The Fool

~ 0 ~

Silence embraced the city as the evening set in. City folk all around the town, except for the night workers, were trying to shake off the remains of the day past. Parents spending time with their kids, office workers looking for relief in alcohol, some reading newspapers, watching TV, others eating, sleeping, thinking and dreaming… Silence had its own peculiar sounds and motion.

A young man was quietly wandering through the pages of a book under the quivering light of a small lamp, barely illuminating the room. He had begun, then stopped so many times that he did not even remember when he had first started reading it. Some times he gave up because he did not comprehend it; other times, the book carried his restless mind to places where he lost his way and could not come back. Tonight, though, the book somehow called him, reminding him that now was the right time to read it. He took a final sip from his beer, closed the book and put it in his bag. He got up, checked his wallet and threw it in the bag, too.

He walked to the old desk, sat down on his worn-out leather chair and examined his few belongings scattered on the mahogany. He took an old photograph and reminisced, from ages ago it seemed, the summer adventures of the three teen age brothers. In his mind’s eye, he saw the red brick his younger brother almost slammed on his head, his older brother’s with his moody airs and himself, lost and pathetic. He remembered his mother’s voice calling them all for diner (“C’mon boys, food’s ready”), his dad pouring raki in his glass (“no water, just ice”).

Good days, those were, not appreciated then and fondly remembered now. But all that was in the past. He held the picture in his hand for a while, not quiet knowing what to do with it, then carefully placed it inside the book.
Must not get sentimental now. He just had to get out, shut that door and leave. Leave for where? He had no idea, only faith that one road would somehow lead to others. He did not feel sad; just the opposite, in fact.

He felt happy. A whole world was waiting for him and he really did not care.
He took his long unused torchlight from the cabinet, checked the batteries, put it in his bag and stepped outside. First light of the new day welcomed him. His whole being filled with joy and anticipation.

The Magician

~ 1 ~

Rain had started. He was looking for a place to take shelter but the signpost on the side of the road attracted his attention: “To The Town Fair”, said the bright red letters on the signpost. “This must be the reason for all the commotion,” he thought, now paying more attention to the noise coming from afar and walking towards it.

Indeed, it was a town fair – the kind where folks make ham and cheese sandwiches and take their kids to ride the carousel and enjoy other attractions. He began wandering around the crowded square full of people {of all ages} despite the pouring rain, feeling happy and not at all like a stranger in this small town.
A dense crowd, gathered around a small stage attracted his attention. It seemed to be some kind of magic act and he got closer, trying to see what was going on.

Before he could see the man on the stage, he heard his booming yet pleasantly harmonious voice.
Then he saw him: tall and confident, in a dark blue cloak, showing off a long and magnificient looking white beard. He had a serene yet alert expression on his face, with wise, hazel eyes that seemed to be looking directly into his own.

It was not just his own impression, he realized, as he suddenly became conscious of the crowd quietly watching him. The man was actually talking about him, announcing to his audience that he had picked him for his next trick and then he invited him to the stage. He hesitated for a moment, then walked to the Wizard through the parting crowd.

The Wizard (Sorcerer) pointed at the four small cups spread evenly on the table in front of him and asked him to make a guess. He understood something was supposed to be under one of the cups and that he was expected to discover it but he had no idea what that thing was, nor under which cup it was hiding.
He was feeling very self-conscious now, sharply aware of the crowd’s gaze on his back. He quickly pointed at one of the cups with his index finger.

The Wizard smiled and lifted the cup. There it was, a small torchlight just like his. “Nothing amazing about that,” he said to himself. His cheap, plastic torchlight was not special in any way and could be found in any hardware store.

Then the Wizard turned over the other cups and he gulped with amazement. He just could not believe his eyes: his book, the old picture with his brothers and a black wallet just like his were all laid there on the table.
The rain stopped and the sky brightened. He was stunned.

The High Priestess

~ 2 ~

The rain began and the evening set in almost simultaneously. He walked to the old, stone building ahead, hoping it was an inn where he could spend the night.

A pale faced woman, well past her prime, opened the door. For some reason, his whole body shivered at her sight. “It must be the rain,” he thought. He was very wet and cold. He politely asked the woman if she could offer him a place to stay for the night. “Yes,” she said, “I can offer you a place for the night but you must leave very early tomorrow morning.” He accepted her offer, wondering why she would want him to leave very early tomorrow but did not dare ask her.

He was happy to have found a warm and seemingly comfortable place. While going to his room through the corridor, a strange feeling overtook him. “The things these old walls must have seen,” he thought to himself, “the things they must have witnessed.”

He walked into his room, took his wet clothes off and left them in front of the fireplace to dry. How terribly tired he was! Even the mere idea of a good night’s sleep was enough to make him feel drowsy.

Suddenly, he felt the wooden floor under his foot collapse with a loud crack. Like the rest of this building, the boards too were probably very old and simply could not carry his weight. It was a good thing that he was going to leave early; he would not have to explain to the strange woman why there was a hole in the floor of his room.

