I'm at Radiator Springs Racers (Anaheim, CA) w/ 9 others [pic]: http://t.co/lWRuVkSa
|Written by William Akin|
|Thursday, 23 February 2012 00:00|
He took to the mountains after she was gone but found nothing that could compare to her beauty, neither the beauty of her body nor the beauty of her essence. From Fujiyama, from Kilimanjaro, from Annapurna and Nanga Parbat, from Kangchenjunga and Qomolangma, he stared down across the world. He climbed through the days, camped through the nights, and spent the afternoons in fear of his own Brocken specter always following on some ridge below like the dark shadow of the past with its head crowned in glory. He grew cold and tired and found that nothing on earth came close.
Once she had asked him if Olympus was real and he assured her it was, though a guarded secret about which he could say little. She asked if Aphrodite was still there and he told her yes, she still sat upon her throne.
- Is she beautiful?
- One could certainly be justified in making that argument. Though not as beautiful as she once had been, I have heard.
- Not enough followers these days, one would guess.
- From what I understand, and this is all very hush-hush mind you, it has less to do with the number of worshippers than it does the zeal and reverence they employ in their rites, the lengths they will go to just for her.
She lit a cigarette and turned her head toward the side as she stared at him. She had been veiled in smoke, her gauzy and angelic and her every imperfection jest another facet of her perfection.
On Olympus, the alpinist found the found the Dodekatheon seated upon their gilded thrones, though the luster of the gold had faded and grown tarnished with time. The gods themselves had aged a bit as well, growing thin where once they were thick and thick where once they had been thin. Spider web-cracks crawled across the marble floor and the nectar was a poor vintage, the ambrosia gamey.
Aphrodite kissed him on the cheek, her hips against his and her breasts pushing into his chest but then turned away when his heartbeat failed to react as she desired. She returned to her throne and resumed brushing her hair.
Zeus could see the depth of the alpinist's discontent, could see that it was something beyond mere mortal mourning. The man told the god of his quest.
- You will have to forgive us. The deaths of mortals have grown of little notice to us, hardened as we are. I fear the gods hold as much sympathy for man as man holds reverence for the gods. You find nothing of beauty here in this heavenly realm, nothing in the world of men below, nothing to stir your heart again?
- There is plenty of beauty in both. It abounds and seems to be found almost everywhere one looks if one chooses to look with the right eyes. I'm not blinded to that fact but some things transcend others, do they not? Have you not seen such wonders yourself?
- Yes. Yes I have. Zeus glanced for a brief instant towards Aphrodite. Yes, I have seen such wonders and more still. I have seen that everything fades in time. Flowers wilt, memories soften, and even pain will someday die.
- Perhaps, but someday is too far from now and until that time arrives and passes I will continue to seek. Please, tell me where to go next. There must be something beyond this, some space that holds both my Earth and your Olympus, some canvas upon which our tableau is painted.
- Yes, I suppose there must be. Zeus stroked his beard in agreement, being the sort of god wise enough to doubt his own importance from time to time. What you need is a well mapped cosmology. I suggest something esoteric, perhaps Hindu or Buddhist. That really is their sort of thing.
The alpinist continued on beyond Olympus to the very edge, where the realms of the gods and the realms of men diminished into a single point in space. Mount Sumeru waited there, a silent stone sentry guarding the borderlands. After what felt like years, like centuries, of climbing he reached its summit. Below him was a vast ocean and his own world now but a tiny island, one of four situated around the base of the mountain in each of the cardinal directions. The islands were masses of universes and solar systems and planets, of people and animals and gods and ghosts, of heavens and hells, of wonders, treasures, and savagery. There were births and deaths and heroes and villains, flowers and shit and anger and fear. He bore witness to charity and compassion, to love and sex and a handful of miracles. But not a single thing matched her smile in the kindling light of a breaking dawn, not a single thing approached her face, blissful in half-dreams as she drowsed on their Egyptian linen sheets.
He fell to the ground and began to weep. A man approached and sat down in the pumice and dirt beside him. His weathered skin was stretched taut over a boney frame, his hair and beard untrimmed and wild. He smelled of sandalwood and nettles and his feet were bare but clean. An air of familiarity swirled around him or perhaps it was just the wind.
- Sometimes we don't look for anything and find the most perfect thing of all, the man said. Then other times we look for things that can never be found, no matter the extent of our duty and diligence.
- Perhaps, he said. I suppose I've looked everywhere.
- Everywhere? The old man grinned. This is not everywhere at all. It is just another place. One among many, but good enough a place to end a journey once the journey has ended.
- What do you mean by one among many? The old man pointed off in the distance towards a craggy peak the alpinist had not noticed before, though it dwarfed Sumeru. At the top of that mountain he found that Sumeru and its four worlds were but a single island among three others arranged in an order identical to the one he had departed. As below, so above.
He climbed mountain after mountain, up through countless worlds and realities nested within one another. Though each only differed from the last in the most miniscule of ways, he ascended through enough to see every imaginable possibility. He grew tired and hungry, filthy and desperate. On the edge of one alpine meadow he saw his reflection in a silver lake and didn't recognize himself, thinking for a moment that the ascetic from Sumeru had joined his company.
The alpinist reached the top of that treacherous peak, a thin spire of rock and ice and snow, to find the clouds above so solid and white that it appeared as if sheets of Egyptian linen had been tossed across the sky. They billowed in the air and began to fall, erasing everything and leaving the world pure and colorless.
He stumbled forward in white-blindness, his vision returning to reveal a soft pink landscape etched with small crevasses and long narrow canyons. The ground was warm and possessed of its own pulse, light and steady. The terrain gave way to tracts of square fields in shades of brown, interrupted by lines of pale yellow trees, the patchwork plaid of harvest. A flat expanse of gray, the color of charcoal ash, spread to the horizon.
The flatness increased in grade slowly at first but became steeper and steeper until he was climbing once again. Each step became broader than the last and each time he reached for a handhold he caught one farther away than he had anticipated, as if the distance to the summit was decreasing as he drew nearer. The slope leveled off at the top, ending in a round hill rather than another steep peak. The alpinist looked back down and realized that the distance had not been diminishing at all, but that his own size had been increasing.
- Hello, said the giant in a voice so small that it might have belonged to the alpinist. Sit down, rest a bit.
He sat on the giant's shoulder. The man was pale and thin, looking to be in the later years of middle age. The bald dome of his head was ringed with graying hair. He squinted through a loupe into the palm of his right hand. His face was furrowed in concentration, wrinkled so deeply that it occurred to the alpinist he had been this way for a very long time.
The object of his scrutiny was past the gray sleeve of his coat, just beyond the cuff of his flannel shirt, resting in his upturned hand. It reminded the alpinist of old schoolbook drawings of atoms, a brilliant sphere orbited by several smaller ones, leaving tracer trails of light in their wake.
- Is that?
- Everything? Yes, the giant said. It is everything, everytime, everywhere, and everyone.
- There are no more worlds? No more peaks to climb?
- No, this is as far as it goes. Top turtle as you might say.
- How long have you watched it like this?
- For as long as I can remember, but I'm an old man and my memory's not what it used to be. I suppose I have always held it and watched it. That seems to be all I've done.
- Well, it is quite remarkable.
- I guess so but... his small voice stifled and the ground shook a little as he sighed.
- But what?
- It just seems that lately, for a while now, it has grown a bit dimmer.
- I'm surprised you noticed, the alpinist called up, already beginning his descent.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 18 March 2012 10:07|