Peace in a Garden, Peace in a Wasteland

Mon 09 July 2018 By Wos  | Category : in-character

Tags : story /

 

The Temples

"What about this one?" Epoh asked Sherip, as they approached the Temple of Great Wisdom. Sherip laughed gently.

"There have been so many great and wise teachers of men," he said, shaking his head, "and how little difference it has made. Let's keep on."

"Alright," Epoh sighed, but only a little.

"Here?" Sherip asked, when they came to the Temple of Deep Love.

Epoh's eyes went wide. "Certainly not," she nearly sputtered in protest, "we've had family, we've had friends, and even now we have each other. The only thing they could teach is desire! If we needed that, we could have found it on our own."

"Alright," Sherip sighed, with a certain resignation.

"Ah," said Epoh. "Hm." said Sherip.

They had reached the Temple of Inner Peace. "I've heard," suggested Epoh, "that outer peace comes from inner peace."

"Yes," Sherip added, thumbing at his chin, "and there has been so little of either."

The monk clasped hands with Epoh first, then Sherip. His smile was subtle, the light was deeply yellow, and the temple was pleasantly warm. "Come and sit," he offered, gesturing to a round red mat, and they did.

A servant deposited a simple tray in the center of the mat. There was a teapot and two clay cups. "Drink," said the monk, "you will dream. You will meet your spirit animal. You will travel into your very heart. You will understand the means to your inner peace. Only then will you wake."

Epoh and Sherip nodded, and drank from the clay cups.

Epoh's Journey

Let me tell you of Epoh's journey first.

Epoh fell. Slowly, then slower, until she landed, sitting, in a great wood. Deep green leaves and dark red and brown trunks. A moth, larger than both her hands with her fingers outstretched, landed briefly on her left thigh. "Are you my spirit animal?"

The moth made no noise, but lifted off and fluttered in front of her. Epoh stood, and made to follow. It was night, but there was a path, and the moth flew along it. The moon was nearly full and even as the path twisted and turned among the trees, the moon always seemed to be a clear beacon, visible and roughly ahead.

After some time, they came to a clearing. Grass and wildflowers, white and blue and nearly glowing in the moonlight. At the center, a small and cozy hut, a well, and a single rose bush, covered with improbably large red blooms.

"How delightful," said Epoh, "thank you friend moth." She pulled the bucket from the well, watered the rosebush, returned it, and then went into the hut. "I will simply water the bush each day," she told herself, "and so it will grow."

Epoh woke.

Sherip's Journey

Sherip's journey was different.

The tea choked Sherip. He coughed, and what he could spit came out salty sand. He was face down in a desert wasteland. Bright, dry, sandy .. and cold.

"Cold," he muttered, "is not what I'd have asked for." There was a sudden, sharp pain at his ankle, and he looked down to discover a long, thin, grey lizard. It chitted at him, and then skittered up and across a dune.

Sherip followed.

He grew thirsty. His feet blistered and then caked with the cold sand. His legs and lungs and eventually even his arms burned with the effort of chasing the lizard up and down along the dunes. It was altogether a sad and terrible ordeal, and he felt quite sorry for himself.

On and on they went, the lizard always scurrying away. Nothing appeared on the horizon. It felt like hours, and then days, of nothing but increasing frustration, cold, and dry, dull pain.

Eventually he collapsed. The lizard settled in and watched. Sherip became quite still. The lizard crawled onto his forehead and ate his eyes.

Sherip did not go blind. Instead, his vision moved. Up. Just a bit. Above his body. Sherip felt bitter and angry. This was not the journey to inner peace he'd expected.

The lizard left. Sherip's body turned black, swelled, shrank, and eventually the wind and sand left behind white bones. Sherip could not leave, but there was nothing but shifting sands and wind. They wore away at his thoughts too, until even his anger and disappointment were faint memories.

It came to him, both suddenly and quietly. A tiny, satisfactory "hm."

Each day the sands shifted, the winds blew, and much time passed, until even the bones wore away to nothing. And then, Sherip sighed in a final relief. For he knew he was not the sad ghost of a man who had died in an cold and unforgiving wasteland.

He was the wasteland.

Sherip woke.