Hi everyone, I am working on publishing my new book ‘Diary of a Yogi’. I would love you to help me by reading it as I go and giving me constructive comments. Here is the first chapter, ‘Samye’. Enjoy!
Chapter 1 – Samye
Mary pressed her jade cross close to her heart and moved through the brightening morning, taking care to keep to the trees out of sight of the early morning workers. It was surprisingly quiet. The three lines of apple trees that were heavily laden with fruit ran the length of the orchard and caught the rising sun glistening on their dew as if they were dressing themselves to get ready for the first pickers. She caught a glimpse of the Tohunga from afar, walking towards her in the light of the morning. Mary reached for an apple and looked back the other way, avoiding the glare and stepped back along the path beside the tallest tree. That way was still in the gloom and decorated with the golden lanterns inset with tiny silver candles whose flames flickered in the early morning breeze. The seats along that path were oak, not pine, and reserved for special guests who loved to stop and sip the home-made apple cider.
Mary stopped beside the first bench and touched the wood gently. It gave off an amiable scent and a warmth like a friend beckoning her to sit with them.
“Everything will be ok” she whispered to herself.
She had encountered Tohungas or Elders before and knew they were able to shift form and travel across worlds if they wished. It was just as her grandmother had said, just like the stories she had been told.
“She only wanted a minute,” she reminded herself. “It can’t be that bad. Stop worrying.”
But Mary held the jade cross tighter against her chest. She strode ahead down the path and through the open door to the packing shed at the other end of the orchard.
“No one here” she said, ignoring the sign that said ‘Wipe your feet’. “Thank goodness for that.”
Settling herself on one of the old packing crates just inside the door to steady her nerves, Mary’s eyes darted back and forth along the walls of the shed and out through the door. The only light came from the sun which settled quietly on an old beaten Crucifix that hung on the wall above an equally old advertisement for the orchard’s gala apples which the owner prided herself on. Mary had lived most of her life in the Far North, so this working holiday in Nelson was a rare foray into the liberty of southern charm. She had never been away from home before and never met an Elder. That was a meeting reserved for more distinguished people than herself she thought.
She stood up and looked around.
The light moved and settled on her shoulder.
“Can I go now?” She was talking out loud to St. Anthony. Whenever she was in trouble or worried she would ask him for help.
She felt a warmth extend out from her heart as if the saint had placed his hands there.
“Ok Ok,” she took a deep breath.
The room was big enough, with a pool table in one corner for smoko time. The ash tray at one end was littered with cigarettes. Along one wall was a stack of crates for packing, stored about five high. A jar with drooping violets and chrysanthemums needed changing, its water browned with hints of green mould in the sides.
“They could do with a clean” she said under her breath.
She sat on an old leather armchair filled with newspapers which crackled as she sat. She pulled her legs up and hugged her knees to look at the last wall, the one adjacent to the door. There were family portraits, going way back in the owner’s history, showing at the far end a fierce warrior wearing a long feathered cloak, with tattoos covering nearly all his body. He stared at her with mana and authority, powers she felt she didn’t possess.
“What are you looking at?” she said in response but before she could wonder if those eyes really saw anything at all there was a shuffle of feet wiping themselves on the mat outside the door.
She shrank down in the armchair and wished she could disappear. She couldn’t hide but she could be quiet. Very very quiet.
The light seemed to change in the room as a woman entered. Mary was dazzled for a moment so could only focus on the woman’s legs and bare feet. Slowly she could make out an outline. She was very small, Mary thought.
Then a deep voice boomed, interrupting her thoughts, “KIa ora. Hello Mary. My name is Alice.”
It was the Tohunga. Mary held her breath, not daring to move. She swore she could see another figure beside Alice, but shook her head, thinking it must be her imagination.
“How do you know my name?” whispered Mary. The voice was small and didn’t even sound like hers and shook a little.
“I expect you will understand all that in due course.”
Mary just nodded.
“And you’ve brought the future for me?” smiled Alice, reaching out to take one of Mary’s hands.
