The voices cried in the darkness. The sounds of running feet, stumbling feet, joined in the avalanche of sounds. Amidst the sounds of stone striking stone, dislodged by moving bodies, came the cry again and again.
In that dark Himalayan blackness of a moonless night, one sound drove all the others out of the mind. The scream. The scream that was the complete exhalation of a human body, the ultimate voice of sorrow from the pit and the suffering of the abyss. It went from one nervous-system to another, sharing all primordial pain and the entire history of anyone's and everyone's possibility for anguish. It was the personification of its own cause. As such, it gave pause to the running feet and in that moment of silence could be heard the other voice, low and growling. Low and humming. Clicking. Methodically tearing, snapping ....
"Yeti ... Yeti..." they whispered.
A gasp for breath, a great exhalation, emptying the lungs with a rumble like a motorcycle far away on a highway deep in the solitudes of an uninhabited land. Rumbling farther and farther away towards the exhaustion of breath and sound, voice and heart.
A torch, all orange, licking the air, came running, leaping up the trail. Its light revealed the faces of the mountain men, all cautious and silent in the aftermath of the scream silenced and the growling silenced.
"What do you see?" said one pointing. "Over there?"
"Ah! The light is too late...."
"Yeti is gone..."
"But ... ah... too late .... Help me with him."
"Go tell the lama ... We must take him to the lama...."
"It is too late ... He is broken, broken..."
"He is dead. He is torn, he is broken..."
"We must take him to the lama. He will fix him. He will drive out death."
It was a long time before he awoke. He saw smoke whirling around roofbeams, blackening them with centuries of soot and escaping through the cracks of the flat stones of the roof. Fire and smoke escaping past rock into the air, somewhere outside, somewhere into deep blue skies, escaping into the gaze of the fire of the sun. But here it was smokey and dark, all painful even to move his eyelids, to move his thoughts.
"Ah!" a flat-faced grinning mask said. "You wake!"
The broad mask, joined to a hand scratching its fuzzy left ear, said, "You're alive. The yeti...."
"Yeti killed you! Ha Ha hahaha," the face laughed. "But the lama...."
"La .... ?"
"The lama!" he said emphatically. "The lama brought you back to life. The holy lama had compassion and he..."
The eyes would not remain open, being joined with confusion and a shower of knives throughout his body, all burning and electric. He lost consciousness to the sounds of the gleeful laughter. Waves of darkness flooded him, like the sea, like the mountains, like childhood dreams of invisible ceilings, unseen walls, flooding over him slowly as massive tidal waves of unseen purple gravities.
The monastery was perched on a small ridge above the village. A steep rocky path connected them. They were separate enough to be truly apart, but not so far as to be inaccessible. Both it and the village almost vanished into the rock outcroppings of the lower slope of the mountains which grew up away from them, raw and reaching. The foothills tumbled over, with a scattering of scrub-brush before a dark uprising cliff-side blotting out to view the approaches to the snow above.
All this contrasted fiercely with the patches of flat green below the village, the apparently-insufficient farmland for the small population. On a level with the crops of barley was the Chupo river which separated them from life in a desert. All the water had to be brought by irrigation ditch or hand-bucket to water the fragile plants. Fortunately, their river did not dry up with the seasons, being sufficiently fed by the monsoon rains and the melting snows of the white-faced mountain snow-gods. To the south, just barely visible in the jumble of undecided geological upheaval, were the remnants of mountain pine forests. These retreated further and further as the woodcutters moved upon them for lumber and fuel. Only a respect for ancient tree-gods who held the mountains together kept this denuding from happening faster. There was a time limit on life.
He did not see or know all this at once. But it came bit by bit. At first, he had no knowledge, none but the knowledge of his heart pumping blood throughout miles and centuries of his bloodstream. The only knowledge was automatic, free of interference from his mind and his present state of consciousness. One step beyond this, to the right or left, not forward or backwards, since there was no room there, was the pain. It was not burning. That had stopped. It was not screaming. That had stopped with consciousness. The burning left earliest. Sometimes the sound of his own voice came to him, cascading from the walls, the rocks outside the windows, returning from the snows far above. That was the perfect definition of suffering. It always led to the loss of the mental ability to stay aware and stay awake. He collapsed and he collapsed.
