Damascus or Bust
It was the time of day where the light had already faded significantly. The sun let out only a hint of pronunciation, and the clouds moved in and settled heavily across the shoreline. A group of birds fought for something and quarrelled loudly near quietly lapping waves. A couple miles out the rains had already met the body of water though there was nobody there to witness the encounter.
Jacob was walking along the shoreline and it would be a couple of more miles before he got to where he was headed. Behind him was the old house, now a museum of sorts though the daily guides, local teenagers and twenty-somethings, were often tardy. Originally the house was built by locals for an aristocratic family that immigrated to the shores from across the sea. They had bought acres and acres of the land, but now, several generations later, the land was owned by the federal government. Jacob liked to walk past the place, and imagined the isolation of winters past, or else the unabridged freedom of summers, a freedom so open that thinking on it seemed to ignite a sort of quiet but marked electricity in his bloodstream.
Now coming upon a brief wooded area with cedars and pines, he saw that the water had tumbled and smoothed small and large rocks at that part of the shore. The colors were more visible under the clear water. Yellows looking like Jasper, greens resembling aventurine, and even the odd piece of crystallized material waited there, all of them receiving the days and the nights in an endless and well put together cyclical reality dream film with the wind and waves as the soundtrack. All of them comfortable now with the idea of the fast encroaching night.
Out of the rocky and tree dense area, two men were huddled over. One was placing fish in front of the other on a small dock. The receiver cut a line from the head to the tail, along the belly, and soon a given fish was broken open to the air. Then, not quickly and not slowly, but quietly and confidently like an artist, the cutting man separated the skeletal structure from the flesh and plopped the fish back together. His partner picked up each one, placed it in a pre-made grave blanket of tin foil, and wrapped it before packing each in ice.
Behind, the boat launch area, now deserted, had a fierce dog roaming it. Jacob was too fatigued and also intoxicated from the fresh northern air to experience fear, or recoil from the canine as it approached. The dog stopped its pacing and looked at the walker, but there was no psychic animosity in Jacob, nothing to latch onto, and it disregarded him altogether, preferring to double back and then head inland.
Approaching a stretch of isolated sand Jacob looked out to the water. A pervasive and age old type of angst wanted to settle in to his being, but he forbade it. Not in the name of a monotheistic God. Not in the name of a pantheistic wobbly paradigm. And not in the name or worshiped habit of the strength of self. Rather, he simply forbade it. Plain and simple. And if it was out of anything, it was out of fatigue, out of boredom, out of a quiet disgust for this old false and melancholic friend who had proved through decades to be no friend at all.
Without joy, and without the angst, he had nothing, and so asked for help and guidance from spirit. Immediately he was inclined to look at the rubber band on his left wrist. It was a rubber band that he did not remember putting there. This was the way spirit worked for him—in strange images, via odd connections, through symbolism and imbued with nuance. He realized the band being on the left meant the heart, because he always equated everything on the left as such. Then in a millisecond, he realised the spirit was telling him that the path, though unrecognized and even scoffed at in secular terms, was indeed one of heart. He had no man or group to answer to and the only real inclination was to follow the contour of this the whole, the larger, the heart-felt.
Everything deepened then. It was as if Jacob was at the bottom of a benevolent sea and had found an opening or passageway to another, unknown sea that hid beneath the regular one. His thoughts surprised him. Christ came to mind, and the Lamb of God, being approached by the devil, was being told to give up, that the task was too great. Then Jesus continuing anyway, and before death, saying that it had been done. This strengthened Jacob, and though he had no pragmatic answer, and would not be attending a church anytime soon, felt nevertheless empowered by the Christ. True strength was not overt. True strength was humility. Humility and a procession in the face of every kind and manner of tiredness.
He was close to his destination now. He walked on a bit upon a makeshift gravel road of three quarter crushing. He was facing the water, and now all he had to do was turn from it and walk inward, following the road as it changed into a smaller path and led into the dense bush of the forest. He did. The night had almost fully arrived. It would no doubt blossom into wondrous being, a rich and thick world standing in the same place the day had but with a vastly different costume. Large drops of rain began to hit the earth, and soon all the forests and shoreline including the house of the aristocrats received the single storm like a baptismal vow in the immense and somehow bright darkness.
© Brian Michael Barbeito 2012
Brian Barbeito is a resident of Ontario, Canada. His short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming at various venues such as Quail Bell, Metazen, Mudjob, character i, The Electric Poet, Thrice Fiction, and Apocrypha and Abstractions.