← Chapter 1

Her new life is different in many ways, yet in many ways, it is still her life. She walks through the city again, but now she is the accomplished one, a respected person other people look up to, while her beautiful suit and cloak of success brings her almost any pleasure she can think of. Now, it is her who is admired by those who have yet to find success. It is not that all her troubles have stopped. She still has to run from time to time to catch some new accomplishments, but so far, nothing as exhausting as the biggest one in her past. And she almost let it slip through her fingers.Don’t take me wrong. she says to herself. Meeting the old man in the forest was indeed a precious experience, but thankfully because I had listened to my guide to success it brought me up to this point.It is true that her present life isn’t exactly what she used to picture. People demand more and more accomplishments from her and the more she gets, the more friendly some people become, trying to steal some of it for themselves. They try in many different ways to get close to her, to make her like them and give them some of her wonderful things. With time, she learns to suspect these strategies in others and stop trusting them before they can try something. Maybe she now even understands, why people like her don’t always have smiles on their faces. Another fact she has learnt in the process is that smiles aren’t sometimes even real, because if you showed weakness, others would use it for their own advantage. Hence, yes, this life is demanding, you don’t have much peace, however in return you get great rewards, that allow you do so many nice things, therefore it is worth it. She looked up to the sky and saw birds flying across the city and got little envious... They can fly wherever they want, they are so free and happy... But then she remembered they are eaten by bigger birds and so many people shoot them for fun. Guess nothing is ideal and every one of us has some burden.

Time steadily passes by and she finds herself more and more under pressure with less and less occasions to enjoy her growing wealth. It is so hard to achieve anything lately. She must use all her capabilities and resources to manage. She must be like a predator lurking in the shadows, avoiding being spotted by others and then jump out like a tornado catching her prey and if someone is too close, they will get hurt. It does not give her any pleasure to be like this, but her desire for precious perks is strong and this is the most effective way to get them. And of course, the more precious they are, the harder it proves to keep them and they usually do not last for long. They say, Life is an ever going battle. Looks like they are right.

Thankfully, there still are people she can trust, those in need of her service, those not only grateful for her effort but also capable of rewarding her and even showing her new places of promising chance for success, that indeed seem nothing short of amazing. Fruitful lands full of others like herself, lands well chosen for their abundance of opportunities. Some of them can be easily dismissed by most for not very pleasant looks but that is exactly what makes them hidden from unexperienced opportunists who only chase after shiny things. She used to be one of those as well. But to her advantage she then managed to learn from her mistakes, namely that if you are not fast enough, you will be left behind and by allowing yourself to compromise, even make a sacrifice once in a while, the reward can be really worth it. What a paradox, most of the times she allowed her dress to get a little bit dirty it paid off somehow. On occasions she has lost some of her rewards, either by being beaten to it by someone else or by not being fast or effective enough but that is just a motivation for doubling the effort. After all, no one likes hunger, right...

Really, one wouldn’t imagine how fast can time fly when you live from one achievement to another. After years she has to move from place to place, because others usually start to grow suspicious of her soon. Also, no matter how much she has, there are always those who have more and tell her she isn’t good enough and needs to try harder in order to be happy. She needs always a little bit more so she won’t feel hungry. Sleepless, restless, with hands, clothes and face full of dirt and tears in her eyes, tired to death from all that noise of desire-induced confusion around, climbs outside one night and looks around her. It is late and the moon is high, while others like her are still moving around in circles, in their search for perks and satisfaction, attacking one another from the lack of opportunities to eat and satisfy their desires. She falls on her knees with hands covering her crying eyes. What has she become… How did this happen… Even during the times of wildly chasing her great ambitions, she used to be happier. Yes, she wasn’t very considerate of other people while running after the dancing man and her heart was already squeezed by desire, but despite all that she would never hurt a soul! Ever. Now, she doesn’t even know where to start. How many has she hurt? She lost count long time ago. When she looks at those around, how they look, what they do - they all have expensive clothes, jewelry and many physical marks of wealth, however they all move in the sticky dirt of moral decadence and greed. Somehow, their fancy clothes don’t make much of a difference here. Who would have thought…

