The man rest his back against the wall. At least he was out of the rain here. The wall had a small tower on it here which had a worrying slant to it. It looked like the entire wall was about to collapse inwards, and thus it provided shelter for him. At one point the man might have been worried about making camp in the immediate shadow of the wall like this, but now he knew the wall would not come down. It never did, it never could. He had no idea how much time he had spent on this side of the wall, but it felt like an eternity. For all the man knew about time it might very well have been an eternity. He had walked up and down its length, or at least he has walked so far as to almost loose sight of the great tower. It felt important, although there seemingly was no reason for it to feel that way. It just did. It was big. Very, very big. Standing in its shadow was almost awe-inspiring. The width of the beast was at least one hundred meters, and the height… He did not know how to calculate the height of things by measuring their shadows – not that there were any shadows in this permanently clouded over hell – but the top ended just below the clouds. Away from the wall, what the man had come to think of as in-land, there was a great mountain. He climbed it once to see what was on the other side of the wall, but he could see nothing but mist and shadows. Not swirling mist either, the kind that makes interesting shapes. He remembered the ocean, and how you could look at it for ages without getting bored. Always changing, always breathing, always moving… It was like fire really. But the misty shadows were nothing but gray, as exiting as a concrete wall in the distance. Further inland, there were nothing but mountains as far as the eye could see. Along the wall there were grassy plains, forests with game and lakes with fish, endlessly repeating. It rained a lot, but there did not seem to be any kind of seasons here. And the clouds darkened the skies, so there were no sun or moon to see. Time became meaningless. The man finished his fish and went to sleep when that deep, dark night fell.
If the mist was dull, the wall was also dull, but not quite as dull. The workmanship obviously was excellent. The man had often tried to find cracks in the wall, and that quest was why he dared himself away from the big tower. The small tower loomed, but no stone could be even slightly budged, not even the ones that looked to be loose. He had fashioned a great pole to use as a lever, but it was like trying to move the mountain inland. The man estimated the wall to be about ten meters high. He had tried to get over the wall, and while the wood in the trees was strong, the bits he could break off were to short to be of use and he had not found anything he could make into a rope. He seemed to recall stories of people – whatever that was – making rope out of grass, bark, sinews and almost everything. But the grass was short and fragile, the bark on the only tree that grew was hard and brittle if you managed to pull a bit off, the game and fish were only small. At one point he thought he was onto something with strips of leather from the various small animals he caught, but for one thing he didn’t really have any tools – apart from a small stone he had managed to sharpen somewhat – and also he would have to kill a great number of animals indeed to make even a short lenght of rope. He had a pile of leather, but most of it was of no use and he had had a bit of trouble finding the beasts lately. Better to stay with fish for a while. He knew the animals reproduced fairly swiftly, but not that swiftly.
And so the days went. Nothing ever changed, nothing ever happened, nothing ever mattered. Until the morning he heard a voice.
”We love you.”
It was a shock. He had just washed off in the lake nearest the small tower. The man just knelt frozen, hands frozen on his chest, water dripping from his beard and hair. He waited, and waited, heart pounding, mind rushing with thoughts and emptiness. He had not heard a voice in … he could not remember the last time he heard a voice other than his own. He stoop up, nervously, legs shaking, and looked around. Everything was as empty as ever. A fish jumped and swallowed a bug. A slight wind ruffled the trees. It started to rain, and the rain seemed heavier than usual. And colder. The man hurried back to the dry shadow of the leaning tower, and rested his back against the wall. He made no fire. His mind and his heart was confused. Had there really been a voice? And what did the voice say? That he was loved? He did not really understand what that meant. A lump dislodged from his heart and found its way pass his throat, which became tight, and to his cheeks, which became hot, and to his brain, which shouted. The man leaned forward as the tears flowed like a river from his broken body. He did not eat that day.
Night came, and with it sleep, and with sleep morning. The man woke up and wondered if it had been a dream. The voice that said those strange words still lingered inside him, but it was fading. He decided he would check up on the population of the small animals in the surroundings that day, to see if any progress could be made with the leather rope. He washed himself in the lake, made a fire, caught a fish and hungrily ate it after he had grilled it. He sat for a while, looking at the flames that danced endlessly. He had at one point thought about setting the forest on fire, just to see what would happen, but he decided against it. That would just make things more difficult. The man was still tired, probably from all that hallucinating yesterday, and the fire was very pleasant.
”I love you.”
The man put his hands over his ears, but the damage was done. The panic rose inside him, his blood turned to ice sludge in his veins. He shut his eyes and screamed and screamed until he had no voice left to scream. His head felt like it was filled with ice and lava, his hands cramped around his head, leaving impressions in his skin. He fell forward, dangerously close to the fire, and laid there until the world stopped jumping up and down on him. Slowly he released his grip from his head and sat up. The world was the same. Only the rain came, slightly colder still. He still did not know what the words meant, he did not want to know, and still the tears flowed through him, out of him, leaving him gutted and dried.
He awoke. It was still day. The fire had almost died down. The man felt like a carcass, like someone had skinned him alive, but on the inside. The rain remained. He decided not to check out the populations that day. He managed to catch a fish, grilled it, ate it in apathy and then went to sleep, hoping the madness would end.
He woke up with a yell. He had seen things! In his sleep! It was like the world, but a different world. In it, there were others that looked almost like him, but they weren’t him. ”People.” The word swam around in his head, confusing him even more. Others? Was there such a thing? He tried to remember the time before the wall, but nothing stood out. He remembered the wall, and the big tower. But in the images in his head, there were others. The details were fading fast, but one ”other” was still solid. An ”other”, dressed in a flowery dress, dancing, spinning slowly. The hair was auburn and shoulder long, the shoes were black. The image already started to fade as the man stared out in the night without reflection. He did not sleep more. His mind shut down and he just stared on through the night.