Battle At Parrhesia: A Short Story On Self-Discovery
The effortless grace of shifting sand, swept along like silk by unseen hands in a dance across the dune. The darkness stretching out across the desert, met so timely by the setting sun drenched with crimson pride, boasting a performance well done before a silent audience. What makes its way here by the light of day is suddenly halted in this moment, no point on the compass made wise. It is a welcome predicament, for what makes its way by night the well-seasoned journeyman dare not avoid. This scalded flap of existence fast becomes another’s domain, one with severe prejudice against the blind.
I am here a prisoner from free will, obedient to a force compelling me for a year thirty count or more. The endless stretch of time before my boots weighted this sand beneath them, a hellish nightmare robbed me of a dream. The terror which pounced me, not a twince of subtlety or relent, awaited my furthest mile of sleep, where the body is lame to escape and where cries for help cannot broach the lips.
Indeed, a sojourn weaved entirely upon the thread of an unkindly thought, the most torturous of its kind, supplanting my own benevolence and courting a sense of horror that lay concealed from my gaze and yet affirmed and awaiting. If it weren’t for the sash of reality binding me, I would have gone mad long ago. The cruelty languishing inside me for what seemed an eternity would make any wise man turn another direction, yet my contempt impassions revenge over wisdom. My teeth sharpened and my vengeance made frozen, I mean to have it in my grip and held before me in atonement. I give the cauldron rich in hatred another heavy stir and fill my coffer with it, brimming. I stand firm at this place of brief reflection, an irreversible precipice, where even a single step forever leaves one place entirely and enters another and where I mean to proceed vested with courage to feed my hunger and determination to quench my thirst. I leave on a journey where no other may follow.
Toward my destiny I now travel, matching step with a beast who knows of my coming and hungrily awaits. The wind now upon me, I detect its sickly scent and stand fully upright. My sword moving freely and my shield bracing well, I shrug my armor upward and let it fall firm, the full weight of it squarely upon my shoulders, the clang of metal forge echoing a battle being awakened. One glance back to all that I ever was and then forward again, with far lesser hint to what I become. With a steely eye I fix upon a point far ahead of me and then leaning into it, I begin.
Making my way across the rolling sand, the silty grains leak from my boots as though treading water upon the vast open sea. Across my shoulder and behind me the lurid vulture hangs high, beckoning my every step further toward the stale emptiness of death. His skyward circles rise ever higher, a signal to his kind that a soldier’s journey may be short and a meal not long after it. To the tortures of spoiling heat and absent water the vulture preys upon the bearer of uncertainty, biding time that it soon gift resignation. I offer no sign of wither or defeat and for his time he gains nothing more than recognition of a feast to be had elsewhere.
And nestled in a sandy crevice the pearly eye of a serpent outshines the shadows and I see him time and again taste my flesh from the distance with the flick of his tongue. A lowly creature, the serpent. Never bold enough to be seen and who prays for the unwary, a piercing lance with nectar to turn a man’s blood cold. Even still I yield no ground to his presence, my stride determined, and he withdraws. As to be expected for he senses great risk and with it, wisdom.
To these surly dwellers and more, I make a welcome guest and they would have me stay for reasons selfish to their kind. Be it one or all, they quibble not whether meat for their supper is from the backside of a beetle or a man, any portion a contribution toward another day of survival in a place where odds crown the scavenger king.
The beginning is now far behind me. As I crest another wave high atop a dune I peer but an instant toward the origin, purposely misted and made vague by sands aloft. Rightly, it holds lesser meaning; the treasure where one begins the journey is gradually stolen by the destination and one may never use it as currency to buy their way back. A place of brief and rarest particulate, it is gone forever and payment made steep for any attempt to return. It is soon a penniless man who buys the same moment in life, time and again, riddled with spite for such a painfully familiar existence.
Once again I turn true upon the footprint of my adversary and commence further into desolation where it beckons me. The sun arcs high and boils the sand, every breath I draw laden with fire as I pull it inward. The plate of my armor mocks the blinding light and I labor to conceal it beneath my shroud. Still it remains firm upon my shoulders, its protection unwavering. I withdraw my sword from its scabbard to inspect the blade, heavy nicks upon its edge intimately familiar to me, translating the language of war from cold steel clashing on some battleground. It speaks well, for never a moment did my stance falter, my strength fail nor my aim go astray. It was always I who left the battlefield victorious, the enemies felled by me less fortunate. Injury did court me on many occasion, my blood drying fast and crusty as encouragement to prevail; I favor the sight of combat through a blood-stained eye, for it paints the battlefield a most callous tone of red. War is never soft. It makes its den where conflict roils the sanity of men and becomes the only place where light emits darkness.
