The Ice Man
by John W. Steele
There were two of them. My body shuddered with anticipation, and my wicked claws unfurled from their fleshy sheaths. Usually they travel alone, but this time there were two of them.
I watched them chip and fight their way up the icy slopes of the mountain. From the entrance of my cave at the crest of the peaks far above, they appeared as little more than specks crawling through the jagged ice fields and treacherous hidden crevasses that dotted the flowing glaciers of the terrain below.
I could hear the thoughts of the bearded one in my mind as he cursed the cold biting wind and lamented over his frozen toes and the numbness in his hands. ‘The cave you fear to enter... holds the treasure you seek.’
He repeated the words over and over, like a reverberating mantra. He felt the words... and caressed them with the clouded faculty of reason anchored in the fetid cesspit of his conditioning.
I sensed the hunger in his soul and the torment in his heart; he was disturbed by his own mind and ached to know freedom. Just as the ice vultures lust for the corpses of the dead, that they may fill their bellies with the stench of decay and tempting morsels of the bloody skeleton.
His companion traveled in silence, his face as frozen as a cherub on a tombstone. I understood the root of his contentment. He’d answered all but one of his questions... and that question was me. I decided I liked the bearded one best. He would be mine.
Perhaps the words he clung to he’d purchased from a fakir Jawahar. How I loved the words, for I knew they would provide meat for me and blood for the Gaki. Yes... the bearded one longed to know who he was, and why he was born.
How did they find me? Gold and magic can accomplish what the gods cannot, and I have plenty of each. The Sherpas have little of either. So it’s easy for them to sing the praises of the ancient sage that dwells near the roof of the sky, and how he’d lived in the cave of secrets for a thousand years.
This time the Sherpa’s sent me two. For this I will go to them in the dreams of their deepest slumber and smooth out the wrinkled corners of their discontent. A few gold coins for their efforts; I’ll place them in the ancient hidden caverns that only the Sherpa’s know.
Yes... come to me... come to me you must. For you cannot rest and your life is void of color. Come my friends, I have many treasures that will always be mine. Come... it will do you no good... but come. And in turn I will free you from your suffering.
* * *
The Gaki smelled the cloying scent of fresh blood, and he tugged at the chain I had weaved through his spine. Small screams of delight tore from his tiny lips, and his milky eyes grew large. The bones of his rib cage creaked like broken bellows and shone stark against his smooth ebony skin. Naked red muscle taut and exposed rippled through the rotting patches of open flesh clinging to his form.
The Gaki wanted to take them fast... to charge down the mountain like an avalanche and sink his jagged claws into the warm flesh of the neck. That he might sip the blood with his serpent tongue.
I commanded him to be patient. For the ritual is the law, and the law the ritual. But the law of the Gaki is insatiable hunger, and he raised his formidable claws to me. I slapped him hard with my paw and he tumbled in the snow. When he arose there were three deep gashes in the frog-belly skin of his face. He whimpered like a beaten dog, hopped back into the cave and disappeared in the shadows.
Once again I walked to the edge of the precipice. The dark spirit of night had emerged. The light of a silver moon flooded the peaks, illuminating the heart of the valley. The snow glowed like white phosphorous, and the sky opened and revealed its mysteries. I watched the pilgrims as they struggled to raise a fluttering tent in the merciless wind. They would rest now. And in their brief moments of anxious slumber, there would be visions forgotten and dreams void of substance.
I returned to the cave and lay upon my bed of blood-stained downy parkas. My large yellow eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness and began to glow. The Gaki sat on his hindquarters. In his powerful arms he held a gristly femur. His enormous belly rippled with muscle and growled in a desperate cry for blood. The tiny barbed tongue at the end of his thin tapered snout darted in and out, in and out, as he scraped the last clinging traces of marrow from the hollow broken bone
Soon... I told him. Soon they will arrive. The Gaki ignored me and continued in his futile attempt to satisfy his unquenchable craving.
I stretched the powerful muscles of my legs, first the front and then the rear. I knew the pilgrims would appear in the dip in the ridge at the high pass sometime in the morning. And I rested content in the promise of their destiny.
* * *
It had not always been this way. At one time I possessed powers that rivaled those of a god. I was little more than a child when my mother abandoned me at the gates of the monastery. I remember she promised me she would return, before she walked away. But I knew she’d been charmed by the sweet allure of freedom, and I would never see her again.
For three days and three nights I stood at the door of the buttress in the frigid cold. Icicles dangled from the end of my nose and my tears froze on my cheeks. Each evening a monk would appear at the curtain wall and give me bowl of thin rice gruel.
At the end of the third night a monk came to see if I was still breathing. I lay in the snow drifts nearly frozen. He kicked me hard but I was too weak to move. He lifted my rigid carcass and carried me to the pyre at the ridge where the ice vultures waited. I groaned, and he dropped me like a cursed demon on the desecrated altar. Because I survived, the ordeal was deemed a miracle, and I was admitted to the order of monks as an acolyte.
Life did not become easier as a monk. There was no sleep. Nights were consumed in meditation and days were filled with demanding physical labor and endless occult studies. Year after year I practiced the mind discipline of one pointing until the skin on my backside became open and bleeding and I could only sit with painful difficulty.
With each passing day the bright virtue grew within me and my psychic abilities developed. The ancients taught me many secrets. In time I was able to levitate and to read the minds of strangers. I learned the ability to shift the molecules of my physical body. My concentration grew strong and I could pulverize a boulder to dust with the power of my voice.
The Arhats informed me I had accomplished much in my previous incarnations, and before the end of my second decade, I’d been ordained as a lama. My life felt measured and complete now. I believed I’d found supreme enlightenment and understood the only real truth.
* * *
I had heard many fables about the powers of the female creation and how they possessed the charm to drive a man to madness. But I’d lived as a monk all my life and had never been in the company of a woman. Late one night I was summoned to assist the venerated medical lama Tempa Shunrab on a mission to provide comfort to a wealthy patron of The Way.
When we arrived at the palace the king lay on his deathbed. His lungs rattled, and his eyes were sunken and yellow. Standing at his bedside was his wife and their beautiful daughter Sonam. Her braided long black hair hung to her waist. The lines of her torso were round and smooth and revealed perfect symmetry. When she walked a tiny bell jingled on a golden chain about her ankle. Her naked feet were exposed through her sandals and the nails of her toes were painted red like the berries of a goji bush.
I watched Lama Shunrab sprinkle the sacred sands on the king as he chanted the mantra of noble rebirth. But my eyes were charmed by the alluring presence of the Princess Sonam, and my gaze would not obey me. I probed her form with my eyes and fondled her in my mind. When our eyes met I felt the serpent power rise in my loins. And at last I understood the madness the Arhats warned me about.
After we returned to the lamasery, I became obsessed with Sonam, and my concentration suffered. I could no longer focus on my meditation. I had to know what power these creatures possessed. I slipped away from the lamasery one night and journeyed to her home.
I was welcomed into the palace, and Sonam was cordial. But when she sensed my interest in her was carnal, she became apprehensive and alarmed. When she would not yield to me, I used the power of mind control and took her by force. But once was not enough. In the beginning I could not get enough of her, and I made her my slave.
Never before had I experienced the splendor of the doors of perception. I had thought their only purpose was to produce pain. Through Sonam, the flood gates of my desires burst open in a torrent of sensual delight. I now savored the teas from Ceylon and the candied sweetmeats from India. I learned of pleasures heretofore undreamed of... the glory of wine... and the rapture of opium.
Copyright © 2007 by John W. Steele