I3. The Agony is Over

When the white fox flew away stillness pervaded from horizon to horizon. The puddle of water left by the worms was tranquil on the Mountainside. The Mountain stood immobile in the desert of dunes which surely shifted over ages but from second to second seemed still. Every line of the landscape was impeccable, and every grain of sand was nestled against the next. The landscape held its breath and the sun stood still.

The puddle of water shimmered. The fox’s frozen exhalation had laced the puddle with fern-like frost. When each leaf of frost melted, surface tension caused the puddle to ripple. This rippling was the only motion in the ocean of sand and dust.

The last melting frost leaf left a bubble of air on the puddle. The bubble split into two smaller bubbles, which decomposed into froth and foam on the puddle’s surface.

From the foam a human arm emerged. The arm felt the puddle like the arm of a man who woke with sleeping legs and who wished to shake his numb knees to life. But the human arm felt no companion limbs, just water on dust.

So it slapped the surface of the water to make more bubbles. The arm grabbed bubbly foam in its hand—a right hand—and squeezed another arm from it. The first arm felt the second arm and palpated its fingers to count them. There were five, but this second arm was a right arm as well, so the first arm pushed it back into the water and sculpted its foam again. This time the new arm was a left arm, and the arms could get to work.

Together the arms sculpted more froth into a variety of heads and felt them all over to check which was the right person’s head. The arms scrapped the extra heads by mushing them back into foam, and they used the spare foam to add hair to the one head they liked.

Then they made legs: the left arm only made left legs, and the right arm only made right legs, and they each made their legs on opposite sides of the puddle. They reviewed the lines of legs together to choose the best left and right leg to pair. The rest of the legs returned to foam, and the left and right arm scooped all that foam into the center of the puddle. They sculpted the foam into a torso.

Then the arms dragged the head and the legs to the torso and attached them at the neck and thighs. The arms attached themselves to the foam at their shoulders. Then the arms scooped the remaining puddle-water and washed the body all over, and the water became body-hair and the puddle was gone.

The whole body stood up, shakily because its head was on backward. The arms turned the head and dotted the eyes with pupils. With help from the eyes, the arms adjusted the alignment of all the limbs.

Dan was whole again at last. He panted to fill himself with air. He noticed he had no genitals or even a bellybutton, but he didn’t care; his thoughts were finally intelligible, and the agony was over.

He lay on the Mountainside for a while. He vaguely remembered the giant bird and the white fox, and he wondered if anything else would drop from the sky to sit beside him. Where had the bird gone? When would the fox come back? Dan just watched the horizon.

As he sat, he wondered how he had gotten here. He could recall cleaning a bong, and supposed a combination of crickets and alcohol could give him terrible nightmares. Or perhaps the powder left in Leo’s bowl was cricket mixed with centipede. Or pure centipede! Maybe Leo knew Dan would take his bong, and had put his strongest centipede in it to punk him. Dan tried not to think about it; he decided to pretend this was reality, because it felt real, and because the thought of being trapped in a centipede-induced hallucination made him feel like teeth were lodged in his throat. Being stranded on a Mountain to die alone would be for the best.

A white cloud appeared on the horizon, and Dan watched until he remembered the reason he was watching the horizon was to spot objects like white clouds. He could not remember why white clouds were so important, so he was afraid. Dan ran.

He hid behind a rocky crest and watched the white cloud roll towards the Mountain. When it touched the Mountainside it popped like a bubble into a pile of snow. The snow took pride in sculpting itself into a white fox. The fox strode up the Mountainside and clawed at the dust.

The Mountain shook and a hole opened. The giant bird emerged from the deep core of the Mountain and greeted the fox with wave of a wing concealed by its robes. They had a conversation which Dan could not hear; the fox dove for the hole in the Mountainside, but the giant bird blocked it from the cave opening. The fox relented and waited for the bird to prepare the cave.

The bird pulled from inside the Mountain the tip of a wide white wing which it used to line the top, bottom, and sides of the cave like a thick rug and heavy curtains.

Then the bird entered the hole. It barely fit. Then the fox entered the hole, making sure to tread only on the white wing. The white wing’s feathers, each large and fluffy and pillowy, supported the fox’s weight with barely a bend.

Dan waited until both the fox and the giant bird had disappeared. Then he crept to the hole. The cave breathed like a beast. The white wing made subtle adjustments like an uncomfortable tongue.

Dan debated entering the hole until he realized the hole was closing. His impulse chose for him: he threw himself onto the wing. The Mountain swallowed him like a bitter pill.

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