There was once boy by the name of Fahim. When Fahim was twelve years old his father and mother asked to see him in their tent. Fahim knew what it was that his father was to ask him. In his tribe, it was tradition for the parents to send their children on a journey. Sometimes the journey would last for hours. Other times, the children would be gone for years. So, knowing that his mother and father rarely asked for him at this time of day, combined with the unusual tension and secretive behaviors they had been exhibiting lately, Fahim set out to their tent.
His mother asked him to sit as he entered. “Fahim, you are ready for your journey.” His father said. “But, before I tell you what your journey is, I want you to take this bag. You may fill this bag with any items you wish. However, you cannot take anything more that is in this bag.
“Father, may ask what my task is before I choose these items?”
“You may not.” His mother said quickly
“But how will I know what to bring. What if I do not need that which I have brought?”
“That is part of your journey son. You must choose those items which you believe will give you a diversity of utility” His father stood and pulled the sheet that had been covering several items. He gestured to the son to indicate that these were the items to choose from. Fahim was known by many in his village to be very skilled at woodwork. He knew that choosing a tool or item that would maximize this skill would be a wise choice. There were mugs, hats, furs, plates, a stone hammer, and many other items to choose from. There were several pieces of jewelry that drew his attention. The jewelry was small, and held more value per ounce than any of the other items. However, he knew that most the children upon returning from their journeys said that they had not met any people. There were a few who had met some however. Fahim thought it might be worth it to take some of the pieces to use for trade. Far better to carry the value of a trinket, then it’s weight in food. Fahim’s eyes set upon a beautiful bracelet that was made of brass. He lifted it to inspect it further, then began to slide it onto his wrist.
“No son, you may not wear any of these items. You must put it into your bag.” Fahim begrudgingly put the bracelet into his sack. He grabbed the waterskin that was under a large woven basket. He grabbed a large spool of string placed on the opposite side of the pile. Finally, a knife that had been oddly placed in the middle and underneath all the other items. It was duller than he would have liked. Indeed it was the only used item that was in the pile. His father smiled as Fahim slipped it into the bag.
“That is the same knife that I used on my journey.” His father however, only was allowed to take that one item on his journey. He was not given the luxury of choice, or the benefit of so many tools. Fahim knew this, and felt almost guilty for it.
“I wish to make it as useful for me, as it was for you father.” His mother stepped forward and put a necklace around his neck.
“But I thought you said.”
“This is for us. The pendant that hangs at the bottom is our family sigil. It is so that anyone who crosses your path knows that you are our son. They will treat you accordingly. Your father and I have made many friends, and few enemies. It will comfort us to know that someone may help you along the way.”
“Now.” His father began. “Your journey is more challenging than any that this family has ever had.” Fahim was distressed to hear such a thing. “It will involve many different challenges. The first of which is finding a lake.” His father was now on the ground drawing in the dirt. He first carved a circle. Then scratched across the earth by Fahim’s toes and back to the edge of the circle. “At the center of the lake there is a stone pillar. At the top of the pillar you will find soil. Not just any soil. This soil was placed there upon the universe’s creation. It is pure, so pure some say a handful has enough nutrients to support a thousand acres for a thousand years. You are to fill your bag with the soil and return it to our village. If you can do this, you will have succeeded.” He dropped the dirt he had scooped up to represent the soil, and dust filled the tent.
“Go now.” Said his mother. “You are ready.”
Fahim kissed is mother goodbye and walked out of the tent. The sun shined in his eyes. He put his hand up to shield it, and walked over to his brother’s and sister’s tents and said goodbye to them. They wished him luck and hugged him goodbye.
“Where is it you are going.” Asked his brother seriously.
“I need to find a lake with a stone pillar in the center of it.”
“What is the name of the lake?”
“They did not say.” This made his brother visibly concerned. Fahim saw his worry and told his brother what he had planned. “Well, if mom and dad have heard of this place, then I assume it must be written somewhere. I thought I would go into the city and ask if anyone has heard of the place.” This made his brother, who was the oldest, display a slight grin.
“I should’ve known you’d have thought this through.”
He hugged his brother again. When he did he heard a whisper in his ear.
“If you see a man with a gold eye, he will ask to trade with you. Do not accept any offers. Whatever you do, do not tell him what family you are from.
“Who is he?” Fahim asked curiously.
