Axiom 8: Adapt to setbacks.
I stood on the top of Mount Megiddo, the fabled ground zero of the Apocalypse, the mountain foretold in Biblical legend. The wind whipped around me, pulling at my tattered clothes, cutting through the layers of insulation and hitting like knives against my bare skin.
“Now what?” I asked out loud, even though the words were stolen away by the ever-blowing wind.
A little part of me had hoped that, when I got to the top of the mountain (the real summit, not the false one), I’d find a sign of some sort. Of course, I was thinking more of a circle of stones with crackling energy swirling inside of it, although I would have happily settled even for a real life sign, maybe one that said something like “Click your heels together three times to go to Heaven”.
But instead, I saw nothing but rocks and desolation, the mountain sloping down and away from me in all directions.
I glanced back behind me, the way that I’d come, and sighed. Even my faithful goat companions had deserted me.
After another look around, just to confirm that I hadn’t missed stumbling on a circle full of crackling energy, I finally cleared a couple of stones aside to make a slight depression, somewhere that I could sit down. I moved a few of the rocks to try and build up a bit of a bulwark, something to block some of the cold and cutting wind.
As I sat down, Eremiel’s sword cut at me, tangling itself up in my legs. “You’re not helping matters either,” I told it, yanking on it with annoyance as I tried to get it out and away from my legs so that I could sit down. I wasn’t sure when I started going crazy and talking to inanimate objects, but it seemed to have developed into a full habit.
Crouched down in the little depression, I frowned at the sword. It might have been the thin air, messing with my oxygen-deprived brain, but the blade seemed to be sparkling a little.
I tried withdrawing it a little further, just so that I could examine it. I tugged too hard, however, and the entire length of blade slid free from the scabbard, out and away from me. I tried to steer it up into the air and away from me so that I wouldn’t lop a limb off.
The sword’s blade landed with a clang on a couple of rocks beside me, but I wasn’t looking down at it any longer. Instead, my eyes stayed resting on the air, the space that the blade had just passed through.
Sure enough, the blade was definitely sparkling – and it had left some of that sparkle hanging in the air where it passed. Tentatively, I reached out with my fingers towards that shimmer that hung in the air.
My fingers felt a slight little tingle as they made contact with the shimmer and passed through – and then, with a shock, I realized that they’d failed to reappear on the other side.
It seemed like, up here, Eremiel’s sword had managed to cut through the air itself, opening up a cut that led to… where?
Somewhere else, and that might be enough for me to make up my mind, I considered as another gust of wind swept through and slashed at me with knives of bitter cold. I reached out and grasped the sword with both hands, standing shakily up and lifting the weapon with both hands, hefting it like a baseball bat.
I tried moving the sword’s point a little slower, doing my best to trace out a rectangle. Sure enough, the blade still left a trail of sparkles behind it, and I carefully moved the weapon from up above my head down to the ground. I lowered it and looked at the thin rectangle that hung, shimmering, in the air.
“Now what?” I asked, although the answer seemed obvious.
I took one last minute to draw in a last breath of air. When I’d put my hand through the first slit, I hadn’t felt anything unusual, but that didn’t guarantee that there’d be air, or even anything for me to stand on, on the other side of this portal.
Sure, Eremiel had told me that Heaven was accessible from this location. But what if I’d accidentally breached the doorway into somewhere else? What if I stepped through and found myself lost in another plane – or, even worse, back in Hell?
Still, I couldn’t stay here. And although I could turn around and hike down from Megiddo, I didn’t know where I’d go, what I’d try to do. Even if I found a town or somewhere else around here, a place where I could spend some time, what would I be waiting for? And given that I was located somewhere in the Middle East, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with any other survivors that I encountered around here.
Ahead of me, through that portal, lay the unknown – but it was better than anything that I knew awaited me if I headed back down the treacherous slopes.
“Here we go, then,” I said, and took one last breath, trying to suck in all the oxygen I could manage from the thin air – just in case Heaven didn’t happen to have air.
I poked the sword’s point at the shimmer that still hung in the air, just to make sure that it hadn’t vanished or lost its potency in the few seconds that I’d stood here dithering. Sure enough, it passed through – and I didn’t see the blade reappear on the far side.
“Okay.” I took one last step, gathered my strength – and then charged, straight at the shimmer in the air.
Only once I had already managed to build up a decent head of momentum did I consider that, if I didn’t make it through this shimmering gateway to the other side, I’d probably go tumbling down the far side of Megiddo, breaking every single one of my bones in the process. I had no way to stop, nothing to use to brace myself.
And so, figuring that I was dead anyway if this didn’t work, I closed my eyes as I reached that faint little shimmer in the air.