One asks oneself- what next. What next. And then what next. Imagine yourself in all your glory, leaping from pinnacle to pinnacle. An invincible young warrior- eyes blazing, hair streaming in the bracing wind, sword aloft. The steel of your armour glinting in the sun as the new day rises. You stand among the clouds, untouched by the scurrying of furtive things that crawl the earth. The shoulders that hoisted you up stand hunched in worship. You are beautiful. You are glorious. You are a conquerer.
You stand on top of the world. The orchestra is tuned to every breath you inhale, every breath you exhale. A tiny hitch can change the flow and depth of the tune- you can shift the earth without a word spoken, without an eyebrow lifted. It’s a high- an addictive, consuming, gorgeous hit. You fly on it.
What next you ask yourself. The peak of the mountain is a jagged resting place, an art of constant, perfect balance. You perfect your balance, ignoring your screaming limbs. It is a solitary throne. You befriend loneliness- the warm solitude of old is but a memory. You shiver and you shiver alone. What next, you ask. I will do it. I can do it all. I can move the mountains beneath my feet, I can move them to shelter the people behind me. I do all- for them. Your stories get taller and richer, and slowly you have nothing left to give. You have nothing left inside. There is no next, and if there is, it brings nothing to you.
A shadow of your former self, you stand on the pinnacle, dizzied by the heights of your own climbing. This is not glory. This is not victory. There is no gentle talisman deep inside keeping you warm. There is nothing.
And you begin to climb down.
Slowly, but surely, you begin to descend. The wolves leap over your carefully clutching fingers and arms and legs, and there is a bloodbath on that narrow peak. And you know without doubt that it was either this drudging crawl, or you would have been ripped from your seat with howls and sharp teeth bared against a deepening night. But you made the choice. You made the choice, and so, determinedly, you crawl down. For days, months, years you climb- lower and lower. Your callused fingers and sheer strength of will get you through. Slowly, you can walk, and run, and jump, and dance. The multitudes have been left behind.
You are free.
And at last, you stand where you started- where the bright young flame of ambition was first lit. You stand there and gaze up at the peaks on the horizon. You laugh. What next, you ask yourself.
And, slowly and amidst a hundred trumpets, amidst the colours of spring and autumn rolled into one, you turn your back. The path is narrow, and covered in leaves. There are bright splashes of sunlight and twittering birds with jewelled eyes laughing at your dilemma. You take one step, then two, and then break into an exhilarating run.
What next, you say. What next? Everything, and nothing. You cannot see further than the next bend. And in that complete unknowing, in that falling and in that flying, you know you chose the right path.