I trek onward and though having never passed here before, the surroundings bestow recognition. I know this shape, this color, this presence. It takes residence within me. It is likened to a place where the beast marks it origin. His trail more defined, his pace more articulated, I will soon be upon him and I grow eager to enter the arena where the journey’s end meets his eye.
I speak merely of his form, but it is his unrelenting presence uninvited that I mean to lay my sword swift upon, to make not a wound but rather decimation. It is his nature, the immoral encroachment upon matters possessed by men to do great things, to hinder their reach and to their true course strike an injurious pause, to their passion dampen the light entrusted to it. Though its intent repelling, its aftermath is spellbinding such that any man so afflicted would be led rather than lead and to make its path his own. Indeed, I know this beast well. It made way for a world with my place in it soon unfamiliar. To the otherwise plentiful rewards of making one’s true mark, I am left with but a trinket gilded in contemptuous rage. A treacherous one, this beast. Though I have never spoken a word of myself, it knows me from onset to end. How can such a force be granted knowledge so vast and so purely concealed from it? With the mightiest blow I could not rail against it and from a vantage unseen, it lay siege to every point within me. Where I struggled to place my sword upon it, my clenched hand was made weak. Where I raced to outdistance it, my legs made heavy. Where I calculated to outwit it, my mind made uncertain. To my every opposition, the beast lay ready as if I were born of his mind as well. To be so clever only thickened my blood.
And so the journey nears end, for at the center of this perilous wasteland I see the markings of a lair rooted and coarsely entangled in the desert sand estuary, stagnant and scarred. To gaze upon it is tiresome. It bears the markings of a peculiar evil, assignment to the fears of but a single man. It touches without reaching, raising the hair firm on the back of my hand and rattles my spine like a clapper within a bell. To its presence I draw my shield closer and set a keen eye to the surroundings. It is close upon me now and the familiar stench of its breath creeps forward. No living thing inhabits this place, for its threshold is like a void without air.
At that very moment the desert falls still and the sweltering heat suddenly strikes heavy upon the sand. Silence sweeps all around me and holds fast. Again it touches me from afar and as I bristle, I lay a firm hand upon my sword and make ready my stance. This moment long waiting has finally come and with credit given to a beast who knows my very thought as his own, I purge any notion of intent from my mind, in exchange the cold emptiness of revenge.
The instance of battle is tight against my throat, my every breath hammering out a cadence. The moment of a clash is now imminent, not with any casual enemy on a battlefield but rather one sought with raw persecution for a life’s damages waged. There is a sudden pause, a tone of silence mounting and unbearable. All at once I heave my sword from its scabbard, the sound of cold steel ringing loudly as it interrupts the void. Pressing hard against the ragged edge of my shield I glance my brow, firmly cutting into it to letting the blood seep into an eye’s crevice. It is a deepest shade of red through which I want to see and slay this beast. In the next moment I blink it is just as swiftly upon me.
Drawing back the fiercest strength of my sword I prepare to strike it down and as I vengefully gaze upon it with a blood-stained eye, I am suddenly stricken by its form. To all prior instance that it ever taunted me, I dared not look into its eyes and the reason forever chilling and elusive, was now made apparent.
It was I.
To the hand made weak, the legs made heavy, the mind made uncertain, my own doing. To the nightmare, its toll a dream, my own making. To a path not my own for a year thirty count or more, my own capitulation. Indeed, to every aspect of the evil within it, it was entirely in and of myself. In a final assault, in this moment of stark revelation, it reaches to clutch my heart and make it still. With a battle cry echoing years afore, I lay threat of my sword swift against its neck and in doing so, bring it down before me. I command it and to my voice it yields. To my sight it fades until it is no more.
From within us all may come an unrelenting beast, a nemesis which seeks to re-draft our lives from a chosen path to one of relegation, a mere dutiful existence. And we are obedient, for we cannot muster the courage to gaze into its eyes and know the truth. When comes a day, however, that pain is so deep and torture unrelenting, we must act fiercely.
Accepting or otherwise, life intends us all to be warriors. There is never a choice to do battle, only to surrender.
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