He was looking at the hole to see if he could perhaps fix it a little, when he noticed something under the floor board. He kneeled, stuck his hand inside the hole and pulled out a roll of paper that must have been there for a long time. The paper must have been white once but it was now yellowish in color and felt very brittle. He carefully opened the roll and began to read.

And he kept reading on through the night.
There was a strange feeling inside him as he was leaving this strange inn in the morning. He had not noticed the woman watching him behind the window, nor could he hear her say that they would meet again. He felt uneasy, though; he shivered, despite the bright sun in the sky.

The Empress

~ 3 ~

He was starving. He had skipped dinner last night and the delicious aroma of baking bread somewhere afar reminded him how hungry he was. He wanted to find out where the appetizing aroma was coming from, hoping he could get something to eat soon.

He walked over a hill and saw the small country house. A woman was sitting on the porch and a small girl was playing next to her on the floor.

He assumed they were mother and daughter, and he realized, as he got closer, that she was pregnant. It did not occur to him even for an instant that they could be upset by his presence.

He was just going to ask for a small favor – just a little piece of bread, perhaps some cheese and something to drink. He would gladly pay for the food to calm his churning stomach.

When he greeted the woman and told her what he wanted, she smiled and asked him to wait a little until she got the bread out of the oven.

The little girl, meanwhile, came up to him and, pulling his coat with her little hand, invited him to play with her.
She was a sweet child and he did not have the heart to say no to her. Since he had to wait a little longer to satisfy his hunger, he figured he might as well return her mother’s kindness and spend the time playing with her.

They began to run around the grass, laughing and playing, surrounded by the chirping of early birds merrily singing along. He felt happy, remembering his own childhood and thinking what a joy it was to be so young, free from all the worries and concerns of the world that lay ahead.

He was enjoying himself so much, he did not realize how time passed. He had forgotten all about his hunger and the bread he had been looking forward to.

They ran back to the house, laughing and playing along the way. The mother gave him a big loaf and refused to take his money, although he insisted.

It was heavenly! “Can anyone say no to this beautiful bread, fresh out of the oven?” he thought to himself.

The Emperor

~ 4 ~

It was very late. When the night came, he was still walking and there was not a sight, nor any light on the dark, deserted road. He realized he would not be able to find a place to spend the night.

“Well, at least it is warm and the sky is clear” he thought to himself. He could sleep under the stars, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the scents of trees and flowers surrounding him. It would be a pleasant change for him, too. He turned on his torchlight, left the road and walked into the grassy field, trying to find a flat, dry place where he could lie down and sleep for a few hours.

He heard the sound of an engine from afar. He was surprised that someone would be driving around this late in the night in a place like this. Then, he saw the big four wheel drive aprroaching to him, obviously drawn by the solitary light of his torch. The car stopped next to him and a man came out. He stood tall, at least a head above him, and very straight. He had broad shoulders and bright, ruthless eyes, watching him suspiciously. “What the hell are you doing here?” the man roared. “This is private property and you are tresspassing.

The man must have thought him a thief, a lunatic perhaps, maybe even a fugitive. He tried to tell him, gently, that he was just a lonely traveller, looking for a place to sleep but he doubted the man heard of him, let alone listen to what he was trying to say.

He suddenly heard a child’s crying. It was coming from inside the car and when looked he saw the child in the back seat, a little boy, 2 or 3 years old at most, crying his eyes out. “He must be the man’s son,” he thought, “probably very upset that he is riding around in his father’s car at this late hour, instead of sleeping in his bed.”

The man also noticed his son crying and he stopped yelling. He threw a glance at the boy, making sure that he was all right, then turned to him and spoke quickly and harshly. “OK, you can spend the night here but I want you out of my property first thing in the morning.” It was obvious he let him off the hook, not out of the kindness of his heart, but because he wanted to go back to the car and drive his son home and put him to bed. He still seemed angry, though, and unsatisfied for having to leave unfinished business behind.

The little boy had done him a huge favor and he was grateful to him. He would be able to spend the night there and that was enough for him for now.

The Hierophant

~ 5 ~

The warm morning sun on his face awakened him. He opened his eyes and slowly stretched his body, breathing in the cool spring air. But something wasn’t quite right.

He suddenly realized he was stark naked. All his clothes had disappeared and his bag was not where he left it last night. Someone must have robbed him and, incredibly enough, he had just slept through it.

He was scared, really really frightened. Maybe it was the bully he met last night; maybe he decided to teach him a lesson and had his men track him; maybe they were still around; maybe they would come out from behind those trees and beat him senseless; maybe they were going to do even worse things to him.

He knew he was being paranoid but he couldn’t help it — there could be thugs watching him right now. He felt panic rising in his chest and his heart began to beat faster. He needed to get out of this place. He began to run.

He kept on running until he saw a small cabin ahead. He slowed down, breathing a little easier now, cautiously opened the door and stepped inside.

He was surprised by the sight of his father, calmly watching him with a serene expression on his face. He felt tears welling up in his eyes and told him in a quivering voice that he had lost everything. He was ashamed.

