It was thick and bound in a reddish hued leather. Although there was a slight breeze, not a page wavered. I had lost count of the days, the moons that had passed as I slowly wandered to this rock, this book. Now I was shy to approach it.
I sat on the path and rested my head against my hand. The grasses, the tiny white flowers that crowded the book like a garland, the wind, the tree leaves, all of them gently swayed to a slow rhythm. The book held a place in the center. What it was, dream, myth, truth, emptiness, I did not know.
In a tavern at the end of the earth, just past the forest where the thickets grew so dense no light penetrated, beyond the huts where the banished lived and died of loneliness, in a tavern that hosted the wisest of seekers, their hearts blackened by courage. There Josephine sat among the dirty earth scoundrels.
She sat before a mug of mead, the cup so large it mocked others in the cupboard. Her gestures were both calm and wild, a hurricane contained within the confines of a small woman bound in leather and pauper’s armor.
She turned to me as I entered and watched me approach. I knew we had never met before. But I also knew that the magnetic bands of earth and star had brought me to her feet, had pulled me through the vacant valleys of sand, past the meadows and siren’s songs, through the cities and graveyards and wastelands of the dispossessed, had brought me here, to the end of the earth, where the black hearted sat on wooden stools, watching time unfold and refold, unwind and rewind.
I took in her lips, her pale skin and tousled purple hair. I took in the presence of magnets, wind, stars. I observed how the push and pull of all energy ended and began with her.
“Would you like a drink?” she asked.
The mug slid towards me like a comet. I grabbed it easily and brought it to my lips. One taste of her drink shocked me. It burned, and as I swallowed, it moved through me like fire, lighting me from the inside.
I saw myself, sitting there before her, beside the other earth men that had come, the others that would follow the invisible paths for years through sandy valleys and burned grasslands, past the cities and stark villages until they arrived at the end of the earth, at the tavern where all energy began and ended.
“So you see now,” she said.
Her words came from my mouth, from my eyes. There was the large rock on a yellow, sun-burnt hillside. In one second I saw the route, the many moons, the many years, the thousands of steps through valleys and forests, away from the end of the earth and towards the waters, then the seas and rivers, down through the ancient caves.
There were many scenes at once, one imposed upon the other, each of them changing as easily as water. They arranged themselves in a line, then spherically, then rotated as a series of shapes that touched ends like a mandala.
I looked at her then, on the wooden stool beside the bar, stone walls on all sides, torches lit on the walls flickering, casting their stories along the floors and our faces. She smiled, her dark eyes alight with mischief, with knowledge of earth and wind, happy to share her secrets with me.
We did not talk. We shared the mead and the silence, the visions which allowed us to see one another from the inside. I saw the book on the rock beside the white sheep and the sleeping shepherd. One day I would find it.