The Hill and the Rock

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
The first story I have ever finished. A 4000 word soliloquy on confronting the challenges in life rather than hiding away within a life of mundanity. If you read the story please leave some feedback as I'd like to know what people think. Thanks

Submitted: May 29, 2017

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Submitted: May 29, 2017

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­­The Hill and the Rock

 

 

1

 

Looking around Tusor could see no reason not to step out into the road but his effort to cross lasted two steps before he was parried aside by a horde of other pedestrians. By the time he’d stopped pinballing around the curb and retrieved his bearings the near constant stream of faster, perpendicular traffic had resumed. The next chance he had to cross he stiffened his body and with arms held wide bravely forayed in front of a group of small but positively bouncing children. He reached the other side of the road and carried on his journey to work at a reasonable speed. Upon arriving at work Tusor emptied his belongings into his locker, hung his coat on his peg, and sat down in his seat. He would be working from this seat all day, sorting and sending letters of varying importance. He would be provided with an hour for lunch, which he would almost never take. He would stay an hour after it was time to leave, everybody would, and leave through the same he had entered. Today, like most days, he planned to stop at the public house on his way home and spend half of whatever he found in his pocket.

 

As Tusor came to the same crossroad he struggled to cross this morning, he noticed how still it seemed, far from the cacophonous scene of roaring machinery that he’d been a part of earlier in the day. He stepped out into the road, braced for an explosion of activity but nothing responded. When he reached the center of the road something small came flying towards him, and knocked his shoulder. It hit the ground rather lightly and had not hurt him though had been travelling at quite a pace. As he bent down to pick the missile up he surveyed the from which is had seemingly been launched, but was met with total silence. Soft in his hand, he realized it was a crumpled up piece of paper. Unfolding it and smoothing out the creases between his hands, he could see it was a page from a book, page 1 in fact. Still standing in the road he read it aloud,

 

“Chapter 1 - An investigation of ornamental behaviours

 

It can be said and it can be seen, that one’s boat can be paddled down many a stream. The calculating and industrious pick streams that run straight, but time-saving won’t spare you from our singular fate. For we all end together in the sea of despair, or delight, or distinction, whichever’s your flair. So take time to meander for whom knows what you’ll find, in the nooks and the crannies, all we need is a sign.”

 

The rest of the page seemed almost purposefully incomprehensible, with words that could have made sentences if only they had been in a different order. He folded the paper in two, putting it in his jacket pocket, and finished crossing the road peering down the path once again. He felt a light twinge of curiosity, or was it apprehension, and stepping off the road continued his course to get a drink.

 

 

 

2

 

Tusor’s days carried on as usual for the next few weeks, as is the way in these tales, until a day that he found himself once again at the crossroad with perculiar happenings causing him to break his march. Traffic had stopped and all vehicles were tentatively waiting at the crossroads, drivers sat with blank faces, seemingly unwilling to venture down the path. It had turned quite dark, the sun was being blocked by something but rather than casting a shadow it seemed to have filtered out every last beam of light, so that Tusor felt a strong urge to look away and continue with this day. Suddenly an old breath of wind blasted down the path spitting out dirt, dust and several white and airy tumbling rocks. Everyone else took no notice apart from to brace against the wind but Tusor was aware that the objects that looked like rocks were pieces of paper. As one rolled past he picked it up, again flattened it and read,

 

“Page 27, Chapter 4 – Discerning the contours of reality”

 

With others around him Tusor choose not to read the extract aloud, nonetheless he examined it, intrigued. It continued in much the same vane as the first passage; a riddle followed by some text that must either be heavily coded or utter nonsense. He retrieved the first extract that had survived in his jacket pocket and upon comparison was quite sure they must be from the same book. Tusor admitted to himself that his attention and interest had been held and pledged to investigate. But not today.

 

The following day, after restless sleep and an early rise, Tusor once again reached the path. It remained shadowed from the sun but the shade was not quite so dense and it was now possible to discern what had caste the blanket of darkness that had interrupted the habitual behaviours of so many on the previous day. At the end of the path was a great hill, no mountain but certainly a mound of some prominence. Although expected at work imminently, Tusor pivoted ninety degrees and began to stroll in the direction of the tor. Although in shade the path was not cold and although alone he felt little worry. As time passed the buildings on either side melted away and with it any noises of distraction or disruption. It does not take long in these circumstances to arrive at your destination and within an unknown amount of time he had arrived at its base.

