While salting my eggs this morning, I had one of those moments where you ponder an everyday thing and how it came to be as such. A thing long taken for granted. In this case, it was the very salt I was shaking. I wondered about its origin. Who was that pioneer who took these tiny, white crystals and thought to put them over food? We all know how salt is made now — of course — but who was the first to find it, to use it?
What type of man? For salt is no easy encounter. We know the delicate balance needed. We know the sequence of things that must occur. How then, was it ever revealed? What were the circumstances? Who was the man who first drew salt?
Was he a seeker or simply a man who stumbled accidentally? How far he must’ve walked into a mountainous forest before he saw the tell-tale shining light. Who was the man that looked upon the red-gray beam peeking through the blackened husk of a centuries-old redwood tree and decided to investigate? It would never have been me. While I enjoy forest walking, I know better than to examine strange colored light-beams that sheath ominously through tree trunks.
What type of person peels wide the bark to release even more of the red-gray light, only to free the maddening hum, and upon hearing the piercing croon, take an axe to the tree until it splits lengthwise, the beam shooting skyward in all of its true glory?
A madman, for certain.
Who then, sits and watches when the ravens come? Who sits by, between the cleave of a tree, hands clutching their ears to fight the hum which is now infiltrating their skull like the clean of a slick drill while a cloud of black descends into the beam, changing its red-gray to a ruby-black? I would have been long gone by then; sweaty and scratched as I ran back from whence I came.
But, not the salt guy. He sat there while the ravens dove. He watched as their never-ending plummet finally ended, muting the hum. He bathed in the quiet, watched the beam for movement, held his breath for the hum, wondering just what he’d unleashed. That man stayed. Waited.
He stayed for what we now know was the required three hours, thirty-three minutes before the ravens emerged, now fat, now white, now squared and edged. No longer exactly feathered, more of an imitation of such. Now crystalized creatures that struggled to take to the air.
What did he do then? Did he see their wrong bodies falter and fall? Did he go to the lumps of them striking the ground and splitting? Did he watch as they burst, becoming piles of white — a substance not quite carcass, not quite bird, not quite anything he’d ever seen before in all of his life? And, if he did…if he did watch them emerge from the trunk, blended into the beam, their bodies distorted and wrong, watching these new not-birds strain to take their flight — which had been so easy before — plummet and pile into things that fell apart into a crumbling white…why then would he do what must’ve come next?
Who then would wet a finger, dip it into their remains, lift it back to their lips and stick it into their warm wetness, licking and contemplating its taste? Who then collects it as clean as they can from the detritus of the forest floor into canvas sack, glass jar, and leather bag, knowing its crystal grains will be the god of food enhancement? Who would do this, know this?
Who was this strange man?
I could Google it, I know. But this mystery, I’d like to remain. Just like the origins of salt were a mystery until this adventurous man stumbled upon such mystery. Who didn’t turn away from the ugliness, and, in fact, sought out its very heart? How it was through him we learned of the husk trees, their light beams and the salt ravens and their sacrifice. How we learned to farm them, and how we bred the salt ravens. How salt has come to be on every table all over the world. All from this one heroic man, who desired to know. The man who stayed.
I finished my eggs. They were delicious.
Tracy Lynne Oliver is attempting to make a new name for herself in this writing game. She has been published online at a variety of places such as Medium, Fanzine and Occulum. Her story, “This Weekend”, was chosen to be in “Best Microfiction 2019”. Check out her cool website: tracylynneoliver.com or just follow her on Twitter @T_L_OLIVER
Jellyfish fact: the average lifespan of the immortal jellyfish is less than two years.
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Art: Wolfgang Laib/POET ARCHITECTURE Public Domain