The End of the Road: The Wanderer

He awoke to the light of a hearth that had been burning for thousands of years. His eyes opened slowly, revealing the pitch black contents. The stone slab he had been lying on had conformed to the imprint of his body. He didn’t know how long he had been there for, but he did know that he had been brought back for a reason. He sat up and noticed that the hearth was flickering the way a fire did when it was low on fuel. The flames licked the sides of its base, going no higher than a few inches. His hair glinted in the low light, falling down to his shoulders.

The mirror that had once been hanging on the side of his home was now shattered on the floor, the frame having rotted away many years prior. He had waited many years for this moment to arrive. During his slumber, he had felt a vague boredom and a light urge to do something. 

He rose slowly from his resting place, knowing that it was his time. Knowing what was coming next. The rumble. The voice. He wasn’t frightened because of an instinct. Something within him. He knew nothing of his past, but knew that he’d been in this position before, and that whatever he would do, he would be guided. He knew that he must wait. Wait for the voice. 

He continued to wait. He knew he would hear it eventually. Waiting had been his main occupation for a very long time and he was prepared to do it again. He had learned to be patient, and so he waited. And waited. And waited. The voice would come soon, he was certain of it. He looked around the room, and at its bare contents. The fire that smoldered in the center of his room was nearly out. Running out of fuel. Hadn’t it been higher earlier? Of course not, he chided himself. It should have been impossible for the long burning fire to show any visible sign of change. And so he continued to wait. 

Watching the fire had become his pastime and he didn’t like what he saw. Something wasn’t right. He wouldn’t dare to think it, because thinking, questioning, was admitting. Admitting to fear. So he continued waiting.

Time crawled forward, and now he was past the point of feeling. Something was very, very wrong. He knew that it had never taken this long for the voice of the hearth to speak. Fear was seeping into his mind like water slowly dripping into a sponge. Slow at first, barely noticeable, but soon it was enough to drench him. And then the chill set in. The hearth also felt the effects, flickering as if it had been pushed by high winds. Then he felt it. There was wind, coming from somewhere in this doorless room. The fire, exposed to something from outside the room, went out.

At first, he didn’t understand what had happened.  How could it? The fire. Gone. His lifeline. Gone. What was he supposed to do? How would he go on? How could he? He was alone. For the very first time in his endlessly long life, he was alone. Truly alone. His mind seemed to scream it. He was a man without a purpose, and nothing to keep him afloat. 

 Slowly, he lifted off himself into a sitting position on the slab, his legs aching as he did so. He draped his legs over the side of his place of rest and let them hang over the edge. He stood up, his legs wobbling, then fell to the ground, still warm from the lingering fire. He felt his throat, aching to empty the stomach that hadn’t held food in several hundred years. He felt the cracks in the ground with sweaty palms. He pushed himself up, stumbling blindly to where he had felt the wind. He found the wall, and walked along it trying to find the source of what had extinguished his once eternal fire.