This story is by D. J. Dalton and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I never tire of watching the miracle of Sun setting. Every evening I sit on this sandy ledge in awe of her majesty. I’ve lost track of how many years I’ve been here, I stopped counting after one hundred. My heart swells watching the crimson wisps of clouds bath the sky in a warm embrace. The last beams of golden light wave goodbye to the forest below.
“Unbelievable.” I tremble, aware of the cooling air as Sun makes her dramatic decent.
Darkness overtakes the land. Moon is not here tonight, leaving the world shrouded in a suffocating ebony blanket. I ache, wishing I could hide from the invisible creatures making buzzing and skittering sounds around me. Staying quiet, I pray for them to cease, to give me at least one night’s peace. Dew drips down my side, dampening the ground. Chilly winds howl over the ledge.
I’m sucked down the whirlpool of hopelessness that clambers to overwhelm me. Darkness’s wicked tendrils pollute my thoughts. Tomorrow, Sun should burn so hot I burst and end my existence; but she will forsake me, cursing me to eternity here on this ledge.
Another frigid gust has me wishing for my previous life wedged into a cramped space, surrounded by hundreds of others holding Cahking Volcano tall and exalted. Cahking, the all-knowing and all-powerful. How I now long to go back in time, to endure the tight squeeze that fastened me into place. I didn’t worry about the chilly night air or the creepy noises of unknown creatures. Flowing lava caressed me, cradling me in her warm embrace. I heard stories about Sun, wind, and trees from Outsiders. Never imagining those stories were true. There was only holding my ground, serving Cahking.
I was stupid and lazy, believing I gave my full strength to Cahking, ensuring his stability, securing my place. My now obviously insufficient efforts displeased him instead. He spit me out along with hundreds of others just like me, worthless trash. The others went down the mountain together, while I landed on this ledge.
I have no purpose here. The others could have helped me, nudged me closer to the edge so I could go with them. But no, they were selfish. If one of the others came back up the mountain, I would not speak to them. They abandoned me, and I will not forgive them. This is so unfair. Perhaps I’ll vibrate until I disintegrate into dust. The others will be sorry then. They’ll be sorry they left me here alone.
The black air squeezes me, causing horrendous pressure. Clinging to consciousness, I claw my way out of the abyss. I need to relax. Finally, I’m able to eschew the ruthless force. The oppression of Darkness leaks away. Focusing on keeping myself calm, I wait for Sun.
Bright morning beams peek over Cahking. Sun is coming. Chirping birds replace the frightening noises of Darkness. A damp smell mingled with earth floats on the wind to the ledge.
Behind me, Outsiders hold fast to their noble, supreme mission of supporting Cahking. Their backs are littered with bushes and trees. I’ve often thought how excruciating it must be to have these parasites clinging to you. All Outsiders ignore me, refusing to talk. I’ve begged and pleaded with them to share a conversation. I’ll talk about anything, or they can just talk, and I’ll listen. Anything that would kill this silent agony. But Cahking rejected me, and they won’t disgrace themselves by acknowledging my existence.
Wait, I hear a flapping sound. It’s a bird, and he’s flying this way. “Yes, yes, this way bird. There’s so much I want to talk to you about.”
Ouch, your talons are sharp. “What do you see when you fly over the forest below?” I’m tingling all over, waiting to hear. The bird swishes its tail feathers. “Wait no, yuck, disgusting.” A warm drip oozes down my side. The bird takes off. “No, I’m not mad, it’s fine.” I yell after them. “Please stay and talk.” Their elegant wings swoop them over the ledge. I watch the ledge, willing the bird to reappear. The bird just needs a wing stretch, that’s all. They’ll be back.
Sun is directly overhead. She’s strong today. I’ve given up on the bird, disgusting, ungrateful creature. The wind plays with the dry sand. What day is this? I lose track. My mass sinks into the sand. I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong, but I’m sorry. Cahking punishes me on this ledge. The ground shudders. Did Cahking hear me? The ground shakes enough to rock me in place. Cahking heard me. He’s helping me off the ledge. I paid my penance. Imagine rolling down the hill, finding the others. We’ll talk and share stories. I’ll join their purpose. A roar came from the mountain.
Pebbles rained down on me. “Hi, wait, stop.”
“I need your help off this ledge.” The shaking is disorienting. Everything will be fine. I must focus.
The pebbles bounce off me, fall all around me, but none stay. “Have to keep rolling.” They shout back at me. Pebbles have always been rude. I’m better off without them.
Now larger rocks tumble down. These must be wiser and will help a stranger in need. “Hello, stop and help me off this ledge.”
Without even a pause, they shout back. “Cahking sends us to the bottom, no time to dally.”
“It will only take a moment.” One bounces off me, making a nasty indent. What can I say to persuade them? “I forgive the others at the bottom.”
The rumbling slows, and the rock slide slows with it. I beg and implore any of them to help as the last few trickle by.
“We’re busy. We have places to go.” They shout to me, mocking me for being stuck here on this ledge.
My heart aches. Hundreds roll by, but no one is helping.
I hear a crunching sound, then a crash. A tree falls next to me. His branches tickle my side. I start, then stay still. Am I now destined to have a parasite invade my skin? Haven’t I suffered enough? Not wanting to provoke the tree, I pretend he’s not there. Just look the other way.
After enough time passed, and my nerves calm, I focus on the tree. He has made no move to invade my being. Maybe he wants to stay. I get my nerve up.
Birds singing in the distance break the silence.
I talk louder. “Hello, Tree.”
Tree lays there, saying nothing.
Tree must not understand what I’m saying. Such a dilemma. I finally have a companion to share the ledge and we don’t speak the same language. How does this help me Cahking? You taunt me. I should crush this tree under my significant weight.
Thunder booms in the distance. My insolence provokes Cahking’s anger. He sent me Tree to keep me company, and I am ungrateful for the gift.
I tingle all over. Looking at Tree, I melt inside. How could I have threatened my new-found friend’s life? “I’m sorry, Tree. I didn’t mean it.” Maybe I deserve to be alone on this ledge with my murderous thoughts.
Tree stays close. His leaves make a clicking noise as the wind dances through.
Water trickles from the sky. My heart lightens, feeling the bird dropping wash away. Life is getting better. Tree and I will figure out how to talk to one another. We’ll take care of each other, be best friends. The rain’s intensity increases. Sheets pound down, obscuring my vision. I feel Tree’s branches scratch my side. “It’s OK Tree, don’t be afraid.” Tree rolls so his branches no longer touch me. I hear a scraping sound and a sudden pop. Tree slips down a few feet. The rain continues to pound down around us. “Hang on Tree.” But he doesn’t. A mud sled whisks him away down the mountain.
I’m numb, unable to process what just happened. The rain lightens to a drizzle. Glancing at the crevice next to me, I wish Tree were still there. We had only moments together. I should have told him to lean on me, let my bulk keep him from sliding away. Why couldn’t I have gone with him? This pain will never end. My destiny, as ordained by Cahking, is to remain alone on this ledge for all eternity.
Sun’s late afternoon fingers dry the last of the water remaining on my skin. Her caress is gentle. I see the clouds blushing, preparing for Sun’s departure. She is magnificent. I watch in awe as she departs.