Still, sitting. Calm behind closed eyes. Thoughts once raced, now move at a slow pace. Rising and falling in the spotlight of my consciousness. Momentary recognition, no more. I let go. I, let go. Been here for long, and for long will be here. Still, sitting. In a full-lotus position.
I hear something to my right. My instincts insist it is an insect, crawling on a leaf. Tiny, numerous feet racing upon a coarse surface.
“Quiet! Be quiet” The monk screams, jumps onto his feet and hunches over a small sprout. A caterpillar on one of its leaves rises, extending its upper half up in air. The balding man, wearing a white kimono, crushes the insect against the leaf with his thumb and index finger. Rage melts away from his face as he lowers back down, crossing his legs.
Images, streaming into the spotlight of my consciousness; I let go of them. I. Let go. My mother was beautiful and now she’s dead. Women these days, they are not like her. They are easy and ugly inside. My mother.. Let go of possession. I did it again. I drifted away. I must calm down and let go. Now. I let go. I – let go.
The sitting man is not in full, but half-lotus position. In his late fifties with a bald spot surrounded by black hair. Asian, perhaps Japanese. The white kimono has stains of grass, dirt and wine.. Or blood. His face is twitching.
A mountain top with a breathtaking, three hundred and sixty degree view to all directions. Other peaks form a landscape of limitless detail and point at the sky like inverted dolomites. Feathery clouds glide hurriedly past, squeezed onwards by a strong gust of wind. Down below, a green valley lies. The top, where the monk sits, is covered by a thin layer of snow. Between the snow and green lie many barren, rocky crevices and walls; perilous traps for the careless.
Mother. No, I don’t want to eat the soup! It stinks!
His eyes snap open, then squeeze shut.
I let go. Should probably count breaths. One. Two. Three..
An eagle circles above the valley, gliding in rising air currents. Its sharp eyes study the scene below for prey. Noticing something on a peak, it glides lower to investigate. Food? it wonders. As the eagle draws closer, it experiences confusion. This food does not appear small like food usually does, but does not move, either. Closing, it shrieks on instinct.
A still-frame from the front. The monk, sitting in his lousy half-lotus, the bird approaching from the right with its wings spread, needle-sharp claws extended forward.
Play in slow motion. When the bird is only a meter away from sinking its claws into the balding scalp, the face beneath it twists in anger and eyes open. In one smooth motion, the monk rotates his torso to his left and raises his left arm towards the would-be assailant. He takes a firm grip of the bird’s legs right above the claws. While performing this motion, he reaches under the kimono with his right hand and pulls out a wakizashi, a short razor-sharp blade. The rotation of his upper body transforms into a left kneel while the left hand, still in motion, slams the bird against a snow covered stone. It shrieks and struggles to use its beak against the man. Without stopping, he swings the blade in a high arch and drives it into the feather-covered chest.
Play in real-time. Neither move. The bird lies still with its eyes open. Blood trickles down into the snow, heating and melting. Cooling, later freezing. It drips onto the hand still gripping the feathery legs. The monk stares intently at the bird carcass. He does not blink or breathe. He does not move. And then, slowly, he pulls the blade out, which is followed by a weak spurt of blood. He wipes the wakizashi against snow, releasing his grip on the animal.
A view from above. The bird falls down like a wet rag and lays on the stone with its wings spread, lifeless. The stone underneath is covered with red. Once satisfied with the blade, the monk hides it under his kimono. Rotates and places his left leg back underneath the right. Sitting in a measly half-lotus.
Another life taken. And now, I must struggle with this again. I can smell the red iron. My heart is racing. How am I supposed to concentrate now? Mother. No! One. Two. Three. Four..
The bird’s brain has shut down, but its spirit, life-essence, its soul, is aware, spectating the scene a few meters away from the monk. It tries to attack the one who just hurt him badly, but fails time after time.
Levitating right in front of his face, the spirit strikes time after time at the eyes, but makes no contact.
And now I have a terrible headache. Great. Must be the reeking carcass.
He reaches with his left, grabs a wing and hurls the bird down the slope before him. Warm blood sprays with the motion, forming a half-circle around the sitting figure.
And as the spirit continues its attack, it sees ghostly figures close by. Large and small, they have gathered around the enemy, their enemy, each scratching, biting, punching or beating him with all its might.
The damn back ache is getting worse. The monk shifts slightly to find a more comfortable position, but in vain. The blood on his left hand stains the kimono.