This could have continued forever had it not been for the grinning mask, whom he got to know as Dorja Drelhu much later.
"Wonderful! Wonderful!" he exclaimed over the cries of torment, the cries of crushed bones, stretched scars. "Wonderful ... you are more alive."
In the downpour of pain, molten bars in his skull, searing beams of light pouring out of his stretched fingers, he heard this, and anger joined pain. He screamed words.
"Won ... der... ful! You are .... CRA-a-a-a-a-zy! !!!!!
And he tried to reach up to strike, but Dorje Drelhu reached down onto his bed and pressed him down with his long hairy arms, laughing.
"Ha Hal HA HAhaha! Save your energy! Do not change it to anger. Do not change it to pain. HA HA! Ha Hahaha."
Variations of this happened again and again. The crushed bones crumbled Himalayan screams grew shorter and his anger longer, his arms stronger, Dorje Drelhu's job of restraining him greater.
"Ha ha! Ha Hahaha!"
The syllables followed him into the depths of unconsciousness, into dreams he could not remember, into places where he was dying over and over, into places where he was being born, over and over again.
"Ha ha. Hahahaha. "
But in those colorful places, bright with lights and tactile sensations--painful arm, broken rib, torn flesh-the laughters's syllables changed and changed again. He could almost listen to them as words.
"Ha Have ... Have hahha Have..."
"Ah Have ... Have ... haha Have..." But beyond his reach.
"I have-have ... haha ... half ... " it mixed with his dreams.
"I have had Haha ... Half..." It was surrounded by his life and his death, his lives and his deaths.
"Half I have had ... Hahah...Ha ha .... I hah! I Hah!"
Exhalation .... blowing out ....
With consciousness, the screams stopped. At least they stopped on the outside. His automatic body had tired of screaming. It was angered by the waste of energy. It gave it to his conscious mind, and he screamed there in his new awareness. Except that the screams were different. They were conceptual. They were visual and they were abstract verbalizations. They all came pouring through from right to left at a greatly pressurized rate. At first, they were a complete jumble. But even as speeding thoughts, they were pain and they screamed as they tumbled down amongst avalanches of images and memories.
"Oh no! Oh NO!" he would whisper, half-asleep, halfawake, as an image lingered and then dissolved. Tears arose and flowed down his face.
Startled by the wetness, he awoke... looked about the dark room. He could hear Dorje Drelhu nearby breathing in his sleep. He could see him dimly near the dead embers of the clay hearth. Moonlight saturated the outside world, but little penetrated the room. He wasn't strong enough to sit up and to look out the carved wood-framed window to see the village below in the moonlight. He had to be satisfied that there was a world out there, without proof. As yet he had not seen the gompa or the village. The portions of the room were his world. For now, he could only see a bright sky, caused by a moon that was not within sight. He relaxed.
"What was it?" thinking of the lost image which had thrown him into painful tears. It had been a wall. A stone wall, all whitewashed and crumbling. Just the thought, the remembrance of it, brought back the press of sorrow and a constriction of his breathing.
Brzostoski - 8
"Oh NO!" And almost tears. The white stone wall ... and the weight of sadness. But no understanding. Byes open in the darkness, he watched as wall was replaced by giant boulders in mountain torrents, those fluttering white patches of cloth in a moss-covered tree, that by an image of a square building floating over an abyss, windows golden, all promised tears in the darkness of the shadows of moonlit snow-gods.
Dorje Drelhu had fed him and tried to make him comfortable. But aside from a stream of chatter, he did nothing for him that could be considered medical. When he was well enough to sit up and look out the window, Dorje had propped him up comfortably for short periods of time, explaining the buildings which could be seen, both monastery and village.
"This is Cho Tabla," he had said, and this was not questioned too carefully, a numbness of muscles in the seated position claiming more attention than the name of a locality or village.
"Please move me...
"Ah yes! Ah yes," said Dorje, hopping about. He adjusted a rolled blanket which was acting as a pillow, then scrambled away. His actions were quick characterizations of movements. His body never seemed to straighten up, making him appear shorter than he was, even frailer. However, Dorje Drelhu with his broad shoulders was neither short nor frail. His smile and his laughter deceptively covered the power which otherwise was so blatantly visible.
