I3. The Agony is Over

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

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 foam on the puddle.

From the foam a human arm emerged and 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 first arm palpated its fingers to count them; there were five, but 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, and they chose the best legs to pair. The extra legs they mushed into a torso.

The arms attached the head to the torso’s neck, the legs to the torso’s thighs, and themselves to the shoulders. They dripped the remaining puddle-water over their body, and the water became hair and the puddle was gone.

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

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

He lay on the Mountain. Where was the bird? Where was the fox? Dan watched the horizon.

Why was he here? He recalled cleaning a bong, and supposed combining crickets and alcohol 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 prepared centipede to punk him. Dan tried not to think about it; he pretended this was reality, because it felt real, and the alternative of being trapped in a hallucination made him feel teeth take root in his throat. 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 dust.

The Mountain shook and 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 inside the Mountain, the tip of a wide white wing which lined the cave like a thick rug and heavy curtains.

Then the bird reentered the cave. It barely fit. The fox followed, treading only on the white wing. Fluffy feathers barely bent beneath the fox’s weight.

Dan crept to the cave. It breathed like a beast. The white wing made adjustments like an uncomfortable tongue.

Dan debated entering until he realized the cave was closing. He threw himself on the wing. The Mountain swallowed him like a pill.

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