As he descended the plateau, he exalted in nature. He saw the azure-blue skies stretching protectively above his head, and around him he saw beauty unveiled. The green of the grass was of a tone he had never before quite seen. It seemed to have a restorative effect on him. The flowers were beautiful. Multicoloured, as if a rainbow had exploded in the skies and the little splittings of colour had showered themselves upon the fields. Was this real? He thought back to the world of men. Had he ever seen anything so beautiful? No. Not ever. Not once.
He strolled through these fields briskly. Much as they delighted his eyes and watered the garden that was his soul, he could tarry not even for a single second. His eyes were focused yet detached. Paradise was still in front.
And then there was a lake…
As he approached the valley …. suddenly and for the first time, he noticed a lake that nestled right in the heart of the greens, stretching wide into the woods on either side, but perhaps only about forty or sixty strides across. He hesitated for one second, his eyebrows lifted. He had not seen the lake from the top of the plateau.. He had not been looking into the valley, but only up at the Land of Bliss.
But only for a moment did he hesitate. His strides picked up speed and certainty once more and he headed straight for the lake. After crossing seven seas, amongst other things, a little lake was not going to bother him in any way now that he was so close to the Land.
As he neared the lake, it suddenly dawned on him that nature seemed to have changed. It appeared to have come alive. Suddenly the grass was whispering, but whispering what? He could tell not. The leaves were talking, but talking to whom – to him, or simply to themselves? The wind sang a song, a wordless song, and from the sides of his eyes he thought he could catch the flashy movements of little things. Almost like little human beings. Little human-like beings? He swung his head sharply on all sides…nothing. Only the green, beautifully decorated fields. The enchanting woods.
In him something began to stir. He knew that there was a discussion going on in nature, a conversation, an exchange of opinions…or, wait, a message?
Again Scimarajh hesitated. He wanted to find out what was going on around him. Or, rather, a part of him wanted to – the curious part…or, is it, the cautious part? But the larger part of him, the adventurer who had surmounted high and low, the seeker who had journeyed tirelessly, was impatient.
Move on! The command thundered forcefully within him, borne of a long–persevering hunger, a long-unfulfilled desire. So he tore his attention away from the mysterious, imperceptible activity going on around him and quickly took the last brisk strides that brought him to the edge of the lake.
The lake was silent. Motionless. Clear as the surface of a perfectly-polished mirror. Still.
Scimarajh gazed at it, equally silent, equally still. His mind ticked. A deep seriousness, immense and grave, settled over his beautiful countenance.
There was something about this lake on which he could not place his finger. Something mysterious. Something as yet unfathomed. Unravelled. And yet, why did he get the impression that he had seen this lake before? He looked at the lake and the lake looked back at him with his own eyes, his own face, his own self. Who knows himself? Scimarajh?
But other thoughts than these occupied him. How deep was the lake? How safe? He was not deceived by the apparent calm of the lake. The last months and years of his life had brought him danger in all forms, at unexpected turns, and he had learned to take nothing for granted. Not even a little lake.
He looked about. Nature’s voice had increased in volume. So Scimarajh calmed down. By his feet lay a long, thin pole. He picked it up and, holding it at one end, slowly immersed it into the water of the lake. Nothing. Presently he revolved his hand, stirring the water and all the while peering pin-point sharp into it, tense and concentrated.
After a long time of testing and watching, investigating, checking and waiting, his body slowly relaxed; the skin around his eyes, formerly tightened, smoothened out again and he let the faithful pole back out of the lake, carefully replacing it back down by his feet where it had formerly lain.
The lake was safe, just like any other.
Now that he had become satisfied of that, his movements again became brisk and sure. Speedily he took off his garments, knelt down in the soft, mossy grass and folded them. Then he opened up his little back-pack and gazed with delighted eyes at its contents.
Three beautiful precious stones, his sole possessions and objects of his deep love. He had acquired them laboriously through his long, long journeys. And he guarded them with all his might, for without them he would never make his way into the Land of Bliss. His former teacher, the Master of the Sea, had told him so himself. And he was going to present them to the King of Joy when he finally made his entry into the Land of Bliss.
He could not suppress the cry of joy that escaped his lips as his heart soared in these thoughts. Then he came back to the moment. To work! To work! Quickly, but very neatly, he folded his faithful garments one more time and arranged them inside the back-pack. Then, arising anew, he strapped the pack unto his back and prepared to dive in. He concentrated.
Suddenly he heard it. Loud and clear!
“Do not dive into the Lake of Love!” –
Scimarajh started up, whipped his head around, saw nobody. He looked and looked. Nothing stirred. Nature had quietened again. Had he heard wrong? He listened hard and heard absolute silence communing with itself.
The silence filled him like a wave.
His head began to swim. Not for a second did it occur to him to immerse himself in the feeling. To know what it was. Rather he resisted it. What?, he thought. After getting so close?! … No way! …
He shook his head vigorously and sharpened his eyes on the silver-surface of the lake. I must have heard wrong, he told himself repeatedly, remembering the mirages he once used to see in the deserts and the imaginary sounds he once also heard in the forests when tension was high. It must be the same phenomenon, he assured himself, and the nearness of the end of my journey is making me dizzy.
In his heart of hearts, however, a contrary intuition stirred, but he drowned it with the clamour of his thoughts, and his desire.
Bent at the knee … tensed his muscles … breathed in … and dived in …
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.