Wind gets stronger and pushes against him. It is cool and wails in caves somewhere below. With it come hard grains of ice, which proceed to strike his face. Clouds converge into one another not far above and the sun hides behind their cover. In this shade, the lone figure sits seemingly calm. In a position of no honor. His long, raven-black hair is bound into a bundle at the base of his neck. Hairs on the back of his hands stand in the cold breeze. Involuntarily, he shivers as the cold slides its dagger in between his ribs.
Snow piles up around his legs and covers his bald spot and shoulders. Then, as his muscles convulse in a desperate effort to produce heat, the snow on the top of his head falls. Then, one by one, it is replaced by other flakes.
The eagle-spirit is still at work, not feeling tired nor hungry, striking with anger at the common foe in cooperation with others. The monk is surrounded from all sides, closed inside a sphere of violence. Each death has released a spirit, which has taken a vacant spot in the sphere. It is perfect and tight.
So cold. But I must remain still. Mother! Will I die now? I am not going to die, like you. The thoughts turn into a mutter, which turns into a scream:
“I feel so cold!”
He opens his eyes and arms to the sky and grimaces. Crying, shouting, then covering his face with wax-like hands. His fingers are frozen straight. The monk cannot feel his face against them or them against his face, but sees them together. And the legs are somewhere under the white fluff and are of no more use than a block of concrete, cast around your waist. That is when he knows.
I will not leave this place alive. I will probably not leave this place dead, either. I figure of ice, tranquil and calm in a full-lotus position. A monument to admire. A piece of art, if there ever was any. Keep the form, do not move. I will not move one bit more.
But his hands are stuck to his face, fixed by ice of the once-warm tears he was able to cry. He pulls his hands from the shoulders, where some heat still lies, and the head from the base of his neck, where life still flows. Fails, now a figure of sorrow and upset. The monk begins to rock back and forth on his frozen, crossed legs. By each swing, they rise higher from the rock, and finally, as the balance shifts enough, he plummets down the slope. There is no time for thought.
His legs hit rock, which violently separates them from each other. He rolls further and is engulfed by a collapsing wall of snow. The monk’s face and hands hit rock, but do not separate fully; the skin remains with the hands, while the bloody skull-face, covered with torn tendons and muscles, stays behind, its trickling warm blood freezing in an instant.
Finally resting, calm on his side. His legs are twisted, mangled and pointing several ways. His raven-black hair, lying open in snow. His hands, still cupped against the skin of his face. The grimacing, skeleton face does not move, frozen still. But the brain still lives from the heart, which beats ever so slowly.
Mother. I will die now. I let go. I – let go. Please.
His eyes are frozen and cannot see the eagle, lying in a lifeless heap right before him. And each of the spirits of animals, men, women and children drift down the slope and takes its place in the sphere. Then, each of the spirits feels a sudden warmth growing in their midst. The harder they strike, the more blissful they feel. A beautiful light begins to shine at the sphere’s core. And they race towards it through the monk. Digging, clawing, biting and beating, they break down the wall. One by one, they surge through an opening, away from this world, away from pain. Rejoined, once more, with the source of creation, to return one day soon to live in another form.
Twisted, broken and dead, the monk lies half-covered in snow. Not in lotus anymore.
His spirit ascends and looks back. It is not calm and tranquil in death, but drowning and fearful. It sees the eagle next to its lifeless, faceless corpse, and within it, a portal of light, warmth and life. Dives towards it, but too late. The portal closes. And at that moment it understands. It is in fear and suffering. Like in life, so in death.
Remembers the beautiful women, delicious dishes and countless, exhilarating sword fights. Tries to leave the corpse, but cannot. Harder and harder, beats against an invisible barrier and yanks a leash, tied to the frozen flesh below. Circles its cage, mad with struggle, fear and hate. Will not yield. Will not accept its fate.
Morning. The blizzard has died away and revealed the valley below. A monk lies at the root of a wall, covered by the fluff of snow.
The spirit is still, calm, beholding the scene below. Sun rises from behind peaks to the east; an old friend. But it does not recognize him, does not see him, no longer warms. The spirit feels frozen and lifeless. It glides through the snow and looks into frozen eyes. The bird stares back and it feels a warmth for a moment, a momentary connection with the bird-spirit, now bathing in the warmth of a another plane of existence. It turns around.
The skinless face is frozen in an eternal grimace and stares intently at something far away with its frozen, dead eyes. It cannot recognize the head, which wears no face. Death is merciful and forgetful. What the spirit knew the night before, it forgot by the dawn. Circling its cage, it is puzzled.
Why am I here? Where can I go? What can I do? it wonders time after time and waits for answers, in vain. Then, after another moment or two, it makes the queries again. For the first time. Racing in its cage.
Bewildered, then calm. Imprisoned, then free.