(Read first part here)
He was lost. He was tired. He was hungry. But most of all, he was confused. He looked to his left, his right, to his back and in front of him. Sea, sea and more sea. He frowned.
What am I doing here? He thought.
It felt as if he had been there forever. He had gone through the stormiest of weather, battling the harshest of waves. Over and over again. And now, he seemed to have forgotten how he ended up there in the first place.
Where am I going?
He remembered there was something important that he needed to do – but he couldn’t remember what it was. And it bothered him immensely.
He looked up. The sky was clear. Today the weather was kind to him. The waves buoyed him and his boat gently. The absence of the clouds, however, had intensified the sun’s heat, and he could feel sweat trickling down his back.
In an attempt to reduce the scorching heat and the discomfort, his eyes landed on the sack in front of him. The magical sack. He didn’t remember who’d put it there or how it ended up in his boat. The sack seemed to had always been there. Though the weather was cruel or calm like it was now – he’d hold on to the sack steadfastly. It seemed to be the only thing that held all the answer.
He reached for the sack, rummaged through – although he had already known them by heart – and started to lay out the items: there were a box and a scroll.
The box was an extraordinary thing: each time he opened it there would be something new inside. Most of the time it was something which smelled really enticing and mouth-watering that his stomach would grumble, and he would stuff himself full with it. But sometimes it also produced weird items, like the last time when he opened the box to find an empty bottle. He looked at it for while, shook and turned it around in his hand. When nothing was coming out, he’d put it back again only to find that it was raining afterwards, but when he opened the box, the bottle was gone and he was left starving for the day. It was a lesson well-learned indeed.
He opened the box again, and there was a bottle of water. A pang of disappointment hit him. He was expecting a bit more in this hot weather. Sighing, he took the bottle anyway. Took enough sips to quench his thirst, and instead of putting it back into the box, he left in on his boat. Not yet¸ he thought.
His eyes landed on the last of the items: the scroll. It was empty, except for few words that seemed to be changing all the time. Whenever he opened up the scroll, there would be a different message all the time. Sometimes it would comfort him, other times it would warn him. Sometimes it would tell him stories of the past, of things around him now. But most of the time it talked about the future and Home.
He looked at the scroll now, a new message appear before him:
“Dear one, Before you I had sent others. For the same mission as yours: to experience life and to come back Home safely. Home is where you will feel the ultimate joy. Home is where you will no longer have to suffer. Home is where I will be.
You will come across the remnants of the people I have mentioned, and when you do, remember: what had happened to them will happen to you too – only if you are distracted; only if you forget. So don’t be distracted. Remember, and you will reach Home safely.”
There it was again, that word, Home. And where is Home? He wondered. He tried to remember. But couldn’t.
It frustrated him. Does it even exist?
He stood up in his boat, trying to make sense of his surrounding again. Maybe this time something might spring into mind.
He squint his eyes to the far horizon of the sea, in the hope of finding something, anything that could help him, guide him. When there was nothing, he sat down again. He took the water bottle, surprised that there was barely an inch of water left, and took a final gulp. Placing it back into the box, and sure enough, it was gone within minutes.
A shot of bitterness hit him, and to distract him, he returned back to the scroll. The words rearranged themselves before his eyes.
“While there were those who have been destroyed by their own hands, by their misguided choices, I have let some lived. You may come across them one day, but do not be tempted to follow them – for they are nothing but a test. For themselves and for you.
Remember your purpose.
One day, I will also send someone to help remind you. Many have disregarded the likes of him before. But you must not. Follow him, and you will be guided Home.”
He heard a crack. Alarmed, he looked up. And saw, pieces of wood floated by.
One, two…more and more floated past him. And then he saw pieces of wood studded to pieces of iron. They looked exactly like a skeleton of a boat. These must be the ones mentioned in the scroll. He shivered. Reading it, and seeing it for himself definitely generated a different feeling altogether.
Up above the clouds rolled, shading him from the cruel heat. He was thankful for that, and just when he was about to take a rest for that day, suddenly, he saw something that he hadn’t seen before. Somewhere as far as his eyes could see, a tiny speck dotted where the sky seemed to merge with the sea. His heart leaped. Could that be what he thought that would be?
Only one way to find out.
He took the paddle and started to row with all his might.