“Yes, well…er, no, I didn’t know exactly why we were meeting. You did say it wouldn’t be for long.”
“That’s right, just a minute in your time…”
“A minute in my time?” Mary could feel the old woman’s grip tighten around her own.
Mary bent slightly trying to wrest her wrist free from Alice’s grasp although she was curious about what the Elder could see in her hands.
Mary watched as Alice began to trace the lines of her palm slowly and gracefully, as if Alice were writing on water. Alice must have been in her seventies but her movements belied that fact and were nimble and light. As Alice continued tracing, Mary’s vision became hazy and she became aware as she had done before that there seemed to be a second figure in the room, that separated out from Alice and settled just next to her right shoulder.
Mary was tense with anxiety. She was scared of bats and birds and crowded elevators so having such strange forces so close was both exciting and terribly unnerving.
“W…wh…who?” she stammered but Alice seemed to have anticipated her question already.
“Your son,” said Alice.
Of all the things Alice could have said, this shocked Mary the most because at just 16 years old and at a private girls boarding school she had been kept as far away from boys and men as her mother thought humanly possible. The thought of a son had never entered her mind until right now.
“Would you like to see what will happen to him? He has a very fortunate future if you can help him make it into one.”
A great fear was welling up inside Mary. Alice was said to be involved in magical arts with charms and spells and her father Hupini was reputed to be a wizard, a great medicine man with powers in makutu or the black arts. He had secrets beyond normal humans and could kill an enemy at a distance simply by projection of his will. Mary was scared that if she got caught up in this that something awful might happen to her.
What she saw next however completely banished all fear from her mind.
Alice took some toe toe grass from her pocket and rubbed it on Mary’s palm. Then she began to chant a prayer, a Karakia, mumbling in low soft tones that Mary could not understand.
As Alice spoke, continuing to rub deeper now, the grass turned into a white powder that filled the lines on Mary’s palm. The palm became a lattice of thin white flowing streams across a lush pink land in front of Mary’s eyes. Alice cupped Mary’s hand in her own and poured the thin streams of powder into her own palm before releasing her grip on Mary. Alice then stirred the magical streams of powder in her hand with her other finger until they all dissolved into one miniature ocean in the valley of her palm. It was this alchemical mixture that she threw up into mid-air and all over Mary.
Mary gave a shudder as the umbrella of water descended onto her, feeling for all the world as if a puddle had been dropped on her from heaven above. Alice mumbled one more word before turning and leaving from the door she had entered by and gesturing for Mary to follow.
Mary was dumbfounded. Her thoughts were racing. What had she really seen? Was she bewitched? Where was Alice going?
“Wait!” she called but it came out like a croak.
As she spoke there was the sound of shouting, a clamor, steadily rising into a battle cry from the far end of the orchard. And the sound of bells. A terrible sound, not like the sound of a bell calling people to church but the sound of many bells clanging as they were bludgeoned to death.
“Just a minute in my time…” said Mary. “I thought we had more time than that.”
For although she was swift to the door, Alice had vanished, and in her place was a scene of devastation.
The door, the one the Elder had entered and left by, now opened onto a horizon torn ragged by dense mottled brown mountains.
The Light grew more intense. The hidden veils trembled and parted and unfolded above her and to left and right like curtains drawn back against time. The arcs swirled around her increasing in brilliance and magnificence right across the horizon touching the lips of the sky itself. She could hear the hiss and fiery bellows of vast unimaginable forces forging weapons for battle.
“Soldiers!” came a cry, not in her own tongue but in a language and voice that was both strange and yet familiar and she knew with a mixture of joy and trepidation that it was mouthed by her son.
Suddenly a heavy hand knocked her forward and she lost her breath and could only lean over and pant and gasp as bullets rang overhead ricocheting off prayer bells. The thick whitewashed mud brick walls of the monastery were no defense. She was standing in the eggshell colored sands of the main courtyard in front of the main temple of the monastery.