Night by night, she crawls out and observes the scenery around. Chaos is everywhere, the place is filled with those always rushing around, full of hunger and unease, always looking over their shoulders, ever-alert not to become prey themselves. And the noise... like when you take all the sounds u can think of and put them together... She can’t remember the last time she felt at ease. How did she get in this mess... Well, it didn’t become like this over night. It took a long time and little by little her hunger was rising. She also just realized that she's been living in such a place much longer than she had previously thought. However in the beginning, she was so blinded by her greed, she wouldn’t see all the misery around. Now, as she is trying to reconstruct in her mind the way that lead her here, she goes way back in her memories. Back to the forest, the old man, his calmness and the ocean of clarity and happiness she found herself in, after letting all her desires and ambitions go, even for a short moment… For heavens’ sake, how naive and stupid she was… How could she even entertain the idea, that some fancy garments made of golden fame can give her something better… Only after realizing this was she able to fully comprehend all causes and effects leading to her present situation.

With a sleeve of her once beautiful suit, she wipes the tears in her eyes, trying to focus and analyze all that she is seeing and hearing. Even in a complete chaos, there are always clues, you only need to find them . A little strengthened by this new motivation, lifted her glance from the ground. Decision is made. The only one that makes sense now. She will leave this hell and make a journey to find the old man. The only one she knows can help her. She remembered her old motto. Everything is achievable, if you try hard enough. Ironic. It got her here. But they also say, if there is a way in, there is a way out. She was just there. In the forest where he was showing her the best way possible. But she was too confused and arrogant to see it. And now she will find it using all the power of her existence, she will end this suffering no matter what.

It took her a while to wake up her senses from their coma-like apathy, but now she’s relatively awake and carefully probing the swarm of sounds coming from all directions, trying to find every clue she can. Almost immediately two of them somehow stand out. A synchronized rhythmical sound of a drum and a bell. It had been there and even standing out in all the chaos all along, but she was too overwhelmed to care. It is incredible, when focusing on it, there is even a mans voice singing along but neither his words nor the language can she recognize. Oh, there is a long call of some kind that resonates through her mind calling on her, inviting her closer. Wait! this can be a trap by someone like her, trying to lure her in and kill her. However at this point, she no longer cares. She wants out from this unthinkable suffering. Anything, even death is better than this. By this thought, she has shaken off all her fear, allowing herself to see, hear, feel and think much clearer. At first she can’t believe her eyes, but she sees something in her vicinity. It looks like a vanishing image of a person... of... she looks like her! But naked, without any jewelry, standing on one leg, when the other one is slightly lifted up and bent with her foot pointing inward, she is dancing in the rhythm. In her right hand, she is holding a round two-faced drum with a small ball attached by a string to each of its side and she is playing on it by rotating her wrist back and forth, while in her left hand, she is holding a bell, ringing it simultaneously. All her body glows like a rainbow, her eyes are kind and focused, full of compassion and looking right at her. This is exactly what she’s been hearing.

The girl confidently steps forward in the direction of the image that seems to keep its distance, no matter how far she follows her, she stays as far from her as before, but clearly, she is showing her the way. She is hungry, exhausted, but finally she has a feeling of moving somewhere. Perhaps she will lead her to the old man... Or just somewhere else. Who cares... Anywhere, but here.

