Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta mountains. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta mountains. Mostrar todas las entradas

sábado, 29 de octubre de 2016

The phoenix

   The majestic bird rose above the tea plantation and flew very high into the sky. The people that had been working in the cave where it had been sleeping for thousands of years, ran towards the exit in the hope of catching a glimpse of the animal flying free in the sky. No one really understood why or how the creature had survived living in a cave, apparently, for so long. It wasn’t common for a bird to live in such a place but, then again, it wasn’t no ordinary bird. According to the legend, that red feathered animal was the mythical phoenix.

 As the bird appeared to defy all laws of gravity by flying as fast as a supersonic airplane and as high as a weather balloon, the people below began considering the options: they could try to capture the creature but they had no real way of doing so. If the legend was true, such a fantastic bird would have the strong of a thousand oxen and its screeching sounds could tear down the roughest wood. At least that’s what it said on the many manuscripts kept by the monks in several temples of the region. But should such ancient scriptures be taken into account?

 It was well known that people exaggerated their fear when they felt threatened. They wrote tales of the most horrible things in order to surprise others by saying, “we endured this” or “we vanquished this”. Maybe the phoenix that was now hovering over the plantation was just like any other bird, just much more beautiful and graceful, and also very big and beautifully garnished by nature. In any case, most people agreed that capturing it would not be good at all for anyone. Their gods may punish them for those actions.

 Most of the population of the region consisted of peasants. They grew tea and rice and some other valuable goods that they tried to trade with other regions. But the economy all over was very hard for everyone and competition was rough from places that were much more advances, being able to produce tons more of tea leafs and rice grains. They were too far from any modern science and too close to ancient traditions that prevented them from going too far into the future. It was a very complicated situation indeed.

 The bird descended and landed on top of one of the tea bushes. The workers, who had been there all day, watched the creature with expectation, finding it very odd that such a big bird could pose itself on such a small bush and not fall to the ground. They believed it to be the magic of the phoenix and many of them started praying to it. As the sun sunk in the horizon, the bird’s feathers started glowing with a reddish hue that made look as if it was on fire. No… It was on fire. It became engulfed in it and suddenly it became a pile of ashes on the dark doil.

 The wind carried away the ashes and no one in the vicinity was able to say a word for some time after that. They had been witnessed of something beautiful and also very confusing. The people that had been digging in the nearby cave arrived just as a gust of wind cleaned the soil from any residue of the bird and when they asked what happened, no one could really explained what they had seen. It was only the next day that a young boy told them they had seen the bird burn, as the legend said it could happen at any moment.

 The problem with the people of the cave was that they were not from those parts. They came from the capital, saying they wanted to investigate the cage, which they thought was filled with uranium which they need to build a power plant not very far from there. At least that was what they said once and again, every time someone dared to ask why they had a arrived out of the blue and not years before, when the energy crisis was in its peek. They never really answered in a very straightforward way. There was always something elusive about them.

 After the bird burned, most of them left for the capital. Only one remained behind. He sealed the cave and stood guard there every single day. He lived in a small tent built by the entrance of the cavernous place. Apparently, they wanted no one to go there because they thought it was a place worth protecting but who knew why? Maybe they thought the phoenix had laid eggs or maybe they assumed the bird would be reborn in the same place it had been living for, apparently, a very long period of time. Their reasons were unclear.

 The people of the mountains went back to work as normal, grabbing tea leafs and cultivating their rice in the old fashioned way they had always done it. Some of them had begun to resent the government: it had never made any presence to help them in the past and out of nowhere it had send those people and now they couldn’t even get into their own cave, where they sometimes mined for precious stones that could give a family some more food to feed their children and the elders. Sadly, being farmers didn’t mean they could live at their heart’s content.

 Many of them had not eaten the meat of any animal in a good while and the children had no idea of what a sweet fruit tasted like. The only thing growing around them that could be similar were wild berries but they were always really tangy and many species were poisonous. So their diet was based on rice and tea, accompanied by a handful of vegetables each farmer grew in their private orchard. They were very careful with them because it wasn’t much.

