Short Story: The Cliff
Note: I found this while searching through some of my old writing. I think I wrote it two and a half years ago, but I’m not quite sure.
A slow wind caressed the night air, wisping through trees in a deliberate and focused delicacy. To those out that evening, it was a perfect setting for a long overdue escape into the wonderful breeze. The silence only broken by the snapping of dry twigs under the feet of two figures as they made their way through the old trail. The winding path led down into a vast rocky cliff that presented the stars in a perfect bowl away from trees or lights that may dim their brilliance.
It was this place that one of the two figures sought. A place long since forgotten by time and the world. The worn trail which they walked, overgrown and unused for years, hidden except from those which knew of its existence. It was a special place long ago; so to the one who led his companion down into the ancient gully, it would be a special place always. Untouched by time regardless of its age, the cliff awaited those who sought out the tranquility only it could offer.
“It hasn’t changed a bit,” he smiled as they reached the cusp of the precipice, and the end of the journey. “I haven’t been here for years… It should be an apartment complex by now.” He shook his head in disbelief and took the hand of his companion, drawing her fully into his old hiding place from the world.
“C’mon. Sit over here. It doesn’t look very comfortable, but I used to sit here for hours, just staring at that,” gesturing toward a perfect view of Orion. “There used to be a trail around this whole cliff. I’d walk around it every day, just thinking about things. The world, school, my family,” he laughed. “Sometimes I just waxed poetic about philosophy and so many what-if scenarios… I can’t even remember it all anymore.”
“It doesn’t look like the circle around the cliff is here anymore, but that doesn’t matter. I just wanted to come here,” he chuckled. “I told you I’d find it.”
She just smiled and eased herself onto the weathered rock. It was as accommodating as he promised, somehow welcoming despite its composition. She looked at him oddly, perhaps wondering why she was there, why he insisted she must visit a place even he hadn’t been for years. He just smiled at her and turned back toward the shimmering constellations. He seemed at ease here, and the stars reflected his mirth in their simple flickering.
It wasn’t just that. He was in tune with the whole experience. His blood almost pulsed with the fading and glowing of the pinpoints of light themselves. Still affixed at a view he hadn’t seen since he was a young boy, he sat down on a rock directly opposite of hers as if he’d done so thousands of times.
“It’s trite, isn’t it? Me gawking at the sky like some dumbstruck fool; maybe even a lovesick one. What do you see here?” He spread his arms wide to encompass the whole of the inviting splendor.
“I see my whole life as I lived it here. The secrets I shared, the rage I felt as I ranted into the empty sky. I cried in defeat, laughed like I never have before, found myself amongst the quiet oblivion here. Where my friends came and went with time, this was always here. The one thing I knew would always be around so I could return and express yet another heartbreak, each new and exciting part of my life.”
He stopped and let the silence speak for him. It begged to be broken, whether it be laughing, crying, whispering, it didn’t matter. He turned to her expecting her to feel it too.
“Hear that?” He asked as he looked back toward the edge of the cliff.
“That’s why I came here every day. It’s as if I had to. Like this place is somehow sentient; recording the stories of those who come here and befriend it. I’d like to think that’s it. Somehow I’ve contributed to a little piece of the archives of the generations that come and go in this little corner of the world.”
“The world may forget me, there’s billions of us swarming around it after all. But here, I’ll always know I’m special.”
He looked at her expectantly, asking with his eyes if she understood yet why he brought her to the long forgotten spot. He smiled and went on.
“So, when I left for college, I almost panicked. I knew I wouldn’t be able to come here anymore. So I said my last good-byes and went on with my life. As the years passed, I forgot more and more about this place until it was only a shadow in my memory. I moved on.”
“But you know how sometimes you’ll see something that lights a spark somewhere deep in your brain? I was looking at an old book on famous landscape paintings and I saw it.” He pointed at the deep cliff itself.
“Somehow back in the 1800’s, someone painted this exact spot right down to these two rocks. The painting itself had no signature, so I couldn’t figure out who it might have been. I felt a chill run down my spine when I read the title of the piece, though. The painter didn’t bother to put his own name on the piece, but scribbled ’talking to me’ at the bottom. I mean… who would have pictured a desolate old cliff doing something exciting like speaking?”
He stopped and laughed, shaking his head.
“But then it hit me. All of those memories came back as if someone flipped a switch. ’talking to me.’ It’s as if the painter was the gorge itself, telling of all those who share their lives with it as the years pass.”
“Can you hear it?” He asked, turning back toward her.
She was so caught up in the story, his question caught her off guard. Hear what? Without his voice to fill the silence, the only sound was the slight whistle of the breeze. She started to say something, but he just put his finger to his mouth in a “shushing” gesture.
He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, as if drawing in the tranquility and calm silence. She looked at him, confused by his sudden refusal to speak, and his desire for her to follow suit. So she just looked at the sky and wondered what he was trying to tell her about it by not saying anything.
After a few minutes, she looked at him again. He brought her here to show her a part of his life, something that helped him become who he is now. She couldn’t explain why, but she felt like she understood him just a little bit better than before. As if the silence told her something he never could–the long nights of emotional outpouring he could never experience the same way again. It was as if the place had experienced every part of his life like some kind of battery, keeping those seemingly lost archives of knowledge tucked away to share with any who cared to visit.
She felt it, then. The specific words lost, but the feelings forever suspended in perpetual silence. She just closed her eyes and let it seep into her. Maybe the story was the magic, perhaps not.
She was certain however, that even though the quiet whisper of the wind said nothing, she would have to come here some time and share her life with it as well.
Maybe in time, he would feel her heart in the memories of the gentle breeze as well.
Then he would also know what her words could never express.
As she looked at the sky, he got up and walked over to her. He sat down too, on the rock he had left so long ago, and held her. He kissed her softly and looked back up at the sky.
There they remained, until the night was lost in time.