There once was a route that only monks could pass. It belonged to a sacred pilgrimage that initiates took to cleanse their souls of the karma from previous lives. For three-hundred miles, a monk traverses alone through sheer cliffs and narrow crevices until reaching a shrine atop a mountain. Each day, he or she burns off an article of their clothing as to release an attachment to their life. Those without the proper discipline and resolve do not complete the journey and succumb to the elements.
Legends tell of the monkey king who had once made this very trip in a bet against the Buddha. Stripped bare of his immense strength and disguised as a monk, the monkey king quickly realized that he was in no condition to finish the task. Using magic, he plucked a single hair out to make a clone fully attired and expendable. The Buddha who saw the deception transformed the clone back into a hair and hid it up the deceiver’s nose during the night. When morning broke, the monkey king attempted the same trick but without success. Realizing the ruse was up, he continued the journey with sheer willpower until by the end atop the cold mountain, all his fur was plucked gone. After the Buddha had restored his powers, the discarded fur subsequently transformed into wild monkeys that now watch the pass for cheaters.
Entry to this week’s WWP!
Delivered on the cusp of night
The child of Nyx saw twilight.
On winter’s eve he first walked.
With sister fates he talked.
Of past lives and last regrets,
Of lost dreams, untimely deaths.
Right the wrongs, voices decreed.
Becometh the figure of destiny.
Entry to this week’s FFfAW! Image courtesy of TJ Paris.
Legends tell of a door in the sky that connects our world with the old divines. In the days when stars illuminated signs and the heavens conversed openly with the earth, mankind need only look up and listen for the sky-door remained open, never shut. In time, man mimicked the divines, learning to speak from the sound the wind and learning to write from alignments of the stars. The divines then issued a mandate; man was to rule so long as they heeded wisdom and continued to learn.
Eons would pass as mankind’s achievements grew great. Multiply it did to cross the seven seas and inhabit the seven continents. But conceit grew with its knowledge; preoccupied it forsook wisdom and turned towards itself. Its own voices drowned out the wind and its edifices blotched out the sky. All the while, the door in the sky silently closed as mystery and wonder fell to simulation and abstraction. Only the children were spared for they could still see and hear the faint outlines of ghosts and whispers of the divines. Lanterns they launched into the night; the door in the sky creaked.
The mirror cracked into a hundred pieces as the Countess tried to look herself in the eye. Behind her stood two young girls, both entranced from having caught a glimpse of her visage before the sound of glass shattering. Their eyes couldn’t help but fixate with envy on such beauty that turned brother against brother, husband against wife, King against Queen. As she turned to face them, the first girl began to quiver. Unable to break free of her gaze, envy turned into self-loathing as the girl’s eyes transformed from a lucid marble to a grey stone. The second girl who averted the gaze at the last moment turned envy into malice. Brandishing a dagger to stab the Countess, the blade transformed into a snake and betrayed the wielder. Afterwards, the Countess would never try to see her reflection again.
A shooting star fell from the heavens. Locked away within its core, an immortal spirit dreamt of the world below. The dreams however did not belong to her but to the men, women, and children who bore witness and wished upon the burning effigy. Legends say that if many wishes were one and the cause righteous, she would remember the dream and grant it, trading her immortality and reborn a saint.
An old copper ring sat in a jewelry case on display for years. Surrounded by emeralds, rubies, and diamonds, the buyers ignored it for they saw neither splendor nor significance. One day, a young boy asked the store owner why he placed the equivalent of a peasant alongside royalty? The owner responded, “The peasants are the true masters of the land for they till the soil and produce the grains we eat. Whilst the nobles all seek an entrance to royalty, they forget who they actually serve”. The young boy nodded and bought the dull looking band. A heir to the throne, he would win the support of the people as he came of age. On the day of coronation, the copper ring could still be seen on his hands, this time radiant in the eyes of an entire nation.
Under the sea sat a long forgotten statue of Socrates, poised to contemplate the depths of the universe for the rest of eternity. A thousand years later, the statue was discovered and raised from the ocean’s floor. When the sailors cleared away the centuries of choral and algae, the philosopher came to and yelled. Where’s Plato? I have a word or two for him!
In the underworld, a labyrinth of tunnels separates the world of the living from Hades, the world of the dead. Souls who refused the passage of Styx found themselves lost in the maze wandering the depths for eternity. One by one, their senses would fail them: Darkness invaded their eyesight; humidity suffocated their touch. Smell and taste were forgotten. Hearing was the last to go. Thus to find each other, the souls would shout words into the abyss, hoping to elicit a response. This caused much confusion as the cacophony of voices was near indecipherable. One soul, whose name was Echo during life, began repeating the voices she heard. Hearing one’s own voices repeated, other souls were drawn to her, eventually finding one another by adopting her system. As the groups expanded, their collective voices grew louder and could often be heard by the living when shouting into the deep.
A feral child, raised by wolves since infancy, lay dying by the river-side at night. Hounded by the villagers who had mistaken him for killing their sheep, and abandoned by his pack after a change in leadership, he fended for himself. The moon goddess of the hunt, ever keen on the boy’s circumstances, materialized over the reflection cast on the river. She offered him a pact: Become my champion and I grant you both strength and virility of wolf, with intelligence and cunning of man. Look upon my visage and become werewolf, man-beast and hunter of the night. Bring me game ever larger than the last lest madness overtakes you. The moon turned red and a new legend was born.
A final bridge separates Alexander and his army from their homes in Babylon. His men, pining for comfort and familiarity after years of brutal conquests, rush the bridge en mass. The suspensions, unable to sustain the stress of so great a weight, snaps and the crossing collapses. Half the men drowned in the raging river below. The other half spent another month retrieving the bodies, lamenting their haste.