 A year passed when the government, finally, decided to retire the man they had left in front of the cave. They claimed to have been unable to find uranium there so the decision was to let the cave in the hands of the people that had taken care of it for so long. It was a bunch of nice words but they all knew the truth: they had given up on the phoenix making its appearance once again, just as the farmers. No one thought it would come back again but everyone believed the bird still lived somewhere in the vicinity or maybe far in to the higher mountains.

 Children did many drawings of the bird and people started talking more freely about what they had felt when they has seen the bird flying over them. They now could do it because they didn’t feel the pressure of the government on their backs. They could say whatever they wanted, just as they had thought, without any restriction. That was the good thing of living ins such a remote area: those people were actually free, at least in a way most people would find alluring. Besides, they were happy despite everything.

 The celebration of the tea harvest that year was simply over the top. Artists from other regions were invited over and they showed everyone how elegant and hilarious they could be. There were also dances and music and many people wore costumes. The most magnificent thing was the construction of a huge phoenix made out of wood. It had been painted red by the children and built patiently by farmers after the working hours were over. They wanted to thank the creature for such a great year for their crops. They truly believed it was because if it.

 The happiness was contagious. Everyone laughed that night, celebrating with simple joy. They were glad to be who they were and the truth was that they didn’t want to become anything else. Most of the people day would never accept a trip to the capital or changing in any way the lifestyle they had enjoyed for the last hundred years. They respected each other, they took care of one another and they believed in the same core principles that ruled over most aspects of their lives. One of those was the belief that everything was possible.

 Late, when the party was about to end and dawn approached; they saw the bird flying over their crops and above the party, released what seemed like sparks. Everyone saw the bird with delight, thanking it for everything good that year. They would have another great year after that and for many more because they had been blessed by the phoenix, which had finally found the perfect spot on Earth to live in peace and learn from the good things humans had to offer.

jueves, 18 de agosto de 2016

The monastery

   The poor creature did it al by itself. It had carried the body of a lost hiker after almost dying in an avalanche. The donkey was exhausted and collapsed after crossing the gate of the monastery. Monk Yato was crossing the yard in order to get to the kitchen and was the first one to see the poor animal and the person it had brought to them. By the touch of his fingers, Yato noticed the donkey had died. It was probably due to exhaustion. As far as the man was concerned, Yato and other monks carried him to one of the rooms.

 He was in some kind of coma for almost a week. Every so often, monks would check on him and realize that he was doing great except for the fact that he was fast asleep. But life in the mountains went on, no matter how interesting it was to have someone from the outside so close by. The younger monks were the most curious ones, whereas the older ones hadn’t cared yet and had decided not to visit the tourist at all

During that week, the monks held a small vigil for the soul of the donkey, which they had buried near the main temple of the monastery. They all appreciated a lot what animals could do for humanity and had a tremendous respect for any kind of life that was lost during accidents in the mountains. The men from beyond didn’t seem too convinced by this but the monks believed it with all their hearts.

 One week after, the hiker woke up in the middle of the night. His name was Greg Emerson and he had been climbing almost every single mountain nearby. It was very dangerous as some of the mountains had special regulations but it had been clear he didn’t care about it, at all. When he woke up in the small room they had put him in, he instantly thought he had been captured by some foreign force from beyond the mountain range. He had no idea of monks or their beliefs.

 The halls were being watched and his bedroom’s window overlooked a large chasm with no apparent bottom. The morning after, when one of the monks decided to check on him, Greg committed the mistake of being excessively aggressive. He thought he was too strong, so he released the man in order to stand up and run away. But the monk had not being that injured and jumped at him, tacking Greg to the ground with ease.

 He was locked up in the cell once again and no one came to tell him anything for a whole day. It was very late when he noticed the movement of a light behind his cell’s door and then some steps. He trusted he was going to be released real soon. When the door opened, it was the Grand Monk, a very small mall that seemed to move his legs really fast in order to move at a normal pace.

 When he entered the cell, he told Greg that he knew who he was, his full name, his job in the city and why he had come to the mountains. He even knew that that his reason for wanting to get to know the mountains and nature was false and that’s why he had been confined to that cell until he got better. Now that he was, they had to check if it was in their best interest to release him or if it was better to keep him for a longer time. He complained, saying it wasn’t legal and ethic to retain someone against their will but the Grand Monk clarified he could leave his room but not the monastery.

