The slope up Mount Delfinor was gentle and easy at first but, after a while, the angle of ascent along with the slippery gravel and the gnats spiraling into the damp orifices of Ellen’s body made the walking less easy and gentle. Now she had to use her hands and legs to spider-crawl up the jutting rocks. She worried that she might not be adequately equipped to climb Delfinor. Ropes, spikes, a contour map, and a good plan of attack might have been called for.
Just when she had begun to weigh the options of going on against going back, Ellen saw a fallen moss-covered tree trunk near the edge of the cliff and a grassy plateau stretching back between two stands of trees to a cabin, and realized she had arrived.
She walked along the grassy path between the trees towards the cabin. Maybe he wasn’t at home. He might have gone down the mountain, probably taking a gently sloping path behind the cabin to buy supplies. Maybe he was in the cabin, watching her, but he would refuse to grant the interview to her. Ellen was sure she wasn’t the only ambitious young journalist requesting an interview with this exceptional man, this recluse of a man who had never granted anyone an interview. He had even written his ranting and railing against the expectation of accessibility of the masses in one of his books, as elegant and cryptic an explanation and brooking no interpretation of his poems and his stories. He had written that nobody besides him was qualified to interpret his writing, to say it in other words, because every word meant something and not something else, and to say it in other words was to engage in the devolution of an idea. At least Ellen thought that’s what he had written. She wanted to understand him, to understand the processes that had generated the unique writings in his books.
Ellen reached the cabin and knocked softly on the door, not wanting to startle the hermit but worried he might not hear her.
There was no answer to her soft knocking. She waited and listened for noises inside the cabin. All she heard was the somnambulant clicking of the cicadas in the strand of trees behind her.
She knocked again, this time more insistently. She listened. Still nothing.
She tried the door latch. The door opened almost of its own volition. She thought about closing the door as quietly as she could and going back down the mountain.
“Hello?” she called, her voice miniscule against the engulfing silence. Ellen closed the door quietly when she heard a Fugue rippling through the heavy air.
Ellen opened the door again.
She walked over to the STU lying on the desk by the window. She picked up the STU, pressed to answer, and the fugue stopped.
“You don’t know me,” the voice seemed distant, almost detached, “my name is Lem and you can’t stay in that cabin another moment.
Ellen said defensively, “I’m here to …”
Lem interrupted her, “I’m sorry but there is no time to explain … Just walk through the doorway before it’s too late.”
“Who do you think you are?” she asked indignantly.
“I’m Lem,” he answered patiently. “I told you that already … I’m trying to save your life.”
Ellen suddenly felt so tired that she could barely remain standing. “I’m sorry Mr. Lem but I just have to sit down for a few moments and then I’ll leave.”
“Ellen,” Lem’s voice tried to persuade her, “muster whatever remaining strength you might have and go through that door right now.”
Ellen looked at the sofa and then at the open door. She tried to walk toward the door but her legs were so heavy. She felt like she was swimming through the air. Time dilated and filled the room with its heavy volume. How can one move through so much time? she thought.
“Ellen … keep … moving toward the door,” Lem’s voice dilated with the time.
I’m trying, she thought, I’m trying.
“You’re … al … most … there,” he said.