Why is it that throughout the history of man, he has struggled to come to terms with a sense of isolation? Why is it, that the idea of being alone has been associated with, or even birthed dark and negative condiments; ruining the flavour of life?
I do not see an absolute bad in being alone, nor do I see any absolute pleasure in the other end of the spectrum. Why is it, that the companionship of one person is often enough to make you forget the need of anyone else? Why does, often, within hordes of people my only company is silence and paradoxically, the noise of my own thoughts? Why is it that the daily trudge is a pain but with the right person even the longest of travels have no effect on your feet? Why does, then, time fly and stops at the same time with that one companion?
The boy walked on, occasionally glancing backwards. He could not forget the image of the man on his mind, it was etched there like notches made by the persistence of flowing water on a rock. He still questioned whether he did actually have the conversation he thought he did, for the man did not look real.
No, he didn’t think the man wasn’t real because he was dressed oddly, or because he had strange pets and tools. The man radiated a power, something much beyond knowledge and wisdom. The man emitted wrath, and despite it not being meant for the boy, he was still afraid and wary of it.
As he navigated the stream of flowing bodies, he asked himself, whether he had ever led to destruction. Destruction of what or whom, he could not place, and he decided that since he couldn’t recall anything, he was innocent. That being said, he was now apprehensive of being destroyed – he still wanted to meet that man again, positively as friends.
Before he could ruminate more, he was distracted by a mild light just ahead of him, onto his right. The light seemed to come from a small alley, which was covered with curtains. The wind would move the curtains, and the light would dance on the people walking past. But they might as well be blind, he realised again. A few people even tried to jump out of the light’s path.
The boy went in to investigate.
He timidly pulled apart the curtains and peeked inside. Behind the curtains was an incredible room, decorated with heavy pieces of cloth and art. The floor was soft and plush, and a red carpet led to two elegant and regal thrones. The thrones were made of gold, with velvet and silk laded around it. On the left throne sat a man, with both his arms on the side rest, shoulders broad, chest out and back straight. The man was dressed like a king, with ornaments and heavily embroidered clothes, but what gave it away was the large crown on his head. Along with that, however, he also wore a frown on his forehead; and a conflicting expression on his face. The other throne, however, was empty.
The man saw the boy peek in and immediately ordered him in. His voice was strong, yet was mild and calm. His order was probably as polite as an order can be, but there was a measure of finality in his voice which meant it was supposed to be completed, no matter what.
As the boy walked in, he felt calm. He felt his anxiousness vanish, his torments gone for the while. He felt safe. As he slowly walked ahead, the man smiled and encouraged him to come closer.
When the boy finally reached the foot of the throne, he stood there perplexed. Sure he had heard of kings and their magnanimity, but he had also known them to be brash as well. He figured he should acknowledge the man in some way, so he bowed down. As he got back up, he looked at the man. The man wore a smile so real, the boy questioned if he had ever seen a smile that warm.
The boy stuttered, “Your – your highness -“
“What brings you here, child?”
“I.. don’t know. I saw the curtain and was curious.”
“Well, that is a good reason to be here. Settle down, and let’s talk.”
The boy sat on the floor and made himself comfortable. He didn’t know what to say, but as usual, he had questions. And since his earlier endeavour with the man with the snake, he felt he can now ask questions. Despite a multitude of previous questions, it was the most recent one that came out of his mouth.
“If I can ask, sir, how does one not get destroyed?”
“By staying true.”
“True to what, sir?”
“True to yourself, and true to the basic principles of the cosmos.”
“Cosmos? What are those principles?”
The man took a deep breath. “The world, child, is a huge quagmire, and to navigate it there are certain set rules and boundaries by which an ideal man must live. These are the principles along which life should be lived.”
“And these rules,” the boy mused, “what happens if you don’t follow these rules?”
“Destruction, like you asked. Damage, loss, pain. There is no circumventing these rules. The position of man is so crucial in the universe that on his shoulders rests a lot of things, and if he isn’t perfect, society transcends into chaos – mind-numbing chaos. If people feign these boundaries but disregard it in reality,” the man scowled, “I harbour no respect for them.”
“So these people out there – “the boy pointed behind him, “are they following the rules?”
The smile vanished off the man’s face. He sighed, “I’m afraid not.”
“So they’ll die and then are destroyed?”
“You don’t have to die to be destroyed, son,” the man said, his voice letting away a hint of sadness. “Sometimes destruction sets upon your path while you’re very much alive, and swallows you whole.”
The boy moved to sit on his knees and looked back, “So, many of those people are already destroyed?”
The man nodded.
“They don’t really look like they’re destroyed,” the boy said honestly.
“That is the pain about being destroyed while alive,” the man said softly, “you can never really know who is destroyed. Destruction grasps you from within, gnaws you out, and the pain can be eternally tormenting.” “In fact,” his voice dangerously soft now, “it is often the invisible destruction which is the biggest of reasons society has become into a perpetual cascade of inflicted destruction. People seeking the same punishment for someone else even if their fate was caused by different and wrong circumstances,” the man finished, his voice dark.
The boy noticed that the man had dug his nails into the cushions of his throne’s armrests, and his eyes had pain which the boy couldn’t place. For what it was worth, what could a regal king like him have pain about? Lost in his reverie, the boy looked at the empty throne. He wondered who it was for, but the king looked irked, so he decided not to ask.
“So, um, sir? If you follow all the rules you won’t be destroyed?” he braved with another question anyway.
The man didn’t answer. Almost as if in a painful reflex, he glanced wistfully at the empty throne and looked at the boy. The boy, for a fleeting moment, thought the man’s eyes were wet, but as he blinked and looked again, they were normal.
“Sir.. if I may ask, that other throne – “
“Wait, son. There are some things I cannot say as a king, and as an upholder of those rules. Pardon me.”
He got up promptly and walked away briskly behind the throne. The boy didn’t follow his path, and looked around, trying to amuse himself. Before he knew it, the man was back and had put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
The boy gasped. The man had completely changed. He was barechested, and his well-chiselled torso was glowing. He wore an orange flowing clothing below his waist, a necklace of heavy brown beads, and his long hair was tied up into a bun. On his shoulder, he had a bow, and a quiver of arrows was tied to his back. A solitary, naked sword hung from his hips. He looked happier than before, and the almost permanent frown on his face was gone.
“That other throne, son, belongs to my wife. I have always followed the rules of the cosmos throughout my life, and they have aided me pretty well most of the times. However, following those rules has taken from me, my love and my kids,” he said, sitting down beside the boy.
“So the rules.. can also destroy you?” the boy asked, the epiphany putting many pieces together.
“Yes. There is no absolute way to be happy, I now see. Selflessness and a little self-care, both are necessary. To give and also, at times, receive a little, both are needed. Those rules and boundaries.. I won’t say are meant to be broken, but pushed for sure, particularly as time pushes humanity further and further. And also, if required, abolish some if they aren’t pertinent anymore. The one way to be happy is probably to not have any remorse and regrets. If you do have them, then for your own sake, try to be at peace with them.”
The boy looked at the man. His face had a happy determination which warmed the boy from within. “It is important to be happy,” he blurts out and looked at the man. The man smiled, his truest, broadest smile yet, and affectionately nodded.
They both got up. “Let’s go,” the man said.
“Where?” the boy asked.
“Along the road, for a while. And then we will go our different ways.”
“You’re going to get your wife back, aren’t you?” the boy asked excitedly.
“Yes,” the man looked equally excited.
“Are you sure you can do it alone? Do you need help? Can I help?”
The man laughed as he held his hand and they started walking.
“Don’t worry child, I’ve done it before.”