Getting closer, he now saw what seemed to be a huge Ship. It was enormous, sturdy, and most importantly glamorous. The Ship seemed to stretch from one side to the other as far as his eyes could see – like there was no end to it. He had never seen anything like it. His heart beat faster. Could this be Home?
It was so glorious a sight that he actually forgot how to breathe.
More importantly, there were others like him on the Ship.
After months, possibly years of drifting solely alone – seeing others like him felt like he was being splashed with cool, refreshing water after a prolong period of being stranded on a desert. He felt alive.
The people on the Ship, they were smiling and chatting and laughing merrily – like nothing else seemed to matter. Clanking glasses and blowing away small rings of Os from their mouth, both the men and women were all smartly dressed and everyone seemed to be in a cheerful, buoyant mood.
Ahoy there! One seemed to be shouting at him. Come abroad!
He was startled. Somebody noticed him. He hovered his eyes to the owner of the voice. A smart looking man, with a jovial expression, was motioning him to hop onto the Ship.
He wanted too, by the moon and stars!, there was nothing else that he could have wanted more.
But something in him stopped him. Something was ringing silently in his head. Something about not getting distracted, or being tempted over something… but for the life of him, he couldn’t put his finger what it was. The sight before him was too mesmerizing for him to remember petty things like that. All thoughts vanished. I need to get on that Ship soon!
His hands, now a swiftly moving pair of machine, rowed hungrily towards the ship.
His eyes inadvertently wandered to the bottom of the ship. And his heart almost stopped again. There, few stories beneath the upper deck, much lower down and closer to the sea than the sky; were men and women and children in an appalling state. They were so haggardly dressed, so staggeringly deprived, and there were a lot of screaming and children crying. He couldn’t imagine the two completely opposite world to have existed in the same place.
And he wondered, if Home is perfect, then why are there people suffering?
What’s down there? He asked. Why aren’t you helping them?
Don’t mind them, came the reply. Come up, come up!
He hesitated at first. But, slowly, he paddled his boat and rowed closer, all along silent alarm was ringing off in his head.
A rope seemed to be dangled from the upper deck – no doubt was placed there to help him get onto the Ship.
He was just within reach of the rope when he suddenly heard a cry from behind him.
STOP! Don’t get on that ship!
He turned around and saw now another man, on a different boat – a slightly larger boat than him, but not in any way matching the glam of the Ship – approached nearer, with an alarmed expression etched clearly on his face.
I am from the Mainland. I am being sent to warn you to get off that ship! That ship is heading towards an iceberg. It will sink. Follow me, and you will be saved!
He heard a roar of laughter broke from the ship. People hooted and snickered.
Look, one said, what a delusional man! Saying he is an envoy from the Mainland. What Land? This ship is all there is.
And what iceberg? I see, no iceberg! Why he is just like us, another said, he must be lying then.
A crazy man!
People were sneering at him now. Pointing disgustedly at him.
He suddenly felt pity for the man. Who is he anyway?
He looked at him and saw a simple man. He was not extravagantly dressed like the man above. But there was something in his manner that automatically softened him to listen.
He looked at his face, and he didn’t know what it was, but knew at an instant that it was not the face of a liar.
A look so sincere, a look so hopeful. He really wanted to save us, he thought.
Come, come, the man beckoned endlessly, follow me.
He heard splashes around him. Looking around, he was shocked to see few men and women from the ship had jumped off. They were now swimming towards this messenger man.
Where are you going, he asked quizzically.
To that man, there, one said.
Why? He asked.
We had seen life up there – he tilted his head slightly towards the direction of the ship – it was nothing more than a mirage. All our life, we had been searching for the Truth. There was none up there. And he swam on.
He was alarmed by now. He was so close to the Ship, but there was a man on the opposite side calling him, motioning him to abandon what seemed to be a solid evidence of existence for something which he wasn’t sure would even be real.
Remember, remember! The man pleaded. Remember what you are supposed to do. Remember where you are supposed to go.
At the mentioned of that, his heart raced.
It sounded astoundingly familiar… where have I heard them before?
He was panicking now. The Ship howled; it’s going to go away. And the man, with the other few men and women, were drifting away too.
What should I do? What should I do? What should I do?
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(Note: Story can also be found here under the pseudonym hazydreamer. Many jazakkumullahu khairan to abookunwritten for giving me the chance to post this story on their blog first and for allowing me to repost this story much later onto my own)