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A play in one act

Our story is set in the Cave of Other, a place where those seeking enlightenment come to pray. The only lighting is a single lantern hanging from the ceiling, which casts flickering shadows on the walls. Painted on them are drawings of various scenes, ranging from crude stick figures hunting an animal to a beautiful maiden sitting by a stream. Carved out stone at the back of a cave is a sample altar with runes engraved on it. No one knows who built this place, or how, but it has been here for as long as anyone can remember. To normal eyes it is an ordinary cave. But if you follow the right map, it will reveal its secrets.

A man enters the cave. He's large and powerfully built, dressed in a simple brown robe. His hair and beard are long and ungroomed. Like all who come to the Cave of Other, he is a troubled man, with much to atone for. Here he hopes to find both enlightenment and the path of forgiveness. He kneels in front of the altar, and from his robe pulls a small vial of yellow liquid.

MAN: Oh great Goddess of the Earth, I wish for audience with thee. I come as your humble servant, and as a sacrifice give you my dreams. Do with them what you see fit.

He uncorks the bottle, bows his head, and pours the contents of the bottle on the altar. After this he stands and waits.

MAN: Oh Goddess, please hear my prayer! I have traveled many hundreds of miles to speak with thee. I have braved the mountains of Himalaya and the blizzards of Siberia all for your word and never have I rested in a place built by Man or traveled in his vehicles. I have heard this cave brings enlightenment, and enlightenment is what I require.

GODDESS (off stage): Then you may have it.

The goddess walks in from stage right. Today she's taken the form of a beautiful woman, with long brown hair and sharp blue eyes. Braided into her hair are vines, and her feet are caked with wet mud. Two ram horns emerge from her forehead and curl back. She's dressed plainly, in a light grey gown flecked with dirt.

GODDESS: Why have you come to me? What do you seek that requires audience with the Goddess of the Earth?

MAN (bowing in reverence): Goddess, I have found myself lost in the world, and to regain my bearings.

She considers this.

GODDESS: My counseling is not to be taken lightly. Many find it difficult to accept the truths I offer. Unless you are willing to hear what you do not wish to, I would recommend you return to your home, and put thoughts of enlightenment aside. Knowing this, you may ask three questions of me, and no more. Choose them wisely.

MAN: You are too kind Goddess. My first question is simple. Many years ago, I worked for an organization who committed terrible deeds to prevent worse ones from transpiring, which I assume you are aware of. Since leaving that organization, the atrocities I have committed rest heavy on my mind. Tell me, Goddess, what can I do to cleanse my spirit of my sins?

GODDESS (sighing): I am sorry, but your spirit is forever tainted. Your actions were born out of necessity, true, but the gods are not quick to forgive even then. The most you can strive for is to work to color your soul with kindness, and hope it is enough to outweigh what you have done.

MAN (nods): I see. Thank you for your frank reply. My second question is this. Since leaving that organization I have wandered the earth in an attempt to find a man I once wronged while working for them, who I assumed you know of. Where can I find this man?

GODDESS: The man you seek lives in the city of Hamburg, Germany, and does not wish to be found. What you did to him is not something he can forgive. If you truly want to help him, leave him where he is, with his family. It is not your place to meddle further in his life.

The man is silent for several moments before speaking again. This answer has greatly disturbed him.

MAN: Then I have a final question. In my lifetime, I have seen horrible things, things that threaten the foundation of life itself. I have come to realize that humanity is a very, very small thing when compared to the rest of the universe, and those who attempt to protect are only holding back the inevitable. So I ask you this: Why should I keep living? When I know there is no hope, why should I not end my life?

At this, the Goddess smiles.

GODDESS: Because, Bartholomew, there is hope. Humanity's end is not inevitable, merely a possibility. You act as if life follows a certain path, when really it is a maze with many different endings. Yes, it can be cruel. Yes, it can seem hopeless. But it can also be glorious and wonderful. What you see today won't be what you see tomorrow. Of all things, remember this: Nothing is unchangeable. Nothing is set in stone unless you will it to be. Now, you have had your questions. Leave this place, and do not return.

Bartholomew thinks on what she said for a moment, then bows deeply.

BARTHOLOMEW: Thank you for your wise words Goddess. I will take them into consideration.

He leaves the cave. Curtains close.

I never really took Bart for much of a writer, but this is pretty interesting. I found it in the truck he left me in his will, along with a bunch of other writings like it. Do you think he could have been a former Bookburner? He never did like to talk about his past much.
- Luke

Stored in the 109th page of the Ophiuchus Codex.

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