They shone in the moonlight, scattered all directions on the sand. Glistening with the borrowed shine of distant stars.

Some came in their slippers. The majority forged their way through the howling dark in socks or the bare feet they rose with. Abandoning their beds in the quiet dead of after-midnight, the hordes of somnambulists shuffled through the drifts of New Mexican desert sand, painted black by dark. From every compass point, the masses shared one destination.

The formation of stone jutt from the horizon. A silhouette outlined by moonlight in the distance. Miles from any town or road, towards the plateau the sleepwalkers walked. Spurned ever closer by the thrum of its silent voice, it called them through their dreams. Without waking they left their homes.

“Freedom is yours”

Who among them did not wish to be finally free?

They shone by moonlight, scattered in the sand and glistening with something wet and dark as ink.

The plateau was shaped like a massive hand. Its index finger extended, curled — beckoning them closer and closer with every step.

Mindful neither of his cracked, bleeding feet nor the warning rattles and snarls of things in the dark, Derek walked. His eyes were vacant, open wide but he shuffled without waking through the sand. He ignored the occasional crunch of scorpion or squelch of crawling thing that died beneath his feet.

He stopped his pilgrimage for nothing, save for certain stones. One rock must be, at the very least, larger than his palm. He would stoop to retrieve those when he came upon them. The other type: a boulder with a surface large enough. At these he’d stop. Only for a moment to complete the task before moving on. He’d spread his right hand, splaying his remaining fingers wide. The right hand. Never the left. He needed that intact to hold the smaller stone. There he’d bash it down and down again along the most jagged edge, never missing his mark. When the finger fell free, he tossed it and the gory rock away, scattered in the miles of sand with so many others.

Sticky, slick with blood, they shone by moonlight. Abandoned fingers, toes, and ears, and eyes. Here and there entire limbs, tossed raggedly aside revealed the ends of splintered bone. Trudging ever forward, each traveler headed towards the call through dark, alone. Many once believed they’d change the world. How naive. They should have known.

Here, wars were fought and lives were fraught with cold inequity. Now there was a promise: if they wished, meet at The Fist, and from there they would leave.

The whisper said, “a vessel is awaiting you beneath the hand of stone; ready to transport you to a world to make your own. Simply pay the asking price to join us on the ride. Prove your dedication with a simple sacrifice. A limb, an arm, an eye, a few fingers will suffice.”

The price they paid for passage–paid by leaving something else behind.

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