More real than dream, arms out at each side, he flies above purple-shadowed valleys. Craggy cliffs reach skyward to seize fading daylight. He is filled with scents of orange blossoms and sage, the bouquet of wild verbena and pine, late-summer grasses and deep still lakes where creatures never close eyes to sleep.
On he flies into growing darkness as stars slowly fill the sky's great dome. Below, fewer than scattered stars above, isolated campfires twinkle. Occasional sounds of singing voices float upward. Strummed stringed instruments join aching tones from deep mellow flutes. Rhythms, heartbeats like distant thunder, blend with sounds of unseen lovers embracing secrets of the night.
On and on he flies in the now dark enormousness of long ago memory, an immensity made greater by his own frailty. He is sure he knows what waits below the shimmering stars and forgotten time, knows the sounds of voices and the questions they'll ask when he finally sits beside that unquenchable fire.
All sensation supports his journey as though the destination is written in eternity’s tome, story of the dream more than a dream, time past all time. It waits for him like a circling hawk high in the clouds awaits a rabbit running across an open field. Eyes closed or open he sees, feels the inescapable holding arms out for his embrace. He hears the song of life, dancing feet of children, laughter of adolescence and the quiet resignation of old people waiting.
He knows that village where no one lives. There will be no footprints in the ancient sand, no pebbles kicked by playing children, no smoke from kitchen fires or smells of food cooking, no calloused hands working the earth, no lingering passions of life.
The closer he comes, the greater the ringing silence. Below, dark earth rises to meet his descent. He knows he will have to walk barefoot to that fire in the dark, will feel cool sand between tender toes, will finally crouch and wait for the others.
They come out of darkness and sit crouched, listening to his presence, shadowed-faces lined with memories, flesh wrapped around bones like blankets to ward off cold. Their hands offer twigs to flickering flames as though lighting votive candles for those no longer in attendance and those who are yet to come. Like old parchment, not one silent face betrays feelings.
Yet he hears voices, though no one speaks. No lips move. Not one eye blinks as they watch the hungry flames. He hears their song of life, the sounds of birds and wild animals, hears glaciers move at the ends of the earth and lava gushing from the planet's heart. He hears tides rise and fall, hears storms and wildfires, hears trees growing and falling, hears sounds of people working with hands, hears sounds of mourning, and sounds of women giving birth.
He won't recognize his voice when he speaks, nor will he remember the answer to the question. He knows they wait for him to relinquish all ignorance and reclaim forgotten truth, yet he has no voice of his own, stolen from life like a raven steals a baby bird from its nest, hunger winning over compassion.
He hears dark sounds of countless wings overhead and feels more than sees the birds as they pass; their journey and its purpose set in the truth of all things. Heavens turn and galaxies spin in a space not understood. Enormous waves of despair expand, overcome every thing he thinks he knows, leave tears in his eyes and desperate loneliness holding hands with a silent heart.
No one speaks but he knows they understand and still wait. He is aware of time in a different way, knows it is passing like the dark flying birds. He knows he will watch it come for him like it comes for all, a dancer looking for its partner in that lovely all-alone dance.
When he looks at their faces they are watching his, not the fire; they see his life and every thought he has ever had. Tears in tired eyes, he stands and holds out his arms to the night and stars and sings a song he's never heard, yet knows it as though he has sung it forever. Voices join his in a choir. His heart is so full he feels he surely will die. The song grows in its own way, sung in every language yet understood by every ear.
Arms extended, he feels himself floating again, rising into the song and stars and the great shimmering dome. Below, others stand; hold their arms up toward him and the sky.
He feels the heat from the small fire on the soles of bare feet, its breath lifting him higher. He sees the dark birds again and hears their song. All things between earth and sky sing as he floats effortlessly higher; deserts, forests, mountains, streams and dark blue seas below. Free from want; despair falls from his form like unlocked chains. Joy greater than life fills that abandoned space. He remembers the song…and its reason.
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