This is not an ordinary hunt where you choose your weapons and sight your prey, stalking it in a war of cleverness and will.
This is a hunt in the darkness, where you have no weapons.
This is a hunt where you cannot see your prey, and when you hear it, scurries maddeningly away.
This is a hunt where the prey changes form as you traverse the terrain, where the ground itself mutates as you pace. Where the prey leaves a bewitching scent in its wake, making you wonder why you sought to hunt it in the first place.
This is a hunt where there are no bugles to signal the start or end, a hunt where your mind can hurt you more than help, and where the first thing you must do is forge your own weapons and define the prey amongst the multitude of targets.
Defining it is just the start, for every day you will wonder if you should play, should I even play. The more you hunt, the further away your prey, and you realize this is how it always was, and always will be, a life day after day.
And when he returned, those he thought were friends turned out to be strangers. They say we move through the darkness alone, that we are not the people we once were, that we do not step in the same river twice.
This is what he discovered. The rains that were once forbidding, the streets and buildings that once intimidated him. The drink-soaked nights, the warm hearths, loving hearts and sounds of laughter that made his heart palpitate with excitement. They turned out to be the avenues of this city, one filled with strangers.
The young person thinks he can do it, before he does it.
The experienced person doubts he can do it, before he does it.
The confident person does it without caring whether he can do it.
I did not keep quiet, I did not keep the peace.
I did not do as I was told, I did not keep in the dark.
I did not stay within the lines, I did not end on time.
I did not behave, I did not hew to the sound and safe.
I did not live your life. I took what was mine.
Excuse me, we asked the blind man. You are otherwise young, in the prime of health, and it appears that you once could see. How is it that you are blind?
Ah, he said, with a weary expression. Indeed I am. But in fact, I once had the eyes of god.
How is that?
I was once given the eyes of god, through fervent wish and endless prayer.
But the eyes of god are surely not blind?
No, they are not, of course. The eyes of god are all-seeing, omnipotent. That is what you think are the eyes of god, yes?
What you do not realize is that because the eyes of god are all-seeing and omnipotent, they are constantly in tears. It is why I had to gouge them out. I could not bear to see the world through the eyes of god.
When they open, sometimes they are like light, searing revelations bathing us, purifying all who seek them.
But more often the doors to truth are cloaked in rot, ugly from both near and far. In the distance, you can try to ignore them, but like a repugnant insect on a white wall, small enough to be disregarded for a time, once seen, they are impossible to forget.
Creeping on the edge of your consciousness until you address, accept, and cross through them.
The war council was awaiting his decision.
In his chambers, he had thought for a long time. In weighing all the options before him, he had come to a surprising conclusion.
Fighting would bring disaster. So would surrender. The best option was to do nothing, and wait until their enemies were consumed by their own fire.
But this conclusion had taken days, weeks of deliberation and weighing of alternatives. The king was waiting. He could not say that he had taken all this time, to merely present a result that did…nothing.
We must wage war, he announced.
The day falls at the end of May or early June, at the start of every summer, when the warm air collides with the cool.
On this day, the wind blows ferociously, tufting the clouds and bending the trees until they bow. It is a long, constant wind, with a beginning somewhere in the countries beyond, bringing leavened scents of flowers that do not exist here.
It is a festival day when you set fires in the lull of the wind, and then watch as it starts again, sweeping the fire sideways. Everything that is thrown into the fire leaves too, ash swept far, far away from here. We do not know where the wind ends.
It is a day of clairvoyance and clarity, when the sky is empty and you can see as far as the mountains in the distance, and the gleam of towns at their foothills.
It is a day to take your old memories, the ones that are useless and stifle you, and release them to the wind – so that you can finally, finally forget.
Why do I not grow? These leaves stay small and brittle. They do not flair outwards like yours. My bark is still soft, my branches are few.
Ah, said the old tree as it bent over the sapling. Its leaves bristled against the young tree’s bark.
What you describe is not growth.
This is how you really grow. In secret, discontent, discomfort, in ways that you don’t always want to. You grow when your tendrils grow sore and strained, your young shoots get scorched in the sun. You grow under the surface, in the cold, dark, wetness. You will compete with the others for space, you will be assailed by owls and rodents.
You do not grow while thinking about growth. You look back after a long life and notice it.
These leaves? Do not envy them, for they reach their largest and brightest just before their death.
This is what the old tree said to the young sapling before it fell.
On this day years ago he stepped on the stage, armor burnished and gleaming, veins coursing with power.
He felt immortal with youth, he did not feel the weight of the armor.
He crushed his opponent, and threw off his horse. He remembers the crowd gasping at his strength, it is all seared into his brain.
For years afterwards, he has returned to this moment. Every day he reassures himself that he is still the people’s champion.
He looks at the younger knights with a critical eye, judging that their strength is lacking, that they are slow or small. Any battles he has had with them are in his mind, pitting his former self against them.
In so remembering, he has forgotten time. They still cheer his name, remembering him as the knight of old.
No one knows how much time has worn the sinews of his muscles, how it has made him bent and flaccid, with slight aches in his feet and knees in the morning.
See them cheer him on, as he enters the joust, about to ride to his death.