…Lulled into wakefulness by the gentle song of the seagulls, their chorus ringing out over the din of the waves softly caressing the cliff side far below. My eyes slowly crack open and gaze upon the weak sun rays beginning to leap over the horizon, painting the clouds a brilliant orange against a pink backdrop.
Haste eludes me at first, as it always does. I melt into my routine as a bar of iron might in a smith’s furnace. I roll from the straw mat beneath me, escaping its cold, hard embrace. I rise, my bones aching and muscles straining, then walk to the edge of the cliff I reside upon in this place. An overhang protects me from the elements above, but it is still a lonely place where I exist with my thoughts and nothing else.
Warmth from the sunrays gracing my brow begins to chip away at the lethargy slowing me, and I stretch in response, forcing my body into a full working order, forgetting the pains that ail me. As I do so, I gaze out longingly at the monolithic statues of stone that stab upward toward the sky all around the ocean below. Some sit atop mountains, others rest at their bases, and still more emerge triumphantly from the water. Robes and armor, scarred by battles long past, wrap their forms while in their hands they clutch blades and staves. They are the rulers of this realm, and I strive to one day join their ranks.
I turn away from the sunrise and move back into my shallow cave, a home of stone with little else to occupy it other than a tin cup and my sleeping mat. I glide to the cup, lift it from its resting place, then sit upon the ground near the wall of my cave. Large rocks with sharp angles reside here, nestled against the corner. Within several of the brown stones which number at least a score, there are streaks of gray, harder material: metal fused into the rock. One such rock draws me to it, its sharpened edge a talon of gray.
The tin cup I hold is void of a handle and all other decorations. It is merely a cylinder closed at one end and open on the other, comfortably fitting in my palm. It is, however, misshapen, to me at least. I have a plan for its direction, although not for its purpose. The process will devour my time, I know, and there may be no reward once it is complete. Regardless, something compels me to begin and only to rest once it is finished. Surely this same drive burned within the hearts of the rulers.
I raise the cup into the air fluidly and bring it down on the gray rock. The ping of noise it raises echoes through my small chamber and out over the rolling sea, perhaps resounding strong enough for others upon other shores to hear it. I fall into a rhythm, methodically striking the edge of the rock with controlled vigor, a pace I am sure that I can maintain for the better part of the day before sleep calls me away again. My mind becomes numb as I work, and the world melts away until there is only this cup and the plan for its transformation.
…Plagued by my need to mold creation. As I make, I also destroy. Love is lost. Time is squandered. Pain gathers.
I recall those I see in my dreams when I sleep. As my eyes close, I am taken away to be with them. But there is never enough time before I am called back to this place to shape something in the hopes that it becomes a work of beauty.
The tin cup in my hand, now riveted with dents from the days I’ve worked on it, lands upon the sharp edge of the rock again. A new sound escapes the stressed cup and agitated stone. Several flakes of rock and metal flitter down to collect in the small pile near my knee. I spin the cup around and behold a large crack, running from bottom to top. I gaze upon my progress with admiration, although I know it has only just begun.
I rotate the cup in my hand then resume my work. Weeks pass. The brilliant blue of day and the plump puffs of cloud that stagger through the sky blend with the dark, swirling wonder of night. Infrequently, I glance at the statues off in the distance. Noise of laughter and camaraderie sweep over the cliff above and plummet down past me, urging me to join in the life happening away from my shelter. I ignore it, and the city that lies inland, just as I’ve always done in this place, although it is enough to stall me for a moment, slowing my work.
Another fissure opens along the cup, and another still until there are ultimately five cracks along the cup. I grip two of the sides with my fingers and begin prying them apart. My effort is such that I am confident in my ability to maintain the strain for hours. Slowly, the cup yields to my pressure without snapping.
Four tin petals lay flat against the stone, the final one still erect. I push the bloom against the stone with one hand and work on the final petal. As I pull and push, I lift myself above the tin construct in an attempt at a better point of leverage, and my hand slips. The jagged metal of the cup’s final petal scores my flesh, rending skin and hungrily slicing the muscle beneath. Blood immediately spills from the gashes, spattering the tin and stone.
The lacerations to my hand have damaged my finger nearest my thumb the worst. Pink flesh stares back at me within the large opening, angry red blood spilling in a torrent and down my arm. I stagger to my straw mat and rip long strands from it to tie off my finger. The bleeding slows, but I know I’ll be unable to work on my creation for some time now, and fear wells in me. Immediately, I feel worthless, and ponder tossing the tin cup over the cliff and into the surf below to then retire to the city and forget this part of myself completely.
Somehow, I stave off the urge to abandon my work, and drift, with great difficulty, into the clutches of sleep.
…wracked by immense pain. In the week that has passed since my hand was sliced open, infection has grown and festered. I maintained my work nonetheless, blocking out the agony as best as I can.
The infection, however, is spreading rapidly. I forego my work finally and, in defeat, leave my dwelling for the city. The trek across the smooth, wind-blasted stone is short and I stumble beyond the squat shacks at the perimeter of the town before nightfall. The people here know me, and I’m greeted by kindness and compassion. In the days that come, they heal me, lift me up, listen to my tale about the tin cup’s transformation earnestly.
Soon, I begin to slip into a worthless state of self. I need to create to feel important and this time without that is beginning to suffocate me. I attempt to slip away after giving my thanks to those who have helped me. Some condone my decision while others seem disinterested and a small few urge me to give up on my aspirations.
I ponder the latter option for a moment and immediately understand that to accept that would be to begin down the path of self-destruction. I leave the city for my dwelling, my hand bandaged, the large gash finally covered with dried blood.
When I reach the winding path down to my cave, I am filled with renewed vigor and hurry to find the tin cup sitting in its spot, waiting to be molded. I set to working despite the darkness of night. Under star shine and with the moon as my witness, I continue to hammer the tin cup into the shape my mind’s eye imagines.
Finally, after an uncertain length of days and nights, I finish my design, and hold in my scarred hand a star of metal. It reflects the dying sunlight brilliantly, its folded edges jagged on one side but smooth on the other. That night, I ascend to the highest point along my cliff then begin the arduous ritual necessary to place my creation before the eyes of others. It comes to an end and I, dripping in sweat and uncertainty, cast my star up into the heavens. It reaches heights far below the stars the rulers have placed im the sky, then stops, the trail of twinkling light marking its ascent fading from sight.
For days to come I gaze upon it lovingly and with disdain at the same time, for I feel pride at having completed my work, yet I know I could have designed it better. Still, I am happy. Then, one morning only a few days after I’ve cast my creation into the sky, I awaken to find a new shape of metal sitting upon the rock within my dwelling. I study its contours and imagine for hours, then, I begin to create.