the man read. “I will be calling you Shema, then. If you don’t like that, well- that doesn’t really matter,” he declared.
“What does that even mean-”
“Some to know, Few to find out,” he echoed in reply. “Oh, while I’m thinking of it…” He again got up and fetched a scroll of similar appearance- though much larger and older looking- from one of the drawers beneath the collection of bottles. He grabbed a cloth Messenger satchel from another table, dumped it of its contents, threw it onto the red table, and then tossed the scroll to me- of which I missed and hit me in the face with an ironic thump.
“Ha! There’s your sign!” he chimed, amusedly.
“I’m giving you this, but give me your word that you won’t open it until you get to where you are going,” he said with an abruptly stern air.
“How can I open it when I get there if I don’t know where I’m going?” I prompted.
“You’ll know when you get there, of course.” he replied, matter-of-factly. “You hear little bits of this and that in the Winds, you meet Him, Her, or It here and there- you piece it together and you’ll figure it out. Who knows, perchance you’ll even figure out what you really want somewhere along the way- I’d guess you’ve no idea anymore, eh? But you won’t be changing the subject, don’t open it until then- swear it,” he repeated.
“My yes is my yes,” I replied quietly.
“Good, you learn fast.”
“I’m in awe of how helpful this is.” I returned dryly.
“Well, luckily I’m in a particularly favorable mood today, because I can feel the rain is coming again soon here, so I’m going to show you three things- what you want, what you need, or what you understand.”
He reached to the floorboards under the red table, removed a couple of them, and dug around in the sand for a minute before producing a flat, rectangular, tin box. “if you still don’t trust me enough at this point that the meat wasn’t poisoned, you’ll have difficulty with this next one, but I’m accustomed to opposition- though it’s always a refreshing thing to still encounter now and then…” He set the box down in front of me- of which occupied a decent amount of the minuscule table’s face, and flipped the lid to reveal 40 divided sections, each filled with what resembled miniature cranberries of all varying colors; blends, shimmer, or even phosphorescence. There were tags in each division, so small I had to lean in and squint to read them. They read: Purpose, Numbness, Contentment, Beauty, Business, Past, Apathy, Love, Sense, Accomplishment, Worthiness, Separation, Validation, Peace, Illusion and countless others of the like.
“These are what most of them come for-” he began, “Everyone wants one more than another, for whatever their own reasons are- All parts of life, part of the unquestionably, cyclical institutions we all come to know. But all of these are merely temporary illusions to make you feel whatever it provides for the time it lasts; and I’ll tell you, all my years of study have never permitted the knowledge of how to extend their effects. At first it seemed like a profitable way for a man to make a living, but after enough years it grew from mildly bothering me in some way, to deeply disturbing me some days- but I admit that despite all this, I have often used them myself. The Work, the Wait, the Journey- to me seemed to unfailingly take more than I could ever procure for all the effort.” He methodically tapped the face of the table as though assessing some distant matter and continued, “Now I know this sounds selfish, but I am just a man as well- one who knows and has seen the order of things, and this is what I’ve become proficient at: helping people feel just a little bit better, for just a little bit of time.
People find themselves wherever they always do. They wander- some longer than others- but many find it too lonely, too ‘absurd’ , too unbearably tiring, or they simply cannot stand the anxiety of never knowing what– good and bad, though increasingly most often the latter in these times. Many start to seek out Routine; Security, Surety, Acceptance-” he pointed at a few more of the sections. “Love is always the most popular, the most sought-after, and consequently misunderstood of the lot; with Validation and Security following closely behind. He laughed. So very many, running around looking for “The One”, but how many ask me how to become the one- Few, too few.”
“This is true,” I interjected tersely.
“Ah, the proverbial drop in the ocean we all instinctively flow back to. But I think love may very well be in a great many of the places that are everyday overlooked or unseen. Love that at all changes the world, love that changes lives, is often found only in the most difficult places and people. It’s simply not always so obviously over saturated in the name of self-interest…” He stopped, with a barely perceivable change in his countenance, as though a certain remembrance had suddenly lost him his fervor for discussing the subject.