Buried under the mental streams which had been substituted for screams stirred a question so quiet that its complete form had not focussed. It was embryonic and so early in its conception that vague questions about the village and the unseen lama were surfacing faster. It, however, would be one of those repetitious groupings of words which, when played over and over again, would give more pain, and as a consequence give itself more importance than any other, foolish as that may sound. The convalescing man did not remember who he was.
The voices cried in the darkness. The sounds of running feet joined in the avalanche of stones. Amidst the sounds of bodies striking bodies came the cry, again and again.
In the Himalayan night, the moonlight flowed down, saturating rocks and men. Great bloody gashes moved behind the claws, accompanied by the screaming voice from the abyss. Primordial pain became visualized as six gouges in a human body, from right to left, pouring out red honey, one surge pulsing forward, followed by another. It all poured in the moonlight, the red was washed by that light. It turned golden.
It sank into the torso, buried itself there and glowed, six golden horizontal lines.
"Ah!" he said in the dream, in the wakefulness, in the memory.
"I have ... HA hahaha!"
It was like that. That is how he began to be aware of the lines. It came slowly. Mixed with knowledge of village, the least important, was dawning knowledge of who was the lama, who was he himself. But it was a peculiarity of his silent screaming, thinking, which avoided the questions to which he, in the long run, did not really wish to know the answers. It was like thinking of his age. He had forgotten how old he was. It came and went. Sometimes he remembered being twenty five. Another time he was thirty-eight and forgetting that. or was he thirty-nine? Then childhood came back. He was ten. But that couldn't be right. What would a ten-year-old be doing so far away in the Himalayas? Far away? From where? What would a ten-year-old, such a good boy, be doing being torn apart in the moonlight by....
"Ah! I have .... Ha Hahaha!"
"Sleepiness. I must sleep."
Dorje Drelhu watched carefully.
Earlier, at one time or another, he had remembered being wrapped in bloody strips of cloth. The earliest memories of this were of the time before he could sit up, even with help. The cloth was stiff with dried blood and he also felt them on his head, his face. He could not see his hands. He could not lift them to begin with, but when he could later, in the midst of screaming mountains within his mind, they were all covered, stiff with stained cloth. Dorje cautioned him not to move too much.
"Be still. The lama says to be still."
He knew Buddhist monks were sometimes called lamas, but he did not understand this grinning mask.
"The lama saved you. Just as he saved me," said Dorje Drelhu. "You should be very happy. Ha Ha Ha. HAhaha!"
Then that had been beyond his understanding. The words themselves were broken bones.
It was a long time before the lama came. More correctly, he came and went many times completely unseen. Dorje alone had seen him. Stiff bandages were slowly thrown away and one golden evening, when the sun was bouncing light from opposite mountains, to and fro, as it set, the lama came to his room and he remembered. A little. The lama was an older man, dressed as many monks were, in a dark robe with the right sleeve thrown off the arm and shoulder, revealing a bright orange sleeveless shirt. He appeared to be neither forty nine nor sixty nine. But he was older. He may have been seventy nine. He may have been no age. The lama's face became lost in the thoughts of who is this? What is he doing? But bright eyes and calmness of features lingered in memory. His short-cropped hair was of uniform growth, indicating a shaven head growing in. Short wisps of hair on his chin pretended to be a beard. His memory laughed at this incomplete picture. Was there no mouth? Yes. There it was! Razor sharp where the finely-shaped lips came together. It opened.
"Take this," it almost whispered, very politely. He was startled to hear its sound. For it was Dorje Drelhu's voice. When he recovered from his surprise, he voiced a question.
"What is it?"
The lama was leaning over him, lifting him with his left arm while his sleeveless right arm presented a hand holding what appeared to be a white seed. That arm, so smooth and that hand, so angular, caught all his attention, which swiftly went to the supposed seed.
"Take this," the lama repeated, putting it to his lips. "Take this Dril-bu."
It had a slight tang of saltiness and seemed to evaporate in his mouth, going more into his skull than into his stomach. At this level of early activity, he had become exhausted. He did not know how or when the lama left.
But he did become aware of the movement of the golden lines.
The voices cried in the darkness. The sounds of great avalanches, mountains falling, covered the cries of the screams again and again.
