I came back to the Vercors because that was where most of my family still lived. Sure, I remembered the elusive, scythe-crowned bouquetins and their mad chases across the cliffs, the rare flowers, the breathtaking scenery, it was everything I grew up with. Again I saw streams of clouds shredding on the high reefs―I stood right on the edge. I heard the thunder of the waterfalls crashing from the sky―drank the water cupped in my hands. Went inside the maze of veins deep in the ground and listened to it beat―the heart of the Fortress. It beat like mine.
Then one day I arrived on a wind-blown, arid plateau stretching between its highest walls, the top of the citadel. There was a graveyard. I didn’t count the crosses, there were too many. Wooden crosses painted white. Pour la liberté, 1944. And I remembered something I once read. What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.
The cliffs in front of me glow gold and pink before slowly sinking in the velvet of the night. I watch the darkness gather under the cliffs. It spreads, it crawls up along the walls, filling the lines in the rock with shadows, growing. It reaches the serrated line of the cliffs and from there, from the very edge of the battlements, soars into the sky where it fades among the stars. So night doesn’t fall on the Vercors, it rises. And I think I’m starting to understand. Night is born of the cliffs, like everything else up here. The darkness and the light, the storming wind, what people are and what they become, it’s all written on the walls of the cliffs.