The Wanderer, Part 10

great_mist_view1

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6
The Wanderer, Part 7
The Wanderer, Part 8
The Wanderer, Part 9

Tas woke on a soft cushioned cot, his body felt rested for the first time since he was recuperating in the village hut over a week ago. He yawned, stretching his arms and legs, taking his time to enjoy the softness of his pillow and cot. He and the old man had arrived at the monastery yesterday and Tas had been sent to this room; he had fallen asleep within minutes.

He rose slowly, and walked into the washroom and got ready for the day. His hair had become a wild and black tangled mess and he took his time to use the comb to rack his hair for a time before giving up in the back. He sighed and dressed into the traditional robe he was given for clothing, and walked outside into a dark corridor.

Tas walked towards the lighter end of the hall, small candles lit the floor and he really had no idea where he was. But this is where he had been led by the monk the night before so he followed the longer portion of the hallway to the left. Once he had traveled up a few flights of stairs, he began to see monks, all with robes likes his and shaven heads. They were all moving so quietly and it was all he could do to move slowly with them. He rose up the final flights of stairs and came to the ground level of the monastery.

He hadn’t realized it the night before, but the monastery was high a on a hill overlooking the dense forest to the south. It later turned to jungle, but most of the trees were a lot taller than those Tas was used to and with a lot more thin leaves. He glanced at the temple above ground and thought the majority of the building must be below the hill, because he had taken five flights of stairs to get to the surface. He wondered what else was down there besides simple rooms for the monks.

Over five hundred monks were gathering together for their morning prayer, Yao would be with the acharya, the leader of the temple. When the gong over the entrance to the grounds began to sound, Tas could see Yao and a heavily decorated monk climbing down the steps from the upper level of the temple to a balcony over-looking the grounds; no doubt these were the acharya’s quarters. On the eighth sounding of the gong, every around Tas sat; he was quick to follow.

The acharya addressed the crowd with a wave of his hand, his smile radiated out towards them all. He spoke for a time in a way that Tas couldn’t understand. After a while, the monks began a chant together that lasted about 20 minutes and that Tas was able to participate in after a bit of listening to the responses. The gong began to sound loudly in the background and the monks rose and seemed to disperse throughout the grounds. Tas supposed they each had duties to perform and things to do during their days, though many seemed to be just wandering about, looking at the floor. This was a strange place indeed.

As the crowd thinned, Tas could see that Yao was waving at him to come over to meet the acharya. He walked to the center of the temple and up the steps to the balcony, where the two waited for him. The acharya seemed to be very excited at the prospect of meeting Tas and Yao’s attitude seemed to be the exact opposite. Immediately, the acharya seized Tas’ hand and asked, “You must be Tas, the boy that followed Yao from a small desert village. Yao told me about you about a month ago. He said that you wish to know god.”

“Well, yes sir, that’s true. I do wish to know god, or whatever it is that I can know.”

Yao let out a little laugh and the monks eyes grew tight as he peered at Tas. “Whatever it is that you can know, huh?” The acharya looked at Yao, but Yao simply shrugged his shoulders in response and gave another quick laugh. The acharya sighed, some of his enthusiasm seemed to die down.

“Well you can stay here as long as you like, as long as you abide by the rules of our order. You are welcome here and you can get one square meal of rice each day that you decide to stay. Perhaps you will stay here and study god with us.”

Tas was a bit surprised at the offer, he had never been offered to stay anywhere as a guest before. And this was what he had been looking for, a chance to learn about god!

“I would love to, sir.” Tas bowed to the man as he spoke, trying to show as much respect as he possibly could. “But can I ask you a question, sir?”

The acharya looked skeptically at Tas, but his expression gave way to a smile and he said, “of course.”

“What is god?”

“That is not a question that I can answer, Tas from the desert.” The acharya seemed to know that it was coming and seemed unaffected. “But if you stay here for a time….” He glanced over at Yao, seeming skeptical of something himself, but the crooked old man seemed to have a special glint of light in his eyes, as if he knew some joke that he was keeping to himself. “and if you continue to follow Yao, perhaps you will answer that question for yourself one day.”

The acharya looked satisfied with the answer, but Tas was not. “You mean I came all the way here, through the jungle, wandering endlessly in the desert, and nearly dying to just ‘answer the question for myself’? So much for a monastery.”

The acharya laughed, surprising Tas. “You are surprised that your difficult question is not easy? It is difficult. And different for each person. If you want to understand the god that I know, I will teach you how to see what I see.”

Tas nodded, this was more of what he needed. Training and guidance. Yao seemed to be very far away, though he was right there. Tas wondered what the old man was thinking.

“Good, Tas, we will start your training first thing tomorrow morning. Wakeup with the morning sun and come to meditate with me after we gather together. I will show you how to see properly.” He seemed to find this incredibly amusing and gave Yao a big push on the shoulder as he said it, causing the old man to react and nearly toss the acharya over his shoulder. Both stopped and broke into laughter as they began to wrestle, now a little more fiercely, but also more playfully. A couple of minutes later, Tas asked the acharya one final question.

“What is your name?”

“My name is Fei.” The older man looked happy, as though he had just won a prize at the lottery. “make sure you get good rest. Tomorrow will be a long day of training for you.” Fei smiled happily as he said it. Yao was not quite so happy, but seemed to be in his usual observant and detached state. Tas couldn’t be sure if the old man was happy or sad that Tas was going to stay for a time. The old man was so hard to read.

But as Tas left to go back down the stairs to the grounds to walk around for the afternoon, Yao yelled, “I’ll return in a month, kid. Try not to get into any trouble with the local villagers.” Tas could see the old man grin as he said the last words, then continued walking.

Tas turned and walked towards the gardens, happy to be in a place where he had always thought he was meant to be. Finally, he would learn what he had left his entire life behind to know. But he wondered what Fei had meant by training and knew that would have to wait for tomorrow to find out.