 

He paused, surveying the hill. It was climbable, nothing surpassing the hills he had conquered before. He began his ascent, bringing his left leg forward and confidently placing it on the ground. He lifted his right to complete his first stride when a great tug was felt at his chest. The surprise brought him to the ground, dropped onto his rump. He went to rub his chest in order to stimulate some sympathy and found a simple but fitted harness between his hand and his chest. It extended over his shoulders and came round his ribcage. As he returned to his feet he heard a clink from behind him and swiveling his neck could see that the back of the harness led to a thick metal chain and the chain led to a giant rock. He swiveled round so that he could grab the chain and tugged it; he was firmly attached to the rock.

 

 

 

3

 

With both hands tight on the chain and his feet gripping the ground he used the sum of his weight and his strength to get the rock moving. Though the initial jolt took all his might, once the rock was rolling it was an easier task, grueling nonetheless, but the rock was just spherical enough to feel a little momentum could be sustained. He rolled the rock around for a short stretch and stood still until the chain had some slack, then charged up the hill backwards, chain in hand, with the great stone following. Tusor lurched past where he had initially fell and achieved a dozen extra paces before the inertia of the rubbly ground against the rock caused his abrupt stop. He found his body weight was enough to anchor the stone as long as the pitch of the stone wasn’t too awkward, but once it had stopped, no amount of energy exerted would get them both moving again. He registered an initial defeat and allowed the rock to gently return to the base of the hill, eventually sitting beside it to regain his gust. When back in fine fettle Tusor responded with his second charge. It ended much the same way as the first attempt, except this time he was unable to anchor the stone, so without settling, it rolled back down the hill, dragging him with it and tossing him around so that when he came to a stop both his body and his ego were somewhat bruised. It was not long before he tried again but after several more assaults on the hill Tusor’s body told him it was time to head home. However long he had been there the sun seemed to have stayed pinned in place, no sign of its usual track across the sky. Remarkably the weather had also not declared a thing, neither wind, nor rain, nor interruption of any sort.

 

The return home was lighter than expected, it still took strain and attention but, after fighting the hill all day, felt duly manageable. On approach to the crossroads and the sites Tusor knew from daily life, he was met by something familiar and something new. The usual burr of noise, business, and busy-ness flicked and flapped at his ears but his eyes saw something quite different. The first person to barge past him was a bent-two old lady carting a battered trolley with uneven wheels that caused it to rattle as it went along. But this was not the only antique she carried. She was dragging a rock, possibly only half the size of Tusor’s. As the rock scraped over the path past where he was standing, Tusor reached out his hand and felt the rock as it passed by. It was coarser than his own and had tiny perforations in its surface like a dried out sponge. The old lady glanced round at him but more to question his stillness than his attention. He lifted his head and adjusted his focus to take in all that was around him. It was the usual scene of people and postures, but each was now burdened physically. Stones of every size and shape were being dragged, rolled and slid across his view. People had not slowed but were maintaining their pace whether asserting a frantic or languid existence. It felt like an old house in need of dusting: you live alongside the dust quite naturally, it’s not till the day you get out your feather duster and go looking for it that you notice it is everywhere. He strolled down the street, taking in this alteration. The rocks were not new to these people. Most people pushed on unaware but the occasional person could be seen grappling with their chain giving it a tug to aid with their load. He managed to travel the remainder of the journey home, rock in tow and wrestled his way up his stairs to pass out in his chambers.

 

 

 

4

 

Tusor awoke to a singular mission. He must climb that hill. A slumbering vision of the summit had enticed him, fastened his obsessions to a single goal. He would return to the hill and resume the battle.

 

The second day was again a defeat, and the third. He restlessly devoted his time to escalating the success of each attempt and with fortitude returned day on day to determine new methods of approach. Each time he passed through the town he watched as his neighbours carried on as ever before, undistracted by their freight. Even upon questioning or attempts to force them to confront their inconvenient companions Tusor was never sure if they were being willingly ignorant or if people genuinely couldn’t perceive the ever-present weight that was their burden. The only difference he had picked out from between his initial visit to the hill and now was a visible strain showing just in the corners of their mouths. It gave every smile received over these days a sheen of insincerity, though the sentiment of each frown was compounded.

