Elton stared out across the high mountain road and down, down, out over the city, out to where fast gathering night darkened dreams of slumbering suburbanites.
He had always wondered why they called it that — the gathering night, like the night was some fabric you could bunch in around you or pull off the shelf into your shopping cart. Night wasn’t real, no more than the day actually broke or giant-sized calamari dwelt upon the ocean floor, surfacing to harass the drunken sailors who swore by such things as kraken or anachronistic terrors from the deeps. Elton had been a lot of places and seen a lot of things, and he had never seen evidence to suggest anything more than objective, verifiable reality — the weighty kind you could wave in people’s faces and bellow “Eureka!” about — existed. Nevertheless, he kept his mind open, because whatever his faults Elton was pragmatic, impartial, and above all, open-minded.
Elton was also a rock.
From when he’d been little more than a chip off his mother’s shoulder or a volcanic glint in his father’s eye, Elton had known he was special. Most rocks, his mother had whispered with humming vibrations in the darkness, don’t get to travel. They grew up, were weathered and worn into dust in the same place they were born, unless they were lucky enough to be part of a continental plate, and even then tectonic motion was repetitive and slow. But not Elton.
At the young age of seven hundred one of his father’s comforting grumbles had circulated, and resonated, and grown — building up and up and up until with a series of almighty shudders he had flung Elton and thousands of his siblings violently into the air. True, he’d never gotten to say goodbye to his mother, but he liked to think she’d been blown clear and was now living her retirement as a kid’s lucky pebble or an executive’s paperweight. Some of his siblings were propelled far, far away, perhaps even as far as Quebec City or distant Oregon, but Elton’s own ascent had been arrested by an errant bird and he’d fallen, much closer to his father than he’d have liked — enough so that he could still hear his father’s nightly rumbling remonstrations to the unfortunate shards of granite and basalt left behind. Dad had sure been a loud complainer, thought Elton.
Still, it had been exciting, leaving home. Since then, he’d ridden on rollercoasters, kept a cactus company in the Mexican wastes, and even served for a time as a talisman to a mystical rock-worshipping cult of Geomancers. His latest expedition on the dashboard of a bunch of hippies seeking higher ground and fresh, organic mountain air had resulted in him being ditched on the side of this mountain road in favor of a weirdly-shaped branch, staring down over a city he’d never seen before.
Not that he was bored, far from it — their long lifespans and inability to move means rocks are natural philosophers, and in this respect Elton was no different. He’d spent a couple of months now up on his lonely perch, contemplating language, love, literature. Another rock named Cassie had come tumbling through, but they’d only managed to exchange a few brief sentences before a frustrated teenager waiting for his parents to fix the car had kicked her off the side of the cliff.
It was alright. Elton liked his solitude, had become accustomed to it over the centuries. He only wished that he had thought to bring a book.
Image credit: The Far Side, by Gary Larson