Prayer Wheel

by Thomas Twining © 2003

Kai waited, cross-legged, quiet. It was clear to him, from even what limited media the monastery possessed that the world had fallen. To whom, or what, he did not know; but none of that actually mattered.

When the first rumors of the fall had penetrated the high mountaintops his order inhabited Kai could only imagine what they meant, but in the subsequent months more and more information had come to them. In the end even the abbot relented and set up a radio in the main hall. By that time very little came out of it but static and the last cries of the western world.

The order was isolated but not ignorant, they knew of the worlds great cities, the massive populations there; and they heard them cry, cry and fall silent. The abbot wept for their lack of understanding, the unnecessary pain they endured. Once, for he was a worldly man, he had tried to explain, but words failed him.

Kai struggled to imagine what it must have been like for those lost voices but he had no experience to frame them, he no paints for the canvas, no canvas for the paints. He remained empty but saddened by what he had heard.

During the last months he thought long and hard what it must be like to cling to something so hard that a profound misery emerged from the soul, a pain so pervasive that it eclipsed even death; for that was what he heard. Finally both the abbot and the radio fell silent.

In time abbot told the monks to go home, to find what was left of the world and bring it peace. One by one they packed their meager belongings and set off. So far none had returned. Finally, after Kai refused to leave his vigil, even the abbot left.

"Your name no longer matters," he said on his departure. "For the quietness in your soul has transcended the need for identity." He bowed low. "I have no such strength. If there is a hope Kai, it rests in you."

Kai watched him descend the mountain.

Food dwindled and Kai felt the gnawings grow in his body, he ignored them. Thirst assailed him and the nights grew cold, and still he waited. "The wheel spins," thought Kai blearily. "Change is life, life is death."

"If I am the last then I shall be the first." He closed his eyes.

Perhaps hours, or days later, the pain in his body denied him clear thought, he saw the glow in the valley and he knew they had found him. He struggled to sit, to honor them. As the light grew brighter he used his numb hands to push his legs under him and kneeled on the cold stone, hands clasped in unfeeling harmony.

Shapes that had no meaning came up the mountain until they stood before him. Kai reached out. His nature flew free of his emaciated body and joined with them but they were empty. He felt them come apart in his embrace.

All at once he felt himself everywhere at once, embracing them all, their shadows shattering into emptiness, freeing them to their own natures. And then they were gone.

The wind swept the mountaintops, clean and cold.

Kai awoke in a warm place, no-place, and the abbot smiled.

x x x

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