This story was started back in 1994. Apparently, I never finished it. And it stopped right where you started wanting some answers!
And, once again, I never remember having written this piece.
It’s thinkey and weird…and rather metaphysical…but I like where it ended up. I had to create the last half page or so of the story. That, in itself, I also found “metaphysical.” I mean, Future Me has come to help out Past Me (I wrote this post the same time I’d written up the guest post in that link) in finishing this story! I find this quite fascinating on a synchronistic and a writing level….
There is a Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and (of course) all kinds of hiking in Colorado and Utah (myself or a family member took the above photo in Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah; we we’ve been to Moab a couple of times mountain biking and sightseeing over the years). I’m sure Garden of the Gods inspired me to write this…at least its title…but I’m not sure I’d yet been to Moab when I’d first written this in 1994. Anyway, I think it’s a cool story and actually reminds me of another story I’d read long ago…but can no longer pinpoint. The elements of this story seem very familiar to me on “another level” that I can’t quite explain….
The last time we’d been to Moab mountain biking…I’d actually gotten lost on a trail. It wasn’t for very long, but it was not a good feeling—I’d never in my life been lost before or since. It was later in the day, and my wife and I were coming up on the end of the trail we’d been on (I believe it was Gemini Bridges…), and just up ahead was a short loopback that would have returned us back on the same trail in. My wife wanted to stop; said I should just go on up ahead and finish the trail. So I figured…stay on the trail up a short ways…follow the loop around the recessed destination—just five minutes. But as I looped back around, I found there were no signs. The trail was marked going in…but not so much going out…and I took a wrong “branch” of the “Y.”
Just five minutes.
Famous last words.
I even had a map. It was next-to-useless (it wasn’t a USGS topo map—I’ll never to do that again). The map did not match up with the terrain nor trail. So I biked around for
(just five minutes…)
about a half hour or so, before I was able to backtrack (and it was getting late in the day)…I had finally passed another biker who’d directed me back on the proper path.
Talk about your flying expletives.
And to make things worse?
My wife had gotten a flat tire…and I hadn’t been there for her.
Of course she’d wondered where the hell I’d been, can’t blame her there…but another had come by and helped her. I’d later passed the guy, who’d told me he’d helped her. I thanked him and told him what’d happened.
Just five minutes….
Anyway, I believe all this happened after having written the story…but, curiously, in my mind…it all feels linked….
This story has never been published.
Garden of the Gods
© 1994 F. P. Dorchak
The old man lay still. Near delusional. Had been that way since….
Eyes closed and still…heart…barely…beating…body…useless, withered.
He lay in the dark in a place desiccated from a dryness that sucked every last vestige of moisture from the air. His body. Even sound seemed decayed…hollow. The surrounding rock weighed heavily…the crevasse crushing…there barely enough room even for his deteriorated form.
How long ago had it been since he’d crawled in here?
Too long…no interest…remembering…mind…wandering….
The old man lay between life and death…his consciousness not firmly rooted in either. Yet his mind worked…carefully…slowly…trying to recall a singular event. Trying…desperately…to recall the time…when he’d unwittingly stumbled into
(a place of gods)
Never to be found again.
It had happened lifetimes ago when his body had still been strong and able.
His resolve granite.
Age hadn’t mattered then…he’d been young.
He’d been in the great southwest, lost during a hike into the rock and heat of the desert. Sunburned and thirsty, he’d foundered through a hidden ravine and come out the other side into a wonderland of white-and-red vertical rock. The sun was setting and cast monstrous shadows across their faces. Yucca and other scrub dotted the terrain; trees unknown to him reach up from the earth like ancient, arthritic fingers scraping at the sky.
He’d collapsed to the ground. Checked his water supply. Enough to wet his lips and that was it. Reluctantly, he sipped the last drops, was ready to toss the canteen away in anger at his own stupidity in getting lost when he’d heard it.
A rustling, grinding sound.
Holding onto the canteen, he got up. Searched the rock. The grinding stopped, replaced by a softer, gentler trickling…
The hiker got up and rushed across the scree, slipping more than once.
Food he could do without for now, but water he’d die without. He already felt himself growing ever more lethargic, stiff. Near nauseous—
The sound drew him unerringly to it source. Water he’d hoped was real and not the delusion of a dying mind. He’d scurried about a small outcropping of rock and came upon the
Cool, crisp, flowing water!
Out from the very pores of a red rock itself.
He’d dove at it…sucking it directly from the rock face…cupping his hands he splashed the precious fluid to his parched lips.
It’d initially hurt parting his lips so much, cracking open dried skin, but he brought the water up and swallowed greedily. A huge knot of the frigid fluid got caught midway down his throat and he coughed it out, grimacing in more pain. For something so life-giving and necessary, it was sure running him through the ringer….
It was now darker from the setting sun, and he’d finished cleaning his clothes and washing himself. Felt more like he should…hydrated, rested. Filled his canteen before going to sleep for the night.
