The Mount Bouton

Salomat Vafo

Many years ago people awoke and found a mountain had settled in a distance from their village. They named it Mount Bouton or the migrated mountain. I was like this mountain, coming from a strange land. I had been to Mount Bouton before, yet I remained a stranger here. Each time I came, the land and the village held a miraculous sway for me: a place a sleepy dreams so unlike the noisy city I had known.

When we first met, the Priest and I, he told me the mountain’s long story: a lone stone going back hundreds of years, uniting the people under its long shadow.

Camels reigned here- in the land of age-old winds. Flocks set their cold, arrogant eyes against the passing wayfarers and cars. When I saw them first I thought them to be the last generation of dinosaurs to survive on earth.

This place was the last glimpse of a dying world, dragging itself along in this country of winds. Any man or woman who came here would surely come face-to-face with their true self. The land held a great silence while the winds of the wilderness played in the sand and weeds, burying the ruins of the ancient citadels. But the wind could not destroy the neverending silence. It seemed as if the land itself forced a man to sit in the silence, the past and think of his true self. The silence was pierced only by the winds and voice of a moaning man in the far distance, coming from the mountain. But the mountain was high and the moaning was lost on the mountain’s height and the dreams of hope that people placed on it. In all its majesty, Mont Bouton was the birthplace and hope of kind deeds.

I felt a strangeness when I first stayed in the Yurti at the foot of the mountain. As I looked up through the yurti’s toynniq, I saw the starlit sky and my heart nearly stopped beating at its sight. There was something uncommon and forceful about that sky that troubled and moved my human heart.

That night, as I lied in the yurt, I listened to the waves of nearby Sariqqamish lake and the howls of distant jackals. A dual feeling of dread and weakness arose within me. I hoped that the dread and horror would serve a purpose and preserve me from death and the loss of my soul. My mind quickly turned and ran towards light and life to settle my thoughts and bring my soul to sleep.

My God, why such a feeble and cheating man you have created?!

Though a man may be a leader in this world, he is forceless before his true mother: nature. He is only a bit, a small atom in the face of his secular and endless mother.

To be honest, my travel to the land of eternal winds was unsuccessful. For my will was given all to man called Priest.

Priest was the head of an empire. Every day he ascended Mount Bouton and prayed for the God-Sun. But why? I did not understand the reason for it. I thought that God must see him in the land. God of Gods is on the Earth, in hearts.

All the calamities began that day. The day Priest showed me his empire.

He told me this: the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Azrael brought the Mount Bouton from Mecca. One the day of Doom, the angels will come to take it back when Azrael plays his flute. I thought of this as we, the Priest and I climbed together before the sunrise. As we climbed I looked around me: the land was colorless and abandoned. The cold overpowered the land’s silence. It was desert: cold nights and hot days. As we reached the mountain’s top I looked out into the far distance.

Countless burrs, weeds, the ruined citadels and roads zigzaging the land, appeared blackened by the distance. Yet the camels, those dinosaurs of dry land were gone, as if they rested somewhere in the mountain’s shadow. I followed the Priest. He seemed a creator separated from his own will. We carried on our pilgrimage in different tombs upon the mountain. His sweet young voice rang out in the empty rooms, as if the great people, buried within the earth would shake and stand up from the sound. I could not understand this: it was beyond my power. I refused to think too much about it. I could only shed tears.

As for the Priest, he danced on as a snake amused by his own sorcery, blind deaf and dumb to his surroundings. He reminded me of my newborn son, so calm and damp after suckling. The priest was like this: his face glistening like a monument in honor of a Hindu god.

The power of his prayer crept upon the Priest’s face as he rubbed his forehead against the stone again and again, pleading for forgiveness. A strange young power controlled his body, as if he could fly off the mountain. He was beautiful: the angel of all the worlds. Any human could see. Though beautiful is not a word for a man, it was true. His beauty, against the stones, was real.

Gracious me, there was courage on his face. Many women came to this ruinous land of eternal winds to see his face and hear his prayers. Looking at his whitish face, his sharp nose and slender lips I thought perhaps I came here for him. This man.

What destiny is this?

After so many difficulties, I found my way. But what…what happened? Why did I come here? Why did I meet this damned Priest?

I came from so far to see only this priest. I felt a strange carnality for him and as a sensitive women, I became a slave to this man- beautiful on the inside and outside. I saw him as an ideal: a perfect man. In my heart he held great power, a never-ending sweet dream.

As we moved through the tomb I noticed that the Priest was not indifferent to my presence. He looked me not straight in the eye, but away as he continued his prayers. As we passed through the saints tombs he looked at me and said, “This is Father Jabron. The great upheaval of doomsday will start here, from this holy man’s grave.”

