“You don’t understand what you’re asking for.”
James snorted. “I paid you didn’t I? Gave you money in exchange for a Symbol. I want what I paid for.”
The wise man walked towards him. The wooden floors of his shop creaked under each footstep. A wind blew through the room even though no windows were open. A set of wind chimes let out their chorus. James shivered.
“I assumed that when you came to me, it was for a talisman or spell to bring you money, fame, love. The typical stuff. It’s what every man wishes for.”
Pulling himself up to his full height, James stared at the wise man with eyes that flashed with warning. “I’m not like every other man.”
“Clearly.” The wise man reached out and ran his fingers through a bowl filled with stones that was on the counter. He let them fall back into the bowl, giving James a searching look.
James was uncomfortable inside the wise man’s store. The shelves were filled with all kinds of books, hundreds of them. Interspersed amongst them, there were statues he could put no name to, small pyramids, jewels and other stones and boxes of incense. There was an energy within the store that made James uncertain; he wondered what he was missing.
The wise man had short, spiky black hair with the ends tipped in white. He also had eyes of an unknown colour that unnerved James: in some lights they were green, in others they were blue or grey flecked with black.
Letting the stones fall back into the bowl, the wise man cleared the remaining distance between them. “Do you understand anything about Symbols and symbology?”
James shook his head. “No.”
“I didn’t think so. Symbols have the power to heal, the power to bring power, money, love. You have to give them meaning.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“It means they are powered by intent, your intent. They can’t do anything if you don’t know what you want.”
“Look man, all I want to know is how to fix things. A Symbol gives you power, right? So give that power to me.”
“You have work to do.” The wise man looked at him with eyes that saw all. “If you want to fix things in the past, you have to fix things in the present. The past has already been lived, you can’t do anything about it. It’s a story that has already been told.”
“So what the fuck do I do? I’m desperate here.”
“I know. I can see it coming off of you in waves. You have to start a new chapter in your story. Only you can decide how it will go.”
“Then help me with that. Give me a Symbol for that. Please. They told me that you could help me. Please.” Later, James wondered if it was the second please that convinced the wise man to help him. He gave James another searching look as if the wise man could see his soul.
The wise man nodded. “I will help you, but you may not like the results. It may not be what you’re expecting.”
He went back to the counter and opened a drawer that James hadn’t noticed before. From it, the wise man withdrew a leather bound book, a fountain pen and a bottle of black ink. He opened the book and set it on the wooden surface.
“What are you doing?”
“You asked for a Symbol didn’t you? I am giving you one.”
The wise man dipped the pen nib into the ink and drew something upon a blank pieces of paper. He then ripped the page out of the book, folded it and held it out to James. “Do not look at it now. Tonight, before you fall asleep, gaze at it. Make sure it’s the last thing you see before you close your eyes.”
Reaching out a shaking hand, James took hold of the paper. “Thank you.”
The wise man nodded. “Yes, be thankful. That’s the first step. Now go. You have a journey ahead of you.”
James wasn’t sure that this would work.
However, he was desperate. His life was shit. He had nothing left. James was angry all the time and he carried a weight with him where ever he went. He didn’t know who he was anymore.
He wasn’t sure how he had become so lost in his own life but he wanted to find his way out again. He wanted to live, not just wallow. Sometimes, the darkness was so strong, the fumes so thick, all he could do was let the darkness hold him. It was beginning to become a struggle to live without it.
If it took a Symbol to give himself the push he needed, so be it. He lay in bed and unfolded the paper. It was a doorway. The wise man had drawn one on the paper in three bold black lines with another little dash for a door handle. The ink had smudged and blurred on the paper, making it look as if the doorway was made of real wood.
James took it in and wondered why the wise man had drawn a doorway instead of a Symbol; or were they one and the same? That was his last thought before closing his eyes, the Symbol under his hands.
He wasn’t aware of when sleep took him. All James knew as that one moment, there was darkness-then one moment, there was light. James could see the outline of a door before him. He reached out into the darkness and grabbed hold of the doorknob, it’s metal cold under his hand.
James pulled the door open and saw not bright light, as he had expected, but just a different kind of darkness. He was in a cavern or cave made of dark stone flecked through with different coloured crystals. The light in the cavern came from those stones as something bright shone off of them. The walls looked as it were covered in stardust.
Walking towards the light source, James marvelled at how big the cavern was. It seemed to go on forever. Still James followed the light as if seemed to fly over the crystals bound in stone. It led him deeper and deeper into the cavern and, as he walked, James wondered how a light could survive in this darkness.