To face the Himalayan night, sunlight rose, tipping rocks and mountaintops. The torso was covered with golden scars, horizontal from right to left. As the light changed, they changed. Some were solid, and some were broken into two parts. old moonlight flowed from the broken lines. Sunlight bathed them all. They sank into the torso and rose again to the surface, changed each time.
"Ah!" he said in the dream, in the wakefulness, in the memory.
"I have ... Ha Hahahah!"
It was like that. That is how he began to know more of the lines. It came slowly. Mixed with knowledge of the torn body, the least important, was dawning knowledge of how someone was watching him mind. But he did not know who that watcher could be. or if there really was a watcher at all.
Brzostoski - 14
The earlier cloth was gone. He did not remember when it had been exchanged for the cotton shirt and loose trousers which he wore. He wore no shoes and did not feel their need. Now he saw the woven pile rugs with intricate designs in blues and oranges. There were two of them. One on the raised platform near the window which acted as his bed, the other directly next to it with the short tea table, all painted, all carved with lions and dragons upholding jewels with yin/yang symbols. This registered on him, but he made no mental note of it. He questioned none of this material matter.
He could see his hands. If he wished, he could open the shirt and see his body. Considering his dreams of yetis and death, his body did not seem badly treated. True, there were many scars, going in every direction like fine branches of a pine, with the accompanying needle patterns. This continued down his legs, and faintly into his hands. If he did not know better, he may have considered them merely as peculiar wrinkles in the skin.
Usually, the strong six horizontal lines were not evident. When they did appear, it was as a combination of lines coloring themselves differently to cause their birth. In fact, he was never quite sure if their visibility had more to do with his mind effecting his perception than their actual presence. one thing was clear, however, and that was that things were different when they were present. What that meant precisely, he would have had a hard time expressing.
Brzostoski - 15
But in experiental terms, there were no doubts of the changes.
At first, he thought it was phantom pain that came and went. It was akin to having glowing organs in his body that would surface and sink. At first, it panicked him, they were so intense in feeling. To begin with, he thought he must die with these eruptions of internal forms moving about beneath his ribs, behind his heart, below his navel, above his genitals. What was happening?
After that, when no ham came with their arrival, he laughed. HA. Hahahah. The intensity he came to regard as a natural body warmth, although he knew it was not. What would have been considered pain in another time and place he recognized as merely an internal awareness with no judgement about its being good or bad. He could not measure that. It faded from that realm when he decided the lines, felt and then seen, could not hurt him.
"Maybe they're sentimental memories of my experience," he said aloud, looking down at the village, watching three men trying to move a thin log, positioning it for roof repair work. "Getting sentimental about being ripped apart by a...." and he laughed.
"Ha ha. Hahahah."
I have had half...
The lines moved. And he felt them, from the bottom up:
And they remained fixed for a long time while he contemplated their molten, red-hot goldenness.
"Yeti! Yeti! "
It was his voice crying out amongst the striking rocks. Then sunshine burned and sunshine broke over the mountain. But he could see no creature. He saw no men. He saw no village or gompa. No Dorje and, most surprising, he saw no lama.
It was a quieter dream than usual. He awoke from it, not out of desperation but out of a sense of extreme silence.
Dorje Drelhu was explaining things for which he had asked no explanations. other questions were slowly surfacing.
"And when you address the lama," Dorje was saying, "it is proper to add 'La' as an honorific....
He looked up at his jittery companion and smiled.
"What?" he questioned, staring into Dorje's red-rimmed eyes, smiling as the other hunched and scratched his fuzzy left ear.
"You must, must be," the other insisted, "polite."
"Ha ha," he said. "I understand that. But how am I to add a syllable of politeness when I have nothing to add it to.... ?"
"What? Huh?" Squint, scratch. "What do you mean?"
"How do I address him? Do I add 'la' to 'la'?"
"Oh. Oh," said Dorje, looking straight out the window at the distant eroded mountainside above the opposite side of the river. "Geshe-la," he said, squinting as if to remember. "He is a high lama. He has his Geshe degree. Very lofty. Very honorable from a Tibetan monastic college...
"What is his name?"
"He has many names..." jittered from one booted foot to another.
the other, shifting
"Tell me one. One will do."
"Ah," ear scratch, "Geshe Dorje... ah ... Geshe Dharma
"Are you related?"