“He was once our uncle. He was cast out of our family many years ago. He had done horrible things. He’s become a bit of a traveling con man.” His brother shook his head and looked sad. “I’ve heard rumors he has returned to the area. Be careful, he still holds a grudge against the entire family.”
Fahim walked out of the tent and set off toward the city.
The streets were crowded with merchants. The city was an intersection of merchant highways. There were several wild bird sitting on tent posts and rummaging on the ground. He almost tripped over a pheasant, unfortunately he caught himself by grabbing the rope of a fruit sellers tent. The rope came loose and half the cloth fell over.
“What is this!” Cried the merchant. Who Fahim could not see due to his face being covered by the cloth. He apologized enthusiastically, grabbed the post and propped it vertically to the ground. He held the rope near the top and pulled slightly as he slid his hand down the rope extending it out.
“What kind of trick are you trying to pull here?” He’d come around the table and grabbed Fahim by the strap on his bag. His hands smelled sweet and were stained red from slicing melons. He took the rope from his hands.
“You child, have broken my rope.” He had indeed, the stake was still in the ground. The knot was still attached to it.
“I am very sorry, I will retie the knot this instant.”
“No you will not. You will buy me a new rope.” Fahim didn’t understand. Why couldn’t he just remove the old rope from the stake and retie the knot. The merchant saw this confusion in his face. “It is not long enough now! You will buy me a new rope, or you will pay me what it will cost me to buy a new one, plus extra.”
“Why must I pay you extra?”
“Because, I must take time out of my day to go and buy a new one.” This made sense to Fahim, but how much did this merchant think his time was worth? He then remembered the spool of twine sitting in his bag.
“Okay, I can replace your string. He quickly undid the straps. The shopkeeper eyed him suspiciously as he pulled the spool out.
“That is not thick enough! Who are you kidding?” The shopkeeper went to grab for the bag as though to take the whole thing. Fahim quickly stepped back out of his reach.
“No, I can spin it together. I can make a rope with it. It will work, I promise.” The shopkeeper was very angry at this point. However, he thought it over.
“You have one hour to make this rope. I want it to be a foot longer than the other one. I want to have extra in case it ever breaks again.” Fahim unraveled the twine and began twisting it together. He tied a stick to one end and anchored the other end to the leg of the table that the fruit sat on. He spun and spun for an hour. He finally had a rope thick enough and long enough to satisfy the shopkeeper. Fahim was relieved, he barely had enough twine to finish it. The shopkeeper inspected the rope. The Shopkeeper was satisfied. Before he left he helped tie the pole back down. He then asked the shopkeeper if he knew of a lake with a stone pillar in the middle.
“I have not heard of any such a lake.” He told him. “But I know of an owl that has everything mapped for a thousand miles. You can find him in the Sleeping Woods. Just head towards that mountain peak there. You will find three paths once you get to the trees. All the paths lead to the owl. Each path is different depending on the time of year and the weather. So just choose one.”
He thanked the Shopkeeper and set off towards the mountain’s peak.
When Fahim reached the trees he wasted no time deciding which path to take. He went down the one to his left. The other two looked much more rocky. He noticed that several herds had recently been taken through them, as the paths had many hove tracks in them due to their shepherd’s impatience in waiting for the mud to dry. However, he soon realized that his decision was in error. The cattle had been taken down those tracks because the one that he was on had quickly diverged into many other smaller trails. At one point he found himself walking with his back to the mountain.
He decided to go back to where the three trails started and take the one on the far right. Fahim’s spirit was crushed. He had spent half a day backtracking. Luckily he had found a small stream on his way back and was able to fill his waterskin. He had found berries to munch on as well. This did little to satiate his hunger. When you got back to the beggining of the three trails he looked back at the trail he had just came from.
“At least there was food and water.” He told himself. Shrugging, he headed towards the trail on the right.
It wasn’t until sometime later that he came to a clearing and was able to see how far he had traveled. He saw that he was now almost halfway through the forest between the peak and where the trail started. He would need to sleep at this clearing tonight. He was tired, and the sun had been down for several hours.
“Whooo are you?” Fahim startled awake and looked all around him. He had been asleep for sometime. Did he just hear someone or was he dreaming?
“Whooo are you?” This time the voice was louder and more demanding, but Fahim could not see where it was coming from. He pulled his knife from his bag.
“I am here, but I am always here. It is you that is not always there.” Fahim felt a warm breeze on his face, and the smell of dead animal filled his nose. A horrible retched smell that served as a warning that whoever it was, they were not company to dine with.