His father began to speak to him, his voice full of compassion and understanding. He did not have to worry so much, he said, because no matter how messy things got, everything he lived through would teach him something and every experience would benefit him in some way. He had to keep going, no matter what, and he would never walk alone for he was always going to be by his side.

He woke up with a shudder. He was fully dressed and his bag was lying next to him where he put it last night — everything was exactly the way it was when he went to sleep. It was only a dream, he realized, with a great sense of relief.

The Lovers

~ 6 ~

A silhouette, far ahead in the river behind the trees. A naked woman bathing in the river, he realized, his eyes fixed on her exquisite figure. He wanted to turn his head, to respect her privacy, wishing hard he could look away.
He couldn’t. It was as if her naked body, slender and graceful in the gleaming water, was calling to him. He just could not help watching her.

He changed his path, began to walk towards the river, moving as if in a trance, like something beyond his control had taken over his body. He was very close now. He stopped, hiding behind the trees, never taking his eyes off of her. She was coming out of the water. He kept watching.

She sat on the river bank and began combing her hair. He watched for a little while longer, then came out of his hiding place and walked to her.

He felt he had to say something but didn’t know what. Words came anyway, before he realized he was speaking, much to his delightful surprise.

“Excuse me, can you help me? I think I am lost.”
That wasn’t exactly a lie, was it?

She watched him, suspiciously at first, then curiously and finally with a bemused look in her eyes, as if trying to decide what to do with him. Suddenly, as if she had made up her mind, she sat straight and confident, aware of the hold her captivating beauty had over him.
“Pick a card,” she said, pointing at the deck in her hands.

“Pick a card? What is this?” he thought, contemplating the beautiful hands holding out the cards to him. He then looked up, into her eyes, feeling he could lose himself in their brilliant darkness. He picked a card and showed it to her.

“Lovers,” said the card. His heart began to race, his mind numb and dazzled, his mouth getting dry. He did not know what this was, this sudden feeling taking over his whole being, overwhelming him with lust, emotion love and despair all at once. He heard her say something but did not understand what it was. Something about choosing another path? He didn’t really care. She just stood there, looking at him intently.

He suddenly experienced an unanticipated sense of freedom. He moved to her and took her into his arms.They kissed until their lips burned and they made love. Their bodies had put on wings, raising them far up into the sky, high over the hills, the valleys, the mountains. They gave themselves to each other, completely and unconditionally and, in that unending, immortal moment, they were one.

The Chariot

~ 7 ~

His head felt messed up, as if he was drunk. He felt tired, confused and depressed. He needed to wind down; do something to get out of this heavy mood and relax a bit.
The town looked almost deserted on this early Sunday morning. He saw that a local film festival was underway and, to his surprise, there was an early morning show. “This might be just what I need,” he thought and walked into the theater. It was an Indian feature, some sort of eastern mythology tale as far as he could tell from the movie poster. He bought a ticket, got some popcorn and sat himself down on a comfortable seat in the empty theater.

He was not familiar with the story. It was about the life of Arjuna, the greatest warrior in Indian mythology. Arjuna was a born warrior; he was chosen after he successfully passed a great trial as “just himself.” Nothing could stand in the way of this great warrior who always focused on his objective with all his being — his body and soul.

Whenever he watched such tales of heroism on the screen, he would imagine himself as the hero — a great archer who never missed, an amazing rider, a courageous, brave warrior who knew exactly what he wanted and always got it; an unstoppable knight who defeated all his enemies with his strength and cunning.
After the movie was over, he got up and stood straight. The spirit of Arjuna possessed him; now he could face all his enemies and turn his battle into a glorious victory. He smiled to himself. His imagination was still as vivid and playful as a child’s.


~ 8 ~

He had not realized how far he walked. His mind was captivated with the Arjuna legend and he was still feeling like a brave warrior waging war on his enemies. He now found himself on a deserted road facing a hill ahead and he suddenly felt very tired. He realized he would not be able to go on much longer.

He heard the sound of a car approaching. He could hitch a ride if he was lucky and get some rest until his destination, wherever that might be. The car, an old compact, stopped next to him and the driver, an old gentleman with a kindly face, opened the passenger door for him.
“I am not going very far but you are welcome to tag along if you want to,” he said.
He jumped in without hesitation.

The driver was a talkative, nice chap. He greeted him warmly and began talking to him, asking him where he was coming from and what on earth he was doing in the middle of nowhere. He was trying to answer his questions as best as he could when he saw another car fast approaching from over the hill. He realized, much to his horror, that his companion was looking at him and not at the road, with a curious expression on his face, expecting to find out more about his passenger.

His face must have alerted the old man that something was wrong for he immediately turned his attention to the road, hit the brakes and turned the steering wheel sharply to the right. The other car swerved to the left but neither driver was quick enough to avoid the collision. Still, he thought to himself, it could have been much worse.

