Inspired by the Haiku by Holly Aglialoro, USA
“A fragrant lilac beckons me to approach it and quiet my mind”
— Holly Aglialoro, USA
The mist rose from the wintry torrent as the water, superheated by the hot spring at his feet, received the plunging glacial runoff from the mountain above. The roar was deafening. The thrumming realization of his body, that it had returned to a natural order that was as monotonously thunderous as the manmade floor of the foundry where he had forged the weapons of war for his masters, somehow calmed him.
His body knew instinctually that it was now in the presence of a force equal to that which had owned him back in the World of Man.
Likewise, his mind knew intuitively that he was in the presence of God—had clawed his way out of bondage, sailed a storm-tossed sea, hacked his way through jungles deep, and ascended the greatest river in all of creation, until he was above its source.
The hot spring was a hissing cauldron of fright that swallowed the thundering ice water from above to cast off steam sufficient to blind a man’s way. The deep green verdure clothed the surrounding mountainside, the leaves of the myriad plants all weeping with the fruit of the mist.
He staggered onward in his worn boots and torn suit, a suit that had never been discarded when he walked away from a life’s work, still wearing the attire of his economic office, the mask within which he had ensconced himself these last twenty ears. Those years were long behind him now, six months in his rear. The wretched suit hung in tatters on the bony remnants of his once overfed frame.
The sailors had looked upon him in worried amazement, shocked that one of the master caste could fall so abruptly into folly.
Most of the natives had shunned him, looking on wild-eyed at the Whiteman who had fallen into insanity.
Enough had desired his leaving and feared the taint of his unholy blood on their hands to point the way.
Finally he was here, at the head of the mist-drenched crystal fall. Another week and he would stand atop the spine of a jagged world looking out over the Pacified Sea—no, return was unthinkable. He would forge on into gnosis.
For once he would know the comfort of that cloak of anonymity.
He would rejoin the natural world at the font of its apogee!
His calloused hand found the stone wall, carved for ages by the wearing waters from above. He followed it, step after ragged step, up and up, as the mossy incline gave way to cut stairs. Up and up he continued; his hand guiding and his feet raising him into the upward billowing clouds. His ascent seemed to last forever. Yet when he emerged, head above the clouds, at the mouth of a yawning cave, garlanded with gifts from the many cultures he could not possibly name as he had spent his life in prodigious ignorance, he knew that he was simply one of many. Men and women from peoples he could scarcely hope to name if he had an encyclopedia at hand, had made this journey before him, perhaps drawn here in this same wide-eyed and willing way.
A cross of silver hung from a rosary. He knew what that was.
There was another type of cross, hooped at the top, older and stained with the ages.
There was a bible, moldering in the mist, hanging from a man’s black belt.
There rested against the cavern wall, a photo in a frame, of a Chinese family, suspended from the clinging vines on the cave wall by a length of cloth that he supposed was the father’s tie.
A simple iron cross crunched under his feet, the string that had suspended it long ago rotted.
A patchwork shroud of human hair and shells hung from a chain made of finger bones and sinew. The freshness of this item made his heart race.
A clear plastic accordion sleeve of credit and debit cards hung from a pearl necklace.
A tattered navy blue dress shirt adorned with numerous medals—all meaningless to him—hung from a stainless steel neck chain.
A shrunken head dangled from a length of its own hair, grinning into nowhere.
He could have stood and catalogued the offerings of his predecessors for days.
Now knowing why he had kept them around his neck all of these years, even beneath tuxedos at corporate functions, he lifted his necklace of yoyo twine and cereal box decoder rings and other trinkets from his boyhood, and draped this over one of the few bare vines.
He walked on through the menagerie of tokens and upward into the bowels of a curious cavern, for the cavern rose. Up and up he walked in the darkness, his eyes on an illusive pinhole of light above.
There was no care, no thought, no wonder, only calm.
He came, eventually, to stand in a chamber carved by ice long ago and open to the west, looking out over another deep trench of a valley carved by the same plunging torrent, but without a hot spring at its base. Towering before the open cave mouth, across a gulf of space navigated by a large lazy bird, seeming to rise effortlessly on a rising updraft, loomed a mountain covered in plant life so thick his eyes could not discern one plant from the other.
His spine tingled.
Behind him there did languidly dance a lily?
What kind of flower was it—or was it a flower?
The pale green flower danced upon a translucent stalk with similarly colorless leaves wilted down its length.
The fragrant scent beckoned him.
His long-suffering mind ached for peace.
He went smiling to her and she kissed him.
The pale green flower petal took on a deep rich hue, like that of the sodden jungle, and expanded into a caressing organ of forgiveness, folding into lips to kiss him even as the pale leaves flushed with crimson life and reached out to caress him.
I am love, pulsed the pliant thing that embraced him, even as his unburdened life flowed contentedly down that ever reddening stalk, now as thick as a man’s wrist, or, rather, as thick as one man’s wrist had once been.