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Lost and Found

Scent on the Wind

By Insinq DatumPublished 23 days ago 15 min read
3
Lost and Found
Photo by Veronika Galkina on Unsplash

A man wanders through a desert, paying no heed to the ephemeral path his feet etch in the sands. He walks without seeing, and he steps without looking, because he despairs to discover the truth: that he is all alone in this world, and that there is not the smallest drop of compassion available to quench his roaring thirst. So dessicated is his soul that, were he to stumble upon the waters of life amidst his circles under the stars, he would perhaps mistake them for yet another mirage and pay them no mind. How did he get here? Such things are long since lost to him, hidden behind the veil of forgetfulness which protects him from the part he played in making this mess.

This much he knows: once upon a time, he had a reason to come to this place, a living breathing reason which nourished his soul. What happened to it, he cannot be sure, but he has a sneaking suspicion it's still here somewhere, and that if he walks for long enough, maybe he will chance across it again and suddenly all will be made clear to him.

So it was that one night he found himself standing at the foot of a mountainous sand dune, perhaps the largest he had ever seen, without knowing how he got there. Was this yet another of his trials, a further and more concrete repetition of his Sisyphean situation? Why not climb it too? After all, he had nothing better to do, nowhere to be and no-one who was waiting for him. But wasn't there someone? Wasn't that related to the reason he came here - something about buried treasure and the pyramids? Where is she now? Gone, it seems. He doesn't know where, but only knows that he has been all alone for as long as he can remember. Maybe he imagined her to comfort himself one lonely night. He is sure that this must be so, for he is a wretched thing, truly undeserving of love and certain to repel any woman who really understands the deepest recesses of his being.

Still, maybe he will be able to see an oasis from the top of his sand dune, and all his troubles will be solved - until he inevitably realizes that it is just a mirage, that is. Unfortunately, to a man whose every step is a waking dream about finding water, sometimes fantasy and illusion will fill the lacuna where there might otherwise be a real possibility of nourishment. Thus it is that he finds himself climbing the mountain of sand before he even realizes that he has come to the end of his process of deliberation. For what is it, to think, if not to walk in spite of the fact that one is trapped in a desert that is endless in every direction? To stop walking is to admit defeat, and this he could never do. No, until the man crumbles away into dust and becomes part of the sands himself, he has sworn upon his very soul to never stop searching for his answer.

Though he tries his best, he makes little progress, as the very nature of the dune seems to him to thwart his every intention, granting him no quarter and pushing him back three steps for every step he can take forward. The ground underneath his feet is so unstable that he falls down many times, so many times that he cannot even remember a time before he started trying to climb the mountain, and it seems to him that he must have always been here, trying to scale this impossibly vertical phenomenon. At some point, it occurs to him to try to fix his eyes upon the peak of this shifting surface, to focus all his energy upon visualizing himself at that peak, and to try to imagine what he might find there. Although he is not yet in sight of the top of the mountain, for some reason he is graced with a vision of a flower in the moonlight. This seems to him a fine thing to hope to find, for a flower must mean water, the end to all his troubles. In addition, for some reason the man feels that he had in some prior life been a keen botanist, and he is possessed by a conviction that this flower is unique, never before seen in all the world. It was a daisy, vibrant and beautiful, yet dusted with purple.

And the scent - which he now realized was what had led him to the bottom of the dune to begin with - the scent was positively divine, a sort of pherochemical cocktail that elevated the mind and ennobled the heart. It is said to inspire the individual to monumental feats of self-love, and in its wake it leaves a profound feeling of hope and happiness, a fading resonance that serves as a reminder that we are not alone. It fills his body with vigour and suddenly he feels that the mountain of sand is no match for him; in fact, he figures that if he really wants to be at the top of the mountain, all he has to do is act like it, and it will be so. Accordingly, he straightens his back and fixes his entire being upon the peak and the flower which he will find there, and within no time at all he can see it with his own two eyes, and it is radiant indeed. It calls to him, or at least it seems to, for he finds that the longer he looks at it, the less he can feel the pain in his legs as they scream out that they must be allowed to rest.

And suddenly, he stands before the flower itself, and his legs are granted their blessed respite. So transfixed is he that he is sure days pass before he looks up, although the moon never goes away and the sun never comes out. Yet surely his heart has beat a million times since he fell to his knees and cried in joy at the sheer transcendence of this budding beauty? A flower this perfect is impossible to find - indeed, it is hard to even believe that it can exist, but there it is in front of him. It is difficult to say what is so enchanting about it, save that it appears to have been planted by the hand of God, and reared on his private share of sunlight. Its very presence seems to quench the man's endless thirst, and he finds himself feeling that he could kneel there forever. And kneel there he does. It is only after what seems like a lifetime that he spares a thought for what he might see if he looks around, and it takes another few lifetimes before he can tear his gaze away from the flower to light upon a scene lovelier still.