Their bumper was smashed in. The other car, an expensive coupe and brand new from the looks of it, was scratched all the way from the front to the end. Its door opened and out came a giant of a young man, his face red with rage and a huge vein he could see even from the distance, protruding from his neck.
“Oh, boy,” he sighed. His small companion, barely reaching the other driver’s chest, did not stand a snowball’s chance against him. Yet, he had stepped out of the car and was calmly walking up to him.

“What dumb luck!” he murmured to himself. Should he get out of the car now and stand by his new found friend? Especially while he still felt like a brave warrior? Or should he sit tight and see what happens next? He was still trying to make up his mind when he saw, to his amazement, the older gentleman stroking the giant’s back and telling him something, and the giant shaking his head and smiling at him. Then, to his even greater amazement, the two men shook hands and the giant went back to his car and his companion walked back to his, opened the door and got in. He was very relieved that his friend, who he thought would get the beating of his life just a minute ago, was now sitting next to him, safe and sound. On the other hand, he could not help wondering how he managed to get himself out of such a terrible mess.

“What happened?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing. We sorted it out,” answered the old man, smiling.
“Yes, I saw that. But how?”
“Well, I said to him ‘young man, before you say or do anything, take a look at yourself and take a good look at me; then, then you take a look at your car and take a good look at mine. Now, do you really think it’s worth your trouble?”

The Hermit

~ 9 ~

He needed a break.

He had been on the road for a long time and he got so preoccupied with his journey that he felt like he somehow lost sight of its purpose. He had not stopped and looked back so far — not even once — but he needed to rest, to think, to contemplate. He knew deep down this was the only way he could really take it all in, make sense of it all, and become truly conscious of all he had lived through. He did not want to meet anyone, see anyone, talk to anyone. He did not want to experience anything. His mind felt numb, his body, tired. He just wanted to be alone for a while and listen to himself for a change — maybe drink a little and smoke a few. He tended to drink more when he was alone. Perhaps he needed the calming touch of alcohol to wind down; perhaps, it would give him the courage to face himself with absolute and brutal honesty.

He spent the next several days in solitude. He took lonely walks in the evening, on deserted streets… And he tried to remember it all: the night he collected his things and hit the road; the town fair; the old inn and the strange inkeeper; the pretty little girl and her generous mother; the tough guy and his crying son; his nightmares; his father’s gentle face; the woman with the gorgeous eyes; the movie he saw in the empty theater; the kind gentleman who gave him a ride, the accident … he remembered it all. He remembered all that excited him, all that scared him; all that he desired and all that he despised. He remembered all that he accomplished and all that he failed, he remembered it all. Oh so vividly, did he remember it all.

His mind occassionally played tricks with him, though: thoughts and emotions, tangled in obscure, murky images, confused him one minute and appeared with amazing clarity the next, showing him how everything was connected with everything else. The dark and the frightening smoothly metamorphosed into the bright and the beautiful, shifting his psyche from despair to bliss with incredible ease.

He felt tired and he felt old.
And he remembered his mother, what she used to tell him with a tinge of sorrow in her green eyes: “My dear boy, you cannot remain a child forever”.

Wheel of Fortune

~ 10 ~

This time of solitude and self-analysis had comforted him. He had not been able to figure out it all but he felt things were slowly falling in place. He felt he needed to get back on the road now and face what was coming his way.

He had walked for only half an hour when he saw the strange looking couple: an old man, tall and slender, with a short, chubby lady at his arm, both looking quite tipsy if not drunk, talking and laughing merrily, as if they had just stepped out of a party where they had been singing and dancing all night. They looked as if they did not have a care in the world.

“They look happy,” he thought with a pang of envy.

They walked up to him. The woman, with a sweet smile on her face, took off her necklace and simply handed it out to him.
The old man, looking amused at his surprised expression, explained that it was a very precious necklace which she decided to give away. The woman took his hand and placed the necklace in his palm before he could say anything. Then they abruptly turned around and began walking away as if they were in a hurry to get back to their party.

“This is nuts,” he said to himself, watching the couple fast disappearing ahead. Then, he shouted at them:
“Hey, why me?”

“Because we ran into you” he heard them shout back, still laughing

He just stood there with the necklace in his hand.


~ 11 ~

When he saw the park across the street, he decided to take a break. He walked into the park and sat down on a bench. The weather was warm and sunny, and the park was full of children merrily running and playing, their laughter filling the air with joy and happiness. He closed his eyes, turned his face to the sun, imagining the warm feeling spreading from his face to all over his body and comforting his soul.

He stayed like that for a while, enjoying the sun and reflecting on his journey, until the cries of a couple of children playing nearby broke his concentration. He opened his eyes and saw two girls playing on a seesaw right across from the bench he was sitting. The girls were about four, five years old. One of them was tall and slender, with light blonde hair and creamy skin, already turning pink under the blazing sun; the other had dark complexion, jet-black hair and she was short and chubby. The only thing that was similar about them was the know-it-all expression on their faces.
They were talking to each other in loud, animated voices which, at times, verged on yelling. There was clearly a problem.

