I found myself on a long road covered over with trees whose leaves were lizards and its branches serpents. The road was covered in dark black stones that were actually darkling beetles and I winced at the crunch of their shells under my steps. It seemed as if they had been placed on the path just so I could have the privilege of walking over them. This was something very personal to me and a special sacrificial treat of thousands of lives, because no one seemed to have walked this path before. I knew this, because nothing was dead except for what I left behind me.
It seemed like all the living creatures in the world had convened in a special council to prepare this strange pleasure of death for me. The trees writhed and the path shuffled and clicked, but all did the best they could to give the presentation of lifelessness, a set for the scene I am about to describe. It is only that all these things had it in their nature to make some movement or sign of their life, but their wills fought brutally against this for me!
There was one thing about this set that did not make any motion, or any sign of life. The limbs were serpents, but they were held up by motionless hands and those motionless hands were attached to still arms and those still arms to humans all standing there looking at me, tree-like. I would have said thank you, but there was something noble about their silence and the clicking of the creepers attempting to hide their gifts of instinct and nature behind their selfless wills.
And the people—their nobility was not in the discipline of standing silently, but in participating with the rest of the creepers!
And it is here that I must tell you about what this path led to. A square, tall block of stone, the kind you might find in a lazy sculptor’s studio. But there was an oddity about the stone that suggested a work of art: a mouth, skin-colored, peaking through about the same height as my own. To this mouth I directed my hello.
Hello, it said in sorrow.
What are you? And are you the one who made all these animals strain like this?
What? Oh, no! I got trapped in here.
Well, I was tirelessly working on a book, hoping that by my words I might incant a body of armor around myself. What enclosed me, instead, was this stone block!
I see. And how is it that you can hear me, if it is only your mouth that is uncovered?
Oh, well it did not so much enclose me as it became the vessel for my life. I perform all my bodily functions within this stone and through this mouth. I do speaking very well.
Poor soul, I said.
Oh. Yes, well I am quite safe in here, I assure you. I suppose in a way it has become my armor!
But you can’t see the path I’m talking about? The one right in front of you? And can you walk?
Of course I can—just very slowly. My steps are infinitesimal. I am walking now. Like I said, I do all my bodily functions through this block, just not well. Speaking I do very well.
Describe me, please.
You’re dark, much like the path.
I said in my mind, that strikes me as proverbial.
Was it always that way?
What? Oh, no! I stumbled upon this path long ago: it’s what inspired me to write the book of incantation.
What on earth possessed you to summon armor?
Why, sir! Because something so strange, so alive and yet still—such a participation of living creatures—at any moment they could have turned on me with such a precision, I would have fallen before I had gotten to the end of this path.
What is at the end of the path?
The end, what is it?
Hell if I know, but for you it’s me. As you can see, I am proverbially “blocking your path”. You will not go beyond me. And, and the creatures might attack you.
And what about the humans playing trees?
Even they don’t know what they’re doing here. After years of observation, I’ve figured out the only reason they are here is to kill time and feel like they are doing something with their lives. They take breaks, you know, for urinating and concupiscence and lunch—I imagine. But the switch-out is seamless and silent.
Oh, I know it is. What is also brilliant is that you are on this path to fulfill a necessary role.
What is that?
What? Oh, why the seeker of course! The one who comes and marvels—and I am the one you must choose to become or not to become. What you need to figure out is what instincts of desire you have that might get you to the exact situation I sought to avoid. That was my fate, I admit.
Because I came here to wander. And now I no longer wander. I am only still and imperceptive. And I fill this place with speech, the place I admired for the nobility of its silence and the simplicity of the truths it teaches. The hero is the one who looks for an answer.
At this point, the speech stopped and I heard gentle sobbing and it was then that I caught glimpse of the hidden eyes within the stone.
And I cannot these days helps you, even though to speak is my curse.