 

 

 

The Wanderer, Part 9

taoist_sage

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6
The Wanderer, Part 7
The Wanderer, Part 8

Tas woke in a cold sweat. He could hear a rustling in the bushes near him and started until he saw that it was only the old man, his rescuer from the night before. He still felt the euphoria from the night before, his vision seemed to be more defined and even his body did not hurt so bad as the day before. In fact, he felt fresh and renewed, even from his injuries.

He got up quite easily, gently nursing his bruised back and ribs and he rose and remembered the crushing blow from four days easier. The old man was already continuing along the road they were following north, though Tas had no idea where they were going. After a bit, Tas thought he might try his luck with some questions.

“You killed them all?” Tas asked, remember the vicious assault the old man had inflicted upon the village the night before.

“No,” the old man said somberly. “Just the ones who fought back.” He seemed to brighten up as he said it.

“Thank you. I would have…”

“I know.” The old man said quickly. “They were a wicked group, this one. They have killed many travelers before you. I brought what was coming to them.”

“How did you know where I was?”

“The stars told me,” the old man said mystically, looking up at the forest canopy. His walking stick seemed to have changed, though Tas hadn’t even really noticed it before. It was a bit shorter, and the man’s back seemed a bit more crooked.

“You can really read  the stars like that? To see what is happening in the world?” Tas asked in an innocent tone?

The old man nodded. “I see the now. The stars assist me in this.”

Tas didn’t completely understand. But he could tell that the old man wouldn’t talk more about it, so he moved on.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?” Tas had never seen anyone move in such a fashion, like a wild animal with complete control, perfect precision. He could still see the silhouette dodging multiple spears and connecting a spear to neck after neck, two heads fell at a time.

“I was born to be a warrior.” The old man said. He stopped walking now. He looked around for a moment, as if looking for something specific, then began to walk towards the side of the road they were following. He found a couple of nice sitting rocks and mentioned to Tas to have a seat. He took out some salted peas that turned out to be tremendously tasty, especially since Tas hadn’t eaten much since he left the village.

They spent a minute eating, before the old man began to speak again.

“Kid, you can’t tell anyone what I am about to tell you. But it’s time you learned who I am.” Tas nodded in agreement; he wouldn’t tell a soul.

“My name is Yao, I am from the far north, high in the mountains. That is where I learned to fight,” He looked at Tas with a grin as he said it. Tas had never seen the mountains and the old man seemed to know it.

“I was born to be a Jarakanda, a hunter and defender of my village. It was a childhood of strife and training; my only thoughts were to be as strong as I could possibly be. I learned to fight with my fists first, then my feet, then with other things. Swords, Staves, knives, rocks, all kinds of different weapons. Spears are one of my favorite,” his grinned turned menacing as he said it.

“My people traveled with the snow, we were people of the mountains and were efficient enough hunters and fishermen. I learned to read the sky and the weather from them, as well as all types of hunting, gathering, and fighting. But when I turned into a man, my father was killed by the chieftain for adultery on my mother. I left my village in shame, to take up the life of a monk in a monastery to the south. I gave up my arms and hunting to live a life in solidarity and to undo the karma of my father’s treachery. He was beheaded.” The entire story seemed to have no emotion behind it, like he was telling it from another person’s point of view.

“So you were born to be a warrior?”

“Not just a warrior. Jakaranda’s are renowned for being the most vicious opponents, elite hunter-warriors. Especially against multiple targets. We practice hunting and preying on groups of deer at a time in the mountains, to minimize our time outside during the harsher storms of winter. Once you can kill three deer within 20 seconds, you can kill as many men as you need to,” the old man said with a chortle.

He seemed to be entertaining questions, so Tas pushed further, “What happened when you left for the monastery? What happened to your father?”

“Well, he was given a trial, Jakaranda’s are held to extremely strict standards. When he was convicted, the chieftain took his head. I was forced to watch with my mother and brother, in shame.” He didn’t look shameful though. Tas thought that maybe the old man had cleansed his karma or something along those lines. No, he was sure of it. There was still no emotion in his voice, despite talking about witnessing the death of his father. Tas’ respect for his teacher seemed to grow each time he learned more about the stooped old man. To watch one’s own father die shamefully must be the worst of punishments, Tas thought to himself.

“I left for the monastery and pursued god, or holiness, or purity, or whatever you want to call it.” He looked directly at Tas now, “Just like you, I wanted to find answers to my questions and I left everything behind to do it.”

Tas digested his words for a minute, then responded, “What did you find?” He had to know what happened next, surely the monastery would have answers.

“That is a story for you to learn for yourself.” When Tas began to ask a question in response, the old man continued, “We will arrive there within a week. You’ll see it for yourself. Now, it is time to walk.”

Tas got up, but still had one last question. “Can I call you Yao, master?”

The old man laughed heartily for a few moments before responding, “You can call me Yao, but I prefer Yejo. It was my father’s nickname.” Suddenly he became extremely serious. “But don’t ever call me master.” The smile had left his face completely.

Tas smiled as the old man turned from him to continue walking north. Even though he seemed to have gotten some answers, they had only sparked more questions about the old man. Where were they going? What he did mean by saying that god and purity and holiness were the same thing? He sighed and continued walking, happy to know that the man he was following was as full of surprises as the jungle itself.

 

 

The Wanderer, Part 8

village wanderer part 8

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6
The Wanderer, Part 7

Tas rolled over; his pain returned in full force. His head was throbbing and his mind was lost. He opened his eyes sometimes, but would shut them immediately because of the throbbing pain shooting from the side of his head. In the depths of his agony, he could see the smile of the man with the razor teeth grinning in between bursts of pain from his spine and head. His body was useless.

For two-days, he simply sat and recovered in a small hut, the village women brought him food and water and they arranged for a few new cloths for him to wear. Occasionally, they would bring him a coconut and it seemed to make everything feel a bit better.

He didn’t leave the small space that was allotted to him; he didn’t think he could even if he wanted to. The pain in his head was overwhelming.

