To my dear friend,
At last, after years of study and hard work, I have finished deciphering the manuscript. It was so fragile that it crumbled within the first few months of my finding it. I had to finish the translation from the few photographs I was able to make. Though I no longer have the original to prove it genuine, I can assure you that it is so. How, I do not know, but it was real. I relate the remarkable story here for you to read. I have tried to match the wording as close as possible to what was on the original. Keep an open mind . . .
I remember little from my early years. I have a vague memory of being captured and taken from my brothers and sisters, and then put with others of my kind. We became a family, as much as we could. It was a savage family, as any lions would be, when there was no real pride. Every few days, the cave door would open and one of the two-legged beasts would be thrown down to us, for food. I do remember a vague, slight memory in the back of my mind, telling me that these beasts were not for food, but it was so tiny, and our hunger so big, that none of the others – or myself – ever heeded it. Apart from that, we did not need much else. The memories of hunting with my mother were gone. At least, until that day.
It was a normal day, as far as anyone could tell. Yet, I remember it well, for it is, for me, the beginning of my memories. There had been no food for 3 days, and we were hungry. A few of the older lions were getting nervous, for those of us who were younger could have taken them down. Indeed, had food not arrived, we would have. It was just as the sun was going down, that the cave was opened and 3 of the 2-legged beasts brought us a fourth. We were ravenous, and could hardly wait for the door to be closed, so that we could jump and tear and eat.
Normally, we would prowl around our prey once or twice, getting it to run from us. It satisfied in us the desire to hunt, which there was very little of in this place. In our normal manner, we started to move, to growl, and to watch. Then this beast did something that I was totally surprised by. He – I assumed it was a he, for he had that pitiful gathering of hair on its face, which those beasts get, but which is nothing like a real mane – walked slowly into the center of the room and got down on all fours, though with his front paws raised, and closed his eyes.
Now, I have never seen these beasts except as those who brought us food, or running and screaming as we were going to eat it. But, as this one sat there in this very interesting position, a noise started to come from its mouth. I could not quite be sure whether it was growling or moaning, but something about it reminded me of my mother, when I was suckling milk, and her singing me to sleep. I knew that these savage beasts could not know that type of love, so I shook my mane and, along with the others, started to approach. That is when everything changed.
There was this beast, in the center of the room, ignoring us, and we were closing in. I am sure it heard our growls and roars, but it did not even flinch. I wondered if it was deaf. Yet it had seen us, I knew. So, we prepared to spring. Just at the last second, when we were just about to launch, this shining being appeared, next to the other beast. He seemed to be shaped like the other, with 2 legs and their weird habit of balancing on the back feet. Yet, he reminded me of a lion, for there was an unseen mane of majesty around him. I am sure that, if you are not a lion, you would not know. But I knew that, somehow, he was related to the first.
It was clear that no harm could be done to the first, while the second was there. And, indeed, every desire for that fled from me. Some of the others reacted as I did, though some, who were older and more tired, hated them both. I did not. As I looked at the two, I somehow knew that I was more related to the beast that was praying, than to the one who was guarding. Now, you may ask, how did I know it was praying? Indeed, until that moment, I did not know the word. But memories older than me started to arise inside me. I remembered, in some way, being in a garden with a beast like this, and that he was master.
Master. That word has many connotations, does it not? I have since heard that they call those who guard us and throw us food, our masters. They are not. Could any true master not know love of all creatures – and especially its own? Nay, they are not our masters. They are slaves, more truly, of the tiredness which had taken the older ones of us, who did not care, who still wanted to jump and tear and eat. But the shining one would not allow any to come near. Almost none, that is. For there were three of us who did dare.
It was a foolish thing, but something I had to do. And I am more glad that I did than any other thing I have ever done. Though now, in my old age, I wonder if it would not have been better to stay asleep. But I, and the 2 others, came closer. There was a horrible danger we could feel, but there was also something like looking at the sky fire and being able to see it clearly.
We slowly moved closer, and the shining one turned towards us. We stopped, for we knew he alone was more than a match for all of us put together – and the mane of light he wore forbid us to even consider otherwise. But, instead of sending us away, his eyes said that we could come. Somehow, it was home to us, the home we long ago had forgotten, but always remembered, though fleeting.
Every step that I took brought me not only closer to the beast, but made me more awake inside. I started to think thoughts, instead of just feeling instinct. I understood that I was a part of everything, and that there were different levels of beasts. This man – for now I knew that he was of our first master – was to care for all of us, and we were to love him and be loved by him. But I also recognized that things had gone terribly wrong.
