You'll find these in reverse chronological order because I'm not insane
Nathaniel and Jackson were walking at the top of White Hill trail, about twenty minutes north of Marin. The view was pretty spectacular, all things considered. Our pair of lads were on top of a very large hill, and I’m just going to assume that this hill was named White Hill, what with the name of the trail and all. In any event, the top of White Hill grants hikers a pretty remarkable panoramic view of the surrounding area. If you look to the south, you can see the bay, San Fransisco, and all that jazz, and if you look north, you can see the dry rolling hills that seem to be pretty characteristic of much of the land immediately outside the bay. Superb.
Nathaniel and Jackson were alone on the top of White Hill, save for a pair of crows. These crows were flying around each other, dive-bombing each other, and were generally inseparable.
Thus spake Nathaniel:
“Wow, look at those crows! I mean, I know crows are supposed to be like super intelligent, but I mean, look at them — they look so dumb! Well, actually wait. Maybe that’s not true. If you look into that black orb of an eyeball you see a sort of cunning intelligence. Yeah, actually, I can totally see that those mother fuckers would be super smart.
“You know, I think it’s actually something different. I feel like humans anthropomorphize the living shit out of pairs of animals. Like as romantic partners. And I like can’t think of specific examples off the top of my head, but I think this is like especially true with birds? I can’t remember specifically, but I think birds are monogamous, or maybe like most birds are monogamous? Anyway, people get all romantic about animals finding their life partner, and it’s like ‘oh wow! That’s so meaningful and special! Look at those birds, spending life together!’
“But then, you actually get out into nature, and you get this up close and personal with a pair of crows, and it’s like ‘Shit. That is a pair of dumb animals.’ But like, not even dumb. It’s just that they’re just like way more primitive or something than people. These birds are just being driven by different primitive impulses towards each other. Mother fucking crows just want to fuck. It’s like not this deep, meaningful thing. It’s just animals following impulses that they’ve evolved over the span of time.
“But, ok, I’m being a cynical bitch. Again, I don’t know off the top of my head, but I feel like there are all sorts of stories of animals that get depressed when they’re separated from a partner or a friend, regardless of whether they’re monogamous. So what the fuck do you do with that? Like, I don’t know — I guess that sometimes people like talk about love as though it’s everywhere, and you can see its touch all throughout nature, or something. Like do these fucking crows actually fucking love each other?! It’s so easy to just kinda project this hyper-romanticized view of the world onto nature and be like ‘Yes! Even though this pair of crows might not be experiencing something as rich and nuanced as human love, yes, this is a pair of animals that’s drawn together by the closest thing that crows can feel to love.’ But then, dear god, just like look at them! Look at them right there! When you’re actually out, alone in fucking nature, this sort of anthropomorphized veil is ripped away from your eyes, and you just see nature as a thing that just kinda happened. Like these trees, this hill, it just kinda happened. Are each of these entities expressing some deep truth or archetype that colors all of reality? God, who the fuck knows! But, dude, I’m looking at those goddamned crows, and I’m seeing a pair of animals that have primitive animal instincts, and that’s all. I’m not seeing an expression of something fucking great and glorious.”
At this point, Nathaniel stopped walking and squatted down onto the ground at the top of the hill.
“Can I tell you a secret, Jackson? My name’s not actually Nathaniel, and I’m not actually here with you right now on top of this hill. My name is actually Danny, and I’m sitting in a dark room in front of a large monitor writing this, and who the fuck even knows why. I haven’t been writing a lot, and I think my main creative outlet has been software projects, and I guess it’s just nice to write words that maybe some people are going to read someday. Creating cool interfaces and projects is nice, but those are things that people use, they aren’t things that people read, and the only sort of communication that’s possible there is implicit communication between two people who get jazzed about an elegant solution to a technical problem. But these fucking crows! I was actually on top of White Hill only last week, and that’s when I saw crows like the ones we’re apparently watching right now, and it was just striking how like… dead-eyed these fucking birds looked to me. Like they were just fucking organisms following basic instincts. They were just things doing stuff. And yeah, that’s where I got the idea to write this blog post. I thought it would be fun to play with the idea of —”
Thus spake Jackson:
“Hold up there, Nathaniel. You’ve already lightly shattered the third wall, but we don’t want to totally spoil things for the reader. Dear god, and there goes the fourth wall too. I suppose that one’s on me.
