It was the most ancient of legends. It has been passed down from grandparents to grandchild, that nestled in the most remote area, of the most treacherous mountains, there was a cave. Residing in this cave was a man, ancient of years, who possessed marvelous wisdom, knowledge, and power. Many have wasted their entire lives and incredible fortunes in pursuit of this mystical man. They seek him to gain the knowledge that only he is rumored to posses. Many have sought him, and few have found him.
“Tell me again how it was, grandfather. Did you really meet him?” The young, roughly clad urchin asked. “You never grow tired of a tale, do you Akash?” The old man chuckled and replied in a soft spoken, rumbly voice. “Well, I can’t say I really met him, although I did speak with him” he said quizzically. “I was traveling in the rough places, the barren, rocky, and blasted waste places.” He recited in a singsong manner, well used to spinning a tale. “I was near this tree that remarkably resembles the Jhakrana goat, have you ever seen such a tree Akash?”
The young boy shook his head mournfully, the lack of such an experience painted painfully on his face. “You will my boy, you will” predicted the old man with a hearty laugh at his facial expression. And then he continued “After pondering the many twists and gnarled curls of the goat tree I began to wonder what sort of life this tree had led. Gazing at its twisted horns, I could see how the many years of wind and sand and sun had taken its tole. It was then that my eyes ventured to look beyond the goat to a small opening, high in the opposite side of the cliffs. When my eyes tried to pierce the cavity I heard a voice speak inside my head.
“What did it say?” asked Akash, interrupting sharply
“Patience, young one. Stories are like chickens, they must be carefully warmed before they are hatched.” To help emphasize this concept the old man closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He exhaled and then began silently counting to himself backwards from ten. Three, two, one… He opened his eyes, Akash was still very eagerly waiting, but this time more silently. The old man continued “After I looked beyond the goat shaped tree, and peered into the cave in the cliffs above, I heard a voice in my head. If ears could hear color, this voice was of the deepest melancholy blue. The deep blue voice said to me “Greetings wearied traveler, it has been long since I have conversed with another being and I have grown weary of my own thoughts.”
When this voice began speaking I started like a frightened goat. I frantically searched the surrounding landscape, looking for the source of the voice since I had previously thought that I was completely alone. The voice pacified me “I am speaking to you from that cave you observed through the branches of the tree. The cave is my home you might say, or prison… but no matter, I am delighted to have company.”
I asked politely, still in shock “who do I have the pleasure of addressing, and by what manner are we conversing?”
“I have been called by many names, but some simply refer to me as the ancient one who dwells in the cave.”
“The wise one!” I gasped,
He answered “Some have called me that, although I tend to disagree. Then again I have spent ages sitting in this cave, pondering the questions of the universe, and if that endows wisdom then so be it. My manner of communicating with you is quite a simple one, once explained. I am able to originate two waves of sound which combine precisely inside your skull. Once the waves combine, this creates the impression that I am talking to you inside your head. When you talk to me I am able to read your lips, I have very good eyesight. I also can sometimes hear your voice when the wind blows the right way. But enough about me, tell me about you, your life, your family, your experiences…
Gazing thoughtfully at Akash the old man said “I tried to decline his request, wondering why this fount of knowledge wanted to know anything about me. But take note, my young Akash, for this ancient one was truly wise. He understood that we are given two ears that we may listen twice as much as we should speak.
“Is that why we are given two hands and arms, two legs and feet and but a single heart that we should strive to do eight times the amount of things that we feel and take into our hearts?” asked Akash quickly in one breath. Caught by surprise at the depth of the young boys question the old man paused to ponder. Shielding his eyes from the blazing sun, he examined his young grandson. He was dirty and street worn and accustomed to hardship. The old man glanced down at his own patched clothes, and then down at his weary hands, feet, and body. He deeply desired that he could provide more for his grandson. “Such a bright young child” thought the old man “and yet no easy way for him to escape this life. He would need more than eight times the effort, and quite a heart to escape this prison, too bad he hadn’t been born a centipede.”
Finally he answered Akash and said “There is wisdom in what you say, as well as folly” Akash glanced at the ground, looking flustered.
The man continued “The heart can be a fickle creature. Sometimes launching fists of rage or helping hands, sometimes feet for kicking or legs running to the aid of a friend. Ponder then what your heart contains, before allowing your eight fold action to be sent forth.”
“Yes Grandfather, I will” mumbled Akash, but silently, to himself “I was born to act! is not doing, even if inadequately so, greater than doing nothing at all?”
