Translation number 2

It was past midday, of that he was sure. He had continued to walk, oddly relaxed with this peace of mind he had acquired. He breasted the gently sloping dunes, keeping time with his worries. Gaining the uppermost of the dune, his footing would shift slightly, forcing him to catch his balance by forcing in a lungful of air and casting his arms at three and six. I am not deluded. A sea urchin drying in the sun, strategy or inevitability?
Above the man, who was wasting and swaying in a circle, flew a bright kestrel. The bird seemed to be lofted on a transparent cushion of air, the beating of its wings added little to its motion. It rollercoastered constantly; now diving, now gaining. For some time the man thought it a trick of the sunlight, refusing to look up at it. Instead he continued on his way, an ear cocked toward the sound of the bird’s wings. The bird would reach a point in the air, stop as though an invisible tether had jerked it back onto the jess of the air stream, and warily continue. The outcropping was more visible now.
Jagged and black it was entirely out of place. A sentinel of shale and obsidian at the end of the world. The man wasn’t fooled. And now a word came into his mouth. Gibbon gibbon. Gibbon gibbon gibbon. Gibbon. The words popped like cartoon bubbles from between his lips; hanging suspended in the air as he walked through and past them. Gibbon. Gibb. On on on. Gib. Bon. Soon mandrill came skulking into his mind. Mandrill. Man. Drill. Jackdaw followed slowly, altering his step and time. Jackdaw jackdaw. The words became nonsense, pure syllables and sound. The words rattled around in his skull, ricocheted angrily, imploring dreadfully for some precious breath it needed.
The dusk of the desert brought a chill. He felt elephants parading over his spine, urinating sweat as they lumbered past. The bird had alit some time ago on the only pale sheaf of rock it could find. It rested now and waited for the man to reach his destination. The outcropping tore its way nearly a mile into the night air. Shelf upon shelf of rock lay quietly, pulsating as though the whole were a beacon in the man’s brain. He could barely make the bird out in the dark; the ancient geologic of the rock narrated the kestrel in a faint outline against the blush of the sunset. He stopped walking only with great effort, lowered himself, sitting cross-legged on the hot floor of the desert. A need had arisen to set himself apart, to differentiate himself from the pounding heat and oppressive leagues of sand and rock. Now pleasant cirrus of dust, a fine heat in his lower back. He began to draw in the sand.
His fingers moved quickly this way and that, occasionally erasing something that seemed unnecessary. It was difficult in the steadily growing darkness, but his hands continued to move with sureness until he was finished. Faced with great doubt he stood up slowly, inching and touching his way along the north face of the great stone needle. Back on the floor of the desert, his eyes slowly gathered in the soft glow from the west. He recoiled sharply, as if struck. The sigil seemed to mark him and he felt uneasy leaving it behind. Still he kept moving, inevitably, slowly creeping his way into the shade of the structure where finally he got to his knees and lowered his head. An answer was slowly drawing together in his mind, like iron filings to a magnetized platform. He had heard that if one fell asleep with an answer in mind, the morning would almost surely bring a question. He fell asleep this way, the sand and wind covering his body with maddening indifference over the ages: a tired parishioner amid the cloisters.


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