Yet it does not take long for the image to vanish completely. Right after she took a specific direction, her strange guide is gone but the sound of her instruments is not. It is now even stronger, so she can find its direction herself. Step by step she makes her way through sharp rocks, dry and dead trees, a whole scary wasteland of millennia that have passed by, with people too preoccupied to even notice. One after another she walks by mountains of garbage, sometimes inhabited by poor beings that find themselves saved by what others threw away for it seemed useless or slowing them in their advance. Mountains of horror that nobody cares about and everyone is too scared to approach, so they won’t have to be reminded of the dark fruits of their own creation. She is remembering the times of the past. Her wonderful dress, her fame, her ambitions. She is still wearing it now, although here one would hardly notice. After all, it has seen better days. In a way, she even realizes how she fits there. Once strong, clean and beautiful with all the dreams in the world, now worn out and exploited, broken, exhausted, unwanted by some, feared by others, stripped of all her dreams of purpose and happiness, she is wandering through this wasteland, following some remote hope that may or may not be real. How poetic. Wow, look at the horizon. There’s another doomed soul sitting among the garbage.

Almost unwillingly she approached this poor being. Again to her surprise, this being seems to be the one she is looking for. A young man, sitting on the ground, his long hair and beard are swinging to the rhythm of his drum and bell. His clothes are just pieces of old fabric wrapped around his body. On his lap lies a trumpet made from a human thighbone - ... that must have been the strangely intense call that time. His lips are moving and he is singing in some peculiar language. She cannot understand it, but she has clear visions of his thoughts. He is fearless, his strength appears to be almost unlimited, but there is no aggression, no greed, no desire, no attachment. She wouldn’t believe anyone could become so strong and powerful without those attributes. Not him. He is compassionate with this place, with all the suffering, with her and her hunger. His steady and calm voice fills everything around. Oh no! In her visions He is cutting his own body into pieces, offering it to her and all others, to calm their hunger... No! She cannot accept this. She is hungry, but not that desperate. A strong wave of compassion with him and those around floods her mind, while he is patiently giving up his body - the very last of his possessions. Giving it up to feed her, a hungry ghost he doesn’t even know and should be scared of. Yet he isn’t. He feels absolutely no revolt, no despise or disturbance about her and this whole place. She stays there waiting until he finishes by offering all the merits he has collected, for the sake of all sentient beings who suffer from their own mistakes caused by living in ignorance, wishing for them to find their way to real happiness.

When he stops singing, he stays a while in a complete silence putting down his drum and bell. They are looking at each other. He offers her normal food and some medicine for her wounds. She feels that just by being near him during his ceremony, her hunger and pain has diminished. Curious, she asks him about his name and origin. “Perhaps I used to have it, but it is long gone, forgotten and obsolete.”, he says. “I am here to care for those, others are too afraid of. Mostly because these beings hurt other beings who are afraid, hence don’t realize that even those are suffering which causes them to hurt others. They suffer, same as everyone else, but the difference is intensity. The more you are attached to other beings and things, the more you desire, the more you fear, the more you suffer. All of us unfree from attachment are meant to suffer sometimes. Even I am no exception. Yet, the less you fear, the less wild your mind is.” ... It all made such an obvious sense. If only someone had told her back then, when she was running wild pursuing what seemed to be Happiness. Oh, wait.. Someone did tell her but she didn't listen anyway. She was too preoccupied with herself. In reality, she was running away from it the whole time. She looked at him and asked. “There is an old man deep in the forest playing a flute. He showed me the way once but I was too foolish to listen. Do you know where he is?” He looked at her in a very observing way. “You are asking me what you already know the answer to. But your heart is pure. I will tell you.” He then took a piece of cloth, wrapping the thighbone trumpet while she was calmly awaiting his answer. She knew that whatever he says, she will manage to find her way eventually.

“You should not search for him and even if you do, you will not find him. The only thing you can hope to find on your journey, is your path.”

By these words and after healing her wounds, they have parted, both continuing their separate journeys, knowing they will not see each other again. Why would they. He told her all there was to tell, same as the old man. Neither of them can do more for her. Walk her path, she now must on her own. She is finally fully aware of it, although she will never forget these two wise beings, who helped her find the way.

→ Chapter 3


(c)Sunrise, designed by 慧淨 2004-2023