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époque press
pronounced: /epƏk/
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Door of the Mountain

by Peter Haynes

Earthquakes here make a rolling ocean of the earth. They say the one that struck last week was the largest in a dozen generations. I have no reason to doubt them for each time I close my eyes I have the proof. I see mountainsides fall away. I see whole villages taken down. I see my fall into voids where fields once held on. I see concrete and rebar folded up like so much paper.

  I am one of the lucky ones.

  Now a second disaster is upon us. We have not had even the slightest chance to heal. Something has angered the world beneath our feet. Something wants the mountains levelled. Something wants to kill us even as we sleep.

  A soldier carries me from the slanting, crippled hospital. We pass under a red painted gate still hung with swaying paper lanterns and into a plaza thick with bodies and the many sounds of confusion.

  My ruined silk dress makes me slip in the soldier’s sweaty hands. I carry a pair of crutches. Each step he takes grinds together the shattered fragments of bone in my leg. Pain dances like lightning in my mind and yet his voice comes through, as if his words are passed directly to me through his heaving chest.

  “You hold on to those crutches now! You hold on to me. You do your part. Don't let go. Do your part.”

  My part.

  As if the depthless shifting hurt in my body and the cries of orphaned children and the hollow wasted land we would have to rebuild again was not burden enough.

  Yet in the folding, tidal sounds of the suffering many -- their eyes staring out through cauls of tear-streaked brick dust -- I hear for the first time in half a lifetime the tolling of a lamasery bell.

  “You hold on,” the words he says. The words I hear are spoken by the light of pain:

  Put aside your conquering of others. Become well. Find the door in the mountain revealed by shifting earth and stride through. This is one purpose to cling to, one objective you can make sense of.

The rest will only be understood in decades to come. But understand it we will, for these are days where colour and music can be born from devastation, days we will remember until there's more of sleep about us than life.

Peter Haynes' work has appeared in Unsung Stories, Reliquiae Journal, Litro USA, Spelk Fiction, Hypertext Magazine and elsewhere. In 2016 he was nominated for a British Science Fiction Association award in short fiction. 
You can find him on Twitter @ManOfZinc

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