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There is beauty in heartbreak.

One upon a time, there was a man.

Yet he was not a man, for he was not borne from a mother, conceived by a father, nor did he
belong to any soil on this earth. But this soil now he walks. He is bound by neither time nor
distance for remember, he is not a man. He is not God over the worlds, and neither can he call
the fruit of knowledge one sprung from his seed. He is hung, suspended between the almighty
Immortal and the Human bound to his fate.

But our earth he chooses to roam, for it is as mystical and majestic to him as the celestial worlds
are to us, blinking from the open skies, taunting for an attempt to reach out and touch.

He yearns for the essence of mortal existence. Life is a beautiful mystery to him, a collection of
knowledge and understanding so deep, that to fathom the intricacies of the pendulum swing is a
quest worth embarking on, even if it took every hour of every day, for all time. And no one knows
better than he, the dimensions of eternity. Because remember, he is not a man.

Yet the secrets of mortality are what he seeks.

He starts at the beginning.

"Speak to me," he says, "of innocence."

He chose a random point in time, like you and I would blindfolded, in front of a map. For surely
innocence was everywhere, always and constant? So he thought, believing in the entire goodness
of the Lord's favourite creation. His descent was on a dark, stormy night, but we can forgive him
that, because he did not know the cliché of it all. Down he came, leaving his destination to
chance or destiny- or both, sweeping down in swirling rain and mist and cloud, onto whatever
land the revolution of the earth brought to his feet.

He came into our world in the dead of the night, the dark before dawn. The downpour of water
from the heavens was one even he blinked twice at, for not even He could fully appreciate
without the experience, the intensity of a monsoon.

The fates had brought him into topography of dense jungle, harsh insect cries and rain, the
constant, ever-drenching rain. He shuddered at the wetness he felt on his new skin. Indeed, he
had come fully prepared for human interaction, down to human form, complete with a unique
visage and innumerable flaws. And yet, not quite. But luckily for him, man had distractions
enough, to hardly ever look twice.
He took in his surroundings, undecided as to whether it was the first century or twenty-first,
because nature will be nature, regardless of millennia. The jungle floor was carpeted with earth
turned to oozing mud, the crawling inhabitants of the jungle scuttling for shelter under enormous
leaves and wooden stumps.

And so he walked, without fatigue, for what could have been hours, or minutes- it was hard to
tell in such dense, humid lands. Eventually, somewhere beyond the raindrops, he caught sight of
human life.

There in a distant clearing surrounded by towering trees stood a village, a collection of huts and
streets nestled between the leaves, bamboo walls and roofs resiliently taking a beating from the
rain. It took some imagination to forget for a moment, the downpour and imagine how the
porches would have usually been, straw armchairs decorated with bright weavings, lazily
arranged next to flung open doors. The lone object that looked now like a twisted heap of metal
would in the blazing daylight be identifiable as the rusty bicycle it was. He could practically hear
the sounds, the chattering voices of girls, boys yelling immersed in their games, the piercing
falsettos of the women.

There would be no men folk, for just beyond the small framework of the town, the vegetation
slowly thinned and there stood what looked like drowning rice fields. In His mind's eye, at this
imagined time of day in the leafy afternoon, they would need tending to, and every grown son of
the village would be doing his duty, like the generations of men before him.

. But the harsh reality he saw now gave little signs of such life ever engulfing this tiny world.
The Man wondered, why he caught no glimpse of flame between wall chinks, heard no sound
except the torrents of rain hitting the leaves.

He made his way closer, the evidence of life becoming more and more defined in the darkness
with every step he took. When he reached the threshold of the village, an erection came into
view that on a closer look proved to be a gate. Travelling along both sides of it were tall bamboo
hedges. It was as if they were defining in a literal sense, the world of isolation of this
community. His fingers chanced upon an etching in the wood, and as he looked, he read the
words illuminated for him with light that would not shine for you or me. Remember, he was not
a man.

