Coy’s last hope in life was to be given the opportunity to transfer all that he had learnt and done and been and said to someone or something otherwise he felt that his life would have been a complete non-entity.
The Brotherhood were watching nonchalantly as Ashi began to cry.
They were not beyond compassion, it was just that outward expression of emotion was such a futile thing, and it was wasting time.
Ashi calmed down and the Brotherhood told him that he would be transferred to one of their schools and it was there that he was to undergo his training in order that he could process what he had been through, and revise his goals (all in language that a child of six could understand).
Ashi was led into another room that was circular and had many doors, though none contained any sign or labeling. The room was constructed of the same material of which the greeting chamber had been made, namely, some sort of chrystalline structure and it had nothing in it bar what appeared to be a rather old wooden table right in the centre with a large, rather fraid book in the centre. The woman who had led him into the room walked over to the book and opened it.
“Your name is Ashi, isn’t it, little one.”
“Yes.” replied Ashi, feeling a little tense.
“My name is Leila. Come here, Ashi,” she beckoned him to join her and he did so. He looked at the book and saw a blank page with his name at the top.
“Ashi, please put your hand here,” the woman motioned for him to put his hand on the centre of the page. Ashi complied and as he did so felt within him a deep sense of wisdom and comfort. Everyone who had ever cared about him was there in that place and although there were no words exchanged, he felt their warmth and encouragement, and it was good.
Leila met Ashi’s eyes and whispered to him, “You are safe here, Ashi,” and with a sweeping motion gestured towards the doors circling the perimeter of the room.
“Choose any door.”
As he took his hand from the book, Ashi surveyed his options and became aware that a path had illuminated itself between him and one of the gateways. He glanced at the woman and saw that she was focusing on the portal to which the channel of light led.
Leila held out her hand and Ashi took it. Together they walked towards the object of their attention. The door to which they had reached suddenly appeared to melt and Ashi found himself looking into a world which now appeared familiar to him.
“This is a special child,” voiced the midwife as she gave the newborn to it’s mother. Steffie received her calm, beautiful child looking into his sparkling blue eyes, and after a long while, returned her gaze to the midwife who was also staring at the child.
“Yes, he is,” replied Steffie, closing her eyes and feeling the warmth of her son against her body.
Coy picked up the statue of Krishna and held it on the palms of his hands at eye=level as he chanted a mantra, which he had held close to his heart ever since his India days. Although he didn’t know the meanings of the words, he vaguely trusted the Brahmin who had given it to him and through many years it had been a constant friend.
This time was no exception and Coy began the chant:
Coy repeated this 50 times…….for him, there was no more magic in the number 50 as in any other, it was just a good round number that seemed to him neither too many nor too few, and it had borne him results on a regular basis.
The man Coy learned this from was a member of the priest caste in a little village in the foothills of The Himalaya. He had spent a lot of his time in the company of Laxmi and his family and friends; and it was during a six month period of meditation and retreat that he had been given those words.
Laxmi’s duties, providing his only source of income, were to tend to the spiritual needs of the Hindu pilgrims who came to visit the Shiva temple located in a magnificent valley high up in the hills where two holy streams met.
Each morning, after performing his prayers, he would leave his spartan abode where he lived with his wife and children far up in the mountains overlooking the village at 4am summer or winter. With no access by road, the only option was to walk the three kilometres into the village, for lunch he would retrace his steps on the steeply inclined narrow paths to reunite with his family, going back to the temple in the afternoon and finally returning to his home at night. It was this routine combined with only 1 meal per day and his dedication to man and God that had given Laxmi a lean, gaunt appearance with eyes that sparkled like the stars.
On his visits, Coy would be given a house in the village close to the site of the temple, for which Laxmi would accept no remuneration. With no water or electricity, Coy was presented with difficulties, particularly in winter when temperatures would drop to below freezing.
Ashi cast a long thoughtful look at Leila. Although the place to which the door had led looked familiar to him, Ashi could not be sure that anything familiar was going to happen.
“Can I come back here if I need to,” Ashi had had enough of stepping into new worlds for the time being.
“Ashi, once you step across the threshold, you will be back in your world, the familiar world, the world as you know it. You will not need to come back here and nor will you desire such. You will not be given any problem with which you cannot deal, and all the items of which you have need will be put in your path. You did tell the Council that you wanted to go back, didn’t you?”
Ashi nodded. “I didn’t mean like this though. I wanted to go to my mum and have the same friends doing the same things,
You know, I wanted just to go back to everything as it was before I came here.”
“But Ashi, my dear, you have to wait for that. The Council decreed that you should have some time training first, and this way is the way to your school.”
“But I don’t see any other children, and I don’t see a school.”
“Ashi, the whole of life is a school. Every good thing is teaching you what is right, and every mistake is teaching you what is not right. School is not a building, it is a state of mind. I do not know what The Council have for you, but what I do know is that I have been involved with them for a long time and I have found that they are trustworthy and wise. They would not put you into something that you could not deal with and the last thing that they want is for you to return because that is a place for those who have sacrificed hope. Ashi, as long as you still have hope, there is hope for you.” Leila smiled reassuringly at Ashi, and he returned with a demure, fleeting glance only meeting Leila’s eyes for a split second because he didn’t like what she was saying to him.
