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the Man in the Black Robe

the Man in the Black Robe

By mutant

Walking down a seemingly endless corridor, the man in the black robe wondered if the passage went on forever and if so, was it his fate to walk on until the end of time? It is logical to assume that within the inner recesses of his mind he believed that it did, although perhaps his subconscious would not allow him to be aware of this fact, so as not to drive him past the point of sanity. How long he had been walking he did not know. In fact, now that the thought crossed his mind, his earliest memory had been of walking the corridor. Was he born simply to perpetuate this seemingly endless task? Where did his robe come from? What was his name? Did he really exist or was he merely the figment of someone’s imagination? No, that cannot be, he thought to himself. Surely no one could possibly possess such cruelty as to invent someone whose only reason for existence was to perpetuate a meaningless pursuit? Why does he keep walking? Why not just stop or go back the way he came? Although unable to remember how long he had been walking, it did feel as if it had been a very long time. He did not feel physically tired, his breath was not laboured, he was not perspiring and his feet did not ache. However his soul felt weary. He wondered how long he had been walking: minutes, hours, days, months, years? Perhaps you have heard of the saying ‘some fates are far worse than death?’ I am inclined to believe such is true of our friend at this precise moment, but that is a purely subjective thought on my part.

He stopped dead in his tracks as he looked up from being lost in thought to see an old man in a brown robe standing before him, who was in turn standing before a wooden door. Was the man in the brown robe’s endless function to stand as sentry before this door, as his own had been to walk towards it? It was at this point that the man in the black robe wondered if he too was old. He had assumed he was young, but how could he be certain of anything? All he knew was the walk. He looked at his hands. There were weathered with lines, but they did not seem old or withered. Perhaps I am middle aged, he thought. The thought of being old terrified him. It was not so much because of the fact of being old in itself that seemed frightening, more so it was that he may have lived a long life but had never got the opportunity to experience anything that sent chills down his spine. He again became scared by the incongruous thought of being called into existence, only to live a life of meaninglessness. Some say it is better to have lived a full life spaning no more than one day than to live a millennium in the pursuit of nothing. He asked the man in the brown robe if he was old, who shook his head in a kindly manner and clearly mouthed the word no in muted silence. The man in the black robes’ attention had now turned to what lay beyond the door. He could feel the hope filling up inside him that his long journey had finally come to an end, but tried to keep this joyous feeling submerged, just in case the worst were true. The thought of the seemingly endless corridor merely continuing on the other side filled him with terror. The hope within him questioned why put a door there if there was nothing else on the other side and why have someone stand watch over it. Will he let me through? Surely he must! The man in the brown robe opened the door and stood aside as to allow entrance. Slowly peering inside, the man in the black robe saw a dimly lit room with a wooden bench seat in the centre. After sitting down, the door was closed behind him. The seat was more comfortable than it appeared, although by no means luxurious. But for the man in the black robe it was like being immersed in a cool oasis after having walked a lifetime in the desert. He simply bathed in the ecstasy of peaceful oblivion. When he awoke from his slumber, he felt as if he had slept for a thousand years. Examining his surroundings, apart from the bench upon which he sat, the room was bare. There was a faint illumination that began in the centre of the room, expanding outwards, where it gradually grew dimmer, ending in the shadows of the walls. It was as if the light emanated either from him or the bench upon which he sat. Getting down on his hands and knees, he examined the bottom of the seat and the floor upon which it resided. The light did indeed seem to be coming from the earth itself. This set his mind to thoughts of the corridor, which seemed to have the exact same lighting. It seemed odd that he had never before questioned why in a corridor with no lamps or windows to provide illumination; he had no problem finding his way. He had the impression that he was underground and always had been. Had he ever seen the sun? And if not, how did he even know of its existence? The room he was in was not particularly large, but nor was it tiny. It seemed perfect for its size for its purpose. He could make out the door in the shadow, the earthen floor, wall and ceiling and that was all there was. Am I now to wait for an eternity as I walked for one, he thought to himself? And if and when my wait comes to an end, do I simply return from whence I came? And why can I not remember? Have I subconsciously blocked out events that were too painful? Even though these questions were of concern to him, he felt content. At least something had changed. That gave him hope. Hope is something we all require if we are to survive, for without hope there is nothing to live for and if you have nothing to live for…well, I don’t think I need to finish that thought, do I? Lost in thought, he did not hear the creak of the wooden door, but was awoken from his mental wanderings by the gentle touch of the man in the brown robe upon his shoulder. Beckoning the man in the black robe to follow, he returned to the corridor. After both men had emerged, the man in the brown robe once more closed the door. The man in the black robe looked into that ancient face of gentle kindness and wisdom, as his mouth struggled to keep up with his mind with the many questions he wished to ask. Before he was able to mouth any word, he received the only answers he was going to, a warm-hearted smile, a gentle embrace and a sign that he should return from whence he had come.

