I near the end of a long journey. A vast rocky plane is at my back. Ahead in the distance, the spires of a city make music against the blue. The city calls to the pack on my back. The weight I carry longs to reach its destination.
The road passes by a dip in the land, a curl down to water not seen from the road. Along the river bank there is a shallow cave, a dark and quiet place for resting. I would go there. I stand undecided, resisting the temptation to leave the road and seek the riverside.
A dark figure approaches, leaning on a stick as he comes. He comes abreast and stops. We face each other in the road. “I am weary,” he says. “Come, sit with me awhile.”
The city has its urgency, but it is tempered by the whispering dark of the river cave. I remember that wherever I am is my destination. I follow the dark man off the road to the shade of a tall, broad canopied tree I hadn’t seen before. We settle ourselves into the sweetness there. The breeze plays in the leaves and grasses. Birds go about their starry business overhead. I remove my heavy pack and rest against it. My feet are sore and aching from the journey.
“Agh. How my feet ache,” the dark man grumbles. I help him to loosen his shoes. “I am thirsty. My mouth is parched,” he says. “Go down to the river and bring me a drink.” I stand. He hands me a bowl to fetch the water in. I hesitate to leave my pack unguarded, but my service seems to anchor the dark man’s allegiance. I make my way down to the riverside. The water song teases and soothes. I fill the bowl and climb the hill slowly, carefully, not spilling.
When I reach the tree, I find the dark man gone, along with my heavy pack. He has taken everything. Everything but the bowl and the water in it. Everything but the tree and the breezes and the birds.
I am free. Nothing now calls me away from this spot. I sit in the hollow between two roots. I look into the light shining off the water. I drink my fill.