“Ok, so if I go now how can I be sure that it’s not a big trick.” Ashi looked into the world that beckoned to him. He looked at the grass, the trees and the little stone cottage with it’s dim lights flickering in the window and a dog playing with some unseen plaything in the garden. “If I go now then you will never see me again.”
“Not until you lose hope, my son,” Leila stared at Ashi and the boy knew that what he was about to do was the right thing. He felt that Leila really cared about him and he wanted to show her that he took her seriously.
Ashi moved closer to Leila, outstretched his arms and embraced her as he meekly uttered his gratitude, “Thank you.” He took one last look at his mentor and departed into the land of grass and trees.
Coy was reading a book that had been given to him during his travels in Iran. The person that had given it to him had explicitly told him that he should not, under any circumstances, reveal the contents; and it was this that gave Coy a slight feeling of power whenever he opened it; which, actually, was not that often.
Coy heard a tapping at the door and, as usual, waited before even considering to get up due to the fact that; firstly, he needed time to process the fact that there was someone who wanted to see him way out here in these woods that, most of the time, never saw a sole venturing more than one or two hundred metres beyond the perimeter, since it was this forest that was well known for swallowing those who strayed too far; secondly, to look out of the window, so that he could know whether friend or unknown, and thus whether or not to go to stage three, which was; thirdly, to arm himself with his trusted baseball bat, after running his hand over it’s silky-smooth maple wood surface; a gift given to him by Joe Carter when he went to watch the ‘Blue Jays’ match in Toronto a definite while ago.
He put his book under a pile of random papers that he had collected in the unofficial ‘Pending’ pile and sat there unenthused. Who this time, police again? They often came along on the lookout for those who had strayed too far. And Coy never failed to greet them with his bat, to which the officers were none too impressed. Building inspectors? No, there wasn’t much to inspect, it’d be a waste of their time coming out here. He went around to the side window where he could surreptitiously check who it was, then he passed to the back of the room, grabbed the bat and ambled nonchalantly to the door. Precisely in synchronicity with the final tap of the third series he opened the door.
Opening the door, Coy was greeted by a woman, couldn’t have been more than 23 years old, with features that were at once stunning and belittling and a way of holding herself that indicated a presence that he had previously attributed only to the divine. The woman regarded him and his weapon with an intensity that was neither victorious nor invasive and Coy quickly slid the bat back into the house before it became a talking point.
“Hey, at last, Mr Golding, I have been looking for you for a while, and who was to know that I would find you out here. Of all the places I would never have thought of looking in these woods but I was lucky, there were a couple of children that were right there by the edge. I asked if a grumpy old man who never spoke much of anything to anyone lived in the woods, and they replied that indeed, there was a grumpy old man, they guided me for the first hundred metres or so and then they pointed me in the direction of your place. I like it, it’s got real character!”
Coy considered the woman for a while, and then responded blankly, “I’m sorry, do we know each other.”
“Oh,ok, thanks for reminding me. I got a bit over-excited there well, having found you and all the rest of it. Yes well, technically, Mr Golding, we do not. But we did meet once when you were busy repairing a broken chair or something for my uncle when you were in Iraq. My name is Leyla,” the lady declared, as she passed her right hand towards Coy, whose ears had now pricked up due to the mention of Iraq.
Coy took Leyla’s hand in his, and gave it a slight squeeze, “Iraq,” wheezed Coy as he spluttered into his sleeve, “ you mention a time of my life that was not what most people would hope for, nor what most people would uphold as any form of training for life on this side of civilization .”
Leyla chuckled, ”So my country is the flip side of civilization, that, if I may say, is a paradox from which you will have to extricate yourself at a later date.” Itch, Coy’s dog, ambled up beside him, and proceeded to knock the hastily balanced baseball bat into a freshly arranged vase of flora and fauna with an over-zealous wag of his tail.
“Itch,” but the dog was already scampering for cover with a remorseful whimper. Coy recovered the items and started to rearrange the upset vase’s contents; he loved getting interesting looking twigs, leaves and other shrubbery then combining them to form some noteworthy creation.
“Oh, what a lovely dog.” remarked Leyla as Itch managed to bury the last remaining morsel of his hindquarters beneath the dining table. “Part Afghan, am I right? Dogs are a bit of a passion of mine. As you may remember, my father used to breed Afghan Hounds. Beautiful dogs; they look at you as if they understand everything; Itch gave me that look before he scarpered under the table. I like him, Coy, he’s got that real ‘dogginess’ about him.”
“I should hope so,” Coy snickered, “He’s a dog. His father was pure world-class Afghan and his mother was a collie; you know, like Lassie. So, I reckon he’s got the pride and dignity of the Afghan, and the sensitivity and intelligence of the Collie. You saw how he did something wrong, and immediately was ashamed of himself. Leyla,” He looked her in the eye, “I never beat my dog, if he does something he shouldn’t, I tell him just that and show him what he should do next time. It’s not just what you say, it’s what you are, what you do and what you love and hate, it’s how you say it and how you follow it through.”
“You know,” interjected Leyla, “That’s what I call ‘dogginess.’
“Alright, then I’m with ya.”