After throwing his pack over what he thought was the last precipice, the boy used all of his remaining strength for this one last pull. Upon looking up, the boy was dismayed to see another peak that had been, until now, entirely hidden from his view. The snow was beginning to fall precipitately, and the boy (already on the brink of collapse) was forced to make a choice: press on with what little vigor his body maintained, or search out a shelter and rest for a while. Neither option was desirable; he had not the strength to press on, yet if he rested, the ad interim accumulation of snow would more than triple his remaining travel time. The boy hated snow so decided he must press on, whatever the cost.
The going was slow for the boy and with each step the white powder on the ground appeared less as a cold adversary force and more as a soft bed of alabaster wool, calling him to lay his head upon it for just a moment or two. Being a lad of intelligence, logic overpowered emotion and the boy bravely trudged along through the ever-expanding blanket of white that lay before him.
With the snow thick and the clouds dense, the boy could not see the hut until he was some three yards away. It was a small thing to be sure, only about ten feet tall. It had no windows, and only one door. The boy knocked. "Come in!" came the response almost immediately. Somehow, the boy had prevised the immediacy of this response and so was not surprised at its haste.
On the inside, the hut had a nice, rustic feel that the boy found quite inviting. Sitting by the fire was the Guru whom the boy had come to see. The old man looked on the boy with interested, bright eyes. "Please, sit," said the Guru.
"Thank you," said the boy sitting by the warm fire across from the Guru. "I have trav-"
"Wait!" interrupted the Guru. He got up from the floor, and filled two steins with liquid from a spigot on a barrel resting in the corner of the room. "Here," the Guru offered the boy one of the steins, then-sitting back down- he raised his tankard up in front of him. "Cheers!" he said. The boy clunked with the Guru and they both drank. It was ale, the boy thought, or maybe beer, he could never tell the difference without being told. Either way it was very good and it warmed him and gave him some much needed energy after the climb. The Guru then produced from the fire the body of a freshly cooked hare. He took some for himself and gave the rest to the boy who was overjoyed and salivating heavily. "Thank you," was all the boy could muster.
"My pleasure," the Guru nodded kindly. A silence fell on the hut as the two ate and drank.
"Great Guru," started the boy quickly, "I have trav-"
"Hold on, hold on, there is no need to rush. Rest, so that you have your strength. I can tell by the twinkle in your eye that you are a boy of uncommon intellect, so I have no doubt that your question is a worthy one and that our conversation will be long and mentally trying. Please, rest, drink, eat."
And so the two drank and ate. The Guru refilled their steins time after time, and there were various roots and tubers upon which they snacked alongside the ample portions of hare. Hours passed, it was surely dark outside by now. The boy, having regained his strength, (and, by the drink, perhaps a bit of confidence that had not been before lacking) finally began once more with his question.
"Great Guru," the boy began, raising his left finger in to the air, "Great Guru, I have travelled long and far from my village to see you, and I come seeking your wisdom. You are known to be both wise and-"
"Wait!" said the Guru, "hold on, finish your ale."
Without a word the boy finished his stein as quickly as he could while the Guru did the same.
"Okay," started the boy, "Great Guru, you are known to be both wi-"
"Hold on," interrupted the Guru, and he grabbed the boy's tankard and walked over to the spigot. He filled both mugs to the brim, then returned to the fire and sat. "Cheers!" he said after handing the mug to the boy and raising his own in to the air. The boy punched his mug against the Guru's, and ale spilt over the side. They both drank deeply.
"Guru," began the boy again, "I came to this mountain that we are on because, listen to me, because you are both wise and knowledgeable, and with sincerity... seriously, I mean that" the boy waved his finger at the Guru, who languidly smiled back at the boy. The boy took another great gulp and continued. "In all sincerity, I have to ask you something, I came here from my village. I must ask you a question."
The Guru pounded his tankard loudly on to the ground and, with a hearty smile and half-closed eyes exclaimed: "go ahead lad!"
"Okay, one moment, I must ask you something. Hold on."
"Please ask. Go on boy."
"Okay, so, listen, so, if man, if PEOPLE, are only seeking to make their lives better, and, I mean, they are not even caring about other people, hold on a moment, listen, I mean, can they even care about other people? Just a moment. Listen."
"Okay, so, what can you do, sir. What can ONE do? Do they care or not? Or what?"
"Lad, I know exactly what you mean. It is as if, how can you know if people care or not, right?"
"Exactly. Wait, one moment, let me get you a refill." and the boy grabbed the Guru's stein and stood up for the first time since he had arrived in the hut. The room began to spin as he took his first step towards the barrel. Concordantly, the step did not end up precisely where the boy had planned it to land. The Guru saw this and quickly stood up. "My young friend," he said, "perhaps it would be best for you to lie down for a while, you have had a long day."
"Perhaps you are right." And with that, the boy made his way over to the mat on the floor, white like the snow from earlier today, and no less enticing in its call for him to lay down. As he closed his eyes to stop the room from quickening, the words of the Guru rang in his ears: "I will think about your problem tonight as I sleep, tomorrow morning, I believe the answer will be apparent." This pleased the boy, as he knew the Guru was wise and he trusted him in his judgments.
When the boy awoke, the Guru was gone. Next to the mat there was a note and a freshly broiled hare in a metal pan. The hare was delicious, and the note read as follows:
The answers you seek cannot be told, but must be discovered. You are on your way to making this discovery, and I believe that you will do so in time. It is not an easy question, and so there is no easy answer. Yet, my confidence in your mental faculties and inquisitive nature remains strong. Good luck, and Godspeed.
There was no signature. The boy stood to leave the hut, and gave it one last look before gathering his pack and opening the door to head down the mountain. The snow had stopped, and the bright morning sun warmed the boy's entire body, despite the cold of the melting slush at his feet. The going was certainly easier on the way down, and the long walk gave him time to collect his thoughts. He was not entirely satisfied with the answer the Guru had given him, but he was not dissatisfied either; he had been warned that the Guru was sly, and often spoke in riddles, and he was prepared (even expecting) to have his questions only partly answered. After all, it was guidance he sought, words of advice and wisdom, not necessarily an answer. The Guru had indeed given him that, but the boy regretted being unable to better articulate his questions; to truly, through deep conversation, get at the heart of the problems of the world that plagued his every thought. By the time he reached the edge of his village at the bottom of the mountain, the sun was beginning its descent in the sky. The villagers that saw him ran towards the boy and shouted the happy news of his return. The boy was tired, and happy to be home. As the villagers drew closer, they slowed, observing the boy curiously. When they were but a few yards away, they stopped altogether and began whispering among themselves, pointing at the boy, staring at his face as though he were somehow unfamiliar.
"What? What is it?" asked the boy, somewhat perplexed and perhaps a little frightened. Damian, a childhood friend of the boy stepped forward and stared as the other villagers had.
"Damian," said the boy, "what is it? Why does everyone look at me so." Damian took a step forward and looked intently all over the boy's face, as if to make absolutely sure of some particular thing before he gave an answer.
"My friend," Damian said laying a hand upon the boy's shoulder, "someone has drawn a penis on your forehead."