 The following day, he noticed the Grand Monk’s orders had been honest: no more monks came to check into him and the door of his cell was now wide open. He could walk all around the various levels of the monastery, including the dining room where all of the monks gather at night to have a very sensible and small dinner. Greg missed the real foods from the city, sometimes being hungry for a hotdog and other times for some pasta with meatballs. In the monastery there was only a lame kind of bread with nothing on it and some goat cheese.

 One day, a monk showed him the burying site of the donkey that had brought him to the monastery. Greg remembered that creature and thanked him on his grave for having saved him. As far as he could remember, he had been riding the donkey for a while through the mountains just when they had been caught by one of those awful storms that sometimes happens deep in the mountains. During that awful weather, he had been knocked out and the animal had done everything by itself. 

 Weeks after being “released” from his room, the Grand Monk ordered him to participate in the various activities that the monks did all around the monastery, as he was one more of them for at least a while. So they decided to try him in various areas. The first one was the garden, a small hydroponic plantation overlooking the chasm. He wasn’t very good with plants so he did not do a great job. Besides, his hand were not at all delicate and he was always distracted, looking over at the view or being apparently immersed in his thoughts about how he would return to civilization.

 The next place they tied him on was the goat pen. It was really simple: he only had to fee them twice a day and let the roam around the main yard for a while. The ideal walk for the goats would be to go beyond the gate but they couldn’t let him go with them there so the monk had to tolerate the goats being all over the place now and Greg being useless when feeding them. He only gave food to a couple of them and then he just got distracted when looking at the snowy mountains and imagining what his loved ones were thinking right then.

 His last opportunity was in the kitchen, where a big Monk called Hitso, taught him about how to make the simple bread they ate and how to do some other dished with the vegetables they grew in their small garden.  They didn’t have any modern appliances, only an oven that used wood but there was no wood nearby that they could use. Beside, Hitso explained to Greg that the monks preferred not to eat things that were cooked, instead eating everything raw.

 In the kitchen, Greg really felt he was a little bit happier. Maybe it was the fact that he was serving the monks and that gave him some kind of purpose or it may have been the fact that he had stopped thinking about how to escape and about his loved ones in the city. He just realized that the monastery was his reality at the moment and that it was best to use it in his advantage instead of always being distracted by other things.

 Greg began to enjoy the company of all the monks and even tried to meditate like they did but he wasn’t that calm yet. In his spare time, he would look at the chasm and wonder what marvels laid down there, beyond the light of the sun. Monk Yato explained to him that the monastery had been built right there because their religion believed an ancient evil slept beneath the darkness of the chasm and that it was necessary to have prepared religious people nearby in order to defend the world once whatever lived down there emerged.

 It was a very nice story and, of course, Greg didn’t believe any part of it but he respected the fact that the monks were dedicated to their beliefs. He began thinking that maybe that was something he was lacking. He didn’t believe in anything except fame and fortune and going on to the next thing. Greg was very impatient and had always been like that. He wasn’t the kind of person to wait patiently to see what happened. No, he was the one “creating” his future. Now he was doing the opposite angle.

 Months after arriving in the temple, the Grand Monk called Greg to his room and told him he was ready to go back to the outside world. The young man nodded but then he knelt and asked the old monk to let him stay with them and become a monk like them. He wanted to learn their ways and be calm and a better person.

 But the Grand Monk said that couldn’t be. He had to go back to the outside because he had unresolved business there. Greg had to attend to that and, if he still wanted, he could comeback afterwards and join them. Greg left that same afternoon. He would never come back to the monastery but would always remember what he had learned and try to pass it on.

miércoles, 17 de junio de 2015


   From the top of the hill, he looked majestic. It was incredible to see him glide over the water and then fly up towards the sun and then fall, breaking the surface of the lake with his huge body. The creature loved to swim, or so it seemed, and it looked really happy to be there. He looked like a child that meets the ocean for the first time. But he was much larger than just a child. He was more the size of two horses and there were far from any ocean although he could reach one in no time. The people who found him had called him Mjölnir, like the hammer that the god Thor held in battle, the hammer that the gods had created to bring order and stability to a world in chaos. He was that for them, a fantastic creature capable of bringing calm to this world.

