Part 51: The path least travelled (Part 28)
2007-11-15 11:23:04 -
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Previously: Andreas, Janus and Santiago, having seen the same vixen that our other friends rescued from the trap, have taken shelter in a shallow cave previously inhabited by goats.

However, as Janus drifted off, he couldn’t help thinking back to that time when they had finally found the resting place of the treasure. It was what had happened next that caused his lack of sleep…

“What stopped me?” Janus kept thinking over and over again as he recalled that day – the day where it was so clear to see, so much larger than life, and yet he couldn’t take that step, the step to reach and grab his share of the treasure, the treasure that should have rightfully been his.

He started wondering about his two friends, what had they found – did they actually get any treasure? His mind wandered and he could see it all so clearly, as though it were yesterday. The deep cave stretching into infinite blackness; the light barely squeezing past the heavy foliage and undergrowth that concealed the entrance.

The weirdest thing of all, he had to concede, was meeting Mike again inside the cave. His thoughts wandered off in another direction, back to the time when they had first met this incredible, erudite man; dishevelled looking, but with those deeply intense eyes, and a brain to match. It must have been about a month before they finally arrived at the cave, yet he gave no indication at all at the time that he knew anything about the treasure.

Indeed, even as they went into the cave itself and met Mike, they were still not certain that they were in the right place, that deeper inside that cave was what they had been looking for. Yes, the same thing those other three guys – Nunco, Preteritus and Prostremo – were now seeking.

“But I failed” – this was the last agonising thought that enveloped his mind as he wafted into the eerie underworld of anxiety-ridden dreamland…

He perched precariously on top of a great white cliff, his feet rooted to the edge of the overhang. Arrayed in front and below him were thousands of people, in bright multi-coloured, translucent garb twitching in a nauseating pattern.

The throng below reached up to him with outstretched hands, their eyes completely white and seemingly sightless, begging him to jump. Almost paralysed with fear, he tried to gingerly inch his way back from the edge. The chant of toneless voices reached his ears: “It’s just work, it’s just life. Come on down, it’s all you’re worth.”

Just then something started to form in the sky. Great white clouds shaping into words – the answer he should have given, but didn’t know. He could almost make out the words.

But before he could grasp the meaning of the words being spelt out before him, something suddenly whooshed by to break up the clouds. As he cried out in frustration, the cliff gave way and he felt himself drifting down at an ever-increasing speed, to the faces and outstretched hands below…

Janus sat up with a start, sweat pouring off his body. The damp, rank darkness of the cave felt claustrophobic after the dream he had just had. He tried to scramble out of his sleeping bag, but the dampness prevented his easy escape. In his struggle he knocked over Santiago’s bag and the jerry can rang hollowly on the rock.

“What’s up? Who’s that? Is everyone okay? Is there anyone there?” mumbled a sleepy Andreas in quick-fire staccato.

“That’s it!” shouted out Janus.
“What’s it?” grumbled Andreas. “It’s the middle of the night. What in God’s name are you going on about?”
“The answer to the question Mike asked me!” exclaimed Janus. “The one that could have let me… Oh! I’m not meant to say anything, am I?”

“It’s okay Janus,” said Santiago soothingly. “I had kind of guessed anyway, but that doesn’t mean to say that you won’t get what you’re seeking. In fact, from what I just heard you say to Andreas, you may even get a second chance.”

“But Mike’s gone!” said a despairing Janus. “He said he didn’t know when he would be back, or if he would ever be back. He said something about it depending on demand.”

“Well we don’t know, do we?” asked Andreas. “We all went in separately – that was part of the deal, so that no-one would know what the other people found in that Aladdin’s cave.”
“Hence, people like me are not meant to be blabbering about it, yeah?”

“Actually he has a point there, Santiago,” said Andreas. “So what would you have told those other three? We never said a word to Electra all the time she was with us, yet it appeared that you were going to tell them everything you had seen.”

“Appearances can be deceiving,” replied Santiago. “And besides, there was no way that anyone was going to put two and two together with what I was about to tell them anyway.”

“So what were you going to say?” asked Janus.
“The truth of course!” said Santiago with a smile.
“But the truth would have given it all away!” said Andreas.

“I said the truth! I did not say the whole truth!” Santiago was sitting up now and had just lit one of the gas lamps he had retrieved from his fallen rucksack. The shadow danced and flickered on the uneven, angular surfaces of the cave walls.

“When you find out that your best friend’s husband is cheating on her,” continued Santiago, “do you go directly and tell her straight out and risk not only being ostracised, but also hurting her deeply?”

“Ah, for goodness sake, it’s the middle of the night,” exclaimed Andreas, “and there you are talking in deep philosophical riddles!”

“Well, would you tell her straight out?” he pressed.
“Of course I wouldn’t!” said Andreas.
“Yet you do care,” Santiago continued, “and you don’t want to see her get hurt?”

“Well I suppose I would try and hint at something,” Andreas meekly offered, “Maybe something along the lines of whether she was happy and if she felt secure in her relationship… Oh, I’m not going to continue on with this charade, what are you going on about?”

“I think I see where he is going,” Janus chimed in. “I think he would have softly prepared them for what they might find, and also how to deal with being unsuccessful. And that way, whatever happened, they would be in a better frame of mind to deal with any eventuality.”

“So do you want a second chance, Janus?” asked Santiago.
“Well at least I now know what I would choose when I get back into the cave!” acknowledged Janus.
“So you realise now that each person chooses what is specific to them, then?” asked Santiago.

“Yes I do, and it pays to know what you want!” Janus said, adding ruefully: “It’s so easy to lose sight of what you want. But I tell you one thing for certain – there is no way I want to join that crowd I saw in my dream, No way, not ever!”

“It’s funny that – most people can tell you what they don’t want, but very few can clearly articulate what they do want!” mused Santiago. “Anyway, let’s get back to sleep and we can see what tomorrow will bring.”

The next morning the sun was shining, and the rain had stopped. Santiago got up and looked out of the mouth of the cave. Out in the distance, over the forest, he could see the edge of a lake. Their journey had taken them in one giant loop, and they were almost back to where they had started.

He looked at his two friends. He remembered the time they had first met Electra, after being at the cave, but the sight of the lake reminded him of when they had fished there, the time they had first met Mike…

To be continued next week
peter@3r.ie
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