 

With persistence and countless trials Tusor was able to locate certain key targets to aim for and break up his ascent. About a third of the way up on one side there was a slight softening of the slope. This allowed for a break and the opportunity to draw some fresh momentum. On the other side, around half way up there was a knobbled nook that could support the weight of the rock so that Tusor did not have to use himself as support and could appease his pounding heart and demanding lungs, but from there it was once again near impossible to advance much further. He could now, each attempt, snake almost two-thirds of the way to his target. He felt like a spider being teased by a mischievous fly, who would dart tantaslisingly close to his web but was too smart to be caught out and devoured. Painstakingly he would descend, lowering the ever-heavy rock slowly to avoid a painful tumble that would only mock his failure further.

 

It was a fresh day, though Tusor’s body told a different story. He was broken and bruised so that at a glance you might think he’d come from a walk across a playground were the children had been given bags of beetroots and tomatoes and told to treat them like snowballs. He reached the base of the hill and for the first time, through lack of energy, was forced to begin his day seated, though he would like to maintain there was no dwindle in his spirit. He rested his eyes and inhaled a deep and harmonious lungful of air. Exhaling through his nose till his lungs sat flat on his stomach he felt a few pebbles tumble at his feet. He opened his eyes and saw the tiny stones resting in a small foot-shaped indentation in the earth. He looked at his own feet which had been covered by much larger, heavy boots throughout the course of his time at the hill and looked back at the pebbles. The indent led to another and slowly erecting his gaze he could see that the hill was covered in these light compressions of the grass and ground. He sent his eyes along the different trails which one by one meandered up the hill but each were extinguished before reaching the summit. There were dozens of these paths valiantly fighting the same battle that Tusor had been fighting. His spirit shone, he was no longer alone. He had seen no others at the hill during his time here but just to know others had laboured with the same hope invigorated him. He stood up and stepping forward noticed his foot fall into the groove of where another had stood before. He followed its path and stride and saw that unlike the other paths this one went straight. It went straight and remained straight, until the crest of the hill where who could determine where it might stray.

 

Tusor turned around and walked away from the hill. He walked until he met the crossroads and then continued to walk on further. He did not notice the people stop to look at him, several even hollering his name or shouting that he was in their way. When he had walked far enough he swiveled on his feet and lifting each in turn unclothed it so that both were bare. He began to march, march along the path. Although he was not moving fast he walked lightly, with purpose and control. He reached the hill and began the rigid ascent. The familiar weight of the stone bore down on him. His back began to ache and every part of him wobbled like a structure under immense tension.

 

Nothing seemed easier than the decision to go on.

 

He continued his climb. Each foot followed its counterpart, step after step, wanting to ensure a worthy contribution. He stretched and strained, stealing for every inch that could be added to his onward movement. The searing struggle caused his eyes to burn white with pain. When he stumbled his arms pawed at the earth for any additional purchase and he kept on moving. He pushed. He pulled. He staggered. He collapsed, folding himself into a heap. He peered around with an eye along the ground, the flat ground, and absorbed the sight of sun and sky in all directions. The white pain departed and left a golden, glistening fountain flooding over his chest.

 

He stood at the summit for only a few seconds gazing around eagerly when the pull on his chest suggested he might need to pay attention. Looking round he could see his rock, and his chain, moving over the crest of the hill. He tugged at the chain and screwed his feet into the floor but it was too late. The wheel was turning. Flinging Tusor onto his front the rock began to roll down the far side of the hill, gathering pace and brutality with each rotation. Limbs flailing and body bouncing there was little he could do as the rock followed through with unquestioned servitude to the demands of its gravitational master. His body was at the will of the chain and, as the chain snaked, his body waved into the air and then slapped increasingly ferociously back into the ground so that a loud crack could be heard and felt on each oscillation. Through one of these impacts Tusor must have been dropped onto his head as the pain and turmoil suddenly ceased.