 The two explorers that had gone to see him were so amazed that they just stared at him for an hour, never mind the fact that he might fly away in any moment. The locals said he lived deep in the mountains because they were the only inaccessible area of the region. The mountains her were sharp and built by nature like razors. Not any human could climb those and to use any means of transport would be a waste of time because of the magnetic instability of the area, which no one had ever explained. Maybe there was something to mine down there; maybe it was because of him. No one knew. What they knew was that he was, for all intents and purposes, unique. The locals never spoke about another one or a herd of them nor nothing like that. He was alone in the world.

 After a week of the discovery, the scientists had begun to look everywhere in the world with the same circumstances but nothing had come up yet. Maybe he wasn’t alone but they had to help him mate or he would be extinct in a number of years. To be honest, they had no idea how long the lifespan of a dragon was but the general thought was that they could live for hundreds of years, so that gave them some time to organize and look for a suitable mate. They studied him for weeks and weeks and more and more people came to meet him, which was astonishing due to the fact that, in the past, any person that had attempted to get close had died.

 Doctor Lemon was a brilliant biologist. She had discovered many new plants and animals in the deep forests of Indonesia. As for Doctor Samuelson, he was a paleontologist, the one that had discovered the first skeleton of a dragon in China. He was the reason the two of them were granted help from an American institution to go and explore the Razor Mountains and see if its inhabitant was real or not. They had to train hard for days in climbing and trekking and in every sport that could help them pass the mountain range. When they got there, they had to try it several times, risking their lives, in order to finally make the crossing that would lead them to Mjölnir.

The lake was not a place they went to look for him. They had seen it from the range and had thought they needed to recharge their water supplies before attempting to do anything else and the lake was probably made of melted ice water from the mountaintops. It was summer, so the lake was not as large as it could be but it happened to be large enough for a gigantic creature to swim in it. It was so strange, for both scientists, to see the creature so at peace and relaxed. If they hadn’t known any better, they would have thought he was a giant dog or something. Not for his looks of course but for the way he behaved in private, playing around and just enjoying himself.

 They had always been portrayed as savages in every single culture. They have been deemed dangerous and quite vengeful but this one did not seem like that. He seemed nice. Maybe that was because in all of the first week, they didn’t see him spout fire. It was possible that he used it only as mechanism of defense but when they saw him eat a deer, they realized he wasn’t able to do it at all. He was a very large lizard who happened to fly short distances but he had no ability to propel fire from his mouth or nostrils. This disappointed many who followed the investigation but he was, nevertheless, a species in the brink of extinction. The two scientist looked all around the area and found the skeleton of another dragon but it wasn’t its partner but its mother.

 The bones indicated it was a larger animal, with a far longer wingspan and a huge body. It was now easy to see now why they had such a clumsy ability to fly: they were too big. They weren’t like the pterosaurs of the past that were light like birds. These dragons were heavy and had to train their whole lives to be able to fly properly. That’s why no one had ever spotted one. Contrary to belief, they didn’t fly that much, they didn’t spout fire and they lived in an area where the magnetic field was just crazy. The area was soon protected by law, so only scientist and authorized people could come in, dare to cross the mountains, and then just watch him to his things.

 Both Lemon and Samuelson stayed there for a whole year and were the ones who set the rules on how to behave while staying in the area. They would explain to any visitors that they had been very careful for him not to se them or be able to smell them. They used a special perfume that made them smell like plant life so he wouldn’t come too close and attack. People always obeyed because it was more important for them to see him and take pictures than risking their lives in a silly way. But like with everything that goes into fashion, most people soon forgot Mjölnir, after only a year. Lemon and Samuelson were happy that this had happened because they needed to investigate more and see how much time he had.

They gathered saliva from the remains of his meals and some scales that had apparently fallen from him. Maybe he was changing skin like most reptiles or maybe he was sick. They had no real idea and that made them insane. For a while, they had to go back to a proper lab and just try to understand more about him. As they did all the tests and experiments they had to do, they realized it was a very difficult job as there was no other creature like it. Lizards and snakes were only similar to him in small things but, in the larger picture, he was a unique creature. And that worked against him hard because it’s much more difficult to protect something you don’t understand than the opposite.

