The Distant Waterfalls

A story, written bit by bit.

I’m sitting, holding a map. The best map. It is vast and detailed and it says it can show me the way to anywhere I want to go. Overhead, the sky is overcast. Dull light filters in through the window, but it’s warm – uncomfortably warm. My skin feels thirsty. Dry and fuzzy and warm. It wants a waterfall. I look to the map for a waterfall.

There are a shit-tonne of waterfalls on the map, but they are all a while away. I sit and I try to figure out which of the waterfalls is closest. I frown. The closest waterfall is along a dangerous path, full of pitfalls, predators and other unpleasant experiences. I search for the path with the safest-looking route.

It’s an incredibly long, straight, boring, featureless path. It stretches so far as to appear almost endless – in fact, according to this map, the path goes all the way up off the top of the map, and…

The route reappears at the bottom of the map, where it continues to reach up and up, finally ending at the same waterfall that is closest to me.

The dangers of the shortest route block me from heading straight to the waterfall in good time, but the distance of the safest route might see me dead of old age before I even get there.

Outside, worms in the ground wriggle casually, buried deep in the soil where they are safe from the drying effects of the sun. They don’t have to feel the heat down there. It is only if they come up to the surface that they have anything to fear. But I am not a worm. I can’t simply dig a deep hole to hide in. I need both air and the cool water. So I look to the map again.

There are several other waterfalls nearby – but I’ve already been to them. The map says they are great waterfalls, but in my experience, they aren’t all that great.

Many are full of plenty of water, but the water is tainted. Pretty petrol rainbows on the water’s surface reflect magical light. Urban street run-offs. Bubbles dance on the surface like they are everybody’s business, but the dead and dying creatures scattered along the banks in the vicinity betray the toxic water’s true effects.

Like fuck am I gonna get my skin under that.

One of the untainted falls I have been to turns out to be barely a trickle. Great stones and great scales characterise the fall, as the water does indeed fall from a great height, and the sight of the great rocks with the many layers of history in its face attracts people from miles around – but the water itself is barely there. It is a great site, but it is only a great sight. Thirst can not be quenched there.

Another great dry fall I have been to is dry essentially all the time. Most people who have been there have actually left feeling drier and thirstier. But there are a few tell tale signs that it isn’t always as dry as it appears. Numerous corpses have been found drowned and battered at the base of the dry fall over the years, as if flash floods occasionally storm the area while no one else is looking.. And there are always stories of people who have somehow managed to channel water from the rare event in order to create smaller, less destructive waterfalls nearby.

I have never met any of these people, but I have met plenty of people near the base of the fall and in the general area, and watched them digging little channels for themselves in the harsh, dry air, sweat evaporating invisibly from their bodies. I have even helped them to dig a little while I was there. I have no interest in digging my own channel though. The channel diggers outnumber the dead evidence of the fall’s water by millions, and every morning as the sun rises and burns, their presence casts great shadows across the ground.

So I sit. Stuck. I wish that I could simply fly over the dangers of the shortest path, but I have no wings, nor a plane. Even then, the air has challenges of its own, and a failing there would land me right in the worst of it.

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