The Cave Of Curious Counsel was shortlisted and Highly Commended as part of the Sandstone Short Fiction Competition 2020 that focused on the theme of self-isolation. As the story is still looking for a home, only a brief taster is featured below.
It was Phuntsok’s turn to ascend the Holy Mount. Reaching The Cave Of Curious Counsel, he peered into the Stygian gloom and pondered – how can a man tolerate so isolated an existence, be they bodhisattva or not?
He entered the void. As the outside world became but a memory, Phuntsok spoke:
‘Hello? Are you there?’
‘DEPENDS,’ boomed the void.
Phuntsok had been warned there might be riddles.
‘On what?’ Phuntsok replied.
‘DO I OWE YOU MONEY?’
Phuntsok thought the void sounded nervous.
‘IF THAT’S YOU, LOBSANG, I SWEAR, I’LL GET YOU THE MONEY. I JUST NEED A LITTLE MORE -’
‘Please!’ interrupted Phuntsok. ‘I seek wisdom, not money.’
‘REALLY?’ muttered the void, incredulously.
‘Truly. I seek the meaning of life and, if possible, the reason my sponges refuse to rise.’
‘AH,’ sighed the void. ‘THE USUAL CHESTNUTS. COME …’
‘I mean, I’ve used self-raising, organic -’
Phuntsok edged forward trepidatiously until his gaze fell upon the frail figure of the bodhisattva of legend. He floated cross-legged above the ground, bathed in the brilliance of enlightenment and a modest table lamp.
‘Please tell me you brought milk,’ implored the bodhisattva.
A penitent Phuntsok fell to his knees, regretting his choice of skinny jeans.
‘Oh, wise bodhisattva,’ he muttered.
‘It is I, Phuntsok. Your youngest grandson?’
‘Name rings a bell,’ the bodhisattva exhaled. ‘So, did you bring milk or not? Tesco won’t deliver to this postcode.’