The figure stepped into the moonlight. Fahim looked into the eyes of a large feathered creature with enormous folded wings. It was unmistakably an owl the size of the two story lofts from the city. It’s face was unfriendly, a look of evil sparkled in it’s eyes. Fahim let out the breath of air he had been holding. He reached for his bag which he had been resting his head on.
“You are very rude. I have asked you twice who you are.” He put his beak within a foot of Fahims face and blinked several times.
“Fa… Fa… Fahim.” The owl pulled his head back and pondered the name. It turned it’s head around at the sound of a branch breaking, but seamed to look unconcerned. He turned back to Fahim.
“Faaaaaahim. That is a stupid name.” It fluttered. A puff of feathers was tossed in the air. “I hate it.” The owl kept muttering the name several times to itself, as if it were looking at a work of art and judging it by it’s composition. Fahim did not feel the owl’s distaste of his name was a good thing. It finally looked back at him.
“I know where the lake is.”
“The lake you seek with the stone pillar.” Fahim stared at the owl is awe.
“You are the owl I seek?” It didn’t reply. “How did you know what I was looking for?” The owl straightened up.
“I searched the fabric.”
“The fa…. fa…. fabric?”
“There is a layer of information in this world that you lesser life forms cannot access. Information from every conversation is stored on a fabric that is invisible to you. It is a thin sheet that is wrapped around the planet. It stores sound waves like an imprint whenever anything is spoken. I have learned to read the imprints to know what originally was spoken. This is why I needed your name. Just now I searched the sheet for wave patterns that were produced when the word “Fahim” was spoken. I then read the waves that were imprinted around those waves.”
“Can you help me find the lake?” The owl starred for a moment as if such a request would be difficult to fulfill. Fahim wondered if the owl was indeed reading the fabric again.
“According to the waves in fabric, you have several items in your bag of value. I read that you have a knife and a necklace. But there is no mention of the other items you put in your bag. May I have a look?”
Fahim opened the bag. He pulled out the waterskin and the brass bracelet. The owl eyed the bracelet. It clawed it from Fahim’s hands. Fahim jumped at the sudden strike. The owl put the bracelet around it’s right center claw.
“This will do.” The owl lunged forward and spread it beak wide. Fahim screamed and threw his hands up to protect his face. Fahim felt the hot breath and smelled the dead animal just as he hit the back of the owl’s throat and slid down to it’s stomach for digestion.
“Get up. Get up.” Fahim heard a faint voice. He opened his eyes and saw an old woman looking down at him. The woman had leopard spots painted on her face. A bright beam of sun hit his eyes as the she stepped to the other side of him. She poked him again with her staff. He rolled over. The woman laughed hysterically.
“You are alive.” She giggled to herself again. Then, without warning, she ran away into the forest that was behind them. Fahim noticed that she was wearing his pack. Had he just been robbed? He turned and a great lake was on the other side of him. Covering his eyes with his hand he looked around. He saw his water skin floating on the edge of the water. He walked over to it and slung it around his shoulder. His body was aching. Feeling himself for any injuries, he felt the knife in his pockets. His heart leapt remembering that he had put it into his pocket just as the owl swallowed him.
The owl? He remembered the owl. What happened? Why was he alive? Fahim felt dizzy and sat in the sand. Did he dream all that last night? How did he get to the bank of this lake?
He stood up and walked along the edge. He did not know where he was or where to go. He hoped that somewhere along this massive lake he would find a village or person to help him. It was the only thing to do.
Two days he walked until he saw anything. There was a wooden dock and a small wooden raft. Fahim’s heart lept as he approached the dock. Without warning the mass spun and a man with the same leopard paintings that the woman had was staring at him. He froze in place. Was he about to be robbed again?
“Are you looking for a ferry?”
“I was looking for information.” He paused waiting for a response. When he didn’t get one he continued. “I’m looking for a lake with a stone pillar in the middle. I need to go to the stone pillar. You look to know something about lakes. Have you heard of this place?”
“So, you are looking for ferry.” Fahim gave a look of confusion at this response.
“I suppose I will eventually.”
“Is there another lake which you describe that I am not aware of?” At this question Fahim understood what the man had meant.
“Is this the lake with the stone pillar?”
