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  • Writer's picturedragoman7002

The Small Village




In a small village, filled with rustic huts and smoldering campfires, lived a young boy. One day, while completing his daily tasks on his usual path, dusty and tucked deep in the woods, he stumbled upon a body. The body rested in the middle of an old, wooden bridge where the only sounds one could hear were the swirling of the winds, and the rushing of the river that trenched through the wilderness. At first glance, he was quick to notice the absence of a heartbeat, the greyness of it’s lips, and a chill permeating from the limbs. The body, although lifeless, had the most unusual characteristic that caught his attention immediately. A big smile. The boy fixated on the corpse with fascination. Though this was not the first time he had come across a body on this dreary path, he knew that today was different. This body was different. 


The trail was known to be very treacherous, thus very few villagers ever ventured. The boy, young and naive, was one of the few required to make the trek. He was well aware of the path’s nature, but had not yet truly understood it’s real dangers.

 

As dawn approached, he returned home, eager to ask his father about what he encountered. “Why was the man smiling?” the boy asked without hesitation. “Something must have been wrong with him”, his father replied, insisting the boy pay less attention to the body and more to what had happened to him, “or else you may suffer the same fate.”


The boy, unable to comprehend at the moment, was not satisfied with this answer. He went to his mother. “Mother, why was the man smiling?” The mother replied, “The man must not live around here.” The young boy, still dissatisfied with this answer decided to talk to the oldest and wisest villager. The boy found the wisest woman, with a pipe in hand, and asked “why was the man smiling?” After several long moments of silence, the contemplative wise women whispered, “Cogito, ergo sum.” The boy did not understand. Confused and frustrated, he begged her to explain. The wisest woman smiled softly and retreated back to her thoughts. 


The boy’s question spread throughout the village, leaving many concerned that the body possessed an evil and needed to be extradited. The boy did not share the same concerns and continued to visit the body, trying to find clues to understand what lay on that path. He examined every inch of the body but found no signs of explanation. In his mind, he searched for answers. How? Why? He spent many sleepless nights questioning and contemplating. 


Not giving up, the boy decided that maybe the answer lied in the ancient text that the village had accumulated over many centuries. He would read books and transcripts from the wisest mystics to the biggest intellects of his time and prior. He read and read and read, and would never find the answer that he was seeking. 


The boy became isolated. He continued to travel the same path day in and day out, all the time trying to come to terms with the occurrence. Even when the boy tried as hard as he could to forget, he couldn’t alleviate the feeling of not knowing. Cycling through the knowledge he’d accumulated over time still wasn’t enough to satiate his curiosity.


The boy had come of age and was no longer required to walk the path. This upset the boy, but the villagers could not understand why. They would ask “why do you wish to continue down the dangerous path?” The boy didn’t have the words to explain and would merely, but respectfully as possible, shrug and give a smile.


People in the village would continue to question him, incessantly. His parents became concerned about his behavior and punished him. Eventually, the village elders refused to support the boy any longer, forcing him to fend for himself. The boy slipped into seclusion. 


Unable to comprehend why this had happened, he began to believe that something was wrong with him. Even with that, the boy was still unable to shake the image of the smiling corpse. The seasons passed and soon the years, all the while the boy continued to travel this path day in and day out. His obsession continued, taking notes on every little difference he had encountered from the totality of the environment, down to the very minute detail of the patterns on the leaves. As the path aged, so did he. The boy was now a man. 


To the village elders, he became known as the crazy man of the woods. To children, he should be feared. Men and women alike were told to not take heed of anything he said or did. This troubled the man and eventually he accepted that he was not living a worthy life. The man convinced himself to give up on answering the question that plagued his mind for years and knew he must return to the village. For many years following, the man lived in a thick cloud of deceit. Though he smiled, he felt only sorrow.


Every day the path consumed his thoughts, but he buried them deep so as not to alarm the villagers. Doing so, however, pushed him further away. He never felt one with the whole and couldn’t understand why he remained the only one to care. More bodies would come to pass, all with the same lifeless characteristics, but none resembled the one he knew so well. 


On his last trip down the path, the man wandered near the edge of a cliff. He recounted the years wasted looking for an answer, with nothing to show for it. “Nothing!” he shouted, his voice echoing over the cavernous depths beneath him. He was tortured by the nagging in his mind and, in that moment, determined the only way to escape was to end his life. Just as he lifted his foot to take a step to his death, “Cogito, ergo sum.” Startled, he looked around and yelled “What does this mean!” He yelled again loudly, for all the village to hear. 


Once again, he was exiled to the outer reaches of their territory. He became an evil plague, shunned and feared by the village. The man, in all of his despair, went back to where he had once been. Everything similar except for the passage of time. The man accepted that he would never find his answer because the answer didn’t exist and things simply were as they were. 


Eventually the village had grown and the path had long been forgotten. It was deemed too dangerous, so the village abandoned it. The man pressed on, never aware of the changing times. More years began to pass and now the man had eventually become, like the path, old, dusty and abandoned. His walking would continue to grow slower and slower and his life was beginning to dwindle. The man wouldn’t stray from the path, not once. Even with the danger, the answer to his question would continually run on a loop through his head. 


One day, the man was going about his routine of finding his opus. For the first time, the man was walking and slipped on a rock. He fell hard to the ground, and couldn’t stand. He tried everything from crawling to yelling for help, but none would hear the old man’s call. As he lay there, the familiar path beneath him, he felt a rush of regret for not doing anything with his life. He had deemed his life worthless.


Defeated, the man took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He had given up on any thoughts he once had of saving himself from this dire situation. The man’s breathing began to get more rapid with every passing moment. The man, looking up at the sky, noticed how vast and never-ending it was. All of these years traveling down the same path, day in and day out, never once had he looked up. Then, like a jolt of lightning coming from the earth, it hit the old man. “Cogito, ergo sum” over and over in his mind. The old man gasped, let out a small giggle and smiled as his breath began to leave his body. 


Several days later a group of village children snuck down the abandoned path. As they were walking, they stumbled upon the man’s body. Most of the children were scared and ran away immediately, but one small girl stayed to take a closer look. As she gazed down over the body, resting lifelessly on the small, wooden bridge, she wondered, “why is the man smiling?”


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