The Height of Absurdity: The Fairy Mound 8.5
22 August, 2017 by katelaity
I can hardly say how the light was different, but I knew in an instant that there was something different about it. I would say the sun shone, but it did not quite. We take for granted the sun—yes, even in England where it seems more absent than present—yet it is as familiar as our own face, familiar as the clouds that covered it. The sun in India, I’m told, is harsh and unforgiving, but it is still the same one that occasionally shines on this sceptered isle. I suppose I should be able to recognise our clouds just the same but truth to tell the light was filtered through a kind of haze that made it diffuse without really blocking it in any way.
A shiver went through me.
‘Which path shall we choose?’ Tansy said, jogging me out of my reverie. My glance moved from the sky to the land before us and I was surprised to see that there were three paths before us. We looked to our guide, hoping he had some knowledge that would help us.
Chambers held up a book, the one thing he had been certain to bring with him. I have the answers here.’ He began to flip through the pages in search of the right information.
However, the path looked clear. ‘Why don’t we take the wide clear path? That other one’s overgrown with thorns that will soon tear our clothes to ribbons. And that one—’ I could not say for certain why I shrank from the third one. Perhaps it was the darkness that obscured its entrance. Or perhaps the way it wound out of sight along the little river’s path (for having got through the flood, the stream around us dwindled at once). Or the fireflies that flickered within the gloom. It was not the time for fireflies, as any fool knew. It gave me a funny turn in my stomach.
Tansy laughed and recited,
O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briers?
That is the path of righteousness,
Tho after it but few enquires.
‘I suppose I ought to know that,’ I said a little stiffly for Tansy was always pulling these old quotes out of his memory.
Chambers grinned. ‘Of course I should turn to the master, Scott, for he imbibed all the old legends and turned them into verse.’
‘Poetry is a technology for remembering,’ Tansy said with an absent air as if he were thinking of something else all together.
‘In the original medieval romance,’ Chambers said with an unhealthy air of excitement in his voice, ‘there were seven paths. At least our choice is somewhat simpler. But our young friend is quite correct. That is alleged to be the path to heaven. Of course no one has been able to make much headway through the brambles.’
‘I suppose it is possible travelers simply reported that because they could not pass through the tangle.’ It would be the sort of thing I could imagine people doing.
‘Perhaps we should attempt it,’ Tansy said stepping toward the mass of thorns which seemed to intensify as he did so. ‘After all, would not a visit to heaven be even more of a tale to tell than a trip to fairyland?’
I often found my friend exasperating but just now it bordered on blasphemous. ‘I should not care to go without a bible in hand or at least a book of psalms. And how long would it take to work our way through there? You forget we have a wager on.’
Tansy sighed, then laughed. ‘You are right I suppose. Though I admit I am very curious to see my maker and ask a question or two.’
‘We shall all do so far sooner than we please,’ Chambers said with a gentleness that reconciled my friend to mystery sooner than my logical arguments, I suspect. ‘In the mean time, adventure awaits.’
‘Shall we go this way then?’ I asked, stepping toward the obvious path. ‘It seems many may have travelled this way.’ I did not understand the eruption of cries from my compatriots. They actually laid hands upon me to halt my steps.
‘That is the road to perdition!’ Chambers said in haste. ‘Our path is the third one here that winds so winsome into the other lands.’
‘I don’t trust twisty roads.’ My opinion, however, was ignored.