Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #10

April 13th, 2009 by Wordsman


“You’ve got to be kidding me!  Not another one!”

Abigail and Theodore stood at the entrance to yet another tunnel of the ceremonial orange gates.  They were tired, cold, and hungry.  But the path went on nonetheless.

“Fear not,” said Theo, who strode into the semi-darkness like a person whose legs weren’t screaming in pain, though Abigail knew they must be if he had it even half as bad as she did.  “I am confident that our trial will soon be over.”

“Confident?” she asked, struggling to follow her quixotic brother.  She was so weary it was difficult to even use sarcasm.  “How can you be confident that we’re getting close to the exit?”  She realized a moment later that when he said “their trial” he could be talking about something completely different, but she preferred not to think about what that might be.

“I thought that would be obvious.  You passed the test.”

“What?”  Abigail was not sure which bothered her more: the fact that he was talking about some mysterious test, or the fact that he said “you” instead of “we.”

“When you first came here, you doubted the existence of the Fox God,” Theodore explained.  “You even mocked him or her,” he added reproachfully.  Abigail wondered how he could be reproachful at a time like this, but she did not have the breath to say anything about it.  “But now,” he continued, “after your experience in the shrine, you understand that the Fox God is real.  You believe.”

Abigail leaned on a post while she caught her breath.  “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.  It was a fact that she often (in fact, almost constantly) suspected was true, but only rarely was she certain enough to say it out loud.  “I still don’t believe in any ‘Fox God.’  That’s not what he wants, anyway.  I mean, it’s not what he would want, if he existed.  Or she.”

“What do you mean?” Theodore asked curiously.  “Isn’t the gathering of followers of primary importance to any god?”

It was a strange conversation, Abigail had to admit, at least for two people who knew nothing of theology, but she had certainly had weirder.  Plus the longer they talked the longer it would be before she had to walk again.  “Sure, it’s only natural that a deity would want to have as many believers as possible,” she said.  She was not concerned about incurring divine wrath by talking about gods as abstract entities rather than as revered supreme beings.  As far as she was concerned, things couldn’t get much worse.  “But you can’t convert an unbeliever with tricks and intimidation.”

“Of course you can,” her brother argued.  “Haven’t you witnessed the power of the Fox God with your very own eyes?”

“Ears, mostly,” she muttered.  “All I’ve really witnessed are a couple of conveniently timed gusts of wind and my own overactive imagination.  And my point,” she continued, wondering why she was bothering to make a point, “is that getting a person to say she believes just because you threaten her isn’t any good.  A believer who only says she believes because her house is going to get buried in brimstone if she doesn’t isn’t much of a believer at all.  It’s like extracting evidence under torture; the person will say anything she thinks you want to hear, whether it’s true or not, just to get it to stop.  The Fox God wasn’t trying to force me to believe, because he knows that wouldn’t count.  Or she.  If she existed, I mean.”

There was a pause before Theodore asked, “So what does the Fox God want?”  He actually looked concerned.  Did he really think that her saying “I believe” had anything to do with their ability to get home?  Or was he just putting on an act again?  And why did it always have to be so hard to tell?

“To mess with us.  The Fox God’s a trickster, right?  And I think that the joke’s probably almost done,” she added hopefully.  “I don’t think this Fox God is too cruel.  I caught a couple of guys desecrating the shrine earlier, and all he or she did was scare them a little.  I mean . . . oh, whatever,” she said, wincing as her head started to hurt.  It was always difficult to have a conversation that one side thought was entirely hypothetical and the other didn’t.  “Maybe it just wanted to give us time to think,” she added thoughtfully.

“Think about what?” her brother asked, brow furrowed.

“About the Fox God, of course,” she replied with a loopy grin.  “I’ll admit that when I first came here I dismissed the possibility of the existence of a ‘Fox God’ without even giving it a second thought.  But I’ve had plenty of time to consider it, so now I can say that I truly believe that there is no Fox God.”

“Good enough for me,” said a voice.

Abigail paused.  The voice sounded as though it could have come from her brother, but she couldn’t tell for sure.  She decided it was better not to ask.

They kept walking, and after a few more minutes the tunnel of gates ended, and after a few more they were out of the forest and back on a city street, and a little bit after that they found themselves back at a train station.

“There we go!” Abigail said happily.  She had collapsed on a bench the moment they arrived.  “I told you we’d get out.”

“Yes, but . . .,” Theodore said.  He was frowning and staring at a map.  “It looks like this station is two whole stops away from where we originally got off.”

There was the faintest hint of laughter inside Abigail’s mind, but she just shook her head to clear it.  “So?  Can we still get home from here?”

“Well, yes, but it’s the wrong station . . .”

Abigail shrugged.  “Good enough for me,” she said.

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