[We at DWWP love to use writing prompts to jump start new work. This story is based on the prompt “the fool and the cosmos.” April 1st, 2018 was host to two holidays that are quite different from one another: April Fools Day and Easter. Though contrasting at first glance, the pieces in this series seek to explore their common ground.]
[This piece is dedicated to my dear friend Jonny & to where our adventures lead us.]
The Fool was a lovable man. He saw himself as adventurous and brave. He fully felt his wants and desires. Believing the world was full of surprises just to delight him, he was overjoyed by its natural beauty. He loved the jungle most of all; it’s layered rhythms and colorful sonorous birds, the fat iguanas that clawed up the trees and the buzz of cicadas before sunset. It was unlike any place he had been. There he felt the rumble of the ocean in his gut. The pull of the tide swayed his body happily. He loved to play in its waves, daring the water to engulf him. Wandering for much of his life, he searched for unending joy, as he had experienced enough sorrow for multiple lifetimes. He peered intently into the faces of strangers, loving them all. He chased joy across the plains, rivers, valleys, and deserts until, high above the ground, he saw a smoking and steaming volcano. When his plane flew low over it, he felt the heat rise and grasp at his heart. Here, he was meant to be.
He landed the plane off the shore, high on a rock. The tide had pulled the water from the beach, exposing a vast expanse of sand and skittering crabs. He climbed down from his perch, gripping the sharp, black rocks that cut like blades into his hands as he slid and tripped down the hill. Despite the blood that trickled down his body, he was happy. At the edge of the jungle, a group of islanders greeted him. They marveled at his height and the length of his beard. They communicated this in smiles and gestures and the Fool’s smile grew wider. They offered him fruit of foreign shapes and textures that were pungent, juicy, and sweet. He felt fullness in his mouth, the nectar flowing through his body to his toes. He giggled and wiggled unabashedly. The Fool thought, “This is a truly magical place.”
Soon the full moon shone upon their beach. The islanders created a fire that they knew would soon be washed away by the sea, but they didn’t rush. Their voices were low, set at a staccato beat, complimenting the hum and babble of the jungle. The Fool couldn’t communicate his feelings with words to the fulfillment of true articulation so he satisfied himself by staring into the fire and being lulled by the sound of the crashing waves.
Suddenly, the Fool was shaken awake by the laughing islanders, the ocean lapping at his knees. He ran into the jungle with abandon, surrounded by the group, pausing occasionally to look through the treetops to search for the bright moon. They needed no torches to see the shape of the hill, the jagged rocks, and succulent plants. They came upon a circle of trees from which ropes were tied and swung lazily from their white trunks. One islander gave the Fool his sling and left to build and tend to another fire. The Fool slept as he swayed in the strong jungle breeze until the fire died to embers. The morning light filtered through the nearby branches, illuminating a new day, giving his heart an ethereal lift.
However beautiful the scene, he thought of the Guru’s Emerald, images recalled from the memory of a sea captain and former disciple, forever changed by the magic of the island. The Fool became restless. He fantasized about its deep green luminescence, thick like the syrup of an absinthe intoxication. If he could hold it, he was sure he’d be free; free of worry, anxiety, or shame and there he would find complete peace. He decided to approach not the most gregarious of the islanders nor the most wise, but the one closest to his age, and perhaps, temperament. The Fool showed the islander illustrations of the emerald. It was difficult to find the right medium for it; wax, oil paints, or watercolors could not do the description justice. If only he could have constructed something made from glass, it may have been the closest.
The islander nodded, understanding as the Fool turned the pages of his notebook. He conferred with the others, some assenting and some not. Members of the group disappeared into the jungle, while others made their way back to the beach. The few left included an old crone, a young woman, and the guide, who had taken on the task of the journey. The Fool showed his appreciation with a few bags of tobacco and salt; the former garnering the most praise and the latter put away for later use, carried by the crone. They set off together without more discussion.
The journey was difficult at times and the climbing steep. They rested when needed, and plucked fruit from the trees that grew high above their heads. The crone provided salted fish, delicious in its simplicity. They took turns sleeping and building the nightly fire, spending their evenings smoking around it. By the time they reached the base of the mountain, very little tobacco remained.
The next few days held the most arduous climbs yet. They got covered in mud, sweat, and their own blood, and yet, the Fool felt joyous. He was closer to the emerald and his salvation. One night, instead of sitting by the fire or swaying in the tree slings, the islanders led him to a clearing in the trees and laid along the incline. The smoothness of the rock cradled them. The Fool didn’t know what to expect, but felt a quiet and intense reverence, as he stared at the sky and watched stars begin to shoot across the sky. They laid together for hours, occasionally gasping at especially large tails of light these moving celestial beings left behind them.
The Fool pulled his clothes tightly together for warmth as he felt the pull of sleep. While closing his eyes, he saw a burning light along the horizon and startled, alarmed that the volcano was erupting. Instead, they witnessed a fireball shoot across the sky, filling the night as if it were midday. The party screamed with delight. The Fool didn’t know if it was the flames of the fireball or the cold night air that made his eyes water in rivulets.
The islanders grew excited, chattering, and taking turns embracing one another and the Fool. The muscles in his face stretched further than he thought possible, his teeth like the fangs of a friendly dog and the islanders increased their joy. The guide took his hand and the Fool’s heart flickered and lit into a flame. The guide was beautiful, the features of his face sharp like a demigod immortalized in stone. His smile was gentle and his eyes gave off a fierce sparkle.
They walked to a cave entrance, leaving a line of salt along the entryway. The crone gave them salt to rub on themselves, to cleanse the mud and blood before entering this sacred place. Once inside, the cries of the jungle muffled against the walls, the only sounds were dripping water and the scraping of loose rock under their feet. They passed through many subterranean tunnels, with stalagmites and stalactites rising and falling among them. At times, they crawled on their hands and knees until the Fool feared they may suffocate and die.
Finally, they reached a great chamber, lit from the torches they had brought. Something faint glowed in the center. The chamber slowly filled with light, at first, diamond white and then sapphire blue and ruby red and emerald green. It began to pulse with the rhythm of their shared breath. The light rippled from their centers to a point above them. The Fool realized they were in the heart of the emerald and he was breathless. The walls seemed to come in for an embrace and encouraged him to breathe. The crone approached a wall, holding the hand of the young woman. They embraced and the crone alone stepped forward into the green, disappearing into it as if hidden by a waterfall.
Suddenly, the ceiling opened up and deep into it they all stared. There was an explosion of stars as multifaceted and colored as geodes. The dimensions sparkled silver, pink, and ice blue. Into its face, the Fool saw love. He saw his reflection in a multitude of forms and colors and shapes. He felt an echo of something he had called out long ago. It came from the depths of his soul and was met with each star like a kiss. He had won. Here, he had found his home and heart deep in the cosmos.