"Phép vua thua lệ làng"


And he understood, in more ways than one. The place, the rain, the solitude of the jungle. 'The
king's law yields to the Village,' it said, the words not eluding him for an instance, for he was
learnt in every tongue known to mankind.
Including Vietnamese.
*

He stepped forth, through the gate, now upon the threshold of this empty shell of what was once
living, thriving. On he walked, between the huts, his footsteps disappearing into the swirling mud
as soon as he took them. There was confusion in his mind, he did not understand. What would
bring about such an exodus, such a tumultuous leaving of a home, a life? As he passed the
houses, he saw every sign of hurried fleeing, doors standing wide open, chairs and tables visible
through the threshold- overturned. He hesitated, before turning, and stepping inside one of the
agape entrances. Momentarily shielded from the drenching rain, he turned, and gathered in his
surroundings.
The walls were of tin, bamboo, and mud, meshed together in an unconventional but effective
way, shielding the inhabitant from Mother Nature. There were two doorways, leading from this
room. The walls, though modest, were beautified with colourful tapestries, showing images of
the rice fields. But they were marred, with rips and tatters. A few lay on the ground. There was
an overturned table to the side.
As he stepped closer, he noticed a small corner of the room that was unusually kempt, erect,
unbroken. It was a sort of wooden casing, intricately carved. In it encased were scrolls neatly
arranged, and tablets, undoubtedly old, and venerated. They were inscribed with lettering, and to
his babelic mind, there was an understanding of their meaning. They were names, along with
dates, and seemed to belong to the same family, going back generations. They were undoubtedly
important, for even with the chaotic state of the room, nothing seemed as taken care of, and
guarded as these.
He stood as if a statue, to take it all in, hoping that a shred of light would be cast. And then
suddenly, he stiffened. He had heard something. So soft, so muffled, a hushed sigh on the wind.
He listened, patiently. Then, there was a cough. And it came from one of the small doorways.
Slowly, he stepped inside, and took in the darkness, willing light in so he could see who his
companion was. It was dismal, and even with his personal luminescence, a dark depression
seemed to be seeped into the nooks and crannies, it spoke of neglect, indifference and
hopelessness. A small straw mattress lay by the far wall, and on it a bundle of cloth and ragged
blankets concealing a human form.
An arrow of thrill shot through him.
Finally, his first brush with living humanity. His first chance at comprehension of this allusive,
beautifully flawed race, whose existence was barely a fraction of his, yet possessed that which he
did not. He felt, as man would face to face with the angels. But it was not one and the same, for
his existence transcended the Angelical.
He moved closer, with heavy a step, as to make known his presence. At the noise, a small hand
became visible, and slowly with shaking fingers, pulled back the blanket to reveal a face.
She was frail and aged, this was apparent from the countless lines and marks etched onto her
face. A fearful gaze peered though folds that held almond shaped eyes. Her mouth was a pucker,
with no teeth in sight. Hair that was grey and flecked with white lay disentangled around her tiny
face, and it was apparent she lay in a state of neglect. She was not what he had expected. He had
dreamt of beauty and grace, connected inextricably by the status mankind held, favourites of the
gods.
She may have been beautiful once, but what marred her face was not age, but a feeling that he
could not understand, could not put a name to. It made his chest heavy, dark with absent joy.
At the first sight of him, her face contorted with fear, and she shied away to her corner. But
almost as suddenly, a mask of hate took over and she spoke, spitting out the words.
‘Come back, have you? What will you take now, I have nothing left!’ Her voice was barely
above a whisper, but the hatred in the words was explicit.
‘I am not who you think I am,’ he said softly. His voice, unheard until now, was melodious, as if
