“What kind of place is this?” The young man didn’t expect a lucid response, but he also didn’t want to be surrounded by silence and alone at the moment.
“This is a wonderful and terrible place,” the old man said. “Here we are everywhere and we are nowhere, all at the same time. We are nothing, yet we are everything. This is a truly splendid place indeed, son.”
The young man shivered at the words. There was something uncanny in the way the old man spoke that at first he could not shake, but he pushed the unsettling thoughts from his mind. “Have you climbed the wall of this crater?”
“No, no, no, that is not my lot my good man,” the old man said with a laugh. “I do not want to know what’s beyond the wall, I enjoy it fine down here, thank you very much.”
“Suit yourself. I’m gonna make my way up there though, I can’t spend my life dawdling down here.” The young man began to pull and hoist himself up the rock wall.
“May wings ever find you in the midst of your climb, son! Let me know what’s on the other side when you get there!” the old man called out.
As the young man reached out looking for crevices in the rock wall, he wondered if this was something he had ever done before. It felt like a foreign venture to him. That didn’t mean that he hadn’t done it before though, maybe it had been much time since his last time as a climber. Maybe there was a time when he used to do this for fun, or maybe he had to do it as a job of some sort.
He slowly pulled himself up, pushing with his legs when he could find good footholds. He tried not to look up or down, he felt that if he knew his progress it would either give him false hope or discourage him. The moment he was in was the most important part of the climb.
With each movement upward he felt a little more exhausted and aches spread through his body. His mouth became drier as well and he felt hungrier. The pace of his adventure was catching up to him. How much longer could he keep up? He risked a look up toward the top of the wall. It loomed high above him, as if he hadn’t moved at all.
The time had felt as though it had been dragging, he felt as though he had been climbing that wall for hours. He tried hoisting himself up further, but felt almost as though a weight was pushing against him. It wasn’t just gravity, something else was working against him to keep him from moving any further up the wall.
“Are you having trouble up there?” the old man called out.
“I can’t seem to get any higher,” the young man called back.
“Look down,” the old man said.
The young man dared to look down for a moment. He was disheartened by what he saw. At that moment he realized that he hadn’t really made any progress. He didn’t even think he made it as high as the old man was sitting when they met. Some great weight was bearing down on him, keeping him from moving up the wall any further. Should he continue trying to scale the wall, or should he just stop and find another attack point?
He leaned his head against the wall frustrated. Sure, he could continue to try to make his way up the wall, but if there was something preventing him from making it any higher what was the point? There had to be some way out of the crater, he just had to regroup and figure it out.
He began to climb back down the wall, but his footing was unsure. He slid a little down the face of the wall; his hands kept him from falling any further. Trying to regain his footing, though, his hands began to slip. Sounds of the old man starting to climb up the wall to his aid reached his ears just as his fingers slipped from the rock he was holding onto. Almost as if in slow motion he watched the top of the wall move further away. He watched the old man pass him. Then everything went black.