Ashrama - Opening scene.
There will come soft rains,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white.
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Ayu stood at the base of a great river preforming his morning ablutions.
In the distance he could see the sun like a raising haze of glory before the land. It’s warm light glided over the water, coloring the old hermit in bright rainbow particles that light up his time worn skin.
He bowed, said a prayer to Ganga, even though this wasn’t really the river Ganges, he was grateful all the same.
He was a wiry skeleton of a man, his sunburnt skin and wrinkled skin bare to the world, his only covering a small piece of burlap he used as a loincloth and the bone rosary that dangled about his stick-like neck. His hair, which reached to well below his ankles in thick unkempt dreads, was bound in a thick bund atop his head. His bone thin arms scrubbed his bone thin, spindly legs as a thick sheen of dirt and grime spread out over his cracked feet. “Buddchristi!” he cursed under his breath. It had been far too long since he found such a river and he was more than a little bit ashamed that he was so dirty. He scrubbed all over himself and wetted his beard and hair.
He drank a handful of the water and blessed mother Ganga again for her most gracious gift. He rose, stretched out his back and looked about him. To his left his own little Ganges stretched on and on as far as the hermit could see, winding out into the canyons and great stone monuments to nature far off in the mesa. To his right yawned the desert, wide and chocking, infested with the watcher-birds that had quickly become his dear companions in his journey—a flock of them was swirling above him just then, in fact. He didn’t much care for the desert but it was far better than the great black rock road that spread out behind him; that he cared nothing for. For one the devil stone got hotter than the fires of hell on a good day and always burned his feet the moment he stepped foot on it; for another every time he went along those roads he always met some robber or animal looking to do him harm. Which meant he had to spend almost all his energy running and throwing stones at the fiend until either it fled or he was sufficiently out of it’s way. No. The devil stones could stay where they were, untrodden.
The river would do, he supposed. Surely the gods sent him to such a place for a reason, why try to walk his own lost way? He took up his walking stick, a fire worn branch decorated with bright tints of red and orange clay he’d found a few weeks before, and followed the river towards the great stones in the distance. His stride was slow and wandering, his gaze fixed on something he couldn’t quite see in a world he wished soon to visit.
“Father! Father!” cried a voice in the brush, Ayu jumped back, startled.
The dirges of the river wound into a cool outlet where pools of algae grew happily above islands of rotting carcasses, both animal and man. Swarms of flies nested in the corpses, buzzed along in the dry air and through the small weeds and scrubs that clung to life near the tiny watering hole. Ayu’s feet had been burning something fierce as he came wading through the riverbanks. The sun was not a soul of mercy this morning and as it rose higher and higher above him it’s blaring, blinding heat made even the water seem to boil beneath him. As he crested a hill he saw out of the heat haze a wide, long rock lying next to the outlet. Praise be! He thought and rushed, feet scorching with each step, towards the shade.
He never imagined that there would be someone else out here.
“Father! Father! O god help me, Father!” the voice was feeble—or was the word meek?—he had to strain to hear it properly. It was raspy and dry, he tell that whomever it was it they hadn’t drunk water in a few days.
Cautiously he made his way to the other side of the rock, his staff tucked under one shoulder and stretched out, more to push whatever it away than to fight it. With his other hand he clutched his smooth stone rosary and mouthed a prayer to two. The thing wheezing and gasping for a father that wasn’t there just so happened to be dying; he lay on his side with his back to the stone, long black hair laying in clumps around his forehead and bare chest. His clothes were ripped and tattered, blood covered the ground around him and there was blood around his pale mouth and all over his face. His skin was pale, as if he had been drained of blood, one hand feebly reached out towards the outlet, grasping weakly at dirt and shoots of grass. He muttered and gnashed his teeth, his eyes were closed or perhaps locked shut by grime and mucus.
The old hermit felt pity for the man, he came up and sat down beside him, touched his shoulder.
The man jerked, screamed a feeble, rasping whine. “Father! Father! Father! Father! O god, o god, o god! Help meeee!” he fell over on his face. Silence.
“Hmmm.” grumbled the old hermit. He looked up at the sky asked a silent Why? and shrugged it off. “‘The meek shall inherit the earth,’” he quoted as he rose and took the injured man by the arms to drag him to the base of the outlet. “but who shall save them from themselves, I wonder?”