Once again sensing his grandsons impatience, the old man slowed the pace of his story telling. When serenity had returned he continued. “I told the old man in the cave my life’s story. He listened to me with the utmost attention. The sun set, and the bright, twinkling stars shone brightly as we conversed well into the night. When I asked questions about the old mans past, he gently evaded them. Remember Akash, to never pry too deep into others affairs. Through the course of our conversation I did learn that he had lived for many years beyond the natural age of a man. I also surmised that his entire life had been spent inside his cave. He was only familiar with those objects with which he could directly see outside of his cave. He was friends with the stars and planets as most wise men are want to be. Indeed, he had watched them pass across the night sky for his entire existence. He was also especially fond of the goat shaped tree, as it had drawn many men within reach of his projected voice.
After speaking to him for almost the space of an entire day I grew thirsty. I inquired, and he directed me to a nearby spring from which I quenched my parched throat. That wise man, though wise in many things, could not discern the quality of that twice cursed spring. From his cave he could hear what he assumed to be its bubbling freshness, but alas, it was not so. Take that to heart as well, Akash.
After I had partaken so fully and foolishly at that spring, I almost immediately began to tremble and shake. I scrambled back to the goat tree and fell unconscious beneath its meager, twisted shade. After some time I awoke.
Akash, I must admit that in the weakness of my soul I first suspected the old man of treachery! I opened my eyes, and I could see only the deepest shade of nothingness. I realized I was blind! I cried out in alarm, and my kind friend in the cave answered my plea. I told him of my plight and in the only way possible he consoled me with the kindest of words. He gave me hope and encouragement in the deepest and darkest night of despair. As my strength waned, and I began to contemplate my journey into the next life, we spoke of death. I was content with my life, and had lived it to its fullest. I was therefore resigned to my fate and inadvertent leaving of this life to go on to the next. In marked contrast, I was amazed at my friends unexpected reaction to the topic. At first he would change the subject, veiled in philosophy. I thought he was trying to comfort me yet again, but then I realized my kind friend was terrified by the thought of death. In terse sentences my friend related to me how his mother had died, how he had watched it happen, and how he had been powerless to stop it.
At this revelation the old man paused and glanced at Akash. The boy had also lost his mother only a few short years past. He could read empathy as well as serenity on his young face. His mothers illness had been a slow wasting one, with lots of time for reflection. Her end had come in its season and her going had been a peaceful one.
In a more solemn tone the old man continued “He could not accept my death, Akash. He began to yell! With many cries of frustration he berated the fates over the unfairness of death. And then a most unexpected thing happened, although maybe it was his plan all along. His angry cries triggered a rock slide, which threw up a dust cloud that could be seen for a great distance.” Mournfully the old man continued “Akash, I’m sorry to say that I’m unsure of the fate of my friend in the cave. It’s possible that he was buried by the rock slide that was my salvation. With the loud commotion and dust plume many came to investigate, and I was found and nursed back to health. I frantically told them about the man in the cave but most took it to be the ramblings of a sick old man who had been out in the sun far too long. The few who did investigate found no sign of my friend.
“Watch this part of the trail sir, the footing is unsure” warned Akash in a careful manner not often seen in a guide of his young age.
“Thank you, boy” snapped the well outfitted man he was guiding “but the path looks perfectly sound to me”
“Another fool” thought Akash “just like every other foreign traveler he had helped guide.” Glancing down at his ‘new’ pride and joy, a used Motorola cell phone, he checked the time. 12:36 almost time for lunch! His stomach rumbled a bit at the thought. And then only two more hours before he was done guiding and could go back to his friends.
Plodding onward, both Akash and the foreigner had a rough time. The trail was covered in loose rocks and only a few roots were available for hauling oneself up with.
“Well did my grandfather teach me that life is often two steps forward and one step back” mumbled Akash more to himself then to anyone else.
“Was that, that crazy ol’ man, the one who kept trying to tell me his ‘stories’. Thats your gramps, isn’t he?” Asked the foreigner rudely.
Smoldering inside Akash only answered with a succinct “Yes” but thought “Its not like the old man is my real grandfather. I’m not even sure if he is a relative at all. I am grateful that he took me in after my mother died, though.
“That ol’ man is known far and wide for his wisdom and caring” retorted Akash “Although I must admit, lately his mind has been wandering down paths that many have trouble following.”
“Trouble following, ha” replied the foreign man “That old man has just plain lost his mind. All he kept rambling about was how my life is on a slippery slope.”