"Yes," said the other, moving away to get the tea churner. "But no," he continued from the other side of the room.
"Which is it?"
"He is like a father to me," said Dorje as he prepared the tea, adding butter in lumps.
"He is like a spiritual father. But even more real than a father...." The red eyes quickly peeked at the listener. "You should know!"
He sat straighter, feeling the lines churn within his torso. "How would I know?"
"He gave you life," he sucked in his breath past his lower lip, "after you were dead."
"Ha ha Hahahah!"
"Do not laugh!" came the sharp rebuke, brows knitting with a dangerous-looking curl to his upper lip.
He was startled into silence by Dorje's sharp tone. He should be careful.
The other continued, "Believe it or not! You were dead when you were brought here. The villagers wanted to free themselves of any blame for your death. A few thought you might be fortunate enough for the lama to show compassion and save you..." His eyes flashed over the landscape. "And he did. You should not mock it! You would have faced a terrible fate, if he had not helped!"
"Faced a terrible fate?" he asked more quietly now. "I already was dead, as you say. What else could happen?"
"Birth!" snarled Dorje, and luckily he turned away to hide his face and its wrinkled grimace. "You could never know where such a death would send you for rebirth!"
Dorje's back was turned, so he did not see the other smile and shrug.
"You must never speak like this to Geshe-la. It would be terrible."
The warning seemed well-timed, for they heard soft steps. The lama had arrived. Dorje Drelhu jumped, standing politely and straighter than usual, his eyes fixed upon the monk as he entered. Dharma Dorje looked towards him where he sat near the window. They both smiled, which was a sharp contrast to the pop-eyed solemnity of the mask.
"How," started the lama, "are you..."
And he started for he almost heard him say...
"Who ... are you..."
For the question had surfaced, and he was keeping well hidden from the others, or so he thought.
"Uh .... " And the lama sat next to him on the raised platform, upon the disigned rug, covered with the pronged figureeight shapes.
"Do not get up," he had whispered, even though he probably knew the thought had never crossed the other's mind.
"I ... I ... am... " He felt befuddled for no reason. The calmness of the other man, the softness of his voice, was like a static to his system.
"You are ... ?" the grey-grey eyes of the lama asked.
"Who am I?" he thought to himself, and wondered if he had said it aloud, for they both observed him as if he had. No response came back, so he realized that it had been internal.
"I am," he said, looking at Dorje Drelhu quickly to see his expression softening into his usual smile, "fine."
"Good," said the lama. "Good. That is very good."
Then he signalled the smiling mask for tea, without saying anything or lifting a finger. It was done with the eyes.
Dorje served the lama first. The handleless teacup sat on a silver saucer which was formed as a unit with a stem as pedestal. While sipping the tea, the lama left the saucer on the tea table, returning the cup to it now and then. But before that, he insisted to the convalescing man', "After you. You," he said with what appeared as no expression, "drink first."
He gulped it down quickly, butter and all. The lama sipped at his tea to hide a smile. "Dorje," he said, and the cup was filled again.
Again its contents vanished before the lama had drunk much more of his. Dorje hunched forward, refilling it, eyes more on the lama than on the cup he was filling. He did not spill anything.
Silent tea drinking.
The other's studied lifting of the cup to his lips and slow sipping of the tea caught him at last. He slowed his gulping. He almost felt that he must catch the rhythm of the lama's movements and imitate them. Not out of politeness, but from some greater necessity. Deep inside him, a part of him screamed that he was a fool.
"You fool! You fool! You ignorant fool!" And this mental uproar went out the window, striking the wooden frame. Some of it went down to the flat-roofed buildings, mingling
with the stockpiles of wood along the edges of the rooftops, some of it went down to the river and flowed south to populated cities in the lower valleys. Some flew angrily up to the snow. Very little returned. Self-recriminations and ignorance flew out in all directions, baked in the sun, frozen in the snows.
"You like our tea?" the lama asked, still with a voice identical to that of the dancing, grimacing mask of Dorje Drelhu.
"Our tea? Then it certainly is not mine .... " he thought. "It is theirs, theirs, not mine .... whoever I am. I am...."
In that short moment these electrified thoughts crept upwards through the beams and soot, slabs of stone rooftop, and escaped.
"I am... I am... " could not escape.
The lama had waited, it seemed to him, a long time for his reply.