“It is a lake, and it has a stone pillar in the middle. I have seen it before, once.” Fahim did not like the last part of what he had told him. The man continued. “You do not want to go there. An evil spirit lives on the pillar. Why do you wish to visit it?”
“I am on a journey.” Fahim had walked out onto the dock and was now standing beside the raft. “Please, I can give you this.” He pulled the knife from his pocket and held it up. The man took it from his and studied it.
“Come back when you have a hundred of these knives. Make sure they are sharp.” Fahim began to protest. The man ignored him and continued wrapping the mass. He turned away defeated and began to head back down the dock.
“One moment.” The man called to him. “Where did you get that necklace you wear?” Fahim looked down at the necklace.
“It is not for trade. It is my family emblem.”
“Come closer, let me see it.” Fahim held it tight and displayed the front.” The man’s eyes widened and looked up at Fahim.
“I will take you for the knife. Once we see the pillar, you will swim the rest of the way.”
Fahim, although confused by this sudden change of mind, nevertheless stepped onto the raft.
They did not speak. Fahim thought wondering about his journey so far. He still had not understood what happened with the owl. Did the owl swallow him and spit him out at the lake he was seeking? This was the only logical explanation for how he had landed upon its shore. The man interrupted his thoughts.
“There it is.” He pointed to a grey silver line that emerged into view. “It is time for your to get off.”
Fahim slid into the water. When he did a horrifying thought occurred to him. How was he going to get back?
“I shouldn’t be to long.” He told the man. The man smiled. Something in his smile did not make Fahim confident the man would be there upon his return.
“I forgot to ask your name.” The man smiled at him again.
“My name is Zar.”
For the first time Fahim looked into Zar’s eye. He only had one. The other was a gold ball.
As he swam away he looked back and saw the the raft was moving away from him much faster than he was swimming. He was not surprised by this. The physical effort and the lack of a good meal kept Fahim from thinking about his predicament. He was going to die on the pillar. If he even made it to the pillar. His stomach had began to cramp. His arms were sore from swimming. The waterskin pulled on his neck as he swam. It seemed the rock structure was not getting any closer. He was going to drown in the middle of the lake, with his goal only a few breast strokes away. At one point he felt a panic attack arising. The noise from swimming, mixed with the loud breathing caused his brain to shut off. The far off mountains and water surrounding him became fuzzy and closed in on him. He kept his eyes locked on his goal. His vision closed into a tunnel until all he saw was a big eye with a slit down the middle. The pillar became an enormous pupil. Fahim was swimming to the mouth of an enormous snake. The snake lay waiting for him. All Fahim needed to do was slide right through it’s fangs.
Fahim saw the enormous reptile eye blink. Was the snake winking at him? No. It wasn’t winking at him. Fahim was blinking. Fahim suddenly realized that his eyes were closing. This was the end. There was no snake. He was hallucinating.
With that last sudden clarity and awareness his knee slammed into a rock. He cried out in pain and instinctively put his feet down. He was standing waist high water. He trudged forward and put his face up against a wall of rock. He fell down, curled into a ball, and began to weep.
He awoke the next morning when a wave hit his face. He sat up choking. He had inhaled the water. He braced himself on the rock wall and continued to wretch whatever he could get out. He felt a pain in his stomach as his body reminded him that he had not eaten in several days.
He began to walk around the pillar. It was much larger than he thought and it took him a few minutes to get to the other side. He had hoped to find a path up it. Perhaps a ladder carved into the rock. There was not. He grabbed onto the stones extrusions and began pulling himself up. After climbing for what seemed at least an hour, Fahim felt his hand go over the top edge and grip a soft substance on the ground. He pulled his hand too look at it and saw he was holding the blackest soil he had ever seen. He smiled and pulled himself up over the lip.
He laid in the dirt for several minutes. Happiness was followed by sorrow. What did it matter, he had no way of getting home? Even if he had, he couldn’t bring any of the soil back. The bag had been stolen by the woman. He had completely forgot about this. How could he prove he had been here anyway? He took off his waterskin and drank what he had left. When he lowered it he saw a leopard standing before him. It growled and hissed at him.
It walked back and forth.
“Do you want to kill me?” The leopard did not respond. Fahim didn’t know if this was a good or bad thing. He chuckled to himself as he remembered that animals don’t talk. The owl, if that’s what it really was, had some how reprogrammed his mind to think otherwise.
