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©Copyright 2018 Ronald Ritter & Sussan Evermore
The right of Ronald Ritter & Sussan Evermore to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with Sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Acts 1988.
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Introduction to The Journey Short Stories
The Accidental Guru
The Children of Peace
The River & The Shaolin Priest
The Prince of Marrakech
The Alchemist of the Soul
The Accidental GuruDesire
There was once a spindly Pine Needle that wanted to be human, a man or woman, it had no preference. The Pine Needle had watched humans come into the great forest for many years walking hand in hand, laughing and enjoying picnics with their children in the lush freshness of his home. The Pine Needle sensed their presence and felt the energy between them as they lovingly weaved between each others lives. Captivated by their enjoyment of life turned to fascination as the Pine Needle developed a strong attraction to humans, which eventually led him to become very envious of their lives. A wanting and wishing grew within the Pine Needle to become like them one day.
With all that was present in its being, Pine Needle sent out a wish to the universe to be human. It did not know how this miracle would happen, all it knew is being human was its strongest desire. As the days became colder and fewer people ventured into the forest, Pine Needle craved its wish even more. On a particularly cold day, the wind blew hard and wild through the trees boughs violently pushed them back and forth. Trees were bent over with branches breaking and leaves strewn across the ground. This day would be the Pine Needle's miracle as it was torn from the branch and thrown to the forest floor.
At first Pine Needle felt lost and disorientated, the only world it had known was gone and the sense of loneliness and isolation was overwhelming. But suddenly it started to feel different as its green form sprouted arms and legs while the spindly body expanded to develop small breathing lungs and internal organs. For the first time Pine Needle inhaled deeply into its lungs the fresh sweet air of its own forest. With the addition of eyes to see, its sense of nature was suddenly restricted and it could no longer see or feel the other needles, branches or trees as family. The forest that now surrounded Pine Needle was totally separate from him.
Ears, which were small, gave the gift of sound and Pine Needle heard noises that were never known before. But in the fascination of his new world, Pine Needle could not sense the song of the forest that connected all the creatures and life forms together as one. If he was still a pine needle there would have been sadness but now standing straight and erect, he was a man and felt the desire now to be with his own kind.
Pine Needle walked out of the forest and for the first time felt the sensation of being cold, he knew instinctively that something must be found to cover his naked body. In the distance a small farmhouse could be seen so he made his way across the small hills. Approaching the house he saw a variety of clothes hanging on the washing line. Looking over the pants, shirts and dresses, Pine Needle decided on the two-legged pants and a shirt, the dress didn't seem to cover his body to be warm enough. Unclipping the clothes pegs, he put them on best he could but struggled with the buttons. It didn't seem to make sense 'to put holes in the clothing only to be filled with buttons' he amused himself. Why not just pull it over the head and be done with it. The cotton clothing felt strange against his skin but Pine Needle was enjoying the new sensation. He ran his thin fingers down the sides of his new clothes something wasn't right. The stalks on the end of his legs were very cold, almost icy. Looking around the farmhouse he spotted two black upright objects that looked like a home for his feet. Taking the rubber farming boots, he pushed his feet into them and found they were very roomy.
These would be perfect as he smiled and continued his journey. Feeling warm and comfortable gave him a sense of pleasure. He felt uplifted and complete in his new clothes, but Pine Needle craved the company of other humans.
He could see a rough dirt road leading into a town, he knew this to be true because a timber sign and arrow was pointing him in the right direction. The journey was in solitude and Pine Needle was sensing everything new around him. Lungs were part of becoming a human and he inhaled the clean fresh air of his forest. However, as he got closer to the town the air changed, there was an odour he had never experienced but he knew he didn't like it. For a moment Pine Needle felt faint.
'Why would the air of humans smell this way?' It was a solitary, perplexing question he asked himself as his nostrils twitched.
He recognized humans as they looked like him, but many stared and he was bewildered by their reaction. As he walked further into the town's centre, the stench and fumes became almost unbearable. Looking at the faces of people around him, he noticed they moved in all directions and were oblivious to the lack of fresh air. Pine Needle stood still while taking in his new surroundings but became uncomfortable as people nudged and pushed passed him. Why were they doing this and where were they going in such a hurry?
'The smell, what is that awful smell?' He kept repeating to himself as it became more pungent. Continuing his walk of discovery, the town was a sprawling mix of houses, shops, cars, buses and people, lots of people hurrying about their business. A large sign read, Industrial Park, now that was more like it, he joyfully walked in the direction of the park. Sadly, there were no trees, only concrete buildings, warehouses and streets filled with cars. What sort of park was this? He could hear mechanical noises coming from an opening in the front of a building. He poked his skinny face around the entrance to see inside. Men dressed in overalls were tending to sick and injured cars. Pine Needle could see they were injured as the men mended and renewed the cars outer skins with color. It must be a car hospital he concluded, but the smell inside was sharp and acrid inside his nostrils and he couldn't bare to stay watching any longer. Pine Needle decided to turn around and walk back into town as this park was not what he expected. However something strange occurred as the day wore on, the smells became more tolerable, he was unknowingly adapting to the world of humans.
