I’ve been away for a while
I swallowed. “Thank you for answering my question, however much it may hurt me. And I’m happy finally to met both of you. I’ve seen you here often enough.”
“Go now! Go quickly!” Duty ordered. “Go! Or you will fail!” I waved good-by to them, then did as I was told. The thought that memes, ideas, were not only solid here, but were living beings, was beyond my understanding.
The climb was so terrible that I could barely face memories of it. It was so dark the phosphenes vanished from behind my eyelids. It was so cold that I froze solid, but could still move. The air filled my lungs with tiny knives, sharp as diamond shards. I could hear the crunch of frozen lung when I breathed. Finally I reached the top and slid downward, fast stepping to kill my not-quite-fall. In the end, I stood on an overlook. Rolling green hills that stretched out forever were far below me. An enormous, elaborate, aluminum arch more miles high than seemed possible rose to my left. A crystal sphere filled with sapphire fire hung from the arch’s keystone. As promised, light came from behind me. I told myself not to look over my shoulder. Instead, I jumped. I fell. And fell. And fell.
And found myself on the porch, the sound of rainfall flooding my ears.
It was interesting to learn that I could come back from death, if I did everything right, but as one American philosopher had said, ‘if it weren’t for the honor of the thing’ — in his case, being tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail — ‘I’d as well do without it.’ I heartily agreed. Perhaps I only got to climb that mountain once. Perhaps I’m not up to doing it again.
But that climb explained why every muscle was sore. I’d climbed and climbed, albeit in my memetic body, of which my real body is some sort of mirror image. It was still a real climb, for which the description ‘Glory does Everest’ came to mind, except Everest is much too low to the ground. I’d climbed almost forever, and completely exhausted myself.