Right at the bottom of the dune, a beautiful raven-haired woman is laying a table big enough for six people with four places. The table is made of a deep brown wood that seems to grow out of the very trunk of a mighty oak tree which sprawls out next to a cozy two-story cottage. The tree emanates a distinctive aura, which is at once both vibrant and ancient, seeming to contain within itself the creative tension and wisdom of life itself. The man finds himself thinking that the craftsmanship of the table is incredible; he can see no joins at all, and the carpenter has somehow managed to make it completely flush with the root system so that it appears entirely organic. The illusion of unity, he thinks, is impeccable, and he is only distracted from the wonders of the table by the appearance on the scene of a man who looks like a fusion of his father, his brother and himself. The man is leading two small children, a boy and a girl, who look about ten and seven respectively. It is only when he speaks that our mountaineer knows himself, and finally comprehends what it is that he is seeing. His son is speaking to him, asking why they have to spend so much time studying old stories when the world has moved on. He suggests that they should move on too, that it's silly to spend so much time trying to learn from outdated fictions.

He watches as his future self kneels down so that he can look his son in the eyes, but there is silence for a few moments. It seems that he is gathering his thoughts. "Storyweavers, son, that's what we are. That's the kind of life I want you to live: the kind of life you can remember in moments of weakness, and feel proud enough to push forward." His son balls up his fists and retorts, "But what if I don't want to be a storyweaver? Not everything is about you, you know. Kids aren't supposed to fulfil the dreams of their parents, they're supposed to become their own people. I hate how you're always trying to tell me what I'm supposed to be. Why don't you understand that that's not the way to help me grow." Silence again, this time for a long time. Finally, the man says, "That's the beauty of storyweaving - you get to choose the story, and it can be anything you want. If you want to write a story I won't like, a story in which you prove me wrong about everything I've ever believed - go right ahead. I want you to be the best you that you can be, whatever it takes. If that means that you reject stories and find another path, so be it. The pen is in your hand, not mine, for a reason. Write."

This time, there is the longest silence yet. The pretty woman with the kind face seems conspicuously occupied with lunch, while the young girl, brown hair rather than black, helps her lay the table. Neither of them seem to have noticed the conversation - or if they have, they are judiciously ignoring it. Eventually, the young man with the bright blue eyes unballs his fists, and silently he hugs his father. Lunch is served, and as they eat the man on the mountain feels a longing awaken deep within his soul, a dream of such intensity that he has never yet known its kind. This dream seemed to him a sober reality, a real possibility, his one chance at real magic and his own happily ever after.

So real did it seem to him that almost without his permission his body began to stumble down the sand dune, yet before he had taken a few paces his vision of the woman with the raven-hair has begun to waver, and now his soul is filled with dread as he realizes that this must be the most elaborate mirage yet. Truly, he has stumbled into the labyrinth of illusion, the hall of mirrors, because now that he has stumbled a little further down the mountain, his vision has vanished altogether. Even the moon is now hid behind a threatening looking thundercloud, and the silence which always reigns in the desert suddenly seems more intense, as if the gods themselves bear silent witness to his shame and humiliation. For really, who is he to believe that he can deserve a life such as this, a dream come true - what has he done to deserve to be loved like that?

Distraught, the man climbs the short distance back to the top of the dune, where he is glad to see that the flower still stands. As he reaches the peak, the moon emerges from its hiding place and sheds light upon the peak just as he turns and, lo and behold, his vision returns! There stands the cottage, chimney puffing away, next to a large well that he failed to notice in his rapture, and on the other side is the majestic oak and the flawless table which has been crafted so as to appear as if it grows directly out of the tree. More importantly, there is his gorgeous wife-to-be and there he is, leading his two children to the table. As he listens to the dialogue repeat itself as well, he becomes sure that this can be no mere mirage, because no mirage was ever the same twice. It is in the nature of a mirage to shift and change with the desires of the man. No, this... this must be something altogether other.

He stands there, caught between the scent of the flower fair and the transcendent dream of a future life. He desires desperately to remove the beautiful blossom from its place upon the peak and carry it with him, so that he always has a piece of this perfect moment with him, even when he leaves. But why would he ever leave, he finds himself wondering - after all, what else is there in his life which matters more to him than this picture perfect future life? Yet even as he is thinking of staying on this peak forever, endlessly gazing into the mirror of Erised that it represents, he knows in his heart of hearts that he could never rest with the dream now that he is aware of the possibility of its realization. And so he returns to his dilemma about whether he can rationalize to himself killing the flower so that he can be allowed to keep it.

Yet, he knows on some level that the flower and the vision are the same, and so he knows that if he did violence to the flower as a result of his own insecurity, his dream would die on him too, and he would be left with nothing but the regret from which he has been running his entire life. He is caught in this way for the longest time, caught between the desire to enjoy a wonderful dream and the hope that it might one day be realized. That hope of course requires that he wake up from the dream in order that he might one day wake up to the dream again, only this time in reality. Yet how can he tear himself away from the only thing which could possibly sustain his desiccated soul?