Tas was happy to eat and drink his fill after a few days of nearly starving in the jungle. The women brought him bowls of rice and noodles and vegetables and some fruit to match. But their tea was absolutely intoxicating, Tas must have had 6 full cups throughout the day. He also had a bowl of soup each night for dinner, which was a delightful mix of squash and lentils. He slept on a soft fur that one of the women had given to him and as he recovered, he couldn’t help but feel very lucky to be where he was.

On the third day he woke with his spine still in pain, but his head felt better. It was still a bit hard to breath because his ribs were bruised, but he could stand without too much pain. There was still a dull throbbing, but he soon found himself stretching his spine. It was painful at first, but as he warmed his body slightly, the tension faded. He was still very sore, but he was ready to be out and about.

He walked out of his little hut and immediately was surrounded by people. The villagers acted like they had never seen an outsider before and their eyes were on him everywhere he walked. He was pulled this way and that by a small crowd of children, until one of the women shoo’ed them away. Her body was tattooed, but her face was relatively free from ornamentation.

She took him by the arm to an older man; on his head was a crown of feathers and carved wood and his face was painted to look very important, red bolts of lightning on his cheeks and vertical lines of white on his forehead. His eyes didn’t leave Tas as the boy approached. He seemed to look at him like the old wandering man did, piercing through his skin to something deeper. Only this man had spear surrounding his chair, long knives and arrows laced the background menacingly.

The old man looked at Tas for a moment, then called him closer. The woman pushed Tas so that the older man could examine him. He spent several long minutes examining Tas’ skin, then his head, then his ribs and spine. He looked at Tas in the eyes and seemed to have decided something. He called out in a loud voice to the entire villages and they roared and applauded as one in response. Tas wasn’t sure what was happening, but the entire village seemed to come alive at the old man’s words. The men began to organize to leave, grabbing weapons and painting each other with face paint. The women began to prepare food, Tas began to hear them chatter and heard sizzling in the background and could smell their fires being lit. In 20 seconds, the entire village had roared to life.

The woman took Tas back to his tent, where he remembered his throbbing head again. The pain had come back, though not as strong as the day before. He spent the rest of the day resting and listening to the village prepare, but had no idea what for.

When the shadows of the afternoon became longer, Tas was yelled at to come outside by the woman who was tending to him. He couldn’t quite figure out what they were saying at first, but once he had left his hut, three women grabbed him and pulled him towards a fire that was roaring in the center of the village. The men had returned with various game, a few chickens, but most notably a boar that was being skinned by the vicious man who had struck Tas. He felt his blood boil as he watched the man tearing through the boar’s flesh with his knife.

The women led him to a seat beside the old man, then began to feed him. All kinds of drinks and different vegetables were placed before him and he couldn’t help but devour them. He had never eaten so well as the past few days, but this was different. He felt like a king with servants that were continually arranging his food for him to eat, bringing new dishes until he couldn’t eat anymore. Once he was done, he realized that the entire village was waiting for him to finish.

Something was very wrong here, Tas thought to himself. The words from the villainous man days before rung in his ears ‘no friends here’. He couldn’t help but feel that this was not in his honor, but for something else entirely, but he had no idea what.

After everyone had finished eating, the sun began to set. The men began to pull out pipes and pass them between each other, before passing them to the women and even some of the older children. Tas had smelled tobacco before, but this was different, a skunkier smell. He felt a bit disoriented after a while and could tell that the smoke was strong. The villager’s eyes turned a dark red as they digested and smoked. Finally, Tas was offered a pipe, but after one pull found himself coughing uncontrollably. He felt a strange peace begin to settle over him and he almost felt as he had with the old man in the last days in the desert. He thought back grimly at the old man’s final prank.

The men began to scuffle about and soon a big wooden bowl that was cured for fire was brought into the center of the fire. The old man rose from his chair to the silence of the village and began to put ingredients into the bowl, some that Tas could see, some that he couldn’t. He could make out various roots and leaves and other plants of various sizes and shapes. He added some dark green and black liquid into the mix and set it over the fire.

A few minutes later, when the sun was just setting down on the horizon, Tas was led to the bowl. He was given a ladle and told to drink and he did. It was a nasty taste, but they gave him a bit of fruit afterwards. The old man drank longly from the bowl, as if relishing the taste, which Tas found unbelievable. It tasted like a mix of cow dung and overcooked vegetables.

Once the old man was done, the other men in the tribe took smaller portions of the strange liquid then the remains were passed to the women and finally, a few of the eldest children.

Tas returned to his seat and after a time, began to feel very weird. He started to see lights that couldn’t be there and the whole world seemed to come more alive. He couldn’t stop staring at the stars and the setting sun and felt his entire being start to melt away. The entire world melted away and all he could feel was the nothingness inside of himself, a void that grew larger and larger until it was overwhelming and he felt a burst of light come forth from his chest and illuminate the entire village. He saw his mother and sisters dancing at their own village fire and felt an intense longing, time seemed to pass so slowly. He opened his eyes to look at the stars again and found himself floating amongst them, a light inside of him was burning bright. He felt as if the stars were his brothers, though he had forgotten them. His vision became more and more in control and suddenly, he re-realized where he was. The old man was right beside him and he seemed to be inoculated, looking up at the sky with closed eyes.

Suddenly, seemingly in response to Tas’ gaze, the old man looked over at Tas and yelled loudly, so the entire village erupted. He took Tas by the arm and then slapped him to the floor. Pain flared in Tas, though it seemed to be distant in a way. He could still see the old man in perfect detail, his skin seemed to hang like a bag around his body and it swirled and magnified as he stared. He was brought to his feet again, and was bound to a tall pole. Tas finally knew that this was a tribe of the sort that were in children’s stories in his village. He knew immediately that these men planned to eat him. As if in response to his thoughts, the grim man who had injured him before came to the fire, licking his lips. Tas began to struggle, but it was too late.