he were singing without song, a melody without music. Though a man’s voice, rich and deep, it
had an unearthly quality, and to an ear that was gifted with a sense of such things, there would be
something unrecognisable about it, setting him apart.
Such was the impression on her, and she was silent. Yet darkness prevailed and turned her sight
to blindness. Fear was still present, aiding her trembling.
‘What do you want? I have nothing left, I swear it.’ Her words were bitter, and now that the
surprise of the intrusion was wearing a little, she was uncaring, as to who, or what lay before her.
He knelt till he was level with her face, which was turned away, as if in a final defiance. Slowly
he reached out, and turned her to him, to meet her gaze. And she looked onto his features, into
his bottomless eyes and almost at once, peace wrapped itself around her, and she felt as if in a
dream. As if nothing was a surprise, he and his presence were the most natural things in the
world. Such was the power of his soul, bending to his will.
After a moment her gaze slackened and she lay back on her tattered bed. Her sadness still shone
through her eyes, piercing the very molecules of stillness, but for now she was calm. There were
questions in her stare abundant, but no need to put them into words, for she sensed he would
speak again. And so he did.
‘Tell me your story.’ It was a simple request, yet encompassed all that he desired to understand.
She shuddered, and drew in a long breath. There was a still silence, cold and empty. But he did
not push her. And then she turned to him with glistening tears in her wounded eyes, and related
her narrative.
She told him how this had been her village. Her forefathers’ and her children’s. This is where
they had lived for generations, and it was their home, slowly evolving with time but never losing
the essence of their age old customs, belief still deeply instilled in every new child, the old ways
and rituals never being forgotten.
The tablets in the main room, she said, were the most important thing in the house because they
preserved her lineage, and the memory of her ancestors, whom she and her kin had turned to in
prayer, evoking blessings upon their house. Such had been their existence. Content and happy.
Till the world crept in, and in a cruel turn tore it apart.
‘Men came, first some then others- telling us different things, forcing us to join them, or to hate
the others, things we did not understand!’ She said, gesticulating wildly. ‘We just wanted to live,
to be let alone. The ways of the world are not ours, nor did we need them. We were preserved,
innocent from all the heartbreak on the outside.’
Innocent.
The fibres in his human form stood still. The first step towards enlightenment, within his reach.
He waited, with eagerness hidden, for her to continue. To tell him- to show him what it was to be
whole. Untarnished.
But worlds failed her, and the wetness in her eyes now poured silently down her face. Sobs
racked her slight frame, as if releasing a dam of something pent up inside, aching. Confusion
found its way into his mind, and he knew not what to do.
‘What happened to your village?’
‘They took them.’ She whispered. ‘They came with their weapons and their war. They took my
sons and ravaged my daughters, commodities in this horror we could not escape. They took
everything they desired for themselves, and tore apart everything else....’ She could go no
further.
‘And you?’ He asked softly.
‘Everyone who was spared, left. There was nothing left here.’ She replied dully.
Then she turned to him, and for a moment the depth of her eyes, equalled his. ‘But I stayed. Here
is where I lived, here is where I die.’
‘This is my home.’
And then, silence sprung eternal. He was a statue, and she lay quietly in her place. The silent
weeping laid naked her soul. No more words needed to be said, for the residue of her tale lay all
around them, painfully real. Nothingness, a skeleton of what once was.
He spoke, breaking the silence, letting a sliver of life back in.
“Show me innocence. Please,” he said softly. There was a quiet pleading in his voice. He wanted
to understand. Oh, how he longed for it. But she simply turned to him, and her eyes echoing the
numb grief in her heart, she turned his yearning hope to dust.

