Solitary Rock

I walk through the field towards a solitary rock. The sheep regard me with contempt. I suspect that the rock marks an important site. There’s nothing to indicate that this is so, except for a feeling within me.

I stand toe to toe with the modest monolith. The feeling intensifies. I KNOW that this rock has some hidden meaning.

I photograph and sketch the rock, noting any odd details that might suggest that it was placed here. I’ve got nothing. The cleavage matches all the rocks in the scrub nearby, the weathering is consistent, there are no tool marks. Hmm…

It’s been a blisteringly hot day. It’s the end of December and the moisture in the ground has been evaporating since sunrise. Now – just before sunset – the water has condensed into terrifying cloud-forms and it’s about to fall on me before repeating the cycle tomorrow.

A thunderclap rings out. That’s usually the sign that the storm is about to let rip. I pitch a tent on a small bump in the grassy field, metres away from the rock just in time to hear the first droplets pattering on the polyester. I throw my equipment inside and like a tidal wave, I hear and see the front of water globes drenching the field. The sound against my tent is deafening, but the fabric is sound and the slightly raised ground will help direct the water away.

I can hear the lightning crackling like popcorn. The light is burning my eyeballs, even through my closed eyelids. When the blasts of light aren’t shining, the atmosphere is pitch black. Sunset is still a while away, but the light can’t penetrate the clouds which are just solid masses of falling water. The tent’s guy wires are taut against the wind, and occasionally they let out a twang, as if a rock-star bassist is sitting out there tuning his guitar.

Suddenly, there’s silence. The wind stops. The thunder is gone. I can just hear the droplets dripping from the tall strands of grass all around me. I peek out through my tent fly and the sheep seem to have multiplied. They seem less contemptuous somehow. What were they doing during all of this?

No matter. The clouds let through a sliver of orange sun, just before it dips below the horizon. But, before it intersects the horizon line, the sun ducks behind the rock. I step out of my tent to watch the event for old time’s sake, and in doing so I notice the shadow that the rock is casting. It’s as if an arrow is pointing to the centre of the mound upon which my tent is pitched. The shadow of the otherwise amorphous rock appears artificially oblique. Of course! It’s three days till Christmas. Today’s the summer solstice!

I cast off my guy ropes, remove my gear and cast the tent aside. It tumbles gracefully down the mound. I take up a trowel and begin to dig frantically at the end of the long shadow before the twilight fails. After a half-hour that feels like an eternity I hit it with a “thunk!”

This is it! It’s the answer to humanity’s greatest question is right below my feet.

T.

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