THE FIRST MAN, IN THE VALLEY OF EGGS
He hardly remembered how it happened, but somehow he had been born. He realized this, one day, walking by the fragments of the shell from which he had hatched.
All about him, in the valley, stretching as far as the eye could see, he beheld the giant white eggs, thousands of them, lying scattered about on the ground; and something deep inside told him that from these eggs other beings like him would one day emerge, to rescue him from loneliness, and share with him the wonder of living beneath the wide blue sky, beside the little stream of water which nourished the gardens in the gray hills.
As time went on, he became more adept at living. He hungered less, for he knew better where to find food; he thirsted not at all, because he learned how to dig into the ground in pursuit of the stream when it disappeared into the mud in the summertime. His struggles diminished, and his joys increased. The desperation of his time was quieted by resourcefulness and replaced by curiosity and exhilaration.
But still, he was alone. When the rains fell, and his body shivered, though his mind rejoiced, for thirst was at an end, he was alone. When lightning flashed in the sky, and struck the ground like a knife of fire, when thunder bellowed as though the sky, itself, had been wounded and was thrashing about with maddened claws, he was alone. After the storms were over, he would weep, and embrace himself, for there was no one to comfort him.
Years came and went, and he developed habits: he took to making rounds of the empty valley. At least once a month he would span the enormous, drab expanse, walking among the giant eggs, putting his ear next to the silent shells, wondering how long he would have to wait until he was not alone.
As time went on, and survival no longer seemed enough, he began to study the flowers that grew upon the bank of the stream, and to emulate their colors with paints he made from plants and petals, from sands and pigments. He began to beautify his world. He imagined the beings who would one day hatch from the eggs, and, for them, created brilliant and moving works of art from the primitive resources at his disposal. Then he invented words, and he began to write poems to the sky, to the water, to the rocks, and most of all, to the few brave trees that managed to stand in the sun-drenched valley, which was nearly as dry as ashes pulled from a fire. He wrote poems about the world he lived in, and poems to the beings who were soon to be born. He wrote of the dangers and the joys of the world they were about to enter.
Strange feelings also coursed through his body. For many years after it first awakened in him, he felt a terrible longing he did not understand; he stood naked by the giant eggs and begged for someone to emerge from one; he howled like an animal, and rolled in the dirt, until his mouth was filled with dust, he cried out with passion in the bushes by the stream and wept tears of sorrow in the wake of his ecstasy. He painted and wrote more than ever before.
Time went on - and on - and after a while he noticed that he was no longer walking as strongly as he had at the beginning. His stride had shortened, he did less, and lost his breath sooner. "Something is happening to me," he thought. "Could it be that as I was born, I will one day die?"
With more fervor and hope than ever, he began to spend his days strolling among the unhatched eggs, listening for a sign of life. Once he thought he heard the sound of cracking coming from one of the shells, and his heart filled with joy. He sat down there for days waiting, but no trace of a fissure appeared, not even one tiny line insinuating itself into the perfect silence of the white enamel. He pushed his ear against the giant egg, he listened for a heartbeat, he tried to speak through the shell to whoever it was who was inside it, whose time of being born had not yet come. He invited them to hurry. He offered them the sky, the water, the majestic view of the valley which did not know how to hold his hand. But nothing further occurred to raise his hopes. At last, he placed a marker beside this egg, which had raised his hopes in vain, and continued on his way, walking among the shells, day in and day out.
The weakness he had first noticed some time ago began to increase. It became harder and harder to walk. His thirst became harder to assuage. The sun seemed to grow hotter.
"Come! Please come!" he begged the unhatched beings inside the eggs. "Please come before I die, I want to see you!"
But all across the valley, they still lay as silent as the day he first became aware of their exitence, thousands of them scattered like stones across the earth by the Creator of all things. Only his own egg lay ruptured, broken, in fragments on the gray floor of the valley.
Finally, he lost the strength to paint and to make poems. All the beauty of the world was no longer enough to give him the energy to lift his hand. His tired eyelids closed, he laid down, in resignation, with only one thought to console him, now. He would leave his work behind in the empty valley beside the thousands of unhatched eggs.
He had awakened and gone back to sleep in solitude.
He was the first man, in a world that was not yet ready to come to life.
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