The Agony Ends

Without the white fox, stillness pervaded the scene. Every sand-grain was nestled impeccably against the next. The worms’ puddle sat tranquil on the mountainside.

The puddle shimmered. The fox’s exhalation had laced it with a fern of frost. When frost-leaves melted, the puddle rippled. This rippling was the only motion in the ocean of dust.

The last melting frost-leaf left bubbles of foam on the puddle. From the foam, a human arm emerged. It felt the puddle as if to shake numb knees awake, but could not find them.

So it slapped the puddle to make more foam, from which it squeezed another arm. The new arm was a right arm as well, so the first arm mushed it back into foam and sculpted it again. The new arm was a left arm, and the arms set to work.

Together they sculpted froth into a human head.

Then the left arm made left legs and the right arm made right legs. Together they chose the best legs to pair. They mushed the extra legs into a torso.

The arms attached the head to the neck, attached the legs to the thighs, and attached themselves to the shoulders. They dribbled the remaining puddle-water over their body and scalp to become hair.

The whole body stood shakily because its head was on backward. The arms reversed the head and dotted the eyes with pupils.

Dan was whole again at last. The agony was over.

He lay on the red mountain. Where was the bird? Where was the fox? Dan watched the horizon for them.

Why was he here? He recalled cleaning a bong and wondered if combining crickets and liquor could produce delusions. Or perhaps the powder in Leo’s bowl was cricket mixed with centipede—or pure centipede! Maybe Leo knew Dan would take his bong, and had prepared centipede to punk him. Dan tried not to think about it. He pretended this was reality, because it felt real, and the idea of being trapped in a hallucination made his throat itch. Dying alone on a mountain would be for the best.

A white cloud appeared on the horizon. Dan couldn’t remember why he was watching the horizon, so he was afraid. Dan ran.

He hid behind rocks and watched the cloud pop like a bubble of snow. The snow sculpted itself into a fox. The fox clawed at the red mountain.

A cave opened. The giant bird emerged from the mountain and greeted the fox with a wave of its robes. Dan couldn’t hear their conversation. The fox dove for the cave, but the bird blocked it with a wing. The fox relented and waited.

The bird pulled, from within the mountain, the tip of a wide white wing which lined the cave like a thick rug and heavy curtains. The fox and bird entered the cave, treading only on the white wing. Fluffy feathers barely bent beneath the fox’s weight.

Dan crept up to the cave. It breathed like a beast. The white wing adjusted like an uncomfortable tongue. Dan debated entering himself, until he realized the cave was closing. Then he threw himself on the wing. The red mountain swallowed him like a pill.

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