The Explorer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Is it the riddle or the answer?

Submitted: October 29, 2010

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Submitted: October 29, 2010

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Vague shapes, blurred outlines, consciousness comes slowly.

It’s difficult to bring reality back in line, once you’ve stepped out of time.

My eyes start to focus, and I become aware of my body, once again. The first thing I do is assess my environment, as would an experienced explorer.

I find that I’m sitting on the ground, leaning back against a large, smooth rock. I see the sun low on the horizon, and note that it’s just before sunset. The stone is releasing the warmth it’s been absorbing from the sun all day, into my back. The heat soothes my tired aching muscles. One of my shoes is broken, my pants are torn, and as I lift my hands, I see that the pain comes from many cuts and scrapes. Oh, Maker. This was a test that I was barely able to complete. The never-ending decisions, the constant hidden clues. The uncountable blind alleys, leading to retraced steps, each taking me ever closer to complete exhaustion.

Yet, I have never before felt so alive!

I gingerly draw a deep breath around bruised ribs, and look across a small draw in the hillside. My gaze moves over the sky to one of the most glorious sunsets I’ve ever seen. As the sun touches the horizon, the clouds are set afire with shades of oranges and reds, all set on a background of deep blue. Then I notice that I’m not the only one enjoying nature in all her glory.

The jackal sits gazing at the sunset, unmoving, deep in concentration. The scene has inspired her thoughts. A poem, perhaps, or maybe a tale of some far-away place, is taking shape in her mind. Abruptly she drops her gaze and stands, as if filing the thoughts away to be replaced by other responsibilities.

She turns and circles around behind the base of a large tree, across the draw from me. She sits, and after staring at me for a moment, looks up into the tree to watch a lizard slowly climb down to eye level, which also happens to be staring at me.

They both regard me for a moment, and feeling as if something is required of me, I whisper, “Thank you.” After a beat, I hear the jackal’s voice in my head, “For what do you thank us?”

“For the opportunity of the riddle,” I reply, wondering why she asks.

“But the secret had been revealed,” she said. “There was no prize at the end of the riddle. All your labor was in vain.”

Well, yes, I thought…but no, that’s wrong. That’s not the way it feels. I looked down, searching my heart for the answer, all the while feeling their stare, waiting…for something.

When I look up, I tell them, “What you say is not true. The riddle is the prize.”

The lizard and the jackal look to each other and appear to come to an agreement. They turn their eyes back to me, and I hear the lizard in my mind, “Congratulations, ‘explorer’, you have just taken your first step to solving the riddle." Without another word, the lizard hops on the jackal’s head, and they turn and walk away.

As the dusk deepens into night, I watch them go and can’t help but smile. They know I’ll follow them, and I’ll happily go. For they have been to D’ni.


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