 

 

 

5

 

Coming to, his eyes were startled by the omnipotence of the sun. Every speck of the sky and the earth was alight, not with a dazzling heat but a flickering glow. His vision felt more profound and precise than ever before. There no longer seemed any degradation in his sight relating to how far away an object was situated. One of which was his rock. He looked at his chest to see a ripped and tangled mess of chain and harness. Where it was most severely damaged just in from his left shoulder blade he managed to get a hand either side of the tear and ripped the remaining fibres so that he was finally free from his attachment. He walked over to his rock which had clearly carried on for quite a distance without him and standing beside it he gave it a familial tap. Upon his touch it collapsed into half a dozen segments and almost let out a breath of fatigue and surrender. Tusor saw nothing but perceived an energy being released into the air that serenaded his soul as it diffused out into its surroundings.

 

The air was heavy, not choking and stuffy but as comforting as it was encompassing. The ground was largely flat, with occasional trees all bearing fruit to proudly declare their health and vibrancy. Tusor was suddenly aware of other people. Dotted around there were small groups sitting in circles with a slow flow of people standing up and leaving their group to head for another. They walked peculiarly; they walked like children. They started with a clear heading for a certain group but most were drawn into distraction within a few paces. Some were squatting low, inspecting some flower on the ground. Others skipped along or threw themselves on the floor to roll in a blanket of grass. As he approached a group, half of its members looked up softly, gazing straight into his eyes. The other half, though continuing with their conversations gave a welcome that was not necessary to declare but came from their bodies and tone.

 

“Where are your rocks?” Tusor asked.

 

They replied with a simple smile that had no sign of strain in its corners and said “Where is yours?”

 

Tusor took a seat and listened to their conversation. They talked about the weather and the seasons, the fruit of the trees and the fruits of their families. They talked with majesty and a resounding calm. With no need felt to say goodbye Tusor got back onto his feet and walked towards the hill. He brushed past a few other groups and each time was met with warm acknowledgement and welcome. As he reached the hill, walking up its slope was this time more of an entertainment than a struggle. Standing free at its peak he first gazed down at the side from which he had just come. It was not a large area of land and the landscape was interrupted by no more than the people, the trees and its flowers. He turned calmly to take in the land amongst which he had lived for so many years. It was vast. The sun did not have the same omnipotence here. There were huge areas covered in darkness and more still that only saw streams of light. Tusor was not shocked by this, nor its size, but by its variety. The earth undulated as it turned from fortress to fields. Obscene man-made obelisks were dwarfed by great trees and there were bodies of water in which you could sink whole towns. The whole picture vibrated with the activity of both man and nature. With little insistence needed he began to walk effortlessly down the mound that had soaked up endless sweat and blood from his body in its conquest.

 

 

 

6

 

Coming into town, sounds add in one by one to a metallic and earthy noise that begins to build. Never has there seemed such symphonic order to the natural cacophony of human business. People are walking with their usual firm footedness, eager to travel one stride faster than their co-inhabitants. Tusor can hear a roaring laugh from a bar across the street at the same time as a man carting great jugs of water sploshes past him spilling the contents at an untenable rate. He hears an orchestral whistle of birds all caged out the front of the shop to his left. There is a man pasting huge colourful posters advertising a festival of music and wine that will shortly be taking place in a neighbouring village. These people all carry on, so passionately, even with their rocks as their carriage. As Tusor walks past the bar across the street he sees the group of men from which the laughter was erupting. There are five or six men all jabbering at the same time so that from the outside the conversation seems quite incoherent. One man stands out as he stands different to the others though he has the same beer-laden flagon in his hand and is just as enthusiastically a part of the conversation. This man has no harness, no attachment, but the freedom to laugh with his whole lungs, no restrictions or restraints. Tusor looks round into the street and can see that, though infrequent, with a careful eye he can pick out the occasional passerby who silently declares the same freedom. They stand different, they stand upright. They walk lightly, with purpose and control. He notices one of them, a lady walking with a friend, a friend who still drags their rock. The lady has a careless hand on her friend’s chain and helps them drag their burden. The stone slides that bit easier and the friend seemingly unknowing of the assistance walks slightly freer than most and pays the lady back with chirpy conversation and a slight glow of unconscious understanding. Tusor sees a man he knows, an old baker, stretching as far as he can to put some bread out for display. He hops over to help. He gives the man’s chain a tug and the rock moves a few feet closer. With no restraint now Tusor and the man put the bread out together, they turn to each other and each deliver a smile that is reflected back to them. Tusor takes in the beautiful smell of the freshly baked bread and exhales his last ever worry.

 


© Copyright 2017 Sebastian Glove. All rights reserved.

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