“Innocence?” She said, the bitterness resounding, strong. “Innocence is lost.”

*
And I walk the night, into the mist.

Who am I, you ask?

Who I am, whatever I am... I wander.

I search for something that will seep life into an eternal shell. One that I call me, myself- all that
I am. To this world I came, and it is here now that I search for the light.

You mortals, gone so fleetingly it is as if you never were. How I envy you. How I long for the life
that runs through your veins.

Speak to me, I will wait. I will wait an eternity for just a drop.

You amaze me. You who live, amidst an existence that encompasses all that is, all that was.

What is it to feel? What is it you feel? For one and both, I will learn.

Innocence I asked of her, innocence she denied. I saw her pain and I wondered why. What waste
of life is the choice of hate. I would turn the tables with the merest of you.

And so where do I turn? Where do I find truly the sacredness of the soul that is whole?

And she said, look for it in Pain. In the midst of pain when you find that which is untouched, you
will find what you seek.

So I took away her suffering and said my farewell. Now I walk through shadow and time, mist
and light.

I judge you, for all that I see. You look, and then you walk on by. But I see you.

Where is valour? Immortality is not that which surrounds me. It is in the memory of honour set
in stone.

Where is yours?

Pray for me, fallen child. It is your redemption I seek.

*
And he walked into day and night. The words of the woman lingered on, her grief unsung. He
glided through the worlds of man, through seconds and centuries. And he yearned, every
moment of those, for the answer, so tantalising, yet so out of reach. The world of men turned his
hopes to dust, and he wept for ignorance. He witnessed virtue evanesce into nothingness, and the
hardening of hearts.

He remained but a shadow, a witness to the lives of others. But even to the most prying of eyes
he passed unnoticed. He was a dream, and lingered only in a slight of wonder, a sense of déjà vu.
The profundity of his being remained vastly invisible.

And he would recite her words, and encase them in his human heart. Innocence in the midst of
pain. So it was in sorrow that he dwelt, in heartbreak he hid, hoping to witness the glow of
virtue. He walked through wars, sat in blood, calling out silently for the one silver lining. Yet he
lingered on still thirsting, answers availing not his cry.

To say what time passed would fail sense when it came to his wanderings. He went back and
forth, walking, always walking. Strange lands, strange people. The things he witnessed were
incredible and would dazzle the minds of mortals, but without understanding in his heart, they
were lacklustre.

And so it was in this way that he came to be in another land on another day, one more step in his
mindless journey.

The place was a stark contrast to the land of his maiden landing, the jungles had vanished and
streets littered the earth, and people swarmed the streets. He walked, mingling in with the hustle
and bustle, taking in his surroundings. The sun glared sharply, and the buildings were small,
earthen constructions, crammed into all empty space, leaving a mingling contrast of grey and
brown on the horizon. The dust swirled everywhere, rising up with footsteps, dancing on skin.
The people themselves were a tall race, with hardened faces. But he was used to these; they
seemed to accompany sorrow hand in hand.

Still, the streets bustled with life, shops on every side, men about their business, children darting
in between. The women were few, but present, garbed to their feet in dark robes, hair hidden
underneath tightly wound scarves. They could be heard bartering, bargaining, and arguing with
vendors selling their ware. The men too, were dressed in a robe like clothing that came to their
knees, with baggy trousers and worn sandals. Most of them were bearded and there was
fierceness in their weather-beaten faces that commanded respect, that spoke of harsh times. For it
did not require plentiful wisdom to ascertain that troubled times had stricken these lands before.
The place reeked of poverty, visible in cracks and wear, and the very air of the people
themselves, spoke of survival.

On he went, winding through the living, the breathing, the buildings and the dust. Weary he was,
but only in his mind, for even the immortal was not immune to hopelessness. Slowly his sense of
purpose was evading him, and he felt the emptiness of the hole, unfilled with the treasures he
sought.
And he remembered the words of the Lord.

They sat in a garden of light, creator and creation. They lay witness to a world far away, and as
they watched, the latter turned to his master and asked him why he loved them so, these beings
so distant.

‘What do they possess that I do not? Am I inferior?’

And The Lord looked at him with love and without words or sound, without anything that could
ever be explained, told him how all were loved, angel, man, and him, yet each possessing that
which the other did not.

So he asked what it was that set Man apart, and The Lord smiled, and granted his subject a
single drop of knowledge.

And so he learnt, of Man’s free will, of nobility and grace. Of valour and glory, and he was
bewitched. To understand, to feel- to have an existence so fleeting that each and all aspects in
life mattered.

The infinite circle, wrapped in a mortal heart.

And so he requested The Creator.

‘Let me walk amongst them. Let me understand.’

His Master granted his subject his whim, and in an infinite nothingness it was done, and one
creation now mingled with the other, so ready and so eager.

And now The Lord looked from above upon his subject’s ceaseless wandering, for the virtue of
mortality. He witnessed his loss of hope and disappointment.

He smiled, for He knew that which the other did not.

