To his right was the valley. Lush green and becalming, flowing to the foot of the immense wall of the dam, that had been stretched between an even more imposing pair of craggy mountain pillars.
In a human sense, a mountain is almost permanent. This one had been prematurely scarred by men with lots of dynamite: – Must I marvel at man’s ingenuity or shudder at our disrespect for nature’s aesthetic? Must they always erect dams in Paradise? Adam and Eve, thrown out of Eden ’cause God would build a reservoir there – The wall of this dam hung as if draped from the canyon ribs like a huge stage curtain.
The traveller pricked up his ears. A gushing. He turned a curve in the road around the cliff face. The white jet could be seen through a veil of branches and leaves, a black silhouette of Spanish oak. It burst forth from the stage-curtain wall. Power generating power. Force. Shooting. Spurting. Mighty ejaculation. The Valley of the Moon’s now constant thunder.
He felt suddenly frightened. Not that he thought the dam would burst. He was not worried about a potential accident, but rather of the act itself: of the anthropocentric mind projection that had decided that this wall and the lake it would catch, and the forest it would sink, and the land life that would perish, would be so necessary. Necessary for the species to flourish, or for the jobs it would create, for the economy it would generate.
“No economy here now,” said the young inn-keeper: “Not since they ran the motorway past us. Before, yes, tourists would come through, dazzled by the scenery they was, but now the motorway just whizzes them all right past. It’s dead ’ere. There’s only ten of us now. Those who stay in the village the whole year round. Only ten.”
The elderly customer grinned and turned to the stranger:
“Not all of us whinge and whine like this guy,” he said: “Why would we want scores of tourists come through here? To sell them some cider and honey? Pig shit! And what’d they take away? Those tourists: they come, look at our mountains, smell our fresh air, drink the sparkling water, and then… move on. But what do they take with’em?… A jar of honey and a bottle of cider. No, I’m glad they’ve stopped coming.”
And he pushed himself away from the bar and walked out.
The young inn-keeper watched him leave, rubbed the lenses of his thick glasses with his t-shirt, then turned back to the traveller:
“Where do you go from here?” he asked.
The stranger chewed on some salted beef and ruminated on what flesh is:
“I was thinking of throwing myself off the wall,” he said: “The slide down there would be… incredible, absolutely incredible. Amazing, don’t you think?”
Which made the inn-keeper snigger, and he gave him a third bottle of beer on the house.