The leopard lept forward. Fahim thrashed the waterskin at it. It batted it away. Fahim backed up to the edge. The leopard had trapped him. It clawed at his legs. Fahim felt a pain surge up his legs as the claws ripped into his leg’s skin. This was truly the end. There was nothing he could do.
He looked up at the cat. “I asked you a question, to which you have not answered. Let me introduce myself, my name is Fahim, and you are very rude!” He yelled at the top of his lungs. He had undone his necklace and began swinging it. The leopard tried to claw the pendant as it’s metallic properties reflected the light in several directions. The cat lunged at it with full force. Just as it did Fahim threw it up above him and dropped to the ground. The leopard snatched the medallion into it’s paws and violently pulled it to it’s mouth. Fahim put his hands over his head. He did not want to see what came next. He heard a rain of rocks below, a whimper, and then a distant splash. He looked over the edge and saw a tiny cat like figure in the water below.
He stood up in triumph. The pain from his clawed legs immediately returned and he sat back down. The feeling of elation quickly subsided when he remembered that he had only prolonged his inevitable death. He stared up at the clouds and laid waiting for whatever was to follow.
He pondered on his journey.
He thought about the Shopkeeper. How he had luckily had enough twine to replace the rope he had broken.
He thought about the Owl. How he believed it had eaten him.
His heart began beating hard as he considered how improbable it was that he would meet his Uncle in the middle of the woods. His Uncle was finally getting his revenge.
Then the Leopard. The enormous bloodthirsty cat below, still struggling to find a hold onto the rock wall.
He crawled over to the waterskin and pulled off the cap. He filled it with soil, and with a piece of sharp stone he carved his full name into the leather. He stood near the edge and looked out on the water. He saw that the leopard must’ve walked around to the other side looking for a way up. His dying wish was that the skin would eventually float to shore and someone would find it. It didn’t matter who. He began spinning it by the the strap.
“You know, if you’re going to take any soil back you’re going to need that.” He nearly fell off the edge when he heard the voice. He looked back and saw the owl. It spoke again.
“So I was reading the Fabric and I thought I’d do a little more looking into Fahim. It’s a horrific name mind you. Not to say it sounds bad or anything. It’s just the way the waves are imprinted onto the fabric is so very ugly. I truly wish you could see them. Anyhow, I was looking back through time to see where this name first originated. So you know, the waves start to fade over time. Wave ripples become shallower as time goes on until one day they are flat again. Like a rock being thrown in the water. Anyhow, I’m reading them and the deepest Fahim ripple I have ever seen just shows up on the fabric way out here in the middle of this lake. Turns out it was you. Looks like you’re introducing yourself to others now. To be fair you stole my line about being rude, but I will let it slide since you got me lunch.”
Fahim smelled the owls rancid breath again and realized why he hadn’t seen the leopard. “Hop on.” Said the owl lowering it’s neck. “Let’s get out of here.”
Fahim’s journey to find the soil was over. He had succeeded.
by: Jacob Williams
Digging Deep Into The Concepts:
Fahim dealt with several trials on his journey. Each trial or circumstance was unique and involved different characters. It was in dealing with these characters that he found his SOUL.
Apart from the trials, there are other truths within the story. What are some you can think of? Here are some examples:
In the beginning of the story Fahim’s father states that his son has more choices of tools and is allowed to take more on his journey. In most families this is true. The child of the parents will usually have more opportunities and resources than the father or mother did at their age.
Fahims father is not able to tell him what he will need for his journey. In life, we tend to not know what tools or skills we will need in the future or what classes or hobbies will be most important for us down the road.
The mother tells Fahim that he will be treated by others a certain way based on what family he is from. This is why she gives him the necklace. Likewise the world will treat us according to who we are and where we come from. Sometimes this can work to our benefit. Other times it can be a negative.
Fahim barely avoids tripping over a bird in the market only to cause more problems. He had just started his journey and already he made a mistake and needed to pay for it. There are many instances in life where this happens. You’ve just moved out of your parents house and a week later your car breaks down while driving to work. It cost all your savings to get it repaired.
The first path Fahim takes looks easier than the other two. After spending all that time and energy walking he realizes he must go back and choose another path. Do you know someone who went and got a degree for a career they did not enjoy? Did they have to go back and find the right path? What about a couple that marries and later finds out that they had made a mistake? Did it mean their journey was over? Fahim acknowledges going back and starting over was difficult, but that it was the only way he would complete his journey.