Knell of Zion


The man wearing the umber-laden shawl bent at the knee and fixed a hooded lantern on the ground, making sure to aim its beacon at the weathered stone wall that stood as a monument before him.

A proliferation of petroglyphs expanded across the stone like white arms against its dark surface before him. These large rocks were known for telling stories and giving clues of the ancient Pueblo and Anasazi tribes who once established home in the deep vales, leaving traces of their culture on the slowly churning faces of canyon rock.

The glyphs revealed a picture-esque language detailing domestic life, agricultural and herding techniques, and images of warfare and strife. The man in the shawl hiked and crawled through the vale and had studied these petroglyphs for months now, returning to the rocks weekly to record them for a research project back east. The locals paid no mind to the glyphs, and the natives seemed to have abandoned the area altogether.

The man in the shawl ran a rough hand along the walls, some dirt from his crawl tempering off onto the stone from the friction. He traced an outline of a human form to a circle of human forms, drawn in white. His blue eyes widened and narrowed on their own as the panning image began to depict a dance about a tall fire. Animals were depicted alongside the humans in a perspective uninhibited by realistic dimensions.

The man paced the vale slowly. With his canteen, he took a swig of water and then fastened it to his pack. It clacked against the stone floor as he retrieved the oil lantern and then scraped the efface as he squeezed through a man-sized fissure. On the other side, the bed of the vale split deeper into the canyon, which became darker as it engulfed itself with a creeping ceiling. The man in the shawl had never explored this area, and despite his common sense warning him to return to town, curiosity took him farther.

A strange feeling washed over the man as he tread deeper into the vale, which now resembled a cavern more than an open valley of rock. The feeling resided in him as he discovered more drawings, which swept through the cave in patterns. The figures of people and animals began to taper alongside elaborate shapes and swirls. As the man traveled deeper, the shapes began to take on angles and patterns of astounding complexity. The long-passed natives of old were known for their odd drawings, but these were almost sublime in their dissimilarity with the others the man had studied. As the man recorded the shapes in his own journals, he felt an inescapable feeling of nauseating profanity arise. The repulsion wasn’t soothed by the shapes that soon followed as he dared deeper into the vale’s stony intestines.

A series of geometric diagrams formed large veneers on the cave faces. The inscrutable and kaleidoscopic attributes of the diagrams addled the man in the shawl. An ambience of the irreverent symbols woke an innervation within him. While not a mathematician, the man postulated the symmetries to be unnatural. Still, he attempted to record the patterns in his notes. A shiver of vertigo thrust through him as he attempted to replicate the forms with ink and quill. As he observed the wall, the physical orientation in which the man surmised himself to be became ambiguous.

As the man felt himself falling, he tasted a nectar of sound. The elephantine intonation resembled music but was hardly like anything the man had ever heard. There was an otherworldy quality to it, one of extraneous origin. As the man’s head spun, he heard a calling through the lines and shapes that adorned those walls. An abstruse language never spoken invited him inward, a direction that was becoming less lucid. Circling about the caves became his mind, detached from his original purpose and unable to defy the wishes of the ode that superseded comprehension.

The man’s records fell through to the floor, his ink vial spilling an unguided signature of forfeiture onto the vale’s floor, and the vale claimed him. His research was razed in vain.



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