In the distance, through the depth of the forest, I heard something resembling the murmuring of water over rocks. I say ‘resembling’ because this high up on the ridge, there is no running water, especially not during the peak of the dry summer. As I pushed deeper into the woods, I expected the sound to grow louder as I approached. However, it remained constant, always gurgling at the same intensity. It even seemed to me that the murmur was coming from inside my head rather than from some external source. Now, all that was left was to decide when to stop and turn back.
Just as I completed that thought, I saw it for the first time. Knowing everything I know now, and knowing all the events that would follow, I would say that at that moment, it also saw me.
Beyond the row of trees I was walking through, stood a clearing where nothing living grew. No trees, no grass, not even the thick moss that forms the basic flora of this part of the forest was present in this lifeless place. The sandy soil displayed a coppery red hue, faded by the relentless rays of the sun.
Right in the center of the clearing, far from the touch of any tree’s shade, stood a stone as tall as my waist.
As I approached it, the urge to make contact with it grew stronger within me. I placed my palm on it and immediately felt the cold, eerie sensation it transmitted to me. My legs weakened, and I felt like I was floating on waves that carried me in directions I had no control over. A sensation akin to seasickness nearly drove me to vomit. I broke free and returned to the dry forest, but my hand remained cold and damp. Something had changed.
Before dusk, I grabbed the lifeless rooster and ventured deep into the forest at a moment when Secret and the other dogs were preoccupied with food. The fact that I was doing this without the knowledge of others made the entire ritual all the sweeter. Thoughts that didn’t belong to me were running through my mind.
On the lifeless clearing, I let the remaining thick blood from the feathered body flow. Every drop landed on the stone and began to dry and thicken upon contact with it. It seemed to relish it, and that night, the first gifts arrived to me in my dreams.
I had visions of life in distant places, of strange geometric shapes. Entire cities made of impossible triangles, arches, and determined staircases that led nowhere at all. Some of it spilled over from my dreams, and some of it formed in my mind, on its own, at any time of the day. I had an incredible desire to reproduce those shapes in the form of music or at least to draw them.
Even from a distance, I saw it shimmering, and even from a distance, I saw that something had changed. The stone was now as tall as my shoulders. I was… feeding it. And in my hands, I held its next meal.
I didn’t have the strength to subject the tiny, tortured creature to any ritual. I just gently placed it on top of the stone. Its head hung to the side, its dead eye cutting through me. I anticipated a large tear that soared down my cheek and wiped it on the stone.
The touch of this terrible force drowned me in the tranquility of ancient swamps. In a time before my ancestors walked the Earth. In a time of complete chaos and the rule of forces beyond the reach of primitive human minds.
That artificial well-being, that sense of cosmic helplessness, gave me the strength to return home and drag myself to bed. Into the deep dreams I knew awaited me in the darkness.
Thousands of tendrils spread and coil all around me.
Thin and fast. Thick and fleshy.
They pulse and tighten around me from all sides.
I am on them, and they are around me, and within me. They enter my nose, my mouth…
They fill all my openings and pores. They wriggle between my eye and eyelids, moist and unstoppable.
Resistance is futile.
Slowly, we become one. Our fusion is inevitable.
But on the clearing, there was no longer a stone. Its place had been taken by something I had been searching for my entire life, without admitting it to myself, until this moment.
The passage took the form of a massive circle, with a diameter the height of two or three men. The edges were composed of something resembling a mixture of moss, sea foam, and things I couldn’t discern. It all stirred, twisted, and intermingled. It changed colors, emitted its own light, and created its own shadows.
With slow, heavy steps and a bowed head, I approached it, unsure if I would return the same way.
Standing before the passage now, I gazed into its center, like murky water. And through it, I saw wondrous, dreadful things. Innocent beauty, brutal decay, and everything in between.
It was a passage to a place beyond death and love. The absolute end of myself here and the beginning of something infinite somewhere else. The sweet holy grail and the most malevolent punishment for minds whose curiosity knows no bounds.
My legs moved towards this infinity on their own. The closer I got, the stronger the feeling became that these were not just doors leading to the other side, but that this was alive. It observed me and with a deep, slow rhythm, it bent the air around it.
The passage was breathing.