He watched them for a while and soon realized what the trouble was. They were unable to balance the seesaw. The tall girl, because of her weight, always ended up on the lower end of the seesaw, leaving the short one up in the air. The blond girl tried to lift herself up for as long as her longer legs allowed but had to let go after standing up for just a few seconds. The chubby girl, down for only a short moment, ended up in the air again. The tall girl wanted to go up, the short girl wanted to go down and they could not balance one another. Naturally, each held the other responsible for this state of affairs.
They looked so cute in their frustration that he could not resist offering his help. He got up, walked to them and asked if he could join their game. “No, you may not!” replied the tall one immediately.

He knew kids could be stubborn but he was still surprised at her immediate rejection of his offer. He pretended to walk away, drew a large half circle around the seesaw and, coming back to the chubby child’s side, lightly sat himself down on the seesaw.
Thus, he balanced their little universe, believing he was also teaching the girls an important lesson on the value of cooperation and the law of cause and effect.

But things did not work out the way he thought. The girls jumped off the seesaw almost immediately and ran off to the swings, clearly unhappy at his intervention. He watched them for a while and began walking away, wondering about what new, unexpected lessons awaited him on the road ahead.

The Hanged Man

~ 12 ~

Something was missing. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it but he felt depressed and his mood was all gloomy. Despite all he learned during his journey — and all he looked forward to learn — something was missing but he just did not know what it was. He had taken time off from his journey to reflect on all that he had lived through and that had been time well spent. Then why wasn’t he content? Why was there such a big hole inside him, a dark void he felt nothing could fill?

“What is it, Goddammit, what?”

No matter what he did, he could not shake the feeling off. He felt weak and exhausted, did not have the strength to do or face anything. He just wanted everything to come to an absolute standstill. Let time stop, nothing move, let it all just freeze. He wanted to cease being.

Yet, he did not lose faith. Deep down inside, he believed something was patiently incubating and, when he was ready, it was going to reveal itself. A truth…
beyond the visible , a vision that would fullfil and transform him thoroughly. He would, however, need a different pair of eyes to see that vision, another heart to embrace its beauty, and a new mind to understand its significance. What he did see now, what led him to such terrifying despair, this material world and its depressing routine, made his yearning all the more painful, yet also so strangely sweet.

“My soul,” he whispered to himself in the dark, “my soul is craving. I am like a desert, empty, barren, parched.”
He felt a sudden urge to draw. He had not drawn for so long he wasn’t even sure he could hold a pencil properly but just the mere thought of drawing uplifted his mood. Maybe his God demanded a different medium to talk to him; maybe he could touch Him with his pencil.

He drew and drew for hours, without thinking, without caring about what he was putting on paper feeling more and more liberated at every stroke of his pencil. He ate little, drank little and barely slept. When, hours later, he put down his pencil, he was drained. Only then, he looked at the paper in front of him: a womb, gestating a fetus.
His eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.


~ 13 ~

He felt it was going to be a long night. Although he had been walking for quite a while, he was neither tired nor sleepy. He just kept pushing on through the dark, lonely night, wondering at the amazing silence surrounding him. All he heard were his own footsteps, his breathing and the rustle of his clothes as he moved through vast expanse stretching ahead.

here was no light, no sound, no sign of life around him A strange fear began to creep upon him, an uneasiness that enveloped his being. He quickened his steps as if the sun would rise sooner if he walked faster. He was almost stricken with panic now, breathing heavily, desperately wanting to get out of this God forsaken place, yearning for contact with some form of life, be it another human being, an animal, a bird, even an insect.

The wall suddenly rose in front of him. It was a high wall, made up of dark stones and he was surprised he had not seen it until he almost ran into it. He lifted up his head to see how high it went and saw something move on the very top. He almost screamed with fear but managed to control himself and he took a long careful look at the shape now standing motionless up at the top of the wall.

It was a woman, a young and beautiful woman, dressed in a black, sexy gown, her long white legs showing through generous slits, accentuating her slender waist and broad shoulders. He was relieved that he finally met another human being in this no man’s land, yet he could not help wonder what she was doing here. He hesitated for a while and his overwhelming desire to get out of this dreadful place finally took over his curiosity and whatever brief infatuation he may have felt for the woman on top of the wall.

“Excuse me for bothering you, but can you tell me how I can get out of here? I am quite lost.”
“There is no way out of here,” she replied matter of factly, “this is the end of the road. End of everything.”
“What do you mean, end of everything?”
“End of everything. End of meaning, too.”

He kept asking questions, hoping to get a straight answer but she kept on saying things that did not make any sense, repeating over and over that this was the end of it all.

