Though ruffled and abused, the map showed this was the place. This, at the top of the mountain, was the location I’d been told to visit. I spoke to the masters of all the arts, and they said, in one voice, to go to this spot and see what was there. That it would be the most memorable moment of my life.
It didn’t disappoint—except in almost every way possible. Standing at the top was a breath of cold air and a long way back down. My backpack heavy on my body and full of the remains of the most disgusting food I have ever experienced.
And, sitting on the mountain top, was a man, wearing nothing but an open parka and shorts riding up on his legs. He had a beard reaching to his stomach and pale skin.
“Hello. I see you have come at the advice of my pupils.”
“Yes,” I said.
I walked up to him and sat down on the snow. “I came to seek true enlightenment.”
“Okay,” he said, sounding wistful, “But you will not find it here.”
His words hung there, sitting in the wind. Not ruffling anything but all of my emotions.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right?”
“I said, my dear boy, there is no enlightenment here. You were sent to find me, but I cannot give you what you truly seek.”
My responding “what” arched across the snow hilltops and plunged deep into the valley hundreds of miles below us.
“Is this a test?” I added.
“No. Sorry. Look…”
He swept his hands over his own crossed legs and then reached inside for something. He pulled up a teapot. With one hand, he made a teacup from the snow. And when he poured, it became a real cup of tea.
“Do you see this?”
“Yes,” I said, enraptured. “That is what I came to learn. The true level of magic.”
“Many do. It is some dope ass shit.”
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
“I’m sorry…what was that?”
“I said, that it is powerful magic, beyond your years. The others sent you here simply so you could see what might be achieved. And to show you that you are capable of long feats of strength. Ascending this mountain is hard as balls, dude.”
I laughed. I don’t know what part of my brain snapped, but something did, and I laughed harder and harder, falling backward into the snow and getting some of it in my hair. I sat back up and looked him in the eye.
He pointed at his eyes with one gnarly finger, and I noticed that the bags underneath his eyes also had their own set of bags. “Does this look like the face of a kidder?”
“Nope,” I said. “Well, okay then. I quit. You are all insane. And will you please magic me down to the bottom?”
“I can child, but then you will be barred from all further magical study. Are you sure you wish me to give you the easy way home?”
The old man shrugged. “All right.”
And with a poof of smoke, I was at the bottom, wondering how much cash I would get back if I returned all the snow hiking gear.