512 Words

And the Rain Fell Harder

M. Stanley Bubien

"Truth!" I called at the peak---and to the Mystic who lived there---but even I barely heard it over the storm.

Heaving a sigh, I pulled myself upward to the next ledge. As I dragged my chest onto the landing, I slipped. My body slid backward, toward the precipice, and I flailed for a handhold. Suddenly, my hand slapped into a crevice. I made a fist, catching inside the crag's lip, and gaining me the leverage to halt my fall and yank myself safely onto the ledge.

I glanced below, but everything beyond arm's-length swirled from sight, washed away by the pouring rain. Scowling into the abyss, I growled defiantly, "Truth!"

Reaching into the clouds, dragging myself higher, every new foothold, each crevice brought me closer to that truth, but at the same time, deeper into the tempest.

The wind howled around---a voice crying "turn back"---and sent gusts so powerful, they were arms pounding anyone who refused to heed its cry.

Still, I climbed.

When the wind proved futile, the second assault came, and as the icy chunks froze to my cheeks, I knew---the storm had launched hailstones against me.

Still, I climbed.

But the storm remained relentless while my steps grew wearier, my hand and footholds less sure, my breath more ragged.

Still... Still... Still...

I could climb no more. My body slumped against the wall of rock. But that word returned. It took form about me, surrounding me, filling me, giving me a final spark.

"Truth," I gasped, and groped upward.

Past an overhang, the cliff-face fell away, replaced by a flat expanse rolling out to a flickering light. With the last of my strength, I dragged myself up and twisted onto my back. The storm continued hounding me, but I didn't fight---I didn't have to---for I had reached the peak.

"Not the best of nights for travel," a gravelly voice stated over me.

Pushing myself slowly upright, I was confronted by the Mystic's swaying form, and I squinted to make out his features. There was the hair, blowing about, the beard wagging from side to side, greyer than the surrounding night, and a posture slumped by years of contemplation.

"Truth," I mumbled, then, louder, "truth, I've come for truth."

He gave no answer, but it seemed as though his swaying stopped to weigh the words from this crumpled form at his feet.

Grasping his cloak, I cried, "Truth! You have it! Tell me! Please! I beg you!"

He bent toward me. I felt hot breath across my face, upon my cheek, brushing my ear, and there he whispered what I'd come so far to hear.

"The truth is," he said. "I don't know."

My eyes widened, I slumped back onto the ground with a splash, and made fists in the mud. I would have screamed if I had the strength---but not because he lied. No. I wanted to scream because he gave me exactly what I asked for. He'd given me the truth.

Thunder cracked and the rain fell harder.

Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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February, 1997
Issue #10

512 Words