wisdom he picked up at the very tavern in which he met Ram’rl. One of the servers, a beautiful woman of braided brunette hair with a bosom she flaunted proudly, tried to stop him from brawling with the infamous drunk. “Nature does not rush,” the dame told him wisely, “yet everything is accomplished,” and when he asked her what that had to do with the fight, she told him he had lovely, young eyes, and it would be a shame for them to permanently close so early in his Life. They laughed about it, the three of them, after the brawl was over. Albey almost asked her to come with him and Ram’rl when they were preparing to leave the tavern, but something deep within told him not to. A creature like her could not be tamed, to try was a fool’s gamble, and Albey was no fool. He was not yet Mad, but even back then he knew he was not a fool.
Perhaps there was something Albey must do, a next task which must be completed, but he knew not what it was. And that was okay; it would reveal itself when the time was right. Until then, he decided as he crossed his legs beneath him and rested the backs of his hands upon his knees, he would close his eyes, he would breathe, and the endless wood would speak to him.
And Albey the Mad Poet would listen.
This has been the fifth subchapter of the second chapter of The Face of Fear, a novel about bigfoot written by the writer in Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~