woman. They hadn’t always been old
of course, but like everyone and everything else on planet earth, time and
entropy worked ceaselessly on their physical form, changing them outwardly day
by day. The old man was a blacksmith who crawled out of bed every day at 6am to start the fire that turned his forge into a devilish furnace of heat and flame.
Every morning he worked hard making horseshoes, sparks flying off the anvil as he beat the metal into shape. Every afternoon he hammered those horseshoes onto the hooves of the horses of his customers. The old man’s back hurt him cruelly, and the pain made him bad tempered and irritable. Often he would explode in temper and strike a horse with his metal rasp if it refused to hold up its leg. The old man’s pain pain robbed him of his compassion for the animals he once truly and deeply loved.
At the end of the day the old man would drink all his profits in whiskey. The liquor dulled the pain in his back and the pain in his heart. He drank to forget where he was, and to dream where he could be. Every night the old woman would watch him go through the same things in
his mind. She would listen while he slurred that he was going to save his money and take a holiday. Every night he would talk of Australia and the Brumbies – those beautiful, wild horses that roam the outback. Always his eyes would shine with vibrant dreams of space and freedom that was to be found in the bush country, and the wonder of the aboriginal magic that was as old as time itself. As he drank, it wasn’t long before he remembered that he would never save enough to make the journey of his desires. As he drank the money, he was soon consumed by the futility of his dreams and the torment of his spirit. He would finish the first bottle and, as always, call
harshly at the old woman for another, and soon enough his once shining eyes would turn glazed and milky and he would begin to rant and rage, throwing himself around as the pain of his tortured life returned and the whiskey robbed
him of his reason.
One night the old woman went outside to draw water from the well. She felt safe
as the old man was sleeping, a half empty bottle still grasped in his hand. She let the bucket down into the depths of the well. Down and down it went until she felt it touch the surface of the water, and then sink slowly while it filled. She took a breath and thought of her own long years. The old woman was not like the man. There was a part of her, deep down inside, that knew.
She knew about the game.
Once the bucket was full, the old woman began to turn the handle that would bring it to the surface.
She turned and turned, and the rope began to wind around the spindle. On and on it went, but the bucket came no nearer to the surface. The woman was lost in thought.
She was flying, away above the tree tops of the wood where they
lived. She was amongst the clouds that drifted across the cities and the plains of the world.
She was in the oceans, swimming amongst whales and millions of tiny, neon
fishes that flashed and rippled in awesome dances of synchronicity.
She soared out into the space above the earth and looked back at her
celestial beauty with gratitude and love.
Out she went, further and further, to blend with spiralling galaxies and
exploding supernovas. The old woman was in familiar territory - she was at One with the
Inside the house, the old man stirred, the whisky
bottle still clenched in his hand. His tired eyes noted the empty chair where
the old woman should have been.
Where was she? He lurched
to his feet and stumbled to the door.
Taking another pull on the bottle of whiskey, he called out into the
darkness. “Where are ya?” There
was no reply. He weaved his way to
the door of his forge and yanked it open.
He knew she came here to hide sometimes. “You in here woman?
Where are you?”
By the well, the old woman continued to turn the handle. Her voice floated to him out of the
darkness. “I’ll be back in a minute”. The old man growled and staggered
towards the door. As he turned he fell and hit his head full hard upon the anvil.
On the floor he lay, blood seeping from the wound in his head. He was still, but not
asleep. All at once a bright white light appeared before him – it was shining, blinding him like a sun, right in front of him. He raised his gnarled hand to shield his eyes, and slowly a form appeared.
It was her, the old woman – but no longer old.
She looked ageless - like an angel. She was smiling at him.
The old man couldn’t move – his limbs were as still and static as the
cold iron in his forge. He called out to her. “Who are you?” The old woman held out her hand. “Come with me!”
The old man felt a strange lightness he hadn’t felt since…. Oh, so long ago. He felt nothing, but paradoxically everything at the same time. He was in motion, but a strange stillness engulfed him.
He was no longer in pain.
There was no longer anything about him to hurt. He saw the wild bush
country stretching out into infinity – he heard the pounding hooves of hundreds
of brumbies, dust clouds billowing around them as they thundered passed. He heard the sound of didgeridoos and drum beats echoing through the wildness.
He saw the images of men, and of animals and trees.
He felt and saw it all. He couldn’t touch the old woman with his hands or his body, but somehow felt so close to her there was no longer any separation between them.
All at once, the old man knew.
When daylight came in the woods all was still.
The first horseman arrived and found the body of the old woman sitting by
the well. The bucket stood beside
her, full to the brim. In the forge the body of the old man lay strangely composed.
He looked so calm and peaceful, the horsemen hardly knew him.