The Outskirts of Eden, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a short story, “The Outskirts of Eden.” Read Part 1 and 2.

When I woke in the morning, I was surprised to see that the living vine which had sheltered me all night had grown and changed while I was asleep. New branches had erupted from it and had woven their way into the dark undergrowth of the thorny thicket. Down here in the bowels of the bramble bush, the thorny vines were spaced farther apart, so I could see farther into the undergrowth than I could from the surface. I was shocked– and more than a little happy– to see other glowing trunks rising upward in the distance, pushing aside the dead branches and sprouting out of the canopy into the bright morning sunshine. All this time, as I had trudged on towards the mountains, stumbling over thorns and briers, life had been stirring and spreading down here.

But where was all this life coming from? A part of me wanted to dig deeper, to cut down through the thicket to see where these living, life-giving vines were coming from, but my heart still called me to the mountains. With some regret, I clambered up the vine (the frequent branching-out of smaller vines made climbing easy) and back out onto the windswept plain above the bramble patch.

After the night spent down in the cozily fluorescent glow of the living vines, the landscape seemed especially bleak. The nearly-solid roof of the thicket was twisted and gnarled, studded with a carpet of tiny thorns, little scimitars that glinted malevolently in the morning light. With a sigh, I secured my hatchet to my belt and set off towards the mountains which, as the sun rose from behind them, seemed a bit bigger than they had the evening before.

After walking for most of the day– and falling down into the thorns not a few times– I began noticing a subtle change around me. The tiny purple flowers, which poked up from the thorns, were emerging more frequently. Where they once appeared every hundred yards or so, now I began seeing them every twenty paces or so, then every few feet.

Within another five minutes of travel, I was no longer walking on thorny dead branches, but on a soft carpet of spreading new growth. At first I hesitated to step on the flowers, unwilling to mar their beauty, but I soon found it impossible to avoid them. But when my foot pressed down onto the blooms, they didn’t crumple like I expected. Instead, every step released more fragrance into the air, until the whole world seemed overtaken by the perfume.

I looked up at the mountains, which, though they were still a good distance away, loomed over me. I could now see that this flower meadow stretched all the way to the mountains, where it seemed as if it was pouring down the steep hills and flooding the plains where I was standing.

But wait. I rubbed my eyes and looked again and– yes, I wasn’t mistaken. It didn’t just seem as if the flowers were flowing down the mountains; they were actually moving. Waves of wildflowers were cascading down the cliffs and spreading out into the flat expanse. A river of life and beauty was moving toward me at a surprising speed.

I heard the rumble before I felt it. The floral flood was still a long ways off– probably miles, but it was hard to judge distance– when I heard a rolling, thundering sound come sailing across the plain. The ground beneath me began to vibrate, creak, and groan. In the space of time that it took for a quick thought of alarm to flash through my mind– “Wait, I’m not standing on the ground, I’m actually who-knows-how-far-up on the top of this bramble thicket”– the solid surface underneath me shifted and gave way. Underneath the carpet of lilac I stood on, the dry dead wood of the bramble thicket collapsed with a high-pitched crackling roar, like the sound of dry twigs being tossed into a fire. With a muffled cry drowned out by the collapsing thorny edifice, I fell headlong into the yawning chasm.

——————

Come back to read Part 4 tomorrow.

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