Sirclik and Linus: A Flat Earth Tale Part 1: Sirclik Chapter 1 The Outskirts

by nielskunze on September 3, 2016

One Tree

1. The Outskirts

The arms of the People wrapped around Sirclik; they reached through him. They touched him deeply, just as they always had, coddling and comforting him. Sirclik felt the whole love of the People as the main part of himself. But there was a place, yes, a place, deep inside that was like an egg, small with a life of its own, protected by a hard shell, defending an integrity that Sirclik himself did not understand. And the People did not understand… this place inside their brother that they could not touch.

Sirclik stood alone, more alone than he had ever been in his life, in the great shadow of the One Tree. He had never ventured out of sight of the One Tree; no one had, at least not in the recent memory of the People. The Tree, which cradled the life of all the known worlds, towered impossibly above the Land, reaching to the very heavens. That life could even exist outside of its shadow, beyond its infinite care, seemed dubious to Sirclik, but the strange ‘egg’ nested inside him urged him to contemplate the impossible, to seek it out with all the fervor of his life.

The People didn’t understand, but they were with him, at least for now, as he stood at the known edge of Reality. They weren’t here physically, just in spirit, as the better part of Sirclik’s heart. They would support him as best they could on this strange and compelling journey into the unknown…

This was the Outskirts, the untamed and largely uncharted periphery of the only home Sirclik had ever known. Already he was beyond any previous wanderings his restless life had prompted. None of the People had been to these places, or especially beyond, for many many generations. But the strange ‘egg’ inside Sirclik’s fiery constitution bristled and threatened with the prospect of hatching and beginning a life of its own, and this unprecedented journey was an attempt to pre-empt such a possibility. He was answering a call from within… one that did not originate in his own familiar being though, nor was it sourced in the collective of his tribe. It was a calling from an alien world, one that had been secretly seeded within him… and there appeared to be no choice but to answer the call.

The sun that circled around the uppermost branches of the One Tree ducked in and out of view, casting long shadows to the very Outskirts, alternating with the dimming twilight brought about by atmosphere and distance. Regal and majestic forests gave way to grasslands and scrub as the far distant light defined its own life-giving limits. Sirclik journeyed in the half-light of an ambiguous topography, this transitional place between everything that was safe, secure and reliably known… and all that was unconsidered, uncharted and strangely provocative.

With every step of uncountable miles, he felt ever more the stranger to himself. As the Land presented itself in unfamiliar guises, as lifeforms uncatalogued and alien, Sirclik felt diluted or emptied, as though every memory he had cherished for a lifetime was being plucked from him with each adventurous step. He was being hollowed out by this renegade choice to meet an unknown fate head-on.

The ever-present comfort of the People, their unshakable presence in his heart, felt now like a distant whisper carried upon indifferent winds. It was as though his inner reality was being stretched and thinned, faded to near nothingness. He understood now why such journeys as these were so seldom undertaken; the price was his very humanity. How would he endure this hollowing out? What would he truly be once empty and unknown even to himself?

The inner accompanying gaze of his People was finally like a slit of eyes in a far-off thicket, squinting and bobbing to maintain a clear line of sight to his distant heart. Sirclik felt for the first time that the communal eye of the People might finally close at any moment, and that he would be utterly, devastatingly alone. And in that frightening thought, he felt something new, something that had only been spoken of in whispers, quite infrequently, and as though it might not even be true. He felt the physical sensation of this emptiness, this isolation; he felt it as hunger.

The People seldom ate. With their hearts so filled with each other in peaceful communion, they knew no lack. They were sated with everything they needed to fully experience their tribe and their place within it. The only reason they ever had to eat was for novelty and pleasure and to share experience with the lifeforms they ingested, all by invitation and mutual agreement, of course. No one had ever truly known hunger as anything more than a mild curiosity… for a novel experience.

But now Sirclik felt a hunger that was more akin to pain. The Elders had warned him that such would be the case. It had been beyond his ability to imagine, and now it suddenly consumed nearly his whole attention. The hunger seemed to belong to the tiny ‘egg’ within him; it was not his own. Like the egg itself, this hunger was not an integrated part of him. It was something foisted upon him, something foreign, like a ceremonial costume of a far distant tribe, donned in deference and polity. But it could not be cast off or ignored. It throttled his mind with such strange insistence.

Sirclik knelt in the sparse grass. He stooped to smell the life within the meagre blades. Finally, he succumbed to the need to eat and began grabbing handfuls, asking permission of course, but scarcely able to hear such acquiescence given, given as it was.

The grasses of the outlying lands were tough, rugged and sweet. And they were eager to share of Sirclik’s esoteric quest, giving themselves unto it. He chewed the juices from them, relying on some ancient instinct, and then spat greenish fibrous wads, spent and empty, into the dirt as mulch. The juices were good, and seemed to quell the rumbles in his tummy, like water on a fire. After a dozen handfuls or more, the hunger had finally been quieted.