As he began his return walk, he became filled with a hybrid of emotions: despair, joy, dread, hopefulness, worry, excitement. Fortunately the positive emotions quickly overtook the negative ones as he thought about what lay ahead. How long would it take him? As he was unable to remember much of the journey to the door, would the same thing happen on the return leg? Would he eventually not remember walking from the door, as he had forgotten where he had walked to the door from? In his darker moments, he thought about the dread of coming to a dead end from which he must again turn around. The thought of going back and forth forever terrified him. Is that why he could not remember? Who could live with a truth such as that? As these and other thoughts became lost in the labyrinthine corridors of his mind, which seemed to perfectly parallel the corridor upon which he travelled, he lost the ability to judge time or the lack thereof. Or perhaps simply continued to be relative to him.

Without warning, two things happened simultaneously, he felt an intense pain in his eyes and he lost the ability to see. Raising his hands to protect his eyes, he fell to the ground and fortunately for him the pain became to much for him and he lost consciousness. He awoke to a gentle warmth that felt comforting and pleasurable. Even more pleasurable was that his eyesight had returned. Looking down the tunnel, he saw an opening, with green grass beyond. He started to walk towards it, his walk quickly becoming a run. As he passed through the gentle warmth he felt upon waking was intensified. Looking up around, he saw a world of beauty spread out all around him. A woman with an intoxicating smile in a white robe stood before him. Taking his hand, she guided him to a bench seat underneath a tree, where they sat beside one another. The bench seat was exactly like the one in the little room at the end of the corridor. His head was filled with questions that he hoped this woman could answer, but he found all he was able to do was look at the beauty around him. Up to the horizon in every direction, the ground was covered in the beauty of emerald. The sky was a deep blue, decorated intermittently with silvery-white clouds, tiny and immense, all striking a different pose. The flowers in the garden were like a floral rainbow. As he was filling his soul with these wonders, the woman in the white robe placed something upon his lap. It was a book, in a hand-made leather-bound cover, with a strap to lock it in place. Looking into her large brown eyes, he asked her if the book was for him, to which she nodded. She seemed to exude calmness and tranquillity, as if in her presence you could almost reach out and touch the kindness that seemed to emanate from her. It was not until then that he realised she was still holding his hand. He could feel the love from that gently strong embrace. Unlocking the strap, he opened the book.

I do not know who or if anyone will read the from this journal, but if these pages fall into the hands of some unknown reader, know that what follows is an account of Brother Nathaniel of the Society of Light. Whether it is for posterity, my own personal desire or some other reason I am yet unable to perceive, I cannot say, I simply feel the need to document this before I take my Walk.

