The Art of Living

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15. An End in a Beginning

The old woman talked to him, and her voice began to grow stronger with every word, until all at once, she seemed a young girl. She might have been the petite young woman sitting on her balcony again. She explained her family to Quicksilver- how, sinking in her own sorrow and pain, she had abandoned the company of humanity, and how she had lived here since that day. She admitted, for the first time in her life, that her family had been replaced by the beasts that stalked the mountain- and perhaps, just perhaps, there was a possibility that she herself had created them. She told him about the wolves- all of them, the entire pack, their deep wisdom, their disappearance. And all at once, the old woman realized she made sense to Quicksilver. He made the connections awfully fast; compared to her lethargy, anything was faster. He had walked into the cottage that morning along with the wolves, and he had seen them feast, even counted their number.

There was no real indication that they existed. Sarah had never directly revealed that she believed in them; the old woman had always felt that everything Sarah did was to humor her. Even if the wolves did not exist, and they were figments out of her imagination, she knew that Sarah would still have helped her ladle out the stew. But it was at this moment that she saw the same blank, distant look in Quicksilver’s eyes- the very same look Sarah had given her before leaving.

It was an expression that told the old woman that she was off to search for something, but she knew not what she had lost. It was a journey being undertaken to lose something and regain it. To grasp something one more time, and this time, refuse to let it go. The old woman wondered if she was the crossroads for these two- that through her, they feel an intense sense of abandonment, leaving all behind. Was she a common factor- issuing words to these people- eventually influencing them to move forward and into ambiguity?

But it seemed less like that to the old woman. She felt like the wisdom of the wolves had descended on her. With a bony, weary hand, she pointed out the door, to the exact direction in which Sarah had walked when she last disappeared. Now that she thought about it, it was also the very last time a wolf had been seen as it ascended into the mountainous woods. Convinced that Sarah had left on this strange animal expedition, to locate and speak to the slowly-withering away pack of wolves, the old woman spoke her mind to Quicksilver, who seemed to be barely listening.

He had been convinced, very easily, that his quest for answers would end nearby. For the past few hours, he had been aimless, simply drinking tea and wondering at the universe. And now, he had a clear objective. The old woman knew that he had come all this way for Sarah- but a nagging suspicion had kept him in the cottage. Without her story, would the man have assumed that she, beneath her wrinkles, was Sarah? Perhaps, and perhaps not. And so, she watched as the Professor that always had his answers in books stand up to embrace the mist. He threw himself out of the door, turning to nod at the old woman.

Did he believe he would find Sarah at the end of this long journey? Did he even acknowledge the possibility of never returning- like her? Something at the back of her mind told the old woman that there was every possibility that anything could happen. After all, this was a man shattered by love and yet, seeking the reason for its breakage at the same time. Did such a man have a purpose at all? And was this living? To seek out answers even if the questions were blurred like wet paper?

The old woman made her tea till the end of her days, and the wolves do not come anymore. Perhaps joining the old Professor in his search, perhaps disappearing forever into the mountains. The old woman makes her tea, and her stew, musing that there was every chance that on her deathbed, Sarah and Quicksilver would appear again, just for her blessings. And so she waited- for an old man and a young woman who had left her years, millennia ago, and were yet to return. And maybe- they would not. Is this not the art of living, asked the old woman to herself? To not know, and to know at the same time? To explore, and be explored at the same time? To give yourself to the earth which you came from, only for a reason to go on? The art of living, perhaps, was the ability to walk from place to place, and never have roots spring up around you. Quicksilver would find his wolf, and with it, he would find Sarah, and with her, he would clamber across the mountains forever. The old woman amused herself by thinking that he and Sarah would reappear at her doorstep, only with paws and not feet, claws and not nails, fangs and not teeth, fur and not clothes.

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