My 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. Woo! Note: since I am posting as I go along, the storyline is backwards. To read this, start from the oldest post and read to the newest.

My Photo
Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

chapter 5

I couldn't take the City anymore. I had to get out, just for little while. I know Angie had loved the City, but it had killed her. I turned onto the 57 freeway, battling the afternoon traffic. It wasn't too bad for a Friday afternoon, but it dragged a little. From there, I swerved onto the 60, and headed into the outlying towns, and finally, to places where you could see spaces of bare ground between the cities. Taking a solitary exit, I turned south onto a smaller road, and headed straight for the mountains. I'd never been up here, but I'd always been told it was nice. Plus, I liked the name of the area: Idyllwild. Anywhere wild and rugged, and not a city seemed like a good idea at the moment.
I curved up into the mountains in a series of switchbacks and hairpin curves; I've never been prone to fear of heights or nausea, and it was a good thing. Even my stomach began to turn a bit at each curve. Instead of the thick vegetation I'd expected to see, I saw blackened trunks, scorched rocks, and a layer of ash. A wildfire must have been through here recently. Only a few ragged weeds had grown back. I felt almost sick at the destruction; I remembered something had been in the papers a few weeks ago about a fire set by an arson up in Idyllwild, I'd forgotten about it until now. A person, wanting to see a mountain burn, had set a fire and run, watching it spread and taking pride in the fact that he could cause so much damage.
Is that what the driver of the other car felt? That exultation as he swerved through traffic, dodging the police, getting away with going forty miles over the speed limit? Did he regret hitting her car, or simply laugh at being able to walk away?
As I drove higher into the mountains, I began to see trees and denser vegetation; apparently the fire hadn't reached this high. The deep red wood of refrigerator trees dashed past the windows, interspersed with the deep olive of the pine trees, and the occasional "lodge." As I turned onto yet another curve, I saw a turnout just ahead. On impulse, I pulled over and parked the car. A wooden sign said "Indian Vista," and a small trail lead up into a lookout point, covered with large granite rocks. One large rock, at least sixty feet in diameter, stood at the end of the trail. A path had been carved out around it. I walked around to the right of the boulder, and found myself looking out across many miles of landscape. A low cloud cover was moving in, but I could see several ridges of other mountains and hills. The clouds were sheared off at the top, creating an almost water-like effect, as if a great slow-moving ocean were washing up on the shores of the mountains.
A small sign below me, of the type ubiquitous in national parks, showed me what I should be seeing, had the day been clear. There was Mount Baldy, and there was another mountain I'd never heard of. There, off in the distance, was Los Angeles. I was grateful for the clouds merciful covering; I had wanted to escape the City, not be reminded of its dominance of the landscape.
The title of the sign read, "The chapparall needs fire!" It went on to explain that when all forest fires were put out, the undergrowth built up so much that when an unstoppable fire came, it would burn much hotter and destroy more trees. Since that discovery had been made, special teams had begun to go out and set controlled fire to burn off the brush, so that the landscape could be essentially maintained.
For a moment, I saw the landscape aflame before me, the trees wreathed in fire like St. Joan, the creaking limbs crying out. Then, a lush green spring creeping over the hills, a halo of sunlight over it all. Just a moment, and then it was gone, replaced by the clouds and dry trees I'd seen before.
I climbed up onto the rock, and sat there, enjoying the warmth of the rock, and the rays of the sun. The clouds moved slowly, hitting the slope of the mountain and curling back before advancing again. The trees swayed quietly, and birds called to each other. The afternoon slowly slipped into evening, and the sun began to sink. The final rays through the smog turned the granite a bright pink, and made the distant hills flush with color. I stayed until it got very dark, looking up at the stars. I'd never seen them so bright and clear. For the first time in my life, I could barely make out the Milky Way, threading through the night sky. I looked for Orion, but he was still below the horizon, not yet ready for a night's hunting. The moon slowly lifted itelf above the horizon, clouds seeming to drip off its creamy horns. It sailed through the stars, slowly rising.
I felt a tug, deep inside of me. I wanted to swim through that misty sea, straight into the moon. I wanted to throw myself into the wilderness, anything to avoid going back to the City. Anything to avoid being among people again.
Then the chill of the night above 5000 feet seeped into my bones, and I slid down the side of the rock. My feet stirred up small dust clouds and sent pebbles tumbling as I shuffled back to my car, and began the long drive down.


Post a Comment

<< Home