"Yes," he gulped some of the buttered tea. "Yes, I like it very much."
He looked down and away, watching a remnant thin pattern of butter swirl in the cup. Grey-green eyes.
" That is good," the lama quietly replied. Dorje remained poised to serve but did not move. Dharma Dorje suddenly appeared to be far away. He had set down his cup on the saucer and his right hand was resting on his knee.
It lifted slightly and his index finger began to move. At first, it was as if he were gently scratching, but it became evident that it was moving in a rhythm, as if to unseen music. It continued slowly in the silence.
Suddenly, Dharma Dorje turned to him and looked straight into his eyes, unblinking, almost sternly. He had to look away.
"Have more tea," the lama said, even as Dorje Drelhu was refilling his cup in his hand. He was glad to gulp it down, to give it all his attention.
The finger continued its motion. With it came a deepening silence, the length of it measured only by the remaining drops in the cup. He wanted to talk, but could not. The mountains were screaming down upon him. He grew warmer and sleepier.
"Dammit!" he thought. "Dammit! Am I ......Am I that weak ...
"Am I .... " sank into the rug. "Am I..." melted into the wooden carvings on the tea table, into lion, into dragon. "Am
"Ah," the lama said, getting to his feet. "You are getting tired. You should rest...."
Grey-green moons above him.
He felt his entire body pleading.
"Is there anything I can do for you? I will have Dorje...."
He interrupted, even surprising himself with the loudness of the voice that came into the room.
And at the opposite side of the universe, almost as a whisper: "Yes?"
He looked down at the blue and orange of the rug and whispered almost as quietly, "I do not ... I do not know who I am."
From the universe's edge, a question--"What did you say? Speak up more ... I am old... I am old....
"I do not know who I am!"
Dharme Dorjels expression looked sad to him. But was he smiling beneath it? Smiling sadness?
A long pause as he inhaled sharply to replace what seemed a great exhalation of body.
"Many people do not know..." came the voice, ". ..who they are."
He looked away towards the immobile Dorje Drelhu, who may as well have become a statue, one with puzzlement all over its face, listening to him but looking steadfastly at the monk.
"I mean ... I mean..." And it sank through the floorboards into the rock foundations of the building, into the earth, into deepest darkness. "I mean," he blurted, trying to find meaningful expression in the lama's face, "I do not know my name!"
The eyebrows moved upwards slightly, a line appearing on the forehead, joined by two others, one broken. The lama looked past him through the opening of the window, the eyes changed to turquoise and contained a hint of snow-covered peaks.
" That is unimportant. Many people do not remember their names .... their names from the past....
"But it is important ... I wish..."
"I wish..." fell into the hot embers of the hearth that had recently warmed water for the tea.
"It is..." came the whisper, "important to know. But only to remember ... remember... remember everyone you have been.... "
"But I must have a name!" he insisted.
The lama seemed to misunderstand and turned to Dorje Drelhu.
"Yes, of course. But names are easily acquired...
"What shall we call him?"
"Dorje! Dorje!" the grimace laughed.
And the lama joined him.
Ha Ha hahahah.
I have had half....
"What? Shall everyone be called Dorje?"
The other scratched his ear. "But he is your son now! It is appropriate...."
The lama waved his right hand as if to push aside a cloud. "It is just as you say." Turning to the seated man. "You have to be concerned no longer about this matter."
"What," he was afraid to ask, "do you mean?"
"In this life," he adjusted his robe, "you have a name. "
"What is my name?" he whispered.
The lama stepped forward with a strong stride, right hand outstretched. It touched his forehead.
All this was accompanied simultaneously with many feelings. Disappointment. Sadness. Loss. Followed by anger and the thought that it was a trick. This was swept aside by a mountainous tidal wave of surprise that ricocheted as energy in his body.
The lama's hand was covered with little golden lines, wrinkles in pine-needle patterns. And when it touched him, all the molten lines in his own body began to move and change. They merged, emerged, rose, fell and changed. They glowed and darkened. They thinned to invisibility and thickened into great molten horizontals. Six golden bars, burning in sparkling silence. The stillness beyond quiet. They rose through his torso and settled into place, emitting definitions that tasted and resounded as their blazing colors could only recite. one solid line sat above all other five solid lines.