They brought him to the fire and he knew it was over. He thought back to the old man and wondered how he could have gotten so lost. He walked slowly with the men surrounding him until they dropped him with a yell, close to the fire. Tas fell on his face, but could hear the cries of the villagers, screaming. Hell itself seemed to break loose from the lips of the women..

Tas tried to roll over, but couldn’t and found a rock to untie his hands from the pole. As he finally was able to look up, he saw a flash of darkness moving against the fire, seeming to dance with its flames. He finally broke the bindings of his hands and used them to raise his head to see what was happening.

A group of villagers were backed up against one of the larger huts, one shorter looking man with a large spear threatened them. Tas would have found this comical in any other situation, but the villagers seemed terrified. He smelt burning flesh and turned to the fire to see the body of a headless man singing in the flames. He looked on the floor to see more bodies, at least a dozen men, most of the them dead. The rest would be within minutes because of their wounds. Gashes, cuts, and blood decorated their bodies, giving signs of the battle that was continuing now.

The fire just barely illuminated the short attacker, who seemed to fly through the villagers while tearing through their flesh. The cries of the villagers grew less and less until only a dark silence remained. The fire was growing softer and Tas was still having visions of his family, of the old man, and of the stars and the life around him. But this was interrupted by his thoughts of the attacker that he watched flow like a swan with his movement. Who was this godly man who could kill a dozen ferocious villagers at once?

As if on cue, the attacker approached Tas and to Tas’ surprise, gently untied his feet from the pole and sat him up to look at him. When Tas could finally see the man’s face, he gasped.

It was the old man from the desert. He seemed to know that Tas was out of his mind and left him for the time being, but Tas sputtered and tried to speak to no avail. He was amongst the stars now, feeling the eternal energies of the cosmos flowing through him as a stream through a valley. He wondered if the old man was a hallucination and if perhaps he was dead. What a curious thing, life. Tas thought to himself.

He came back down for a moment to see the old man again, whose gaze hadn’t left Tas’ face. He helped Tas to his feet and brought him to a nice place to sleep. Tas cried the whole way, not knowing if he was alive or dead, but knew that this man, who had saved his life and viciously slaughtered 20 men in the process was a part of god. He felt it as strongly as he had ever felt anything in his life. As the visions began to fade, so Tas faded into sleep, the world forgotten and blackness overtook him.

The Wanderer, Part 7

work from http://www.aboriginalworkshops.com/

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6

Tas rolled awake in the midst of a hard rainfall, his canopy was beginning to flood because he hadn’t angled the roof properly. He had been alone for longer than he could remember, though he knew it had only been a few days. He had eaten well the night before; he found a mango tree and caught a wild chicken in the jungle. The old man would have disapproved, but he didn’t care. The chicken had filled him up more than any meal ever had. He salted some of the cooked meat from the night before and began to eat.

After his breakfast, his mind turned immediately to his surroundings and seeing that the rain was worsening, set out into the jungle.

His shoes were soaked in minutes so he replaced them with large fan leaves that served as a sort of boat for his feet as he waded. Tas soon learned to stay up slightly in the trees to see any available fruit. It also turned out to be a bit faster than walking on the mud. He spent an hour wading towards the south, he wished to see deeper into the depths of the wild. He could go home tomorrow.

Tas hadn’t seen a tiger since the day Vesu died. He still felt the fear in his body, a shaking that woke him in the night sometimes. He continued on his path for a bit longer, wading through mud until he fell over a tree root and was covered in filthy mud from the forest floor.

He groaned with displeasure as the mud slipped from his skin, his face was completely covered. He used one last clean spot from his shirt to clean around his eyes after using his fingers to remove most of the muck. Then he grabbed his water and washed his face. It was getting low, his original supply for a week had dwindled down to just a few days. He would have to find a waterhole, or some coconuts soon, which he had scarcely found in this thick jungle.

As Tas finished wiping his eyes, he became aware of a man standing directly in front of him. This man had hole in his ears and they were filled with wooden carvings, his face was tattooed with dark symbols of colored birds and some creatures that Tas had never seen, but seemed ferocious enough. He seemed to loom over him as he approached menacingly. The man seemed to move with pure muscle and in a short step took out his bow to aim it at Tas. He laced it with a long arrow and pulled it back, ready to split Tas’ head open.

But Tas stared back at this man, hard determination seemed to sizzle on his skin, a fire began to burn in his belly. Had he come this far to let this man end him here?

He rose and walked over to the man with his head bowed and moved the arrow away from its original target. The man whistled and four others moved from the shadows. The rain was still pouring, splashing all around and sometimes bouncing right up to splash Tas right in the eyes.

The men moved towards him and he kept still. He simply looked up for a second, put his hand on his heart, and said, “friend” with the same hard determination that he had met the gaze of the first man. These others were even taller, stronger, and more tattooed and ornamented in strange ways. One had holes in his cheeks, another had the skin of his hands missing and tattoos over the visible veins in his legs. He looked up to see the warrior’s face, a scar laid over one eye that was still functional. The scar continued down to his lip, forming a mean and permanent grimace.

They grabbed Tas by the shoulders and bound him, taking him through the jungle, further in the east. He struggled to free himself at one point, but the grim-looking man hit him in the back of the head, just soft enough not to knock him out. He remembered the sage in the desert and thought back to their last moments together. The old man did not seem so crazy now, compared to this madness. Tas knew of the eastern tribes, men who ate men, sometimes women and children. Some smoked all variety of herbs and plants, others spent days in silence, similar to his own master. He wondered where these men were taking him.

When they stopped at some coconut trees to refill their water supplies and take a short break, Tas waited patiently for the permanently frowning man to leave him. He couldn’t help but stare at the scar and wonder what it was from. After a bit, the man went into the jungle, probably to relieve himself. Tas immediately got up to talk to the first man who seemed to be in charge. Tas saw the dark tattoos around his eyes as he walked closer, until the man saw Tas approach and gave a quick whistle. Immediately, Tas was thrown to the ground and restrained. He looked up at the man and was immediately forced back down to the floor and bound. As he rose from the much he could just make out the tatoos of the grim man, felt his harsh laugh pierce through him as he swiped with his spear in a motion Tas couldn’t see, but all he felt was pain.

