A tree, alone, struggled against the wild winds, its branches straining against the force of the mad onrush. Its branches whipped through the air as the rain lashed away its corpse leaves, leaving the limbs bare to the cold. A solitary traveler stood gathering his strength before stepping out onto the winding path again.
Poochandi hefted the sack over one shoulder – his body bending under its weight. The sack was filled with stories conjured in darkness and with the fear that shone in bright eyes. A trail of memories lay behind him, like slime it oozed out of the sack. Some of the memories were claimed by the Earth – only to re-appear in the future when disturbed in their peaceful sleep, others just faded away… into silent forgetfulness.
As he struggled up the winding path, he drew the grey blanket around him closer. Poochandi’s eyes cast a final glance of farewell to the lonely tree and once again wandered up to his destination – a rolling wave of blackness that formed a boundary to his world. It was the boundary to all he knew and all he believed in. The Hill of Reason, they called it. Tonight, he would cross over to the other side.
As he plodded through layers of mud and mist, a single gust dancing between the tearing winds swept beneath one of the limp grey locks that hung around his shoulders and whispered in his ear. Poochandi smiled. The wind always sung in Babel – a mad mixture of so many different languages that no one can understand what the words meant. But the wise never listen to the words of the wind – they listen to the music. The small gust swept away, and only an echo of its voice remained. Don’t go.
Poochandi paused for a moment to look up at the silhouette moon that cowered behind the curtain of clouds – he forgave it. Who else but a figment of imagination be out on a night like this?
The path branched out into a spider web on both sides – so many choices, so many chances to turn back. Lost in his thoughts, through the labyrinth of the past and the future, he had not noticed the small creature that had scurried up to his shoulder.
“You’ve made up your mind haven’t you?” The voice on his shoulder squeaked.
“Yes.” Poochandi answered, recognizing his eight-footed companion by voice. He was also the only one who had come close to understanding, perhaps because their origin had been so similar. Poochandi spoke no further, he had no words to express the sensation that tugged him onwards on his journey and ate away at his core at the same time. It was as though there was a vacuum in another world that pulled him towards it, and with every step, his bond with his own home weakened.
“You do realize that what’s going to happen when you cross the Hill…” the voice of the spider trailed away, unsure.
“Yes.” Poochandi replied quietly. After a pause, he continued, “I was a traveler to begin with. I had forgotten that. It is my nature that I have to move on, if not I will cease to be what I am.”
Poochandi came to a stop in front of a rock face that rose sharply towards the heavens.
“It is time we part, my friend.” Poochandi said softly.
The spider had disappeared into the crevices before the echo had faded. Faint light began to outline the jagged outline of rock– the eerie glow before dawn. Poochandi looked back on his land – the mist was lifting slowly, and the rolling expanse spread out before his eyes. Patches of white lingered, obscuring parts, making it seem as though those parts had been neatly erased away.
He pulled himself above the last ledge and squinted in the fresh light. Poochandi walked over towards the other end of the clearing, the freshly washed earth cracking under his bare feet. The sunlight from a new day was rolling across the land – spilling into pits and leaping across the plains – like an army, invincible and unconquerable. The air felt different. Somehow, by breathing it, he had changed it.
As the warmth of the dawn hit Poochandi’s face, the grey blanket slid from his shoulders. There was a mad riot of colours, all spinning and pulsing, to a silent heartbeat.
And then – there was stillness. The light bounded over the hill and swept over the other side; painting everything it touched with colours that can only exist in the boundless imagination.
A grey blanket wafted away – to a new existence and fresh beginnings.