Snakes and Pills

183 - take long

Nolan caught view of another marker propped up against the canyon wall. The sense of relief that he felt was temporary, but nice. He tried to estimate the time that had passed since he had last seen one. He felt like it had been more than an hour, but it was impossible to be sure.

The only timekeeping he was able to do was via the rise and fall of the sun. The big orange globe was starting to hang quite low in the afternoon sky. Not much time was left before it would fall below the upper rim of the canyon he was trekking through. He would be cast into shadows, but he'd still have some daylight left, at least.

Nolan wondered if he was almost there. Mahesh told him that most made the pilgrimage in four and a half to five days. He was nearing the end of his fourth day, but he had pushed hard. His desire to reach his destination by nightfall was perhaps a bit unrealistic, but he couldn't dismiss the notion.

Anything to avoid one more night camped out in this place. He couldn't quite pinpoint what made him so uncomfortable during the three nights prior. He was never able to sleep well, and he broke camp each day as soon as there was enough light to navigate.

Nolan was weary, but all that extra time on the move would work in his favor, now. He was starting to think about potential campsites when he suddenly exited the canyon and spotted a small cabin not too far off in the distance.

This was the place. He would make it before nightfall, he was certain. His aching legs moved with a renewed sense of purpose.

He saw no activity in the building as he made his approach, and he began to worry that somehow he was in the wrong place. But when he was within a stone's throw of the cabin, with twilight decidedly in its waning moments, a man finally appeared from behind the front door. He carried in his hands a gas lamp, which he proceeded to light with a match. He hung the light from a little stand on the porch, and turned to face Nolan.

"You're early," the man greeted him calmly. Nolan beamed with pride at his accomplishment,"When you're on a mission and fulfilling your calling, it's easy to find strength to carry on."

The man simply nodded in acknowledgement. If he shared any of Nolan's excitement, he didn't show it. "I understand, but your timing is most unfortunate."

Nolan's expression quickly shifted as he felt a pang of worry shoot through his body. "Why is that?" he asked, hoping there was just a small misunderstanding.

"The ceremony cannot be performed now. We must wait until the daylight of tomorrow. I cannot offer you lodging either, I'm afraid. For purification purposes, I must require you to make your camp no closer than a thousand footsteps from here."

Nolan wanted to cry out in protest. But he never really considered disobeying a man held in such high regard by Mahesh. He nodded, swallowing the bitter pill. "I'm sorry to cause difficulties. May I at least borrow the lamp here, or another source of light?"

The man shook his head. "The lamp must remain here in its place through the night, and I have no others inside the cabin. You must go now."

Nolan wasn't sure if that was meant as an order to leave him alone, or if it was advice to make haste and use what little glimmer of light was left to make camp.

Regardless, he turned around and began counting off a thousand paces.


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