Processionary

by John Craggs


The air sparkled with hidden adventure waiting just around a corner. Meadows and glades opened on either side, blazing with colour from various wildflowers and the trill of birds decorated the forest with song.

Mona and her guide stepped through a leafy arch made by two Rowan saplings tied together at the crown, then moved carefully along the barely visible track, a shallow trace left by countless feet over many millennia, but often with a century or more between visits.

The old man was still tall although bent with age, his eyes cloudy with cataracts. Yet he was The Guide, moving with unhurried certainty.

Mona, her hand hooked casually onto his arm felt her mind wandering again. It had been doing this with increasing frequency of late. It was all very well to follow The Guide on her Path To Enlightenment, but sometimes it seemed so slow. Such a long journey.

“Every step is a lesson, My Dear.” He had sensed her restlessness, as always. His voice as gentle as ever, the hard-won patience of extreme age making allowances for the haste of youth. “And, when you have learned all you need to know, you will become The Guide.”

As they walked he talked, sharing esoteric and arcane knowledge with the younger woman, and questioning her understanding of what she’d learned. In the evenings they stopped to rest and he always found simple food in his pack, which he cooked over a small fire before they slept, wrapped in their cloaks. A timeless ritual which was blurring as she aged, sometimes fancying that they stood still and the world spun slowly beneath them.

That night, as the sun was snuffed out below the sides of the valley and the night birds sang The Guide laid his hand on her forehead as she slept.

“It is time... You are me, and I am you,” he said quietly and rolled onto one side under his cloak.

In the morning Mona awoke first and gazed with growing understanding at the young boy curled under the cloak where The Guide had been. The youth stretched and woke, his eyes a bright blue like the sky above them. For a few seconds he looked lost and then he smiled.

“Yes,” said Mona, answering his silent question. “I am The Guide.” With the skill of long practice she blew the barely smouldering embers of the fire into new life, cooked breakfast for them both, and sent the youth to fetch a drink from the nearby stream. There was always a nearby stream. Always. Odd that she’d never thought to question it before...

The youth chuckled, a gladsome sound, and she went to investigate. As he knelt alongside the stream, the water-skin temporarily forgotten, he was fascinated by a green and brown creature humping and stretching itself as it moved in a constant circle.

Mona smiled. Processionary Caterpillars, each blindly following the silken thread left by the one in front. Sometimes they unfortunately crossed their own path and would march in a circle until they died. She vaguely remembered seeing the same thing herself, not long after starting her own journey.

She gently nudged one out of the circle and wiped the self-destructive thread from the ground as the circle straightened, the new leader taking his followers away into the long grass.

The youth filled the water-skin and they picked up their packs and cloaks.

She led them out of the valley, his hand lightly clinging to her arm, his eyes bright and his ears hungry for every word she spoke.

At the end of the valley they stepped through an archway made from two Rowan saplings, tied together at the crown...

The air sparkled with hidden adventure waiting just around a corner. Meadows and glades opened on either side, blazing with colour from various wildflowers and the trill of birds decorated the forest with song.


Copyright © 2007 by John Craggs

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