He clomped down the street in his oversized rubber boots and people continued to stare, he slowly became aware that he was dressed differently. His floral blouse and blue work pants combined with farming boots was a disjointed sight compared to everyone else who dressed in similar clothes of dull colors. Standing still and looking around him for a moment, he realised he was different. Feeling a sense of loss that his desire to be human was harder than he had ever thought, he slumped down and sat on the edge of the pavement. For the first time Pine Needle experienced the emotion of loneliness and separation and an emotion of despair washed over him. Looking down at the ground, he had never felt this depth of emotion before and it was painful.
His life as a pine needle was now only a fleeting memory. He was puzzled by humans and within the deep recesses of his being, a thought tormented him and that was, to exist as a human, one needed a reason to exist. During his deep pondering, something strange and unexpected happened. Humans feeling pity for him in his bedraggled state dropped coins and notes at his feet. With his concentration broken, Pine Needle was now sensing a deep and sick feeling in his stomach, he knew something was wrong. The day had been long and his new form was telling him he needed food, as it did, when his skin was cold and he took the clothes.
Across the road he watched people giving coins and notes to a man with a little wooden push cart but in return the man gave them something to put in their mouths. The spicy aroma drifted across the road and his sense of smell alerted him that it was what he needed to put an end to the pain in his stomach. Scooping up the money he stood upright from the curb and made his way towards the food cart.
"What kind of dog do you want mister?" The old man with a face filled with grey whiskers asked the same question a thousand times without making eye contact. Pine Needle held his money out to the man who helped himself to enough for a super deluxe hotdog. Watching with much anticipation, Pine Needle was fascinated at the amount of toppings added to the humble bun which was ceremoniously lashed with colored sauce. Taking it in both hands, he turned to walk away before putting the strange object in his mouth as he had seen other humans do. Filling his mouth and chewing up and down on the mushy contents gave him no pleasure while the sauce was squeezing out of the corners of his mouth. Staring at the foreign object in his hand, he tried a number of times to swallow the tasteless lump in his mouth which eventually slid down into his tummy, quelling the hunger pains. Dropping the remaining half of the hotdog on the ground, he walked over to the ornamental fountain in the public gardens and cupped water in his spindly hands to drink and relieve the dryness in his throat and remove the taste of the deluxe hotdog.
From a park bench, a middle aged woman was watching Pine Needle totally bemused by his clothing and casual behaviour. She put the bookmark between the pages and closed her novel to walk over and speak to him. "Hello, are you new in town?" She looked him over knowing he was not a local. With his thin face, tall and willowy body, she could not decide if he was Danish or Norwegian. He had to be Nordic in her eyes because his skin was so white. Where ever he came from, he has not seen very much sun. Pine Needle didn't respond to her question but just smiled and that was enough for her to accept him as he was. "Can I be your friend?" Her question was important to her but would mean everything to Pine Needle. She walked him over the the park bench and sat him down. "My name is Belinda, what's yours?" He stuttered, "Pine Needle" with a broad smile. "Oh, that's lovely, you must be one of those friends of the forest. I have heard of people like you but never met one." Belinda chatted freely about herself, the community, politics and a sprinkling of local gossip.
The new friends arranged to meet each day at the park. Belinda liked Pine Needle and looked forward to talking to him each day. He didn't say much but she still enjoyed his company. But mostly, she admired him so much because of his free flowing and colourful clothes, his almost total detachment from the human race and freedom from the cramped thinking and morality of others around him. In response to her kindness and acceptance of him he grew confident with language and began discussing a new way to life, it was a vision of people returning to the Garden of Eden in the purity of the forest.
What began as two people meeting at the park each day turned into months and before long, strangers passing by would stop to gather and listen while feeling the compassion of his words describing his philosophies of the understanding of life. Pine Needle was free from conventional thinking and discovered regular groups of people gathering who looked up to him as a teacher and holy man. Followers started to mimic his personal style by wearing their hair long and tangled with mismatched and colourful clothes, purchased from the vintage clothing shops dotted around the city. The followers were becoming an eclectic mixture of new expression in the parklands.
Pine Needle could see many people were unhappy living in the jungle of concrete and asphalt where everyone seemed to push and shove each other just to survive. He stood apart and picked flowers from inner city parks to hand to strangers to break their self-imposed concentration of captivity for a moment. His kindness became a passage that was mimicked by his followers and before long, grew into a movement of thousands who followed his ways and walked amongst the surrounding suburbs. Their bright colourful clothing and kind offers of flowers seemed to uplift the people of a once drab city.