He felt the panic rising again, as if her strange replies revealed what he had already suspected. But this couldn’t be; this was a frightening place allright and, yes, he almost worked himself into a hysteria but he was still in this world, wasn’t he? He had not walked into another dimension or magically got transported to another
world, did he? Soon, the sun would rise and shine its light upon the world, he would walk out of this place, see other people, and….
“She must be mad,” he thought to himself. Why would a woman, and in that dress, be walking up on a wall in a strange place like this? And the nonsense she was talking – this being the end of everything and all that. Yes, she must be mad; maybe she had escaped from a lunatic asylum nearby and men in white would come and take her away, and “There is no way out of here!,” she screamed again, in a high-pitched laughter, freezing the blood in his veins. He looked up and saw, to his horror, that she was now transforming into something else, something ugly and evil and terrifying. Scorpions crawled over her body, snakes were sliding on her feet and her beautiful face frozen in an ugly grimace, looking down at him with an expression of hatred and disdain.

He began to walk away, then started to run. He had to get out of here, away from her.
As the sun rose from the horizon, her shrill voice still rang in his head.

“Get out of here or prepare to die!”
It suddenly dawned on him that she meant exactly what she said.


~ 14 ~

He walked into a crowded bar. He ordered a bottle of scotch, found an empty table and sat down. He was still shaken after his encounter with the crazy woman – or whatever the hell it was – and he just wanted to get drunk, hoping the whiskey would help him erase her memory.

He had already gulped down two glasses and was feeling tipsy when a young man asked him if he could share his table. He didn’t care, as long as the lad left him alone with his scotch – which was what he bluntly told the guy. Unfortunately, the lad turned out to be the thick kind. Not appreciating his wish to be left alone, he kept trying to make conversation, asking him questions and even commenting on how awful he looked – as if he didn’t know himself. He felt like shit and he was pretty sure he looked like shit too.

The young man ordered a glass of wine and a glass of water for himself and continued to talk to him. He had almost finished his whiskey and was considering whether he should get another bottle when the lad told him he was now ready to listen to him. He got really pissed at that. He did not want to be listened! He just wanted to finish the bottle and – no, he wasn’t going to order a new one – get the hell out of this place.

“The boy must be an idiot!” he thought. “He doesn’t see how upset I am or, maybe, he is doing it on purpose, just getting a kick out of annoying me.” The young man was now lecturing him about how stressed he looked and how they could actually have a very nice conversation if he had just relaxed a little.

And he was drinking wine and water together– what the hell was that about? He sure would not relax and have a very nice conversation with this annoying child. He was already drunk and he wasn’t going to take his shit any longer. He lifted his head and looked the young man in the eye. He was just about to tell him to shut the fuck up when a magnificient painting on the wall caught his eye.

The Devil

~ 15 ~

He was trying to walk off his hangover from the previous evening when he saw the mansion with brightly lit windows. It looked and sounded like there was a big party going on. He could hear the music and the chatter and, as he approached, he saw the silhouettes of people inside. The whole thing seemed unusual for some reason and he knew why when he walked into the house through the wide open door.

What he saw shocked him. It was the vilest, most disgusting scene he had ever witnessed in his life: People having intercourse , engaging in the most obscene sexual acts imaginable, some dancing in ridiculous looking clothes that left little for the imagination, others throwing up in corners, all drunk or stoned, yet others shouting, laughing, running wildly, and all of this going on under bright, white lights illuminating rooms with curtainless windows and the grounds surrounding the mansion — as if they demanded to be seen and admired. He was disgusted by what he saw but, strangely enough, fascinated too, for could not stop himself from watching.

A man in what looked like a Dionysus costume noticed him and, with an exaggerated hand gesture, invited him to join the orgy. He looked quite satisfied with what was going on and the expression on his face showed he was clearly amused at the Fool’s shock and disgust.

He was deeply offended. Join those poor bastards who, enslaved by their animal instincts, lost themselves in the basest of pleasures? He didn’t think so. He wanted to give a piece of his mind to the Dionysus-like guy and he did. He was so upset that he talked without a pause for almost five minutes, telling him what he thought about the whole business and letting him know what he thought about his invitation and what he could do with it.

The man quietly listened to him with a smile on his face, not interrupting him, nor seemingly in any way offended by his insults. When he finally got it all out, the man simply asked him why he was so upset.
“Everybody is having a good time and you should, too. After all, you are not any different from us.”

He was infuriated by this last remark but he also realized that there was no point in arguing with this guy. He needed to get the hell out of this place and was just about to step out when someone in a dark corner of the room caught his eye: a man looking just like him — more like a split image of him, really — had grabbed a woman and he was….

“This cannot be,” he whispered to himself, “it must be an illusion, a trick of some kind.” He knew who he was; he believed in the virtue of his mission and had no doubts about the purpose of his great journey. He began to say these aloud, as if chanting a prayer, hoping to find comfort in the spoken word, and he felt better but for only a brief moment. Then, he was suddenly exhausted as if something drained off all his strength. He could still hear the words coming out of his mouth but they sounded faint and foreign to him as if a stranger was uttering them from far away.

The Tower

~ 16 ~

He thought he was going to lose his mind – and not only his mind but his soul too. He felt estranged from himself. His great dreams, his aspiration to true wisdom, all that led him on to this journey were about to collapse in a crushing failure. He could see no way out, no hands were reaching for him. He was all alone; he had played the Devil’s game and he lost.

