June 23, 2001
Night brought chill, and night brought a starless cloak. A thin moon hung in a slipping buttonhole, too weak for the heavy fabric, a coat so heavy that it must have stifled, yet it seemed to only serve the silent sky far above where raindrops sometimes form beyond human perception. The earth it left to fend for itself, and the earth upon which stalked the boy grew cold, remarkably cold for the heat it pulsed only short hours ago. His hardened heels chilled and sent strikes through the boy's bones. The thick cloak that cloaked the sun and refused all other pleas, the cloak which gave only to the rich and taunted the rest brought with it other pain than cold. The boy knew this and knew that every step he took without precaution took him closer to folly. The wearer of the cloak was arrogant but the bearer of the torch was more arrogant still; he knew he could fight easily chill. The cloak cloaked motions of the deep; it raised demonic beasts from sleep. And when the cloak would cloak their queen they then emerged and moved unseen. Like devil's minions at last free, long sliding forms took advantage of the night to cast about their haunting spirits. These spiders, snakes, desert rats and lizard scales emerged and roamed, and where no fire ran they feared nothing. The boy knew this but he pushed on in folly, striking no spark, for already a spark grew within him. He knew that the next step he took could unwittingly be the tread on a slithering skin, into a silent nest of snakes. He knew, deeply, that he was freezing. But the knowledge was deep and though the degrees fell the knowledge only surfaced by degrees. The knowledge sunk under the weight of his searching eyes. He could not bring himself to, through flame, douse the little sight left in his eyes. He had seen a ghostly shape by scanning his eyes perhaps where the air had slid the face before. The cloak was too black to directly see, but white motions raised hopes. He would make forty treads along the road fruitlessly when a white motion would spur him ahead. He knew he had only to follow the road. He cried out once more. He heard no cry in return. The boy's body warmed as he desperately tread, and he grew more confidently longing, and he felt that he could reach the white shape, when he stumbled across it: a crumpled sheet upon the road. Stooping to lift it in astonishment, he found himself in a nest of the devil's snakes.