The Wind Whispers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a lonely monk's encounter with a mysterious traveller high up in the mountains.

Submitted: May 21, 2019

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Submitted: May 21, 2019

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The wind whispers

 

 

The monk slowly shook off the snow from his robe and took a minute to look at the mountain peak, ever so imposing with its dented shape in the distance up north. A white shroud detached itself from the peak as it was lazily carried by the wind. The nearby clearings were covered in eternal whiteness. The pine trees stood tall, hunched under the weight of the icicles and looking like tired guardians who have witnessed the unstoppable change of time.

It was a silent afternoon in late November. The monk was used to the silence. He’d never get used to that mystical peak though. He sometimes felt as though the summit changed its appearance, like a faraway shape shifter or a shadowy dancer.

When the view lessened its magnetic grip on the monk’s gaze, he returned to his work in the small inner yard of the monastery. Strings with miniature copper bells were dangling in the air, imprisoned between the stone wall of the main wooden gate and the humble tower of the main temple. The bells’ songs were directed by the unpredictable hand of the approaching winter gusts.

The monk was the only occupier of the monastery. He never complained about the solitude. Then again, the only being he could complain to was his cat, who he cherished as a spiritual companion. The monk was old. He was aware of the creeping feeling that his time would come but didn’t normally dwell too much on it. Instead, he focused his mind towards hope and the omnipresent face of God.

It was getting late in the day. The sun was not setting yet but it was already starting to lose the brightness and vigour of its energy. The warmth in the sky slowly made way to the wintery darkness.

‘Alright, my dear,’ said the monk in a deep, calm voice to his feline friend. ‘I say we go close that front gate. I’ll just make sure we’ve got enough firewood for the stove later.’

Slightly hunched, hands behind his back, the monk walked towards the wooden gate. He was about to put the massive latch on the gate when he suddenly saw a dark figure in the distance. The gusts were getting stronger now and were playing around with curtains of snow, so it was hard to see. He half-closed his eyes. The figure was still there and it seemed to be coming towards him. The monk waited while the string bells continued their ever-lasting song.

After a few minutes, the monk was able to tell that the figure was that of a man, all wrapped with a gigantic fur coat and with a leather bag on his back. The man’s fluffy hat was covering most of his face. When he was about twenty metres away from the gate, the stranger stopped. The two men stood there, looking at each other, with the wind adding a note of supernatural essence to the encounter. The monk’s cat suddenly appeared next to him, almost as an apparition, powerful enough to help break the silence of the moment.

‘Hello there, young man,’ said the monk.

‘Hello as well,’ replied the stranger. ‘I certainly wouldn’t call myself young though. I’m fifty-six.’

A smile appeared on the monk’s face.

‘Anyone under my age is a young man, my friend. Anyway, what brings you here to the monastery?’

‘Nothing actually,’ the man’s voice was light but firm. ‘I’m on my way to the peak.’

The monk’s eyes suddenly grew bigger, his mouth was slightly open. There was another moment of silence. The two men still stood twenty metres apart. The sun was now setting and plunging the snowy clearings into an orange sea of mass.

‘Oh, I’m sorry!’ said the monk. ‘How rude of me, I forgot to invite you in. My cat and I don’t really get many visitors around here. Come and make yourself at home…’

‘Thank you for your offer,’ the man interrupted him, ‘but I must continue on my journey.’

There was a certain sense of urgency in his words. Or maybe it was devotion? The monk couldn’t tell.

‘My friend, it will be night soon and there are no villages around,’ said the monk. ‘Walking towards the mountains now would be suicide.’

The man didn’t say anything. The monk was now able to see more of his face. The stranger had thick moustaches, a pointy nose and fixated eyes. There was something about his gaze which made the monk feel helpless. The man finally started talking again.

‘I’m not sure you’ll understand. I must go to the peak. What is your name, by the way?’

‘Well, I’ve never had one, to be honest,’ the monk replied with a sad tone. ‘I am an orphan and through the years, I managed to meet a lot of kind souls but also a lot of bad ones. The name I have been given by some is Vak. What about you, my friend?’

The man looked away, first towards the setting sun and then to the peak, which now looked like a sleeping mythological colossus.

‘It doesn’t matter really,’ the man said quietly.

The cat meowed, looking at his owner with a pleading expression.

‘But please, my friend, do come inside at least for us to have a small chat before you continue on your path,’ the monk started walking in the deep snow to get closer to the stranger.

‘I’m afraid I really can’t,’ the man sighed, still standing at the same place as before. ‘You see, back in my home village, my daughter is really ill and our healer said only a special herb from that very peak would help her get better. I don’t care if I sacrifice my health or sanity! I will find the herb, buried under the cursed snow, and the sooner I do it, the better.’

The monk’s face hardened as he was listening to the man’s story. The strong gusts were howling and sounding like ghostly voices of despair, at one moment seeming so close and at other moments so far away from the two men.

‘I understand,’ the monk said. ‘I do have to warn you though: nature is breath-taking but also dangerous. There are indeed many legends about that peak. And year after year, I’ve seen people like you. They seek a cure, enlightenment or just a new adventure over there. I sit on that small bench next to the wooden gate and I follow their silhouettes in the distance until the snow curtains hide them from me. Sometime later, maybe days, maybe weeks or maybe even months, the wind whispers to me. It tells me what the destiny of those travellers was and what’s happened to them. It’s hard to describe, but it’s almost like the voice of a messenger who would always deliver its message to me, regardless of what the news is. Sometimes the vultures that I see precede the whispers. I cry in those moments…’

The monk stopped talking and looked at the man’s face. The two were a metre apart now. The monk saw signs of sorrow in the stranger but also that drive and determination which reminded him of the travellers he’s seen here. The sun was casting its last rays in the winter sky and preparing a temporary farewell to the hilly snowscape.

The man slowly turned his eyes to the monk and put his arm on his shoulder.

‘Thank you for your kindness, Vak. I’ll bear in mind the things you said to me. Had I had more time, I would have gone inside to pray to God. Alas, all my prayers have been said along this journey. And I may never stop saying them until I see my daughter happy again… Thank you and goodbye.’

‘Wait!’ the monk said. He turned his back to the stranger, trotted towards the small monastery and soon returned to the man with one of the copper bells from the inner yard string. ‘Please take this as a talisman. I will pray for you and your daughter, my friend!’

The man nodded and took the bell. He then waded in the snow-drifts and the northern darkness soon engulfed his silhouette. The monk stood there. He was cold but his mind didn’t pay attention to it. Instead, he was thinking to himself whether this encounter was actually real or if the man he just met was simply a figment of his imagination.

‘There was something so tragic about him,’ he said to his cat while still gazing towards the disappearing peak. ‘It’s almost as if he knew he was destined to do this. Like a prisoner of fate… Come on, let’s get inside, my dear!’

That same night, there was a massive snowstorm which lasted for three days.

 

***

 

When the weather calmed down a bit, the monk started with his usual work around the monastery. While he was cleaning the snow piles in the inner yard, he stopped to listen to the string bells. They sounded different today, he thought. And then, all of a sudden, he heard it.

It was the ‘messenger’!

The monk heard the message from the ghostly voice of the winter wind. He heard it very clearly. Almost at the same time, he saw the vultures in the shadow of the imposing peak. A tear started seeping down his cheek.


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