He was feeling sorry for himself. He had naively thought that things were falling in their place, that he had finally found his path. Now, he knew how miserably he failed. He was far from achieving true wisdom or from building a future for himself.

His hands were shaking. All that led him to here and now, all he wanted to forget, vividly passed in front of his eyes and further infuriated him. He was angry, outraged. He wanted to bang his head on the wall, smash everything around him into pieces, seek relief and absolution in destruction.
Nausea came unexpectedly. He felt a bitter taste rising from his gut and rushed to the restroom of the small restaurant where he had been sitting for the last hour.

When he saw himself in the mirror over the sink, he froze. He stared at his reflection for a long time and then felt his right hand clench into a fist, his arm stiffen and slowly move up, and he hit the mirror with tremendous force, cracking it into a thousand pieces.
Only the janitor cleaning the toilets had seen what he did. He watched him for a while with scared eyes and finally worked up the courage to talk to him in a quiet voice.

“You OK, bro?”
He was still looking at the mirror, his reflection now distorted by the cracked glass but he felt better, somewhat lighter.
“I am OK now,” he replied, “much better.”

The Star

~ 17 ~

His right hand was pretty messed up but he felt good. What he did was pretty stupid but it somehow helped him. His mind was calmer and his body relaxed but he knew he needed more. He needed something to point him at the right direction, a light to shine his path, as it were.

It was already past midnight when he walked to the seashore. The air was cool and crisp, and stars were shining brightly in the clear sky. He laid down on the moist sand and wanted to empty his head, wishing to become one with the beautiful night surrounding him.

When he saw a bright shooting star, he remembered the old adage about wishing upon a star and smiled. He did not believe such things but he could not help himself; it was pleasant to think his wishes could come true simply by making them at the right time. He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

He did not know how long he slept but when he opened his eyes he saw a young woman and a small child sitting next to him on the sand. The child, barely a year old, smiled and cooed, while the young woman handed him a cool jug of water.

He didn’t realize how thirsty he was until he began drinking the cold water from the jug. He finished it all and turned to thank the woman… and that was when he really woke up. It was only a dream but a good dream, nonetheless. He had not had one of those in a long time.

The Moon

~ 18 ~

The storm came suddenly — one minute all was calm and quiet and the next, all hell broke loose. The wind roared, a hard rain slapped his face and huge waves raged in the sea. He began to run, hoping to find shelter until the storm passed.

He saw a big house ahead, ran to it and knocked on the door but no one answered. Maybe the house was deserted; maybe they did not hear him because of the storm. Or, maybe, they simply did not want to open the door to a stranger in the middle of the night. He was wet down to his underpants now and water dripped from his hair, his face and his clothes. He considered taking his shirt off and then remembered the photograph he kept in his shirt pocket. He took it out hoping it was allright but the images had faded and the paper almost turned into pulp. He cursed angrily and resumed banging and kicking the door in frustration, not knowing what else to do.

Then he heard a faint voice. He listened carefully, trying to figure out where it was coming from and realized someone was calling out to him from the river bank. He began running there and saw a little hut by the pier where a small boat was tied. He opened the door and walked in.

Inside the small hut, a middle-aged man sat on a wooden chair. A big, black cat with shining emerald eyes was resting in his lap. “He must be the boatman,” he thought and asked him where he could find a place to spend the night. “Unfortunately, there’s no such place on this side of the river,” said the boatman, “only on the other bank. But in this weather…”

He knew it was madness to try crossing the river. The storm, the waves, no way…He understood from the expression on the boatman’s face that the man had no intention to try.

He looked outside through the small window. The only light that broke the pitch black darkness of the night came from the full moon, barely visible through the clouds. Huge waves crashed against the pier and swung the small boat wildly. It was indeed crazy to even think about taking the boat and attempt a crossing. Yet, he was feeling kind of crazy; he felt strangely courageous and willing to tempt fate.

He got out, jumped in the boat and untied it. He took the oars in his hand and began rowing furiously against the waves. At that moment, he remembered that inn and the inkeeper, like a pale ghost from a distant past.

The Sun

~ 19 ~

He finally managed to make it to the other side but it hadn’t been easy. Actually, it had been damn hard: he had to struggle with the high waves and the roaring wind, and there had been moments when he thought he wouldn’t make it.

Then the storm stopped, as suddenly and unexpectedly as it began. He stopped rowing, pulled the oars in, and laid himself in the boat to rest a little. He quickly fell asleep.

When he woke up, it was warm and sunny and the little boat was lazily drifting along the river bank. His wet clothes had dried and he felt rested. A morning like this after such a lousy night! He was happy and grateful, happy that he made it safely accross the river, and grateful for being alive. He slowly rowed the boat to shore until it smoothly ran aground on the mossy bank.

He noticed the music as he jumped out of the boat and stepped on the soft grass. The melody, sweet and beautiful, was oddly familiar, though he could not quite remember where he heard it before. He walked toward the music and saw a beautiful young woman playing a lyre, sitting under the cool shadow of a magnificient oak tree. Flowers surrounded her and butterflies fluttered around her head. Birds were chirping along and a million other summer sounds accompanied her lyre, as if nature wanted to show off its glory in all its splendor. “This must be paradise,” he thought.

