settlement

Aug 12 2013

the road had been made a long time ago and although it had been made well it really had been a long time since then. the road was in such poor condition that an attempt to repair it would have been futile. it was all completely broken up into small pieces, and what was really needed was an entirely new road. but there was nobody to make a new road, and so any travellers had to take the old one.

although they knew of no other road, they would have tried to take some other way if they had known just what this road was like before setting out. or they would never have set out at all. most of them did give up and turn back, but for their own different reasons, never talked much after that about how bad the road really was, and so other prospective travellers never got to know.

when the travellers came down into the long long valley that the main part of the road ran through, they started to get some idea. they had expected green things beside the road, but there were no green things, just solid dust. there had once been some houses, but all the houses were destroyed now, and the materials that they had been made of were just rubbish scattered around. the heat hammered down on their heads and beat their bodies flat onto the road. they crawled, but with the feeling they were grovelling. they discovered that the smashed up pieces of road were not gentle blunt stones, but sharp edged like broken glass, and pierced wounds in their flesh.

the road went on for so long. from the elevated mountain pass that opened into the valley, it hadnt seemed so long. it had seemed as though the end of it could be seen very clearly, there in the distance where the far mountains waited. but it had been a sort of illusion. the road stretched on and on forever. they entered a state of distorted consciousness, made up of hopelessness and hard work and the torment of the cruel road. it seemed that the road was not only the worst thing in their existence, but the only thing in their existence, and to leave it would mean becoming lost forever. they couldnt see anything in any direction but long mountain ranges that were too tall to climb and the road stretching on and on. they always stayed on the road, they never left it. it always seemed that the only choices were onward, or backward.

when John came to this part of his journey, he was no longer crawling, but wriggling. when he realised he was wriggling, he stopped trying to move forward, and started writhing. if he hed had any more energy than he did his limbs would have been flailing. although he did not know it, he had come half of the way through the valley. to him, the way ahead looked so long that it seemed as though he had come only a quarter, while he believed that he should have come at least three quarters by that time. it was further than many had come, but he did not know this; he only knew that he could not go on any further. but it did not seem to him that he could stand to turn back either, and he knew that he would die there on that stretch of road with no food or water. and then anyone who came this way after would stumble over his dried out remains, and they would probably become discouraged enough that they would die there too.

since it didnt matter anymore whether he stayed on his way or not, he summoned the will to roll off the road and under a piece of iron sheeting. it was more comfortable here, and in the shade of the sheet of metal he revived enough to cry. he hadnt intended to cry, it had happened spontaneously. he was ashamed of this reflex, and attempted to stop crying, but the muscular mechanism involved seemed to be out of his control, or to have nothing to do with the tears that were pouring from his eyes. he blinked and squeezed them out, and they dropped off his face. the pure human mineral of his tears opened a crack in the earth, and a fresh spring bubbled out.

John drank from the spring, but it didnt strengthen him enough to continue his journey. he felt that he had failed in reaching that destination, and the journey was over now. but he could stand and walk again, and he could scavenge rubbish from the flattened dwellings around, with which he assembled a shack. some dried out sticks attached to dried out old roots were actually edible, and with the water from the spring, they grew into real plants again.

when other travellers came to the entrance of the valley, they could see far ahead and half of the way along the road, the little shack that John had built. they knew they could make it there if they tried hard enough, so that far fewer of them turned back. when they got there they could drink and eat and talk with John, and they could face the rest of their journey. sometimes one of them would decide not to go on ahead, but to stay. at first the shack that John had built became a much larger dwelling, and then other small shacks made from scavenged materials sprang up around, so that a small settlement grew in that dry wasteland. not yet, but one day, it would rain.

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