Chapter Twenty-One

on February 12, 2010 in Evermist

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-One

Eli stood in the chill night air staring up at the Wall.  Sleep would not come this night, but he wasn’t alone.  He’d stopped counting the other men from his squad who’d been tossing and turning in the barracks before he stepped outside.  It seemed that everyone had the same thing on their mind.

The Wall.

It loomed.  How something black as night could still be seen was beyond him.  The whole thing was beyond him.  A Wall that tall, wrapping around an entire island… It was just too incredible to believe.

“They grow it,” said a voice that made him jump.  Turning, he saw the outline of an older man standing in the shadows of the barracks across from his own.  The man moved into the weak light cast by the lanterns hanging on the pole at the crossroads between buildings.  He was older than Elias, by at least ten years.  His hair was dark but there were flecks of gray in his mustache.  Elias moved to meet him at the pole.

“Jaycn,” said the man, offering his hand.  Elias took it, not surprised at all at the firm grip of this obvious veteran.

“I’m Elias,” he replied.  “What did you mean just now?” he asked.

Jaycn pointed at the Wall as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat.  Eli stared.

“The Wall,” Jaycn said.  “You had that look on your face.  I’ve seen it a hundred times.  You were wondering how the damn thing ever got built.  Men couldn’t manage it.”

“So, they grew it?” Eli asked.

“Not men,” Jaycn snorted.  “The Engineers.”

Eli frowned.  “What do you mean?  Who are the Engineers?”

“The builders of… everything,” Jaycn said.  “The Magistrate’s best kept secret.  You’ll see them before long now that you’re here.  Everyone does eventually.  They can actually cause the stone to grow the way they want it to.  That’s how the Wall came to be, it was grown, not built.”

“I…” Eli didn’t really know what to say.  “Wait, how come no one knows this?” he asked.

“They know, they just don’t talk about it.  Who would believe them?  The Engineers aren’t seen in public much except here on the island, so if you haven’t been here, you probably haven’t ever seen them.”

“And few of us return from the island,” Eli said.  “But, you called them ‘the builders’, said they’d built everything.”

“They did, once.  All the great cities, including Valles.  I don’t think they get off the island much anymore.  Too much to do here.”

Jaycn took a deep breath, then blew it out his mustache.  “Anyway, you had that look about you.  I’m gonna try and get some shut eye.  Tomorrow’s ascent will be tough on you lot.”  He turned to leave, but Eli touched his arm and he turned back.

“How do we…?” he nodded towards the Wall.

“Get up there?” Jaycn chuckled.  “There’s a road.  It’s narrow and it snakes back and forth as it climbs.  It’s hard to see in the daytime, let alone at night, but it’s there.  Trust me.”  With that, he walked back over to the opposite barracks and disappeared inside.

Eli spent another few minutes staring up at the Wall before moving back to his barracks.  As he climbed up into his bunk, his mind kept going back to one thing that Jaycn had said; they grow it…

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