“Well,” with returned animation, “Luckily I’ve got six different kinds of Love formulations- I thank the Greeks for the idea- so I never run out of that one.”
“But why even bother wasting your time here with these lunat- eh… people? And all for what’s nearly equivocal to nothing?” I had long ago lost my faith in the establishment of helping the human condition, having settled into finding most charitable efforts fruitless- particularly in personally accepting them.
“I can’t precisely say… Perhaps the last bit of humanity within me? Pity, understanding, solidarity? I too had my Time of the same vain strivings. The Vanity of Vanities- all for an illusion for which we each must assign meaning to- to keep our soul’s will and hope afloat on seas that never cease raging nor flow in direction. After it all, I ended up myself preferring to stay rather than go- the familiar to the distressing. If it’s a matter of nobility, I see the objective difficulty of it. But without creating a shelter, it’s a continual trek underneath a Sun that never sets, and a Moon that never rises, to permit any rest inside. You follow?”
“Yes. I believe I truly do…”I replied pensively.
“I’m essentially just giving them what they want. It’s not always the absolute best, or the most interesting- but it is permissible. But some truly are happy remaining within the confines of that handed down through the generations. They end up here thereafter the wandering and the lessons- others start here and leave- bitterly dissatisfied with an insatiable craving, and rightfully so. But forcing matters of change- much less people, Rarely if ever goes nor ends well. But you would know that.”
I was led to believe by his manner of speaking that he found few listeners of which he could relay these thoughts.
He reached across the table, tapping my arm, “You’re still bleeding.”
I glanced down to see that running along the length of my forearm I had evidently cut myself somewhere along the way over the rock faces- likely on one of the many jagged, broken branches that jut up in between the cracks. It appeared rather deep, though most of the blood was dried, with only a few drops on the table. It was just like me to never notice the type of thing until I observed an untraceable trail of blood.
“I like it- adds character,” he volunteered.
I could not conclude exactly what he meant, or if he knew why I always ended up tripping over something sharp.
“Ah, where is my mind-”
He got up and stood over by the long, wooden table with the vials and bottles. “I got distracted – it’s been so long since I’ve had remotely intriguing company.” The ‘Seeing ‘ Seeds aren’t in that box anymore.” he continued rummaging through the bottles, dumping them out and picking a few different colored seeds from the hundred. “I had to hide them elsewhere when the girl-whom I’m sure you met- found them. Took me a week to figure out where they were all disappearing to…”
“Yes, what is she doing here? She seems so obviously out of place.”
“Oh, the girl won’t stay- I could never let her. She thinks she’s a part of this, evidently excited to be of the age to begin partaking in the education of jobs, tasks, duties, our grand Illusion of business, or whatsoever it be- but I’ve watched, and I see it in her heart for higher heights and it’s intrinsically lower depths. It would sadden me to see the girl go, but it would pain me much more to see her stay- or God forbid- inherit contentment with this place. She plays with her small words and impossibly fragile form, but let it not deceive you; she sees and hears that something is missing and vacuous with this place. I’ve known she’s been sneaking in here and reading every leaf and scribble on these shelves since she very first arrived- many books of which are unfit for her age; unfit knowledge for her Time to know of the most difficult truths and lessons this world conspires to teach each of us…
Her parents unknowingly aim to instill Fear within her- to try to keep her safe- but regardless, she’s always running off alone into the forest and towards the Higher Mountains. However, I do not know if she has seen or knows the exact nature of what wicked terrors reside there and in between…. Her mentors fetch her back and bring her to me, asking me for some of the Contentment Seeds that they may give her; that she may stay and relax enough to learn the things they learn at her age. I feign compliance, but always simply give them some plain old Birch Tree seeds.
He placed four seeds in front of me on the table, “Here they all are now, take one and see what you will. I can’t tell you which one is which however.”