The retreat was high in the hills and hundreds of years away. Here they rose with the Sun and slept with its setting, under low eaves, on rows of futons head to toe, occasionally visited by field mice. They took tea, chanted mantras, shared the daily tasks with few words and drank from cold springs of water and wisdom. Clarity filled the air. Bai thought that if any place could do her good, this would. But after many days her heart was still heavy and her belly light.
The elderly priest, Hui noticed her absence from the morning meditation and crept from the hall silently to seek her. His deep saffron robes caught the rising Sun and turned his skin to alabaster white. Bai was sitting by the old well in the new courtyard. The young woman looked at him upward through down-cast eyes, pearled with tears. Ancient he seemed to her. What did he know of modern life? Hui read the thought in her face.
“I am older than the trees that encircle this courtyard,” he said, “But not as old as the stones that make up its walls. These walls can give you shelter and there is food a-plenty, company if you wish it, or silence if you don’t. Here everything is as you require it, yet you are troubled.”
Bai dried her eyes and nodded. “Yes, Master.”
With one hand beneath her chin, he raised her head. “You see the clouds? These are the clouds of today. They do not ask whether one droplet that makes them up, is more important than the rest. They are all one of many. They fall as rain. The trees appreciate every one. Whether the drop feeds the tree, quenches the thirst or fills the puddle, it does not think its fate inferior or its task unworthy. It does not ask why. It is just one of many. You are young. You are just beginning to know this.”
“But what about my child?” sobbed the girl. “My child is dead.” She grabbed at her belly and rocked back and forth.
“Inside you, Bai is the key to unlock the universe. Everything is as it is. Regret nothing. One among many lodges and takes root. One among many penetrates and develops. One among many reaches maturity – one among many, not all. You are such a one. Give thanks and grow.”
Oonah V Joslin is winner of the Micro Horror trophy 2007, most read author in Every Day Fiction, Jan 2008 and an invited judge in Shine’s poetry competition in April. She has also had work published in Bewildering Stories, Twisted Tongue, 13 Human Souls, Static Movement and Shine and has work coming up in The Linnet’s Wing and The Ranfurly Review.