The youth shrugged his shoulders:
“How, Oin visible spirit, can I deny that all this that thou prophesiest will come to pass, since on earth one thing always follows from another, and often the most terrible events are caused by the most trivial things, and the most trivial events by the most terrible things?
And why should 1 believe this particular prophecy, since the other, threatening me with death should I mount these steps, has not come to pass?”
“lie who mounts those steps,” rang out the terrible voice, “must turn back and descend them, if he wishes to mix with mankind again.
I Issi thou pondered that?”
The youth stopped suddenly and for a moment it seemed as though he would take the safe path downwards, but fearing the impenetrable night that encircled him, he clearly perceived that for so hazardous an enterprise he would require the light of day, and in order to make sure that he would have all his wits at his command on the morrow, he lay down again on the narrow ledge, longing ardently for the sleep that strengthens. As he lay there motionless, his thoughts keeping him awake, he opened his tired eyelids, while anxious shudders ran through his heart and veins.
The dizzy precipice was ever before his eyes: that way lay the only road back to life. He who until then had been always sure of his path, now felt in his soul a doubt he had never before experienced, that deepened and caused him ever greater agony, until he could no longer bear it. He therefore decided rather to attempt forthwith what could not be avoided than to await the light in a torment of incertitude. Again he arose, ready for the venture without the blessed light of day, to conquer with faltering steps the dangerous path.
But hardly had he set foot into the darkness when he realized as though condemned by an irrevocable judgment, that his fate was to be fulfilled without delay. He called out into the emptiness in anger and sorrow: “O Invisible Spirit, who hast three times warned me and whom I have thrice refused to believe, O Spirit to whom I now bow down as to one stronger than I, tell me, ere thou destroyest me, who thou art?” Again the voice rang out, stiflingly close at hand and immeasurably far away:
“No mortal hath yet known me. Many names have I: the superstitious call me Destiny, fools call me Luck, and the pious call me God. To those who deem themselves wise I am that Power which was in the Beginning and continues without end through all Eternity.”
“Then I curse thee in this my last moment,” shouted the youth with the bitterness of death in his heart. “If thou art indeed the Power that was in the Beginning and continues without end through all Eternity, then was it fated that all should happen as it did—that I should go through the forest and commit murder, that I should cross the meadow and bring ruin upon my Fatherland, that I should climb this rock and here find death—all this despite thy warning. But why was I condemned to hear thee speak to me thrice, if thy warning was not to help me? And why, oh, irony of ironies! must I in this my last moment whimper my feeble question to thee?”
An answer was made to the youth, stern and terrible, in a peal of mysterious laughter that echoed to the utmost confines of the invisible heavens. As he tried to catch the words the earth moved and sank from under his feet. He fell, deeper than a million bottomless pits, amid all the lurking nights of time, that have been and will be, from the Beginning to the End of all things.
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