January 23, 2005

The Prodigal Son

The wind was unrelenting as it crevassed the steep mountain slopes, threatening to knock over everything in its path, even him. It had been months since he had been down this all too familiar mountain pass and yet, it all seemed so strange to him. As he surveyed the surrounding landscape, he felt estranged ; lost even. But there was no time. The toll of the bells from the monastery interrupted his thoughts as he began to quicken his steps, hoping that he'd reach the top before the storm really kicked in.

It had been months since he had been down that narrow pass. Once a naive, trusting young altar boy, he had been pressed into service by sheer weight of familial expectations. His father had delivered him to the monastery 14 years ago and although he had faced spiritual inquisitions at times due to his curious nature, somehow the Almighty had always delivered him. Somehow, God had always stepped in and sent an answer to his never-ending questions. A year ago, he made up his mind. He decided to suppress that ever-curious nature and to accept whatever he was taught by the Abbot, regardless of whether it made sense to him. And it was also a year ago, where he embarked on his journey towards priesthood after the annual Lent festival. For once, he wanted to stop being a skeptic and for once, he felt like he needed to find validation somewhere. Even if it meant giving up his inquisitive nature. It was a done deal. He would become a priest, he would serve the Lord and he would make his family proud.

Then he met her. On one of his weekly ventures down the mountain into the village below for supplies, he caught sight of her. She sashayed past him as he attempted to keep all attention on the fruits he was picking out, but the smell of her hair pervaded all his five senses. It was wrong. He was a servant of the Lord and it was a cardinal sin for a man of the cloth to even entertain such thoughts about a woman. But he could not help it. Such was her grace and beauty that he was drawn to her, the bells of St Patrick's cathedral the furthest things from his mind now. They hit it off from the moment his first words were spoken. Both quite the intellectuals, they begun discussing all manner of happenings under the sky, from politics to philosophy to....religion. It had been a touchy subject most definitely, especially for him. In their conversations about God, she shared insights he had never considered, perspectives which he had kept himself from thinking about. As they chatted, their eyes met and it was at that moment, he knew he was attracted to her. Her intelligence, her charm, her wit, her beauty. Everything. It had all seemed so perfect... if he hadn't been wearing robes.

They'd made a decision to elope together, him to leave his life of servitude in St Patrick's, she to leave her life of working in the vineyards. The night they chose was cold and windy, and through the entire process, he'd heard his conscience calling to him, threatening deadly judgement. But he shrugged it off, eager to pursue this dream which had presented itself in front of him. As he scurried down the mountain pass, he began to silently convince himself that what he was doing was the right thing and slowly but surely, he felt God become more and more distant from his heart. He was too far down the road to perdition, and there was no chance there was any atonement for the sin he had committed.

She never turned up at the appointed meeting place. His heart sank as he desperately clung onto the hope he had built within himself and waited by a ditch on the road. The hours went by and as dawn began to break over the horizon, so too did the realisation that she had been untrue to him. She was never going to turn up and never had the intention to. To her, her life at the vineyard was content and peaceful and there was no way she'd give that up. The declarations of love for him were worth as much as his previous declarations of love for God. All seemed lost. He had never felt so abandoned as this since the day his father had pushed him off the carriage into the courtyard of St Patrick's. In a daze, he wandered the streets, living off leftovers from the occasional kind villager and working as a farmhand during the ripe season.

Now here he was again. Up that same old mountain slope he had traversed countless times. But even as the rain pelted him mercilessly, he did not flinch as he marched bravely onwards. He knew that today, he would either be struck by lightning for his betrayal or embraced once again by the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. The door to the cathedral creaked open after a short rap on it and he was greeted by an all too familiar face. Father Constantine. He seemed to have aged a century since he last saw him but the joy on his face was evident. "Son...It has been a long time. Come, sit by the fire, and tell me about where you've been." The tears began to stream forth from his eyes as the remorse began to filter in. As he gathered his belongings and made his way through that chapel door, he looked back into the storm and heaved a sigh of relief.

But even as the chapel door grinded to a close, a small stone embedded itself in its hinges and ensured that a constant gale found its way inside.

"I have returned, Father."


Traveller fell apart at 1:23 AM


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