So, I’ve managed to get myself into a writing exercise for the month of May. Coming out of a really tough accounting season, it is time to stretch my wings and get back in the habit of communicating words instead of numbers. There are few rules, speculative fiction (something that is new for me), 30 stories in 30 days based on 30 different characters. Yes, I know, we’ll call this writing boot camp! In any case, here is my offering for day one. I hope you enjoy the journey.
In the early morning the mountain pass was cool and just a bit frosty. We had spent the night dancing close to the raging camp bon fires. Sleep did not come in the close, cramped quarters of the small tents while the smoke from the then smoldering fires burned the eyes and filled the lungs. As unpleasant as the thought seemed, plunging into the cold mountain stream in the early dawn light was a pleasure and did much to clear the head. The question, of course, was whether or not I wanted a clear head on this particular day.
The sun had not yet reached the horizon when we climbed up onto the woolen saddles of our yaks. The trek into the mountains would take many hours and there were those who would need to return. Our caravan included 21 yaks; as it must on any holy mission. Seven animals bore packs of vegetables, cured meats and tanned hides. Seven animals bore those hoping to enter life as ascetics and seven bore the escorts. As it happens, I was the lone woman among those whose purpose was to seek the favor of the ancient ones.
Why, you might ask, would you risk such a thing? Once the high mountain valleys are reached, the escorts turn back. Those who wish to seek the three cycles of learning are left with nothing but the supplies on the pack animals. No weapons, no utensils, no guides. Few ever returned and those that did were obviously mad. Most ascetics were chosen by lot; sometimes whether or not the choice was their own. There were whispers that the whole exercise was nothing more than an offering to the ancient gods that we as a people professed to have left behind.
Why, I asked, would we sacrifice a human life to a faceless god? My teacher asked me to think more kindly on those less knowing. “Perhaps,” he responded, “it is in hopes the gods will accept our choice and not make one of their own.” I thought on this as we road higher into the valleys. But I was not here to become a sacrifice for god or man. No lot had been assigned me, I was one of the very few volunteers to ever make this journey. I had my own plans. I was here to find the source of madness or joy, to find that creature or being that controlled our daily lives and to find a way to set us free.