Tas fell to his knees, the air was knocked out of him so he could barely breathe. He looked up one last time at the man with the ornamented ears. The man smiled for the first time, a wicked smile of razor sharp teeth, red and bloody stained teeth, and two gold noserings. It was truly terrifying and Tas couldn’t help but show his fear. The man moved closer to Tas’ ear and whispered, “no friends here.” And then he bit off a chunk of Tas’ ear. He howled with laughter as Tas howled his pain; Tas was shaking and began to struggle ferociously against his captors. A moment later, the grim man approached Tas and smiled with rotten teeth that were as sharp as knives and now fresh with blood. He took the end of his spear again, this time swinging wickedly and knocked Tas to the floor and down into the depths of the dark.

The Wanderer, Part 5

Van_Gogh_brothel

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4

Tas woke in a small bed by the wall. His shoulder was asleep, so he took a few moments to roll side to side and stretch his legs, still very sore and tired from walking the days before. It had taken two to arrive in the coastal city and another to find the inn called “rest long, eat lots”. He had been disappointed to find that the inn did not have much food, had a curfew, and let the light in as early as the sun rose.

He met a man named Shatar. He told him how he had come to arrive and of his mentor, the old man who wandered aimlessly. Shatar laughed when he first heard Tas’ description, but hadn’t laughed since. He was a serious man, concerned with running his business well so that he could feed his dozen or so children, who helped around the inn. Most were boys, which seemed to be rather unfortunate, as the inn seemed to lack the proper care that a good resting place required.

But he was in no position to complain and was given a small room with a bucket, drain, and small living area. He was told he would be given water to wash in the morning. There was a small bed, barely raised off the floor in the corner with soft blankets and sheet and a few cushions underneath. So this small room was his home for the time being and he quite enjoyed being able to sleep on a cushion rather than the hard wood of trees.

He woke each morning to work. He woke when the others did, no questions asked, and left with the group to head to the docks.

He spent the days loading and unloading cargo from ships, while the taskmaster barked orders and generally harassed the lot of them into moving slightly faster. Tas wasn’t sure if it worked, but he kept up a fast pace so that he was never punished with the whip. Occasionally, it seemed that the taskmaster just didn’t like him. At the end of each day, he was given 4 silvers and he would give one of them to Shatar each night for food. But it was a perilous job, full of surprises and occasionally he would be forced to stay later, say if a ship came in a dusk. It was hard enough work during the day, so if they worked into the night they were given an extra two silver.

Soon, Tas began to spend two silver a day on food, one during midday when the sun was too hot to work, and the other at night, when he was done working. He would save usually 2 per day, sometimes only one because he had to clean his clothes or buy something new like sandals. He had bought a good pair on his first day and his feet had thanked him ever since.

The days were long and hard, but he could feel his body adapting. A large bag of rice cost 35 silver, and the spices and nuts that he needed were another 30. He knew that he would spend a month then return to the wandering sage he had pledged himself to.

But in the first week, he found himself out at night with a few of his coworkers and they walked to a dirty and lowly place with men out front smoking all sorts of contraptions, a rickety porch, and a crowded entrance. The four of them walked inside to see several women serving men drinks, as well as several other who were sitting and some that were even kissing.

Tas had never encountered such a scene in his life, as his village had been quite tradition. He stormed out of the lowly and dirty place in a hurry, and he went straight to his room to lay awake on his bed for several hours. For the next few days, he went to work without talking to his friends, but on the fourth day, they invited him to come with them once again. He no longer felt the same revulsion as he entered the rickety old body filled hut. His curiosity had taken control.

Again, as he entered he saw a man and woman begin to kiss, long slow kisses like he had never seen. He stared for a moment before Annu, his favorite coworker, pushed him forward. He nearly tripped over a broken stool and continued by a bar, replete with all different colors and sizes of concoction and labels that he couldn’t understand. He waved for one above, a luscious brown color with hints of amber. The keeper made a motion for 2 silver and so he obliged. Upon opening and sipping the liquid, he felt a fire and spit. His friends laughed and Annu bought one of the same. As he drank it, he coughed as well, to the enjoyment of the older members of the crowd. Then, a woman took notice of them.

She first caressed Annu face, pulled it to her own, then kissed his lips with a ferocity that Tas had never seen. Then she turned, seeing his staring eyes, and moved towards him faster than a bolt of lightning and their lips danced for a moment before they parted. Tas could hardly move, let alone speak. He felt something pulling him from the small shack before he could think and eventually found himself being pulled to benches near the water by Annu. The others were left behind.

“You would have given her all your money,” Annu said slowly, as if answering a question. “I know you keep it all with you.”

Suddenly, Tas became extremely self-conscious, in a way that he hadn’t been since he’d left the desert a week before. He didn’t know what to say.

“Come. We should sleep to rest our backs for tomorrow. God knows they need it.”

Tas looked up with a sudden remembrance and gave a hearty chuckle. God indeed! He supposed god was the reason he was here in the first place. But the old man had left him. What was he pursuing now?

“Yes, they do.” Tas would keep to himself for now.

“What do you save for?” Annu asked him, a strange veil had taken his eyes and blurred them.

“I save my silvers so that I can follow a man to find god.” Tas said, realizing for the first time the ridiculousness of his quest. What was he thinking? Was there any purpose at all behind what he was doing? What was the old man up to anyways?

Annu did not laugh. He looked solemnly at Tas. He seemed to decide something, then asked, “What is this man like?”

Tas laughed, “He is the queerest man you might ever meet and nothing he does makes sense. But he laughs at everything and smiles all day long.” Tas looked out into the horizon, waves moving seamlessly into the oblivion. “I don’t know why I follow him.” He admitted, “except that there is a certain curiosity that I have that I cannot explain and that tells me to learn from this man.”