I tell you truly, when I understood that, it was the greatest wound I have ever felt. I wanted to roar, and growl and run and tremble and die. Oh, to never have been born a cub, than to realize how badly things were ruined. I can understand that one of us, as he understood, backed away. He could not take the memories, and it was a mercy to him that he was able to forget. But he never was happy again.
In our sadness, the two of us lay down by the first beast. He opened his eyes and saw us there. For a split second he feared, but then he also saw the shining one, and he laid down. The shining one touched him, and he opened his eyes. That one had said something to the beast, but it was words I could not yet understand. But I remember that its name was “Ranrew”, or something like that.
Ranrew sat up and saw us lying next to him. Slowly he reached out and started to stroke our manes. Something inside of me, from somewhere very deep, remembered a picture of 2 beasts like this, stroking us this way. For the first time, I felt like things were just exactly the way they were supposed to be. My earlier grief seemed to flow away, and we started to sing. It was a beautiful time.
For the whole night we stayed there, us and the man. Then I saw the sun starting to come up, and I was scared. I feared the sun, for I somehow knew that the man would leave, and that things would not be the same again. I was desperate and lonely, and I did what none would dare to do. I needed something, though I knew not what. I approached the shining one. I came to stand before him and, thinking that death would be better than sleep, I took his hand in my mouth.
This one was a teacher, from what I understood. I cannot tell you how I know, but I got that sense, that moment. He looked down on me, knowing that there was no malice or evil in my action. He took his other hand and placed it on my head, and the fire came into me. It hurt, but I knew that I could not move. He spoke to me, and I understood him. He said that I would be awake, and that I would understand what had been forgotten from the beginning. I would be a sign for the future, of what will be restored. He said more to me, but I do not remember them, for I slept.
I lay on the stone, unable to move, as I heard the voices of the other men. The king came, and was overjoyed to see that Ranrew was safe. Then others were thrown into the cave, and those of us who were left jumped them. All, that is, except for the two of us who had gotten closer to the man, who had remembered. We never would harm a man after that day, for the memory of our master. The other did not think and understand as I did, for the shining one had not blessed her. But she was faithful to what she did remember.
We became a family, her and I. And, after another year passed, the man Ranrew came to see us. He remembered us, and brought us out to the garden. Somehow, we were never harmed by the other men. They did not understand, but Ranrew made them leave us in peace. We spent many nights with him, remembering. I would watch him, reading his scrolls and writing on others. And I longed for a way to let him understand what I knew, what I understood. How could I tell him?
Eventually, the time came when Ranrew took us outside the palace. There was war coming, and he wanted us to be safe. He told us that he had bought our freedom, and that friends were taking us where we would be safe, to raise our family in peace. Then, before leaving, he took my face in his hands, and looked deep into my eyes. Oh Great One, I saw my master there, again, as once so long ago! And he said to me, “I understand.” It was all he said, but I knew. I knew.
It was many seasons after that, when I was old, and I knew I would soon die, that another man came to me. This one was a missionary for a small village of man that was a short distance from my home. He walked with a smell around him that reminded me of our first master, and he seemed to understand us beasts. He saw me watching him one day, and came and sat next to me. He asked me what I was thinking.
Oh, how I wish I could tell you, I thought. Then, to my astonishment, he answered me. He told me that I could tell him, and that he would hear it. Could it be? I did not know that any man could still speak with us! I had so much to say, and I did not know where to begin. He calmed my fears, and told me that I would not die until I had finished my story. This promise he had from the Great One for me. I thought my heart would burst from joy.
Over the next few weeks we would get together often, and I would tell my story. It was hard work, for though he could speak with me, his language and mine were very different, and it was days to get a tiny bit right. Some things had to be shorter, and some things had to be longer. But I told my story.
I have told my story, and soon it is done. It is approaching evening here, and I am dictating to my friend the last bits of this life. My wife has died, and I am going to meet her in the garden very soon, this night I believe. My children are grown and have their own prides now. I have instilled in them as much of the memory of the garden as I could, and I think that many generations will remember. Perhaps it will be enough, so that some memories of Ranrew and the shining one will be around when things are restored. For my friend has told me that the garden would be here again. It is enough.
As you can see, it is not a story that many would believe. But you, my friend, are one of the few I would trust with it. Guard it, for a time is coming when it will be needed . . . more than any of us could know.
A New Beginning . . .
*This story was written and is dedicated to Janet, who is now walking in the garden.