My earliest memory is of being raised amongst the Society of Light. It has since been revealed to me that I am a unique among my brethren, in so much that I was not born into the community. As it has been told to me, one morning Brother Caspian rose to find me on the perimeter of the garden, naked as the day I was born and in an unconscious state. I was covered in dirt, filth, cuts, bruises and suffering from exposure to the elements and badly malnourished. I was placed in the care of Sister Bridget, who at this time had no children of her own. I did not wake for an entire lunar cycle, after which I did not display any ability to speak. Either the trauma of my experience had resulted in an amnesiac condition or I had never been taught. Over the coming months Sister Bridget adopted me as her own, taught me to their language, both written and oral. I learnt to act in a manner that befitted a member of the community, during which time a loving bond was forged that remains unbroken to this day. After the initial months, I was integrated with the rest of the children and was accepted openly. When I came of age and was informed of the truth of my origin, or lack thereof, two strong thoughts permeated my mind. The first was of how the community accepted me with open arms without knowing who I was or where I had come from. It was an affirmation of the goodness and dignity of the human spirit. I have never had the impression that there is a single person here who cared where I had come from; they simply believed I was where I was meant to be. The second was a deep desire to know how I had come to be laying in that field on the morning I was found. I was proud to be a member of the Society of Light and had no wish to be anywhere else, but at the same time I possessed a deep desire to know my origins. My intention was to marry my past and present, so I could feel whole and journey to my future destiny as both a Child of Light and a creation of my past. I laboured upon what path I should take. I took counsel from my Mother and many others, but in deep meditation I knew that although I sought the advice of those close to me, ultimately the path I chose had to be my own. In time I came to the decision that if I was to find the secret to my past, I would have to journey into the outer lands, from whence I had come. Although my Mother did not wish for me to leave our sanctuary, both because she would miss seeing me on a daily basis and me believed this is where I belonged, not once did she attempt to dissuade me from my adopted course. However, she did not need to verbalise her feelings for me to be aware of them. She is one of those people who can say much without speaking a single word. Seeing little point in procrastination, I set out shortly thereafter. I journeyed the outer lands for approximately two seasons and found no trace of my origins during that time. I met many people, some from villages, others who lived a nomadic life; families and loners both. One day as I sat upon a large flat rock, reclining and immersing myself in the beauty of a sunset, the revelation that it did not matter where I had come from struck me like a bolt of lightning illuminating a pitch black night. The only thing that truly mattered was my present and future; who I am now and who I will become. The past is a dead thing and must be cast off, lest it weigh you down. I still would have liked to know where I had originally come from, but it no longer consumed me. It was a knowledge I could live without and still be happy. I did feel sad that I had wasted so much time, but it was to late to change it. I tried to not dwell on such negative thoughts, but could not always dispel them from my mind. As I drew close to the gardens of the Society of Light, I began to feel afraid that I would not be as accepted as I once was. I knew they would not turn me away, but they might think me foolish and had I made myself an outsider through my obsession to find my past? I camped on the outskirts of the garden for seven days, during which time I almost ran away, never to return. When I was able to control my fears, I realised it would be better to know for certain than to wonder for the rest of my life. My fears and self-doubts disappeared as I entered the garden and was welcomed with open arms, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Everything was as it had been. As I embraced each person, one at a time and collectively, I felt a sense of euphoria rising from deep inside, which continued to escalate until I saw my Mother and the euphoria exploded like a bursting dam.

At the end of next lunar cycle, my Mother and the other elders came to me. At first I was pleased to see them, but then I noticed and felt a seriousness and solemnity that was unlike them. They spoke of how they had come to the belief that I was ready for the Walk of Faith. Of course, the name alone excited me and filled me with a sense of mystery. As I sat like a wide-eyed youth, they explained what it entailed. The Walk of Faith was a rite of passage that the Society of Light held sacred. There were dangers involved. Many returned from their walk scarred, either mentally, physically or both. It was a mental, physical and spiritual journey. When I asked how long it would take, it seemed that it varied from one person to the next. For some it might only be a matter of seconds; for others it could be a lifetime. Some had never returned. The common belief was that those who had not returned had not yet completed their Walks. Feeling excitedly fearful, I was unsure whether to ask if I could take the Walk immediately or to run away and hide. I was told that I was to wait one lunar cycle, during which I was to make the decision whether or not to go. The morning came when I was lead to the far side of a hill behind the garden. There was a tunnel chiselled out of the base of the hill. Brother Caspian instructed me simply to enter and walk the path. He said I would need no more than the clothes upon my back, the intelligence residing in my mind and the strength of heart he knew I possessed. My final words were with my Mother, who told me that the day after she returned from her own Walk of Faith, I arrived. As I bring this journal to a close, or at least until I return, my final thought is that the dark tunnel, which stands open before me, seems to have the hint of mystery and magic about it. I can feel the beating of my heart quicken as I think about what lay before me, as I prepare to enter, filled with a hybrid of excitement and fear. The last thing I will do before I enter will be to embrace my Mother and entrust this journal to her safekeeping.

Brother Nathaniel,
Son of Sister Bridget,
Society of Light.

The man in the black robe asked if she knew the journal’s author, although in his heart he already knew the answer to his question, to which she simply replied ‘yes.’

As I sit and add to my journal, the combination of reading my own words and being in the presence of my Mother has resulted in the slow returning of my memories to their rightful place. I feel two strong feelings at the moment. The first is an overwhelming sense of peace and fulfilment. The other is a deep desire to understand the meaning of my walk. I may never truly understand, but that is now my next goal. Perhaps it will become my life’s work, who knows?

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About The Author
mutant
mutant
About This Story
Audience:
All Audiences
Posted:
10 May, 2011
Genre:
Science Fiction
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