Annu looked at Tas long and hard, and again, seemed to come to a decision. “Well, you are my friend now, Tas. If you need anything, ask me and I will do my best to help you with what you need.”

Tas took a long moment to reply, “can you get me another kiss?”

Annu laughed, this time in a heart-felt chuckle and rose, slapping Tas on the back. “Probably not, but we can try can’t we?” He grinned slyly at Tas hinting at mischief.

“We sure can.” and with the remaining 11 silver in his pocket, Tas began to walk back to the inn but stopped as he had a thought.

“Do you save Annu?” He asked, turning towards his new friend.

“Yes.” Annu said, a distance returned to his voice.

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” Annu said with another grin, and he disappeared behind a moving cart.

Tas grinned as he turned to walk home. Tomorrow indeed.

The Wanderer, Part 3

A Dark Sky

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2

Part 3

There was once a boy, who decided to follow a wandering old man into the desert. The boy’s name was Tas. He plunged headlong into the desert in the apprenticeship of this wandering man to find perfect, sustainable bliss and to know god.

Tas continued to wake up in strange places. He could never quite make out if they had been to the same place twice, the old man seemed to have innumerable hiding places for eating and sleeping in the vast expanses of the desert tundra. He knew hunger, but it was never too extreme. The old man claimed it helped him to be more awake. Tas had no idea what he meant.

One night, while the old man prepared food, Tas asked for more. Fatigue had begun to settle into his muscles and body and he thought only about more food.

The old man looked at him incredulously, as if not comprehending what he had heard. He stared at Tas for a few minutes, without moving, watching. Then he scanned Tas’ body, first with his eyes, then he began to poke and prod his muscles and joints. This continued for quite a while.

Tas was finally ready to shout at the old man to stop. The sage was in the process of shaking Tas’ knees for a few minutes straight and making weird motions with Tas’ ankles, when he suddenly stopped and became distracted with something, make Tas look up from his supine position. He pulled Tas up to his feet and immediately everything went black.

Tas could only hear the old man from a distance, he didn’t quite know where he was. He began to fall, slowly at first, then a bit faster, until he realized that he couldn’t fall forever. Immediately, he tripped forward onto his hands. He looked up to see a slow trickle of water, then a tidal wave blasted against his face until….

He woke up again, this time he was shaking and dripping wet. The sage exploded with a hearty laugh and his eyes twinkled as he spoke, “You have nice vacation?”

At first, Tas was a bit angry at the sage. But he could see that dinner was ready, so he easily forgot his anger, and took a huge bite from his bowl.

The sage laughed again, “You remember, we meditate before dinner. But this time, one bite, it’s okay. Now we wait.”

Tas sighed as he chewed. He slowed down, knowing this would be his one bit for a long while. The rice was still warm for the first time since he’d left his home over 2 weeks ago and it took him a while to slowly let the completely digested rice, few vegetable scraps and a couple of nuts into his stomach.

He could tell when he finished that the sage was in a deep meditation; he swayed slightly with the wind and his breath was soft and like a gentle wave it came and went. He closed his eyes and immediately felt himself exhaling completely and again he felt the sensation of absolute freedom. Each breath became a bit deeper, a bit more meaningful, a bit louder.

He lost himself in the nothingness, and began to feel his own body sway. He sat for a long time, though he had no idea how long. Eventually, he opened his eyes to see the sage smiling, his biggest smile yet. “Now, we feast.”

Slowly, still feeling the sensation of being lost, Tas ate, one bite at a time, finally beginning to trust the old man. He could feel each bite, so filling, so powerful for his body. When he was done, after a long while of enjoying each grain, each bit of spice, he set the bowl down and closed his eyes for a few more moments, before drifting off with the wind into the sky, where he forgot about everything but the gentle glow of the stars and the black clouds that hid them in the darkness of the sky.

 

The Wanderer, Part 2

desert_wandering

Please read the first part of the story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

There was once a boy, who decided that he would follow a wanderer into the desert to learn about god. The boy’s name was Tas. After receiving the approval of his parents, he travelled into the desert in the apprenticeship of a wandering wise man to find perfect bliss, realization of the divine, and to learn god.

They walked until the small town  once a few hours had passed in silence, the boy began to ask the sage questions. However, the desert man did not respond. At first he listened, but upon hearing the boy’s questions, the teacher dismissed his words. The boy fell silent, angry that he had been duped into following an old man who wouldn’t talk.

Finally, they came to a tree, alone in the vast expanse of desert, rising into the setting sun like a monolith of entangled roots, branches, and a thick trunk supporting a massive web of leaves fanning out in all directions.

Upon arrival, the old man seemed to inspect some different areas of the tree, then he hit some things, moved some rocks, then he grabbed under a protruding root for a small sack. Inside, Tas could barely make out some old and dusty looking jars and a few scrolls. The old man grabbed one of the smaller jars and a small but very sharp knife.

Then the sage, slow as usual when not walking in the hot sun, took his time to uncover a hidden pot and then gathered some stones to place in a circle for a fire. The grass was a dead golden brown, and the sun was setting down into the horizon, purple and pink streaks of light shone through the powerful clouds illuminating the sky. Tas’ stomach rolled on itself; he was just starting to realize the effects of walking all day without eating. He clutched his stomach.

“We can eat now?” He said simply, not wanting to offend the sage, fearing that his meal might depend upon it. The sage looked at him for a long moment and waited. Suddenly, he laughed.

Tas was confused. Who was this man who had led him astray into the desert and seemed to know the way so well. He thought the man was holy and knew of god and that sort of thing, but he was beginning to think that this man was simply insane and very poor.

The old man laughed again, as if he knew what the boy was thinking. “You don’t think twice about god now. Funny, how easy we forget.”

The boy had no idea what the man meant. Yes, he was on his journey to god. What was the old man talking about? Surely he didn’t need to focus on his mission every moment of the day.

“I don’t think about god because I am hungry.” Tas said slowly, uncertain of the old man’s eccentric responses. He looked up from his arranging of stones, which he had been finishing for the last 5 minutes. He began to use the knife to cut wood from the tree for the fire. Tas wondered how long it might take.