He made a few turns along the stone hallways and quickened his pace when the light began to grow brighter. The number of crystals in the stone did as well, sparkling more like stars. James made one final turn and came face to face with the light source. He was astounded to find a child.
The boy was young, around eight of nine. He head a mop of brown hair and wore John Lennon style glasses. He was also glowing. The light came from him. He was sitting on the stone floor touching his hands to the stone walls. Light left his fingers and ran through the crystals.
When he saw James, the boy stood and the and the light along the walls dimmed but he grew brighter. “Hello.” James said. “Who are you?”
“I’ve forgotten who I am.” The boy said. “I had a name once. I’ve been trying to remember it, but it’s so dark down here.”
“How long have you been down here?”
“I don’t know. It’s been forever. I can’t find my way out.”
“I can help you.” James said. “I came in through a doorway.”
“Will you help me? It’s been so long since I’ve seen the sunlight.”
“You seem to have a lot of light of your own.”
“Yes, but I need sunlight, not shadows. My light is fading, you see. Soon, I too will grow dark like this cavern.”
James’s ever present anger and moroseness melted at the sight of this boy. He felt familar to James, though he didn’t know why, but it was like he knew him. “How can I help you? What can I do?”
“Since you’ve been to the doorway, if you take my hand, I can lead us there.”
“You’ve been through it. Though you may not remember how you got lost in the darkness, you can find your way out again. I’ll see the way through you.”
That didn’t make much sense to James, but he knew he would do anything for this child. He reached for the boy’s hand with his left one and the boy took it, his skin warm and soothing. As the boy strengthened his grip, James experienced a rush of warmth that ran up his left arm. It was like he were being filled with the boy’s light.
It moved through his shoulders and down his right arm. The light warmth throbbed in the centre of his palm and James cried out when his palm started to glow white like the boy’s skin.
“Don’t be afraid.” The boy said. “It will be okay.”
James’s palm grew brighter still until a light grew out of it like a flower. The light glowed brightly, so much so that he held it away from him and received another shock: the labyrinthine corridors of stone were gone.
Now there was only a large stone room. The boy and him at one end, the doorway glowing at the other side. James was confused. “Where are all the twists and turns I took to get here? This place was like a maze.”
The boy cocked his head too the left. “Well, even a maze can be made easier with a little light. It makes the path easier to see.”
They began walking towards the doorway, still hand in hand. They walked in silence for a little bit, the doorway even closer, when the boy spoke: “They used to call me Jamie.” The boy said.
“How do you know that? I thought you said you didn’t remember it.”
“I didn’t, until now. Until you found me. They used to call me Jamie.”
Something clicked front of them. James turned and saw the door open, brightness beyond. He turned to Jamie. “Did you do that?”
Jamie shook his head. “No, I didn’t. You’re the key. You always were.”
“The key to what?”
“To yourself.” Jamie said simply. “When you step through the doorway, don’t let go of my hand. Otherwise I’ll be stuck here again. Please don’t let go.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
Holding on tightly to Jamie’s hand, James and the boy stepped through the door…and found themselves in the wise man’s shop. The wise man looked up from the book he was reading. “Oh, you’re back. You’ve been gone quite a long time. I was starting to worry.”
James looked around him and then down at his left hand. It was empty and Jamie was gone. He was stuck back in the dark, even though he would swear he hadn’t let go, he had taken him out of the darkness. “Where’s Jamie? How is any of this possible?”
“Anything is possible if you believe in it strongly enough. You needn’t worry about the child. He’s fine.”
“Where is he? I let him down, I left him there.”
“No, you didn’t. Don’t you feel his light inside of you? He’s with you again.”
“I don’t understand. How did the doorway bring me back here? Where did he go?”
“Jamie lives inside of you again and I made the door. It led to where you needed it to go, but it’s still my door. I wanted to see if you would make it through.”
“I still don’t understand any of this. What the hell was all that?”
“There will be time for questions later. Come and see me any time you want to. I am always here. However, isn’t it time you went out into the sun? It’s such a bright day out.”
James looked at the doorway to the shop. Sun poured in through it and he thought he had never seen anything so beautiful. He walked over to the wise man and hugged him, trying to communicate something he had no words for.
The wise man broke the embrace and patted James on the shoulder. “Go on now. the sunlight is waiting.”
James nodded and walked towards the doorway, hearing the sound of wind chimes and bird song. The world was full of brightness whereas before it had only been shades of grey. The world looked full of promise now, full of colour.
He took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway and into the light…