He looked about him.
It was still warm, but not so unbearable as midday. He’d considered continuing…were it not for the weariness of his body. He didn’t think he could get very far in his present condition and deemed a night’s sleep more important.
After all, did he not now have all the water he would ever need?
Did he not now have shelter to weather the merciless sun?
The only thing he lacked…was food.
At one time all he needed was water, but now his stomach growled.
Collecting sticks for a fire, he pondered his next step…when a large hare jumped out before him. It sat on a rock not ten feet away.
The hiker carefully crouched and placed his sticks down before him…stared at the meaty beast. It stared back, motionless except for its twitching nose. The hiker searched the dirt around him for a stone.
He pitched the rock at the animal.
It hit the rabbit square in its head, propelling it over the side of the rock it had sat upon. The man got up, withdrawing his knife from its sheath. On the other side of rock he found it. One leg twitched but momentarily.
He fell upon it.
He’d stuffed the steaming pieces of cooked rabbit into his pack and looked out his cave. Early morning should have looked bright, but the day appeared dull, overcast. The heat of the day seemed subdued. Collecting the rest of his things, he’d thrown on his pack and given himself a once-over, checking his gear. Satisfied, he left the cave for the expected heat of the day…
But what he’d found sent shivers up his spine.
Instead of overcast skies and heat, he found it was still night…a full moon overhead.
He looked to his watch…but it was smashed.
Had he lost his mind?
Had he slept into the next night?
All these thoughts flooded him…but the end result was that he couldn’t possibly stay here forever…
Some kind of Fate had brought him here and here he must deal with it…at least until he could make his way back to the world he knew.
The facts were that it was cool, dark, and he had food and water—his canteens and pack full with both. He needed to return home.
Resolved to restart his homeward sojourn, he left the security of his cave for the uncertainty of the dark.
He climbed down the boulders and loose rock, down to the water that still flowed mightily from the very pores of the red rock. He looked back and up to his deserted shelter—somewhat surprised that he could no longer
Could he find it again…actually climb back up there just for paranoia’s sake?
But he’d already slept in it. Eaten there. Of course it was there.
Knock it off, he told himself. Of course it’s still there. It has to be—
Like the water. That came out from the rock.
He shot a glance towards the miniature geyser.
Yes. Still there. Stuck a hand into it.
You’ve just been out in the desert too long, that’s all.
He dropped his hand and turned away.
But in which direction should I go?
He looked from where he’d come…to where he was headed. There was plenty of light from the moon, but there was no—
He blinked. Rubbed his eyes. Moments ago he’d have sworn there was no path, but now…as if it had rolled itself out just for him…
(this is insane!)
It was there.
The hiker took two steps onto it as if testing it for solidity. Plenty solid. Plenty real. Plenty there.
There was an actual clearing of stone and brush—as if stone and brush had actually parted just for him—the earth packed down as if having been traveled before.
By whom? By what?
The hiker stepped onto the path.
Images of an old man filled his head. A man in pain…damaged.
A shudder ran through him. Made him dizzy.
This was not just…not just any old man—
A future him?
The old man lay still…eyes closed…heart…barely…beating…body useless…broken beyond repair. He lay in the dark in a place that looked remarkably
Like this one.
How long had he been there?
An accident…a horrendous fall. Crawled out of the ruthless, mid-day sun with broken legs into a tiny rock fissure.
Where no one would ever find him.
How long had he lain there?
Too long…alone…never to be found—
Yet the younger him had found him.
And the younger him desperately tried to recall how he’d gotten here…where he was now…had unwittingly stumbled into
A place of gods?
Never to be found again?
He was strong…capable. Fed and watered. He would make his way out.
And if he truly was tied to this man…this old man…if that old man really was him…he would take him with him.
Together they would both leave.
The young hiker couldn’t tell if it was all in his mind…or like the water, cave, and rabbit…but he looked down and saw a rough-hewn field stretcher…with a leather strap.
He wasted no time.
In his mind’s eye he carefully picked up the old him…and gently positioned him upon the stretcher. He grabbed the leather strap at the end of wooden handles and looped it up and over—around—his shoulders, lifting one end of the stretcher. Shifting his pack and gear…he stepped out onto the path.
Never once did he look back.
The rocks smiled.
- Clowns (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Bone Poem (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Etched in Stone (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Entombed…Resurrection…Unbound…. (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Saint Vincent (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Brains (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Ballad of fReD BeAn (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Spirit of Hope (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Fear (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Rainy Nights and Christmas Lights (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Ice Gods (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Tick, Tick, Tick, Tock (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Dark Was The Hour (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Coming of Light (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The World’s Greatest Writer (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Death of Me (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Tail Gunner (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Do The Dead Dream? (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Short Stories (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Voice (amazon.com)
- Psychic (amazon.com)
- ERO (amazon.com)
- The Uninvited (amazon.com)
- Sleepwalkers (bookstore.authorhouse.com)