 It was during that time that a couple of explorers in remote parts of the world found more dragon remains and even fossilized eggs. They were brought to a laboratory for investigation and hoping they could lead to a possible cloning project but that was cancelled when they realized there was nothing they could do with the eggs, except noting it features and putting it in a museum. After six months of hard work, they had come to the conclusion that the dragon was about to enter adulthood. His mother had died at least fifty years ago when he was a baby but only know he was beginning to grow up. That explained, at least partially, his behavior in the lake and the way he did things. He was becoming an adult all by himself and it appeared he would die alone too.

 Then the news came. The locals had found his body lying next to the lake. He was dead. Lemon and Samuelson flew to the area but it was too late, another team had come for the body and, with permission and bribes to the locals, they had managed to take the body in a helicopter and now it was far from the reach of those two scientists, the ones that had discovered him. For months, no one heard one more word about anything related to the creature. But both scientists decided to release a book with their impressions and experiences with the dragon. They thought they should at least be the first to say what he was like and how thrilling it was to discover him.

 The rival scientists released an autopsy report saying that he had died from drowning and that they had found the organ that might have produced the flames every single culture in ancient history attributed to the dragons. The discoverers of the creature published an article saying all of that was false and that there was something they weren’t telling and that they should have been able to check the bodies themselves or at least leave someone else do it. But they never did. And the body was never donated to any museum or organization. People, again, largely forgot about the dragon and about them, even as they slammed scientists without scruples every time they had the chance.

 Mjölnir was dead and the truth was he had died because he had wanted to. He was smarter than people thought and his fly over the lake were just an attempt to understand how to kill himself. He was grieving and because he missed his mother. And he was alone and that wouldn’t change. So he took matters into his own hands and did it. People would have never understood that because of the intelligence factor but that no longer matters. We will never understand.

domingo, 24 de mayo de 2015

The guardian of the mountains

   In a very far off land lay the town of Var. It had a small number of houses and was located in the middle of a trade route, which explained its existence. The people of Var were used to foreigners passing through, sometimes without even saying a word and other times staying for days, enjoying the beer the people of the region had learned to make. What was most particular about Var was that most of the time it was covered by a dense fog. No one knew why that was. Some believe in the folk tale that the town had being built by the devil on top of a fissure in the ground that lead directly to his lair in the center of the planet. Others, more scientific minds if you will, thought the fog was related to the mountain chain that passed close to Var, a chain that was largely unexplored and that housed a couple of volcanoes.

 In Var lived various types of people. But one of the most interesting ones was Gerta. She was one of the various women that were in charge of washing the linen and the clothing of other people and were paid for this. Gerta liked her job because it required her to leave town and go to a nearby river to wash by hand. There, all the ladies would reunite and talk, sing and discuss various subjects in the peace and quiet of the outskirts of the town. But Gerta would rather listen most of the times. She found herself to be not all that interesting and very clumsy when speaking.

 There was a subject, however, that she didn’t like to discuss: children. The other women talked about their girls and their boys and what they did or had learned or said at home but Gerta couldn’t do any of that, even if she had been interested in speaking out loud. That was because Gerta, who had turned forty years old recently, had never had any children and the possibilities of that happening were just getting more and more slim.

 You see, Gerta was a big lady in all the physical sense and men had never appreciated her silences, which could last for days. They thought she was dumb and simple and would only trust her with their clothes and nothing more. Sometimes she thought about this, when the other women started discussing their married lives and their duties as mothers, but to be honest most of the time Gerta was busy dreaming.

 What did she dreamt about? Simple. She would think of a prince from a faraway land that would fall in love with her and would take her on his horse to travel the world and live in adventure and romance for the rest of her days. Every time she saw a foreigner or a caravan of merchants crossing Var, she would stare at them one by one and not move until all of them had passed through town. She saw their clothing, the way they behave, and knew that she wanted to one day leave Var forever and not comeback to her simple ways of being a washerwoman.

 After washing the clothes, Gerta would normally help her father, her mother had been dead for some years, in their small crop. The ground around town had turned arid in recent years, many said because of the foreign horses, so the land that people could use to grow food was always shrinking, getting smaller and smaller. Gerta would plow the land; pick up the carrots and potatoes and clean lettuces and various medicinal plants that his father had used for years in the making of medicine for his small pharmacy.