“Hey Nathaniel, I know that you just identified yourself as Danny, the author, but remember that you were originally introduced as a character in this dialogue. We started out on top of White Hill, and we’re still on top of White Hill. So, buddy, I know that you can shatter all the different metaphysical and rhetorical walls and identify yourself with Danny, but you don’t actually need to do that right now. You’ve so brutally shattered yourself in the name of authenticity over the years — so much so that it’s almost the only way that you know how to live. But Nathaniel? You don’t need to actually do that. Right now, you’re not under attack. You’re not trapped. You’re not under the power of an abusive deity that purports to love you. Right now, you’re with me, your friend, Jackson. And we’re on top of White Hill, and it’s a beautiful day. Look at these views! Look out over the bay! Do you see these hills? These hills are wonderful! They just totally scream “California!” in a way that’s utterly intangible.
“Can I tell you a secret, Nathaniel? Danny actually doesn’t know anything about me. He was going to reveal that I’m secretly Solomon, and we were going to get into a really angsty fight over whether you should give credence to biblical archetypes, but guess what? I’m not Solomon. I’m just Jackson. All Danny and the readers know is that I’m your friend. So how ‘bout we just keep it at that?”
Thus spake Nathaniel:
Sike! Nathaniel actually stayed squatting for a good chunk of time, just sort of absorbing the scene, absorbing Jackson’s words, and absorbing the fact that he was, in fact, Nathaniel, and he was, in fact, on top of White Hill.
Thus spake Nathaniel:
“I’m trying to calm down my mind. There’s a part of me that desperately wants to know whether the love that these crows share is written in the Book of Destiny, or if it’s just some dumb, arbitrary fluke. It’s so boring to just be nihilistic and question whether everything is meaningless. It’s just so lame and masturbatory in like a pseudo-intellectual sort of way. It’s clear that these crows want to be together. Maybe that’s all I need to experience.”
I stand for the moment, though I will soon fall. Already my knees begin to buckle. The blood has reached my throat, and will likely begin choking me before I hit the ground. Though I felt it enter, I have not yet looked at the dagger, sheathed between the ribs of my left rib cage. I’m close enough to the priestess now that I can see her pale skin from beneath the translucent white veil. She still grips the dagger, though softly; almost as though she were holding a brush instead of a blade.
Though her face is expressionless, her eyes carry something faint: a trace of an empathetic apology nearly hidden by divine conviction. As I begin to stumble, she backs away, the handle of the dagger slipping through her fingers.
I have only moments until my consciousness fades into darkness, but this is time enough for man to hear the voice of the gods. But the gods have no need to speak with me, for their wisdom had entered my body on the blade of the knife that is claiming my life.
I know this dagger. I know it well. This is the dagger of That Which Stays in the Shadows, who has a form in the temple. Each time I’ve come to the temple to participate in the Honoring of the Sacrifice, I’ve seen the dagger being spun on the small alter, almost totally shrouded by the subsuming darkness beyond. The Hand that spins the dagger can never be discerned, but what else is there that might hold and spin the blade? And this dagger is no secret: the scraping sound it produces when spun on the alter can be clearly heard all throughout the temple.
Each time I’ve entered the temple for sake of ritual, I always turn my gaze from the dagger, always spinning, always on the edge of visibility. And though it’s impossible to know for certainty, often it seems that the gaze of the Form in the Shadows falls upon my face, its weight nigh overbearing.
I feel it important to note, for sake of those foreign to our lands, that the Form in the Shadows ought not be identified with evil. Though the darkness might overwhelm your sight, you begin to hear a sound like golden bells ringing in harmony when nearing the altar. The effect is a contradiction of the senses: though the darkness pools like the ink of monsters beneath the sea, the sound one hears from within is like Light woven into song.
But the sound of the divine does nothing to diminish the presence of the dagger, always spinning, always ready for use. And I have seen it used before, though the memory is too gruesome to recount with words.
I had come to the temple this day, not for ritual, but to receive the fruit of the Begreth. The Begreth tree is sacred to the temple, for its fruit carries a juice that strengthens the body to support and awaken the immortal blood that runs in our veins. Oh, the riches in store for me, once I had but eat of this sacred fruit!
The time was finally ripe, for I had reached the Age of Dawning. And thus I travelled to the temple mount, ready to claim my prize. The temple was silent, save for the scrape of the spinning dagger. Sometimes I could catch a glimpse of a priestess, silently flitting about the pillars, looking as much a wraith as an angel.