The sage seemed to move even slower. He made no response to Tas, which just proved to infuriate him further. Tas’ stomach was beginning to really hurt now, he could not remember ever going a day without a meal.

He watched as the old man slowly started a fire, using a flint and tinder that he carried with him. Tas was preoccupied with his stomach, it was really starting to growl now. The sage heard the low rumble and laughed. He asked Tas with a freshly curious tone, “you are hungry, yes?”

Tas responded, “Yes, of course, can you not hear my stomach?”

“Yes, of course I hear. You are the only sound here for many steps,” he laughed to himself, Tas had no idea what the joke was. He only grew angrier each time the old man laughed.

He began to take out some rice, and some water from his pack and heated the water in the pot. He was in a jolly mood indeed, seemingly more so each time Tas grunted with pain from his stomach.

Finally, the rice was finished, the old man added some spices, some nuts, and some dried vegetables that he stirred in with the rice. A couple of minutes later, the old man finished splitting the second half of the rice and placed it at the boys feet. The boy moved to eat…

“Wait!” the old man exclaimed, pushing Tas’ chest up from the floor. Tas groaned furiously.

“I cannot wait! I have never been so hungry in my life!” the boy said, now beginning to feel the pain subside a little less than it was before.

“You want to know god?” The old man looked directly into Tas’ eyes, they seemed to see right into him, and Tas couldn’t help but shiver. Goosebumps lined his hand and legs even though the night was quite warm, but the old man continued to stare. He looked into the embers of the fire and remembered his father, his mother, and the suffering they endured. He remembered his grandfather, whom he had just barely know, but he knew from his father that the man was great, honorable, loved by the whole family.

“Yes, I want to know!” The boy’s anger seemed to spill out, all of his rage accumulated in the words and he couldn’t help but feel the quiet breeze settling around him. The night seemed to grow quieter and twilight was in full bloom, a nearly full moon bright in the sky.

“Good,” said the old man, slower than before. His eyes were closed and he seemed to sway in the breeze. “Then we wait.” Tas stared at the old man for a moment before realizing that he was not going to open his eyes.

“What do we wait for?” Tas said, agitation lacing his voice poisonously.

“Until you are the wind, you wait. Close your eyes. Listen. Breathe slowly. Listen.”

Realizing suddenly that this was his first lesson, Tas immediately shit his eyes and began to listen. But he soon found himself adjusting his sitting. He found that he could not stop thinking about how hungry he was no matter how hard he tried to listen. He started to play with his fingers, waiting for the old man, he couldn’t listen with this hunger in his mind.

The old man, without opening his own eyes, said, “Close your eyes. Do not think of your stomach. Think of god.”

But this only served to perplex the boy more. They were out in the wilderness, under a tree, in the middle of nowhere. How could he think about god here? So he decided to try one more time. He closed his eyes, and this time, took a big breath in. As he inhaled, he could feel his chest expand and as he listened to his breath, he could hear the softness of the wind playing with his breath.

Immediately, the old man laughed, and said, “Good! You know already to learn. This is good. Tomorrow we learn more. Now we eat.”

The boy had forgotten about the food, just for a moment. He had forgotten about everything. He could still feel the breath, but never in the same way. He re-realized his hunger when he began to eat, then almost immediately fell to sleep. He did not think of a blanket, or even of his home, only that one moment, where he had felt so free.

The Wanderer

fantasy world

This is a short story that I originally wrote as a stand-alone short and has turned into a series. It is influenced by the Yamas,  most particularly Satya, truth.

There once was a wandering sage who had given up all of his possessions to know and be one with god. When the old man arrived in the desert village where he would spend the night, a young boy asked him why he wandered. The older man, strong but weathered from the harsh sun replied with an eery silence, “I search for god.” The boy was in awe. He spoke simply, slowly, and with the great conviction of a lifelong quest. The old man looked up at the sun and smiled. The boy had never seen such peace before.

The boy started to talk to this man when he returned from the desert, as he begged in the main streets of desert towns. He only returned from time to time, but the boy found him to be full of great wisdom. The man had nothing and took only what he needed to survive in the harsh desert outside of the villages and he claimed to be free of the material world. One day when he returned to the village, he met the young man and they spoke of that day the sage had spoken of his quest to god. He was entranced by his quest for perfect stillness and pure bliss. The boy said he wished to follow the sage as he wandered and the old man agreed.

“But first”, the sage said, “you must say farewell to your mother and father and tell them about the journey you wish to embark upon. Only with their blessing, may you follow my footsteps as you please.”

So the boy left the sage to fulfill his charge so he could leave to find god with this great sage who was quieter and slower than anyone he had met.

First the boy decided that he would said goodbye to his father, thinking it would be easier than talking to his mother. The sage waited outside the village, silent in the harsh desert while the sun set with his eyes unmoving on the sun. Pink and orange spilled over the horizon with the dying day.

The boy rushed home, excited to depart and tell his parents of the news. But to his surprise, his father replied sullenly and sadly when he learned of his son’s intentions, “So you wish to know god, do you? What do you feel you are missing here? You could stay with us and learn from the few books we have collected of the great gods of the epics.” But the boy was not pleased and hung his head for a moment. He took a step towards the door to leave, but his father spoke in a pleading tone.

“Please son, don’t leave. I fear you will find nothing out in the harsh elements but suffering and death. Learn to herd and farm and raise a family, like your ancestors before you.”

“But father,” the young-man replied soberly, “I must learn about myself and my world!” He continued speaking in more of a whisper than his full voice, as if it were partially a secret. “There is so much out there and I know so little! I met a sage in the village today and he is on a journey to find god! He looks at the sun as pure bliss and he has no worries, no chores, no pigs to feed, and no one to look after. He wanders from place to place and seems to be at peace with everything! He is wise father, he said he needs nothing!”