 It was a renowned store, where people from every corner of the world came to buy remedies for their illnesses and pains. His father was well known but the amount of medicine he could do had been declining steadily for the last few years. He was growing old and almost blind so he had taught Gerta how to manage the store and how to process the medicines. The truth was that he would have preferred to have a son or at least one more child that was a male but that hadn’t happened. So he taught everything he knew to Gerta and told her the store was one of the pillars of Var and that she couldn’t let it crumble. She needed to form a family to keep it alive, long after his death.

 One day his father felt especially ill and lay in bed. The store had to be closed, as there were no medicines to sell. Many ingredients had not been harvested but Gerta knew where to find them so she entrusted her father to a doctor and left town for the mountains. His father had been there for many years, since he was a naughty kid, picking up plants and roots. She took a book with her where her father had drawn all the plants needed to make medicine so it would be easier for her to spot everything.

 The think god also covered the mountains and by midday, Gerta knew she was lost. She tried to find her way back to the main path but she had definitely taken a wrong turn somewhere and now there was no way to go back. She was feeling desperate when suddenly she realized she had been climbing the mountain. The fog was disappearing and the soil had turned black, covered with rocks. She found her first root and then another and so on for hours. She would put them all in a basket she had brought and grabbed everything she could, as she had no idea when she would be coming back.

 But suddenly the ground shook and Gerta screamed, afraid for her life. It seemed like an earthquake but it wasn’t. And she knew it wasn’t because the ground moved and she fell and, before hitting her head, she saw a shape beyond the now light fog and the clouds. She woke up several hours later, already at night. What was amazing was that she was at entrance of a cave, looking out to the starry night. Somehow, she had walked to the cave’s entrance after falling or someone had brought her here. It didn’t matter as she needed to go back home soon or her dad would worry. She stood up and then realized her basket had disappeared.

 It wasn’t in the cave or in the outside of it. That was frustrating as Gerta had been especially happy about finding all of those roots and plants so fast and in all the same place. She was now tired and dirty and felt bad that her trip had been useless. She started walking out of the cave but from the sky fell an enormous figure and just some meters in front of her a gigantic head with bright yellow eyes and a long snout with warm nostrils at the end. She was looking straight at the face of a dragon and the dragon was looking at her.

 Her reaction would have been to scream or run or both but Gerta couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t move or react in any way and was afraid she had been frozen in the spot. A few clouds in the night sky moved, revealing the moon and, in turn, revealing the true size of the creature. Now, Gerta did scream. It was pitch black, covered in scales and with a body capable of destroying a whole town in just a few movements. She had no idea if he could breath fire but that wasn’t something she was interested in finding out. She wanted to go back home but couldn’t.

 To make her shut up, the monster talked and that was even worse. Gerta screamed like mad but the monster then kicked the ground to make her stop. Apparently getting it, Gerta shut up and the monster greeted her, telling her he had been the one to put her in the cave. He had done it because wolves came out at night and would have eaten her alive if she had stayed in mid part of the mountain. However, it had been him that had caused her to fall. After all, she had been walking on him.

 The dragon explained to a shaking Gerta that the roots and plants were part of the mountain and that he had been entrusted with the care of all the mountain chain. Gerta had heard the legends of merchants encountering dragons but everyone thought it was a just a tale for children. The monster said he forgave Gerta for her intrusion only because he knew her father with whom he had made a deal: he would let Gerta’s father take roots and plants if he made the dragon a potion for his sore throat. That way they lived in peace.

 Then Gerta, with a weak voice, explained she had come because her father was ill and he was already very old. She promised to make his potion too if he let her go with the roots and plants as she had told her father the store would not die with him. The dragon thought of this and then looked straight to Gerta’s eyes. She felt dizzy, as if he was able to read her mind. He then said he didn’t need the medicine anymore but that he was thankful anyway. So he would grant her a wish in honor of her father and the gratitude he felt towards him. He would let her, and only her and her family, pick up the goods from the mountains.

 Gerta told him she didn’t know what to wish for but the dragon told her the wish had already been granted, so she could go home now. Gerta didn’t understand. At least not after a few months when she realized she was pregnant. The dragon had given her the gift of a family, to keep on with the store but mostly to make her happy and make Gerta realize her true potential as a human being. From that day on, she thanked the dragon by praying at the foot of the mountain with her child, who grew up to be a great man.