“Impossible!” she thought in vain as another round of artillery fire clattered off the already heavily damaged doors of the temple’s central gate.
Voices barked severe orders in strained voices. The monks around her were clearly trained for fighting as they moved into a defensive formation but they were hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned by the soldiers pouring through into the temple grounds from the streets beyond. Soldiers that were heavily armed against the monks, many who only wielded farming implements and short kitchen knives. The monks could only fight at close range and so they waited, vulnerable to snipers and attacks from the air. Though the monks exploded with fury when the soldiers came closer, so many fell, wasted lives and helpless victims in a rebellion that was not of their choosing.
Mary was dragged back inside the temple gates and crouched low inside against the thick wooden doors with their beautiful brass ornaments. An arcade swept along the interior wall alive with ancient pictures of many Buddhas. Painted in extraordinary detail with flower petals that gently melded together and Buddha’s robes folding so precisely and intricately, Mary watched in horror as the first wave of Chinese soldiers defaced the frescoes as they ran past, gouging and hacking the faces of every Buddha from the plaster.
Mary looked up at the sky and gasped as fire burst from the air and artillery shells smashed into the columned prayer and chanting hall. The hall faced a huge altar of Buddhist symbols flanked by eight towering gold painted images of the Buddha. Tiny yellow flames in front of each statue flickered and then died out as if signaling the death knell of the heart of the temple, as the innumerable brass bowls brimming with cloudy yak butter were pitched and tossed into the carnage. The thick sweet scent was mixed with blood and the toxic fumes of the spent artillery shells hanging heavy in the dim light.
If she thought she had time to get her bearings she was mistaken, as another shell burst through the wall on the opposite side of the courtyard and opened to a vista of squat stark low stone buildings. Sporadic leafless trees skewering the landscape burst into flames as the soldiers passed.
In the direction the shell had come from Mary saw many platoons of soldiers coming to join the ones already looting the temple, and in the radiance of the Light she was tugged headlong out of the fray and over a bridge where she saw her son. She heard a sound that struck her heart with dread. A terrifying scream. Her son. The soldiers, standing in formation to block any exit from the bridge, had opened fire.
As Mary watched a bright line marked the track of the bullet that pierced her son’s heart. He pitched off the side of the bridge and fell into the river below and was borne away. The soldiers were following so quickly that they swept past her as if she was a ghost. Their real target was the temple at the center of the monastery. They ran straight on without hesitating or turning to the side.
More artillery shells flew overhead ripping straight through the remaining walls and devastating the enclosure within.
None of this mattered to Mary. The Light was becoming transparent and the veil between her own time and that horrid memory was thinning. Her heart felt like stone and her body was heavy. Little figures were running through the monastery, as bodies tottered and ran and were cut down in flames. The temple was a mass of twisted wood and metal, a pall of smoke rising from its centre.
The bridge clearly felt the weight of the carnage and creaked, cracked and then collapsed into the river after her son.
Mary was no longer on the bridge, but she wasn’t in the river either.
“Goodbye my son,” she said although she didn’t know where the words came from, it could have been an older Mary that was speaking. “I have to go back across now, but I will find you, again.”
Her heart thumping painfully with love Mary turned away and flew up, and reaching out felt a hand, the Elder, encouraging her onward.
“That is where your son will die, 17 years from now in 1959, on the bridge across the River Tsangpo to the Samye Monastery in Tibet.”
There was a loud crash as the last remnants of that horrid scene below fell into an abyss.
Mary was floating, perfectly still. She looked down and found her body, lying prone, in the sunlight of the orchard morning. The veil was still there and she didn’t want to return but she made a big effort, pushing, until she was gliding just above her body, one step, then another and then she leaped to the far side with all her strength. She landed with a soft thump and then a whoosh like all the air being taken out of her. Her body heaved and took a big breath.
After a moment she opened her eyes and dug her nails into the fresh earth to make sure she was home. There was no way back. The Tohunga stood some way off, then nodded to acknowledge her, turned and vanished into the trees.
Mary was alone.
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