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Echo-1: Part 4

The plane was in trouble, both engines were burning, and it trailed smoke for miles across the sky. It was somewhere over the middle of the Atlantic with no land in sight. I came rocketing out of the clouds, one arm forward like the man of steel, sans the red and blue pajamas. I stretched my other hand out toward the careening aircraft. I spread my fingers wide and thought about the engines fixing themselves. The flames sputtered away and the smoke blew itself out with a poof. The plane started to correct its altitude. I flew over to the nose and gave the pilot a salute. Both he and the co-pilot sent one back to me with beaming faces. I drifted back along the outside of the plane. The passengers were calm like nothing had happened. A little boy peering out the window waved to me in disbelief. In the last window near the tail, I saw myself, slumped over in my seat with an eye mask on, fast asleep.

I woke up with a startle to the announcement that we were landing in both English and Hindi.

“Laiṇḍiṅga kē li’ē taiyāra hai, dhan’yavāda.”

After six months of crawling through the ashrams of the Subcontinent, I had made my way north to Nepal. I was struggling over the cobblestoned streets leading to a section of Kathmandu called Bouda. Past the alleys full of motorcycles, running children, and hundreds of burning oil candles I came to the city center. A giant round Buddhist stupa filled the square. Countless prayer flags draped from its crowned top. Giant eyes painted on all four sides watched the faithful as they circled the monument. It was an old world of color and magic. The stupa towered over the four-story buildings that surrounded it.

I was meeting a monk at a cafe on the roof of a building on the west side of the monument. I limped along with my walking poles making about the same speed as the pilgrims doing prostrations on the ground around the stupa. The smells and sounds of this lost Shangri La penetrated deeply into my mind and body. I’d been sick most of my trip, but since getting to Nepal I had turned over a new leaf.

I came to the old looking brick building and started to climb the narrow bright blue stone staircase to the roof. It was a tough climb up, hot and almost without air. Sometimes real life seemed to mimic my dream experiences. I took a long break at the tiny third-floor closet squatty potty toilet. It was one challenge after another for a man with bad legs traveling the world. At least it was clean.

When I made it to the roof I was a mess of sweat and thirst. The open air refreshed me. I looked out over the city to the majestic snow-capped Himalayas overshadowing all in the distance. The old monk was sitting at the last table near the edge of the roof, lost in his computer tablet. He was wearing the dark crimson robes of a Buddhist. His head was shaved, his skin was tan and it cracked when he smiled. After I introduced myself to him, he ordered us both espressos and cake. He didn’t speak until they arrived, he just surfed the web. I couldn’t make out what it was he was reading so I just took in the scene below. It was a vibrant religion based on the mental adventures of a single enlightened man born 2,500 years ago. The kindness of the Buddhist society was so foreign to me.

The monk sipped his drink before he spoke.

“Once upon a time the great philosopher Zhuang Zhou had a dream that he was a happy butterfly. He was fluttering hither and thither, unaware that he was anything other than a beautiful butterfly. When he awoke from his sleep he was Zhuang Zhou again. But he no longer knew for sure if he was a man who had dreamt he was a butterfly or whether he was now a butterfly, dreaming he is a man.”

He took another sip of his coffee. I told him it seemed I had come to the right place. I’d been looking for a guru who could take me through the last challenges of lucid dreaming.

He smiled at me. “Yes, this cafe is famous for its internet connection and its chocolate cake.”

{ Part 1 ~ Part 5 }

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Sci-fi short stories to inspire your inner rocket building, planet-hopping, astrophysicist space pirate. 🚀

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