The Last Ditch

Look over there, beyond the pond and the puddles and that ramshackle owl enclosure and the ditches. Now, count the ditches. You see there are one, two, three of them? Take this telescope. Can you see, way beyond the third ditch, across the flat muck, there is another ditch? That is the last ditch. That is where we are headed. Give me back the telescope and take my hand.

I have a palsied hand and a withered arm and unsightly scars hidden under my cloak, the results of a botched medical procedure. It was both invasive and pointless. I sense further withering of other limbs and appendages. Call it guesswork or hypochondria, I feel it in my water. That is why I am so keen to get to the last ditch. It is where I will wallow, pending the last trump.

You must help me across the pond and through the puddles and past the owl enclosure and then over one, two, three ditches, and then through the flat muck until we get to the last ditch. After that, it’s up to you. You can come and wallow with me, or turn around and make your way back. Either way, keep hold of your first aid kit. It’s of no use to me.

It’s interesting that the carrion crows are hovering over the pond and the puddles rather than over the ditches. I suppose they have a completely different perspective, up there, bewinged and raucous. My wife became a crow. The Woohoohoodiwoo Woman cast a spell on her and off she flew. I was standing by the pond, in a puddle, watching my crow wife soar through the sky. I took out my telescope to follow her until she vanished in the blue. That is when I saw the last ditch for the first time.

I thought it was just another ditch, the fourth one, after those three you can see from here. I supposed there were other ditches beyond it, a fifth and sixth and so on, as the flat muck stretches to the horizon. But one day I put on my hiking boots and carried a stick and strode out that way, for miles. This was before the witherings, of course, before the medical procedure. I had vim. I walked all day and all night, and I got as far as the mountains, but I didn’t come across any other ditches. That really is the last ditch.

You remember Istvan? I heard that he carried on past the last ditch all the way to the mountains, as I did, but instead of turning back, he started climbing. Of course, he had grappling hooks and pitons and sturdy rope, so he was prepared. His vim made mine seem like lassitude. I received one postcard from him. It was ice cold to the touch. After that, nothing.

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