This is a story I wrote a little while ago, and I’m currently in the process of turning it into a four-chapter novella. This will be the framework of the last chapter and epilogue.
The Story of the Sproon
It was late morning when the Sproon fell over. On the way down he found he had time to contemplate all sorts of intricacies, such as whether we really fall or if the ground comes up to meet us like an enemy starved for attention. Of course, nobody heard him fall; he was all alone and in no position to decide whether the rather large thump that sounded far-off and yet coincided impeccably with a dull pain in his left ribs was actually a result of his failed battle with gravitational pull, or not. “Who knows?” he concluded, and stood right back up again with at stiff upper lip and an air of determined affrontery about him. One foot forward is all it takes, right? That’s correct, thought the Sproon. In any event, the second is always preceded by the first.
The second step came and went as it should, bridging the gap between the first and the third. This continued, each step preceded by the last and followed by the next, until the steps stopped where the trees did. The Sproon stood at the edge of a vast field of grass, ankle-high and unmarred by the slightest defect in homogeny or topography. He didn’t know what to think: This was unnatural. The trees ended in an absolutely straight line which, noted the Sproon, curved away from him as though he stood at the precipice of some land forbidden to mortals and forgotten by gods.
It should be noted here that, so far removed from humanity, the Sproon had long-since lost his shame and went about his weeks naked as the trees. Behind lay a path he knew, albeit recently, and there were so many directions left, right in front of him.
The grass, green as a pine needle in winter, dark, soft, menacing and inviting, stirred with a breeze from nowhere, doing nothing, going off to die. He knew that at six feet tall he could, on a flat horizon, see just about exactly five miles before the curvature of the Earth obscured itself cleanly and neatly from view. Good. So five miles, and he would be out of sight. Ten, and the trees, with their whispering and taunting, could be forgot. He couldn’t remember how to start. The second can only follow the first. Ah, that’s right. The Sproon mumbled aloud something to this effect as he proceeded to take the necessary steps to get to step one, ten, one thousand, one hundred-thousand.
There are no miles out in the country. There is only one speed, and either “I’ve gone on far enough,” or, “Not quite yet.” There are indeed millions of moments containing the latter for the inexperienced traveler, but all walkers, including the Sproon, eventually forget that they are indeed walking and simply relinquish control of their arms and legs, as one is wont to do with one’s lungs directly before falling asleep. Legs keep on kicking and arms keep on swinging, free from the exacting tyranny of voluntary movement. In this quiet stream of self-forgetfulness the Sproon made his way, barefoot, over the dark blades of grass. Each step sent a flurry of sensation up his whole body, resonating through his bones, so that he was able to count his steps by the number of taps he felt on the top of his head. Every now and again he would lose count. If the number was small, he felt compelled to stop, think, and remember it. He had to stop because he could not count and remember simultaneously, an unfortunate by-product of his self-imposed hermitism. He usually remembered though. If the number was large that he forgot, he would also stop, but merely so that he could begin again; it is not the number which matters, but rather the act of counting, as though counting provides a sort of motricity to the legs. It also helped to clear his mind.
But after a long day of sore ribs and thirteen stops in the scratchy grass, step number four thousand eight hundred and seventy-six was not immediately followed by step number four thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven.
It has been a very long time since I have told the story of the Sproon, thousands of years and worlds ago. I have the history somewhere in these vast halls of my library, but these old bones are tired and my eyes have recently deceased. Come back in a year, and I will have found the Sproon. Perhaps you will tell it to me, heh.
The old man’s feeble chuckle soon descended into a wet cough, his small, frail body convulsed, and I thought as I turned to find my own way to the heavy oak doors through which I had been admitted that the man’s voice was his last fortress before he succumbed to extreme old age. I shed a tear for the storyteller, but quickly wiped it away before stealing a sideways final peek. Just one before I turned down another hallway and I left his field of view. He sat, hands, upon one another, resting on his wooden carved cane, his chin on his hands. His eyes, milky at the center, were staring off in the distance, seeing nothing, reflecting not even the flickering light of the torches high on the walls. He sat thus, crippled, remembering. I knew I would not see him again.