Father chuckled sadly at his son’s enthusiasm, “He is wise you say? What has he taught you? Did he tell you that everything that you see is a reflection of what is inside of you. And inside of you, there is a powerful spark of light, some call it god, others call it other things. This light is the same light as the light you see in the sleeping sky, winking at you from their places in heaven. You don’t need to go anywhere to find this thing you call god. Did this sage trick you into following him? Why are you so set on this mission of yours?”

“No, I asked him if I could follow him.” the son retorted. He was angry now, and sick of his father’s cryptic messages. He did not see a light inside of himself as his father had said. His voice heightened with sarcasm, “If god is already inside of me, why do the sages travel in pilgrimages, why do people retreat to mountains to find enlightenment, what is the point of seeing the world? Why do even the most powerful men bow and pray and sacrifice to the gods? Certain places are more sacred than others are they not? Do you really think these people do all of these things for nothing?” The son threw up his hands in despair.

His father replied slowly, “God is in everything son. Some people see god clearer when they are in a specific place, or doing a specific thing. Sometimes, it is when they feel the most alive.” Father sighed heavily, as if resigning his conclusion, “I grow saddened by your malcontent. You are searching for what is right in front of you!”

But at this the son grew angry. His father obviously did not understand. “Then why is there suffering father? Why do people get sick, die, and live in pain? Why is there disease, evil, scarcity, and poison? If god is inside of us, why do we hurt so much, all the time? Why isn’t everything prosperous and fruitful? Why do men travel to mountains and rivers and shrines and holy places to find god if he is just there inside! It doesn’t make any sense! I want a life of little suffering and I want to free myself from this weight I feel each and every day.”

At this, his father grew thoughtful and bowed his head in contemplation. “How many of these men have found what they were looking for, son? Have you even asked this sage if he knows god? Has his wandering and begging borne fruit? Listen closely son, men are full of lies and deceit and greed. Do not trust them, even this sage, whom you think has found the answers you are searching for. Each will serve himself more than he serves you.” He paused again, this time he examined his son, and his eyes teared as he spoke. “You must serve yourself, I understand. I will sorely miss you, son. You are my greatest love, the fruit of my life and I wish you prosperity and success in your journey to god. Listen for one last thing before you go. I believe that we hurt because we are meant to learn, my son. But the lessons are up to you. Perhaps this is what you must learn. I love you my son, someday, remember that you are always welcome here.”

The father smiled and embraced his son with all of his spirit, but the son was now simply confused and even more frustrated, his father didn’t make any sense. He was simply done with his nonsensical non-theology and was ready to say goodbye to his mother. He hugged his father back and felt warmth spread through his body as his frustration melted and he realized that he might not see his father again for a long time. Tears began to fall and they found themselves shaking for a moment in their sorrow. The son turned to leave, surer than ever of his path to freedom and bliss.

The boy’s excitement at the idea of journeying with the sage didn’t fade and he went into his mother’s room, the only other room in the house, to speak with her.

When he walked in, his mother quickly wiped her eyes, she had obviously overheard the father. She embraced her son immediately and cried into his now strong chest and arms; he was now a full six inches taller than her. He was days away from the final ceremony of manhood in the village, but he would leave all that behind. After a minute of holding his mother, he wiped her eyes with his sleeve and told her that he would return someday. He felt an intense sorrow begin to come over him, but he would not be swayed from his quest.

She replied harshly, much to the son’s surprise, “Do not speak to me of the future, unknown and meaningless. I want to spend time with my only son! Are you really leaving me here? Why do you leave your father and me, your family to follow this man whom you know nothing of? What has he found but despair and poverty in the harshness of the desert sun?”

“He searches for god!” the son exclaimed. “Mother, please understand. I wish to find god, I do not want to ordinary, boring life of a shepherd! I want to be free of this miserable suffering to live eternal bliss! This sage will lead me to freedom and lead me from this boring life.”

At this his mother let out a brief sigh. “Then you must leave my son. But remember to follow your heart, above all else, it will tell you where you need to go.” And she embraced her son for a long soft hug. It made the boy sad to see his mother in tears, but he was convinced of his quest. Then, the boy left into the darkening sky, now a faded purple with stars beginning to shimmer in the growing darkness.

The parents were saddened, but days, then weeks, then months and years passed. Their son did not return home. After a decade, he had still not returned and they gave him up for dead. Many of their friends had died on similar quests to find god, so they assumed death had claimed their son.

But one day, the once boy, now a man wandered into their small village. He met his mother’s eyes and she immediately ran to him and embraced him so fully that he dropped his begging bowl. The porcelain shattered on the hard ground. Tears flowed from their eyes onto the sandy ground, tears of joy. It had been more than 11 years since his departure.

He stood under the village gate as his parents looked questioningly at their forgotten son; it was obvious that he had suffered, there were scars on his back, his lips were cracking, and he was so thin that you could easily make out the bones of his body.

“I have returned!” he spoke with enthusiasm through the obvious weakness. His voice was ragged as his clothes.

They fed him water and the man who was once their young son spoke slowly, pain obvious in his voice. They clothed him and his mother bathed his sores and cuts and cooled his fever. That night, the son rose to speak with his father. He met his father to watch the stars of the darkness fly in the sky and they walked outside of the village, into the border of the now cooled dunes.

The son spoke after a time, in a voice sure and slow, “It took ten years of wandering the desert with nothing, following sage after sage to understand what I was looking for. I found misery, suffering, and greed. Even sages take and lie, sometimes. We are all seemingly bound by our humanity. Father, you were right, each man who I followed took from me to feed himself when it came down to a choice between him and me. This happened until I decided that I would feed myself first. But no one would feed me before I did. I found nothing that I was looking for, but suffering and death and luckily not my own.” The son looked into his father’s eyes to see tears dropping on the floor.

The son smiled and embraced his father, “You are my truest teacher. No sage led me to god, the only answers I found were those that I concluded. I think I had to see what god was not before I could see clearly what god really is. Wandering this place forced me to learn what was truly in my heart by stepping away from things that I loved dearest.”