“Watch your step, sir!” said Akash
“What, is that your idea of some sort of joke” retorted the foreigner “My footing is perfectly secure.” Unbeknown to him, his portion of the trail was severely undercut by a small stream. The foreign man, to prove his security, solidly stamped down his foot.
It was too much stress for the fragile land bridge. First his foot punched through, then the rest of him followed as the trail dissolved into a skittering mass of shale, scrub, and sand. Down he went, tumbling and turning, following the path of the stream. His body was buffeted by boulders until with a loud snap his leg caught and broke.
He lay still.
Running to the edge of the cliff, mouth agape, Akash looked over the edge. “Are you ok sir!” cried Akash, starting to panic, voice trembling. No answer came, and the body of the man lay very still.
“Is he dead?” thought Akash.
“What should I do” Akash said out loud
“Go get him” A deep blue voice said in his head.
“Go down and get him, didn’t your grandfather teach you anything?” replied the voice.
“That voice, that peculiar voice, that’s the voice my grandfather spoke of!” thought Akash “My grandfather has told me of you…” Akash said excitedly.
“No time for idle chit chat!” said the voice, cutting him off. “Now is the time for action!”
Although sickened at the thought of the fate of the man at the bottom of the slope, Akash smoothly tied off to a tree, and slid carefully down the slope. “He’s still breathing” thought Akash “thats a good sign” Looking closer he could se the mans leg clearly broken, with ragged bone poking through the skin of his leg. His leg looked pretty messed up, but the rest of him didn’t look too bad.
“You need to get him to high ground” said the mysterious voice.”
“What, why?” said Akash “It’s dangerous to move him with his leg like that!”
The voice replied “I can hear a low rushing of water, a few kilometers away, that is fast approaching.”
“Oh great”, yelled Akash sarcastically “a flash flood is exactly what I need right now!”
Luckily the fallen traveller was still wearing his pack, the sturdy frame offering a ready dragging sled. Akash quickly stabalized the mans leg using come clothes for padding and splinted it with sticks. “I hope this won’t hurt as much as I think its gonna” muttered Akash as he prepared to haul him up the slope. Heading back up the slope, he untied his rope from the top and then carefully freeclimbed his way back down again. Securing the rope to the frame of the backpack with a bowline knot he next made a loop a meter away with a double figure eight. Threading the rope through the loop Akash created another loop. He was creating a rope pulley to help him drag the heavier man up the slope. Taking the long end of the rope Akash passed it around a tree that looked sort of like a goat. “Could it be…” thought Akash, but there really was no time to spare for a closer look. Bring the rope back he passed it through the second loop of his rope pulley. Coiling some rope around his waist, he started to feel more than here a low rumbling. “You have about one minute” said the voice calmly.
Akash began to scramble and slide furiously back up the ledge. From his higher vantage Akash could now see the tumbling black mass of mud, branches, and rocks approaching.
Quickly tying off to the tree, Akash knew that at least now he wouldn’t lose his client. As gently yet as quickly as possible Akash began pulling in the rope. “Just like fishing in the river” thought Akash, slightly calmed by the thought. Sensing the pulling motion, and the increase in pain, the foreigner began to gain consciousness. Looking like a turtle being dragged on its back the man began flailing his arms. At first he started yelling “stop, stop, my leg, its broken!” but then as the slope increased he began screaming in long drawn out agony, thrashing around frantically.
“Silence, you are being saved” a stern voice rebounded in the foreigners head. “Are you joking” he screamed “I’m not being saved, some psychopathic trail guide is dragging me up a ledge”
“There is water approaching, would you rather drown?” The voice replied
“Water, whadya mean water…” he began, his voice trailed off and his eyes grew wide as he saw the impending flood. A tumultuous mass of mud, water and underbrush was surging towards him.
Akash began pulling more frantically as the mud approached his client. “Just like reeling in a fish” thought Akash, “a big, fat, stupid fish.”
Finally realizing his peril, the traveler wisely stopped screaming and started trying to backstroke up the dirt cliff.
The wave of mud slammed into him mid chest, spinning him around violently. It took all of his resolve, but Akash grimly held on. The momentum of the flood swung the man in an arc until he crunched hard into the slope face. Akash thought he heard the travelers ribs break but amidst the roar and cracking of the fast flowing mud it was near to impossible to tell. “Just a little farther” yelled Akash. One long, agonizing pull later and the mud caked, bruised and broken man was mostly out of harms way. Sweat drenched and panting Akash wondered what to do next.