He thanked the Land for its timely assistance, gaining his feet again, and resumed the journey to nowhere.

How long Sirclik journeyed was difficult to measure. In the Land of his People, day had never known the absoluteness of night. As the sun circled the One Tree at its uppermost reaches, there were just the instances of shadow and twilight, but nothing ever resembling true darkness. The sun was far or near, but never absent. But here, now, in the badlands of the Outskirts, the sun was just a smudge of light in the sky, far away and fading fast.

Ahead lay lands seemingly made from dark shadows. Even the horizon behind him was a dirty yellow ribbon stretched across a grey expanse. Turning forward again, Sirclik noticed that the air had a briny smell, and that perhaps there was water lying ahead, dark and foreboding in the half-light. The Elders had told him of the sea, a place where the waters filled one’s entire view. It was salty and mysterious… straight ahead.

He had never been to the shoreline, not like this. It had only ever been a fairytale meant to baffle and confuse. Indeed, he had known of lakes and ponds, but always had there lain more land beyond their distant shores, in sight, in certitude. But now, as far as he could see, there were waves piled upon waves, stretching to a black infinity.

This presented Sirclik with a problem. He couldn’t very well dive in and begin swimming without a clear destination in sight. Such folly would be his death for sure. But the impish little egg inside him still urged him on. Somewhere beyond the impossible sea lay his unreasonable goal, he was sure. But how to get there, he hadn’t a clue.

At the water’s edge he stopped a moment to feel inside for the guidance of the People, for the wisdom of the Elders, but that once-sure connection was nearly imperceptible now. He felt them more as only a memory and not the familiar companionship that he and all his kin had ever taken for granted in these lifetimes… woven together in unbroken community.

No clear inner guidance was forthcoming. He squinted through the dimness and the humidity and thought that perhaps he saw a spit of land off to his left jutting out into the sea. It was a ways off, but provided the only reasonable destination in the current circumstances, if indeed he was seeing true. Perhaps there was a land bridge bisecting the waters, able to take him to the very ends of his courage and wit.

A time later he stood at the mouth of the spit, a narrow strip of land leading out into the dark waters of a chilling destiny. He could not see clearly ahead to where the land might end, or even that it did. It all came to a point where the blackish waters of the sea merged with the very same blackness of the land dimming from sight. Sirclik’s perspective could not discern the way ahead, and yet there was no other reasonable direction to go. He marched onward upon a rocky sliver of hope, this meagre arrow of sparse grassland, finally giving way to only rock and more rock… narrow and bleak.

He was hungry again. He had completely forgotten about it until the very moment it arrived. And then the hunger, its need, seemed to make him suddenly weak. He would not go back. Sirclik stumbled over and around wet boulders, growing cold, as the sea raged on either side of his treacherous path. He could not allow himself to wonder what he might’ve gotten himself into. It was his only goal to continue to the limits of his strength and will. Besides, there was naught else to realistically do.

Eventually, propped between two boulders, panting and reclining, Sirclik found the end of his strength. He was just another shadow now, hollowed out from all that had once filled him, contented him, a featureless shell of a man, empty, except for the egg. He was useless now as its champion, its guardian, its caretaker. Sirclik wondered what it might be like to die alone, isolated from the People, severed from their living community.

Was this foolishness all his own? Or was the egg the very seed of foolishness surreptitiously sown, or laid within him for no true purpose? It seemed so wrong to Sirclik that all should come to naught like this… at the end of his strength, and the purpose still unknown.

He shivered and shook. His teeth chattered. He wriggled down deeper into the wet sand between the rocks, digging himself into what land there was. If he was going to die, at least he would connect himself to the Land, however it presented itself. The ground was always connected to the entirety of the Land, the ground in which the One Tree was rooted, and through its Life, connected all the Worlds. He grabbed handfuls of sand and tipped his head back to look at the charcoal sky, to see if he could still distinguish the uppermost branches of the giant One Tree in the distance… But no, it had probably fallen from view long ago. He saw nothing now but grey and shadow, smudged in deathly tones of a life rubbed out. He was as cold as the sea… as still as a rock… his last breath escaping as a gentle mist…

And the last glimmer of life in his eye fixed suddenly upon a silhouette in the sky, an impossible silhouette! He drew another breath… and another. There was nothing left inside him to think on this… for what might Sirclik think anyway? There simply was no context for comprehending such a sight. What could it mean? What ever could it possibly mean that a mighty Dragon circled toward him?

Sirclik was suddenly determined to live as long as it might take to find out.

(Ludvig & Sverker piano version by Beardfish)

2. Lizabeth

…to be continued soon…

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