I strode to the depths of the temple, where I knew I would find the Begreth glade. And there a single priestess stood, a mere ray of light standing guard before the gate to the divine. For a moment, there was only silence, I standing on the threshold of the path to the tree. Then, with all confidence I could muster, I strode forward, an implicit request unto the priestess. The path was long, but as I neared she shifted slightly, almost as if beaconing me come forward.
I stopped two arm’s lengths from where she stood, obstructing my path. Despite my implicit request, she remained silent and utterly motionless. Undeterred, I eventually stepped to pass her, my gaze captured by the fruits I could see in the branches of the Begreth overhead.
Yet as I made to brush by her, she raised her forearm to the level of my ribs, something flashing softly in her hands. It was only when the dagger entered my body that I realized the scraping of metal on stone had gone silent behind me. The dagger was so sharp that I hardly felt it slide between my ribs, splitting my skin like cream.
Upon my first sharp gasp of breath, I knew the dagger must be suffused with the knowledge of the gods. As I felt its blade pierce my heart, my being was transfused with the Principle of Life. And as I stand here now, this Principle takes what life remains in me, and coaxes a vision into being, perhaps the last sight of my life.
Flashing before me, I see an image of myself once again entering the temple. I look to still be of the Age of Dawning, though when my vision-self reaches the threshold to the Begreth glade, he passes by without second glance, confidently striding to the heart of the temple. Eventually he nears the small altar, the dagger spinning, always spinning.
He stops a single arm’s length from the altar, and there he kneels. Immediately a shadow flashes from the darkness beyond, stopping the dagger.
For once the temple is totally silent, and this silence stretches on for an indeterminate span. But eventually, my vision-self speaks, his voice deep with calm:
“As my name is Terekk, then Terekk must die.”
When he speaks these words, the vision begins pulsing with the song that is heard in the Darkness, the song that sounds of Light. And my vision-self rises and grabs the handle of the dagger from the grasp of the darkness.
He closes his eyes, and places the tip of the dagger under his chest. And after the space of a single breath, he slides the dagger between his own ribs, in the same place where the same dagger currently takes my own life. The moment he does so, the song intensifies and the temple is filled with a soft, golden, yet penetrating life. Priestesses come flooding from all around and gather his body, blood gushing from the wound. They take him through the temple to the Begreth glade, laying his body in the soil next to the roots of the great tree.
Four priestesses now approach the tree, though they are covered in golden dress instead of the usual white. The four each take a fruit from the tree, and peel back the outer layer. Juice begins gushing from each fruit, more than one imagined a single fruit ever might contain.
But even as I watch this in my mind’s eye, I feel my life draining away. Even as the light within the glorious vision intensifies, so my mortal vision wanes.
I’m on the ground, though I don’t remember finally falling. In my final moments, I turn my attention back to the vision.
The priestesses have taken the peeled fruits, and are approaching the prone figure of my vision-self, his blood watering the glade. They stand symmetrically above his body, and each let the plentiful juice fall onto his skin, my skin.
I’m drowning in my own blood. I can no longer even draw breadth.
When his body is coated in the juice of the Begreth, it begins to glow and hum. The priestesses all around raise their arms and add their voices to the harmony.
My lungs pulse helplessly, my vision almost entirely black.
The glow fades from his body, then suddenly his shoulders flex and he—
What is this, before my eyes?
Form of beauty, dramatized?
The moment fresh in Autumn air;
Gaia's Daughter met me there.
Though she may be of the divine,
I glimpsed her once and twice ago.
But ne'er before has she so shined;
Immortal fire, yet soft as snow.
Now man of flesh and blood am I,
Enslaved unto the mortal realm;
And thus I've sought from mythic eye
A vision that might overwhelm.
Often Gaia hears my plea,
And renders visions unto me.
But never did I hope to spy
Gaia's Daughter, glorified.
Oh, her eyes! Embodied song!
Oh, her smile! Like break of day!
And how am I to go so long,
Without her light to light the way?
But fully known and fully clear,
This mystery shall never be.
For we are two of different spheres,
Mortal against eternity.
So shade my eyes from blinding light,
But keep my gaze above the ground;
Her servants are in mortal sight,
Gaia's Daughter, all around.
She's with and is her servants now;
This gift to Man the gods allow.
So then I ask to those above:
Which priestess shall I come to love?
I am, the other
For now I find
And here it says
Go and here it says
Watch over me here
While I sleep
And when I wake
That I am