The young woman saw him and stopped playing. He hated himself for spoiling the moment, feeling like an elephant that walked into a porcelain shop. His face red with embarassment, he begged the woman to continue. She flashed a smile at him, clearly not minding the interruption.

“Isn’t this place wonderful?” she asked.
Wonderful indeed, he thought, truly wonderful — a place full of wonders, so beautiful and charming, it felt unreal. He had not felt this happy since he set upon his journey. This was a different kind of happiness — bliss, really — that filled him, as his whole being was consumed in this perfection.

The woman stood up and walked over to a magnificient white horse grazing near the river bank. He watched her caress the majestic beast, whispering tender words to it, and he felt as if he was in a fairy tale.
“Princess Charming,” he smiled to himself.


~ 20 ~

He knew somehow that he was nearing the end of his journey. He had grown and matured; his inner voice told him he was very close to finding the wisdom and the inner peace he sought.

His mind preoccupied, he was strolling along the river that ran through this beautiful city when two policemen stopped him. One of them handed him an official looking brown envelope, stamped and sealed. He tore the it open and took out the folded piece of paper. It was an order summoning him to court to face charges but there was no other explanation. “It must be a mistake,” he thought. He had no idea why anyone would want to sue him and he realized the only way he could find out was by actually going to the court.

When he walked into the courtroom, he felt the weight of several accusing eyes on him — a truly uncanny feeling, almost physical. As soon as a somber faced bailiff directed him to his place, the judge began to speak with a booming voice.

The judge informed the jury that the defendant had set upon his journey a long time ago without taking the required permissions. Everyone in the courtroom, including members of the jury, seemed shocked at this outrageous act.

He felt like laughing at this charade — this was stupid, unbelievable. Whose permission did he require and why? He tried to address the judge but the older man rudely interrupted him, making it clear that he was the one asking questions in this courtroom.

“Did you or did you not take permission? This is the issue here.”
“Of course, I did not!” he replied. Where on earth would you need to take permission to set upon a journey? This was ridiculous and getting even more so by the minute.
“Let the record show that the accused admitted his guilt,” declared the judge with a satisfied expression on his face. “What say the Jury?”
“This whole thing must be some kind of sick camera joke,” he thought as the members of the jury walked out to deliberate their decision.

The jury returned fifteen minutes later. Their spokesperson stood up and read the guilty verdict against him. He was now convinced that this was indeed big joke and everyone in the courtroom was on in it. He had to give it to them, though; they were all playing their part admirably. But he was getting a little uneasy, too. OK, the joke was fine — though not very funny in his opinion — and some people must have taken a kick out of it but enough was enough. It had to end now.

The judge spoke again. Despite the guilty verdict, he said, the defendant would not serve time because there was a statue of limitations on his crime. He was free to go. He sounded like he truly regretted this but law was law and even guilty scum like him had their rights.
He turned and began to walk out of the courtroom, still expecting someone to jump from behind a secret door and announce that the joke was on him.
No one did.

The Universe

~ 21 ~

He walked into his compartment a few minutes before the train’s departure, sat down next to the window and took the book out of his bag. A young man with a kind face was sitting in the seat across from him and the two other passengers in the compartment were already fast asleep, lightly snoring. He was not sleepy at all. He had a few pages left in the book and he was determined to finish it before he reached his destination.

The wagon was an old one and the seats did not have reading lights. He placed the book comfortably on his lap, took out his flashlight and switched it on. His mind wandered to the evening when he collected his things and set on this journey and how he decided to take the book with him — the book he had begun to read so many times and had never finished because he just could not understand it. Now, however, he had read most of it, and understood and appreciated what had then seemed so difficult and obscure.

Soon, he was totally immersed in his reading and it took him while to realize that the young man sitting across from him was talking to him. He could only catch the end of what he said, though: a comment on how interesting his book must have been, as he seemed so absorbed in it. Annoyed at the interruption and wanting to make clear that he did not want to be disturbed again, he mumbled something and returned to his book.

He continued reading for about ten minutes when the stranger interrupted him again, this time with a question which, however, surprised rather than annoyed him.

“Do you believe in God?” his fellow passenger asked with a serious expression on his face. Then, without waiting for an answer, he began talking about God, a God he could feel intuitively and One he could love. His God.

He enjoyed listening to this stranger — almost as much as he enjoyed reading the book. The young man was talking with a grace and wisdom far beyond his years. He talked about God, virtue, happiness, freedom, knowledge and wisdom. Finally, he smiled and concluded, jokingly, “I think I will just shut up now. You can speak about these things only so much, don’t you think? Someday, I may actually have to write a whole book.” It sounded like a joke but something told him there was a fundamental truth under it.

“Happiness is not a gift of virtue, it is virtue itself,” the next line in the book said.
He turned to the last page and began to read.