Say Your Prayers

I was exhausted. I’d travelled for many days since waking on the white mountain, alone and unknown, always moving towards the dark mountain at the far end of the valley, with the red star pulsing above it.

My tiredness was overwhelming; it could no longer be ignored. I made a moss pillow and lay on a bed of leaves beside the black river flashing silver. At first the river seemed too rough and too loud, but later seemed soothing, its endless flow creating an image stream.

I saw the white and dark mountains, people chasing me from the village, cows and horses, a broken bridge, salmon and trout. What was the cause of my compulsion to get to the far end of the valley, the other side?

The river holds life force, flowing away from its source, the dark mountain. Or is it flowing towards its true source – the sea – or the one before that – the sky? The truth was that it had no source. It was its own source. I rested in mine – the land of nourishing dreams.

I awoke to the sound of loud splashing. Had the river got rougher? Was my horse dancing or drowning in it?

I saw that there was no horse, and the river hadn’t got rougher. A large black bear was smashing the water and pulling out salmon. He’d mastered the art, shown by the pile of a dozen fish thrown casually behind him, some still moving.

All that way, I thought, through oceans, lakes and rivers, obeying your genetic destiny, only to be ripped from life here so close to your goal. It was tough being a human but it was tougher being a salmon. We’d definitely evolved in the right direction – towards self-direction and ease.

The bear turned towards me. Oh shit.

He rose upon his rear legs, raised his claws, and roared. I’ve never had trouble with bears; I know the rules. Black bears see people as competition. If you can’t avoid them you must challenge, and if necessary fight them. Grizzlies see people only as an annoyance – defer to them and they’ll leave you alone. And polar bears – who see people as fast food in wasteland – well, you should say your prayers.

The black bear was fishing and this was no time to challenge him, so I slipped away into the forest. My quiet entry started a white-tail deer. It had furry antlers, and was likely a buck under five years. It jumped ahead as if leading the way.

But then it stopped in a clearing, turned around, and charged towards me. It was rutting and I was sweating. I couldn’t outrun it. I imagined that I too had antlers, and ran towards the deer at full speed. As I braced for a collision I ran into fresh air. The deer had disappeared.

In the distance I saw the dark mountain. The red star pulsing above it seemed like life’s heart. Mine was beating fast.

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