As he stands there, transfixed yet frozen, unable to decide between a blissful fantasy that leads nowhere or the painful reality which leads to the dream maybe coming true one day, a sandstorm begins to brew around him. He should be scared, but in a way he has always known that this was coming, as the storm represents the fears from which he has been fleeing ever since he can remember. So why is he not scared now? It is strange, but even as the moment comes when he is sure to be consumed by the storm, he feels suddenly at peace, as if his entire life was leading up to this one moment, and everything depends upon it alone. Yet the man still cannot decide. He feels he is being torn in two, but feels that he is equally on both sides, and cannot fathom how he ever became separated. The sand is obscuring his line of sight, and the vision starts to fade.

The man knows that the moment is nigh, and he must choose or else lose the chance to decide on the dream he has been chasing. He closes his eyes, blocking out both the flower and the divine vision, and begins to search for that silent place from whence the first wind came. He holds his breath, and in a moment of inspiration, it finds him and is born into his mind. He has been gifted a vessel which can contain a likeness of his beloved flower and his treasured dream - it was a poem, and it went something like this:

The Memory of My Desert Star

He recites this poetic artefact three times, and once he has finished he opens his eyes. The storm has gone, and he stands at the bottom of the sand dune. In front of him lies the ruins of a cottage, and an old well, but the tree is conspicuously absent. The scene is, in certain ways, quite different from the one in his vision, but there are certain key similarities. He walks over and discovers that there is a bucket and rope attached to the well - they appear new. This is very odd, but our hero is so thirsty that he pays this irregularity no mind and instead throws the bucket down in the hopes that the well is not dry. Thankfully, he hears it splash after about 10 seconds, and proceeds to pull the water up while he reflects on all that has happened. It takes a long time, but finally he is able to quench his undying thirst. The water helps, although it tastes distinctly stale, and he finds himself hoping that he doesn't get sick. Despite this, he drinks the entire bucket and the next one too. He pauses during the third, and listens.

Now that his thirst has been sated for the moment, he is sat staring into the bucket of water at his feet, and he realizes that the scent of the mountaintop flower is very strong here, stronger even than when he was standing right in front of it atop the sandstone mountain. The stars are reflected in the bucket, and he finds within himself a fresh appreciation for the most natural and commonplace of beauties. He even, for a moment, has cause to appreciate the desert as wise, old and uncompromising. He knows that he chose to come here for a reason, and in that moment he acknowledges and respects that the desert conceals as much as it reveals, and that this all depends upon the whims of the wind. As he has this thought, it ruffles his hair and he looks up from the bucket to see a pulse of light in the night sky, framed by the arch above the well.

This pulse of light came from a particularly bright star, low to the horizon, that he had never noticed before. As his thoughts became fixated upon it, he had the strangest impression that its light would vary in nuanced ways that seemed to correspond to the patterns of flow within his thoughts, although if pressed he would have found it difficult to say just in what all these impressions consisted. Yet it seemed quite clear to him that the star was, in its own way, calling to him, and that it had something to tell him, something unique and important which he would wish to know. Leaving the pail of water standing beside the well, he walked with a new spring in his step towards the light on the horizon. Somewhere inside him, he heard a whisper that as long as he stuck to the path, things would be all right. Strangely, as he walked he found that the scent of the flower did not decrease, even though he was ostensibly walking away from its actual location. It was as if the flower was somehow in front of him as well.

The Desert Star twinkles on the horizon, and the same Desert Start sways in the breeze atop the mountain of sand. One day, he will return to turn it into stone and to plant that oak tree which he saw in his vision. He will bring with him the raven-haired maiden and he himself will sing from the tree that magnificent table. All this is written, and it shall come to pass, as long as the man in question believes that he is capable of fulfilling the promise he silently made to the flower: that he would come back one day with the rain, and build that cottage at the foot of the dune become mountain.

He decided, in that moment atop the mountain of sand, that he believes in his dreams, and that was when he made that silent promise to the flower. He knows that his dream will come true, if he fights for it, because as he made his inner oath, he heard with his outer ears a fragment of song drift up from the bottom of the dune, a song the lyrics of which seemed to insinuate a knowledge on the part of his wife of a secret promise that was the foundation of their lives together. Remembering his conviction as he walks towards the star on the horizon, he finds himself smiling to himself, pleased with the story he has woven and eager to find out how it ends.

Proseperformance poetrylove poems
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About the Creator

Insinq Datum

I'm an aspiring poet, author and philosopher. I run a 5000+ debating community on Discord and a couple of Youtube channels, one related to the Discord server and one related to my work as a philosopher. I am also the author of DMTheory.

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran23 days ago

    Hey, just wanna let you know that this is more suitable to be posted in the Fiction community 😊

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