Waiting

A man climbs a mountain alone. He trudges through snow and climbs over rocks. It is hard work. When he reaches the top he looks out at the land around him, at the hills and forests stretching around the mountain, until the sun goes down and the stars come out, and he can no longer see anything further than a few feet. He takes food out of his pack then and eats a cold dinner while curled up in his blankets. He barely sleeps the whole night and in the morning, rather than climb back down, he simply sits and he waits.

A god sees him, on the mountaintop, the only person around for miles. She comes back every day, in between her duties such as they are. She watches his food dwindle, but the man remains Why is he there? Is it penance? Is it a sign of devotion If he has made a pilgrimage, for her or any other, he does not make it known.

The man’s food runs out so that when his stomach rumbles and then aches, his only recourse is to ignore it. The god is intrigued. She sends a storm toward him, full of snow and ice and fury. The man shelters beneath his blankets. He cannot see, he cannot hear anything except howling, he can hardly feel. And when the storm subsides and the god looks once more on the man, she finds him still there, still waiting. She places a boon on him, so that she might find his limit, find his purpose.

Much time passes and the man hardly moves at all now, even to breathe. His clothes do not cover him anymore, the wind having worried them to shreds but he doesn’t seem to mind. Other gods notice the anomaly, a single man on the mountain like an oasis in the desert. They make pilgrimages to him to sit in his presence. They feel stronger afterward and believe that he has given them a boon, has shared some of his strength, some of the younger gods have never known a time without him.

He does not notice them.

The first god that found him is faltering now; her people are dwindling, her locus is failing. She flies around the man like a moth around a flame, until she floats gently down into his lap. Her power is almost gone. Her last thoughts are of him; she is worried about him. Without her, she worries that he will grow old or he will starve or he will freeze and she has not, in all the time she has watched him, ever found out why he is waiting.

She fades away and her boon along with her, and yet the man does not notice, and neither, seemingly, does time.

The man continues waiting and the sun shines and the wind blows and gods are born, fly around and then die. They fight amongst themselves, using people, using the elements, using their own essence when all else fails. But nobody dares strike against him. He is a symbol for them, a constant in a world that, for someone as long lived as a god, is constantly changing.

The man now sits on a pillar of stone, his body shielding it from the wind and rain that have worn down the mountain around him. The hills that the man looked out on are now gone, eroded by the endless march of time and still he waits.

For a sign? For a destiny? For the mountain to be gone entirely? Maybe he is bored, and waiting for the sun to shine on a new land for him to explore.

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