As he walked on, his surroundings became more and more bleak. Destruction out massed
creation and the streets were covered with debris, rubble of a time long gone. The shops were
gone, and houses took their place- If they could be called that. Shacks with scant shelter, dirt
ridden and grim. The sun was setting, and the rays of twilight settled in the air. Through
doorways he saw hard working women, struggling to turn speck into ample nourishment for
children waiting eagerly nearby. So young, yet their eyes spoke of desperation.

In the corner of the street, there was a pile of rubble, heaped with debris, rubbish and broken
stone. On it, there sat a child, gently stroking something in her hand.

There was something about her that pressed the need to look closer, upon even this anomaly
amongst men, and he stepped forward, towards her.

She was small, even for a child. Her years could not have been more than a few, and she sat
daintily on the rubbish pile, as stark a contrast as any. Her hair was already long, reaching past
her shoulders. It was raven black, and reminded him of the velvetiness of the moonless night.
Her face was unlike those of the other children, with lighter skin like ivory, and features more
delicate. But it was her eyes that pulled him forward. Such blue eyes, they seemed to put the
deep seas to shame, containing flecks of what appeared as miniscule rays of light, shining bright.
There was an expression in those eyes that set her apart. It was devoid of the hunger and
mourning he had seen blinking back at him countless times. Her gaze was focused on a tiny pile
of rags in her arms, which on a second look appeared to be a doll.

She seemed oblivious to everything else, as she gently stroked its stringy hair.

He stood there for many minutes, silently watching. And then a girl in a blue dress, of a youthful
age stepped out of a nearby shack, and as she looked around, she came upon the sight before her.
A child, immersed in her toy, and a young man standing a few steps away, silently watching but
with such intensity, that finally, he became worthy of notice.

‘Peace, sir.’ She spoke to him in a vibrant tongue. He turned, snapping out of his reverie and
faced her.

‘Are you looking for something?’ She questioned politely.

‘I... yes. I’m searching for something that I believed to be here, to exist. But I think now I have
been searching in vain, for there is only bleakness here.’ He replied.

Before she could vent her curiosity, she met his eyes and once again, the inhuman peace in him
worked its magic. She then nodded along, apparently understanding his words.

He hesitated for a moment, and then it seemed that some question within him could not wait to
surface, and he turned to her.

‘What is this child doing here, on this pile of ruin?’

The girl looked at the child perched on the heap and after a moment, she spoke reflectively. ‘She
seems to be busy playing with her doll. She’s so immersed in her game of make believe, she does
not seem to care where she is.’

He furrowed his brow, and something rested heavily on his face, wrinkling it into a frown.

‘But how can that be? How can she be as content as she seems, when everything around her is
broken? When the world she knows is sitting in ruin?
She stared at the child, and for a moment they both stood there, watchfully observing the young
one oblivious to their presence, he lost in wonderment at the paradox of her surrounding, and she
lost in thought, searching for an answer.

Finally, she spoke.

‘She is just a child. She does not see the bad differentiated from the good yet. This is her world,
and she accepts it.’

He took in her words, and for a moment there was blank obliviousness to his mind. But then
there was a burst of light and realisation showered, like raindrops onto his parched soul.

And then he knew. Innocence was not a life full of simple dreams and happiness. There was no
contentment and imperviousness to evil. The follies of man had reduced so beautiful a thing to
this. Innocence was in the cherishing of a rag doll upon a pile of rubble. In the masking for a
precious time the despair that Man chose to bring to the world.

Innocence was a child.

A sense of loss overcame him. He wanted to feel, but not this. This heart wrenching absence of
such good was not what he sought. And he wondered about the purpose of it all.

With a heart that would have been heavy had it existed, He sadly bid his goodbye to the girl in
the blue dress.

“I am sorry you did not find what you were looking for,” she said. “But fear not...There is
redemption yet.”

He shook his head.

“What redeems innocence lost?” And he gestured around him to the destruction, the emptiness
and stone. “What makes this world bearable?”

But she just smiled and turned away. And just before she was gone, he caught a whisper that
seemed to caress the wind.

“Love.”

And it was then that His story truly began.

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