Oh, I envied him, my Priest. He continued to look at me and told me of the day when Azreal will play his flute to summon all the saints of the world, out of their graves. I said to him cautiously, “They will awaken and yawn, asking why they cannot sleep more.” I felt his faith and felt it pass into me.

As the sun rose, the wind, the ceaseless wind blew stronger. Bactrian camels drifted in and out of the burrs and weeds as the wilderness bled into the blurred skyline.

I looked over at Priest and saw caprice in his eyes. I worried- was it the sun? The wind blew harder, blowing over my anger and the Priest’s prayers, tugging impishly at my clothes and my scarf. I looked upward and thought, for whom does the Priest pray for in this solitude?

I grew tired of the great ruins and perpetual grief on the praying priest’s face. How could I bear it? Me, a fine girl so used to the bustling life of the city. I decided to go. I went to the mountain.

From the tomb I could see the great ruins of the fortress and the pits dug around its city. A river flowed out from behind one of the pits and left only it’s old banks as a trail. I looked at the fortress. No doubt one of virgin girls. Its high walls and guarded minarets curved with ceramic pieces adorning the surfaces. Oh, how I wished to gather them all. I breathlessly counted the minarets, twenty-five in all.

I entered the fortress and fell into a dream. Inside the second floor stood a large reception room where the queen welcomed her people on her throne. Forty charming soldier girls walked out with the queen. Dogs barked in anticipation from their small hovels as the soldier girls flew out to battle. They brought back their foes heads but it was too late. The fortress was ruined by the brute aggression of the cannibal devil and he married the forty angels.

I tasted smoke: was true that the angels dine here? And then I heard the priest’s voice behind me, “You should not be here alone.” I turned and saw him looking steadily at me. His body was wet with sweat. Worry creeping over his face, he ran to me and softly begged me not to repeat this act. I nodded and smiled.

Farewell virgin girls! Good-bye to their beauty passed on to eternity. Goodbye to my own pure dreams…

As I stood there I grew cold and weak, like an old flower tired of standing so long in its thin glass vase. As I fell down, my hopelessness smashed hard on top of me. I was overcome and taken to the yurti by the priest.

Some time passed, I could tell. The priest was changed and yet the same. He welcomed the pilgrims and prayed all day long, not coming down from the mountain, or, if he did, he never came into the yurti. All I could do was follow his ethereal figure in his white clothes and strain to hear the sound of his voice from the hollow of the house.

A young girl accompanied him on these days. She followed the priest like his shadow and continuously asked him what he needed. Right there I understood my fault. I had to learn the Priest’s ways, his beliefs and desires. At the very least I would flirt like the woman I am. After all, a slave can be clever as the day wanes to night.

But he was cruel. Either he showed me his mercifulness or tried to brush me aside. He did not take me back up the mountain. I only got up hearing his voice echo down from the mountain. Being ill in bed I thought of my future with aching despair. I was weak as a child and was mocked and beaten by the other children. They did not play with me. I waited for a Hercules who would one day come on a flying horse and take me away. Instead I met up time and time again with scoundrels, and gallants through the ups and downs in my life. My dream was not found. I married, but it did not matter to me, it was lost. Who I looked for, I did not know. I found in a man a height similar to mine, but I could not find a heart like my own.

I left all my wealth, my life that others envied, my beloved profession to become sand under an empire of eternal winds, yet the priest brushed me away. If I come they will kill me. If they do not, I will die myself.

I looked at the black mountain before me, lounging like a camel lying at night. In the lightsome dawns I thought of my pilgrimage with the priest. I thought of his whitish face and I wept. Could it be that all my memories end here?

The Priest told me how he studied in a remote city of Russia. He stayed in a hospital for ten years and then came to the place of pilgrimage and was healed. I felt it was here that he became a man. As we talked I learned more about him and he about me. We agreed and disagreed, but all the same we understood each other and were happy. The emperor of the land of eternal winds was like that.

The young girl did his errands. Together they read lectures for the visiting pilgrims and sometimes they passed a book between them, studying it together. As I saw them I thought of my son, my lonely son worried that I might die here.

Over time I understood that my fate was connected to this man, the Priest and at last he would tell me my fate- the reason why I was here. Days passed and sheep were sacrificed in the place of pilgrimage. I saw their meat, their blood and foul entrails curling in the sun all day. I was disgusted and did not eat meat. Once a fat sheep escaped from behind me. The villagers ran after it and finally caught it, just on the edge of sunset. They found it had a baby lamb.

By night the light in the Priest’s room never dimmed as I kept my eye on him. I saw how he lit the stone lamps at the tombs. He gave the lamps a special kindness and gazed lovingly at their soft beams. Once he told me that it was ordered that the stone lamps stay lit. but I did not ask who ordered this or when.

During the daytime I suffered mildly from his indifference so I wandered near the ruins so as not to sit in the yurti’s darkness. I dug and collected the pieces of ceramic buried within the fortress. One day I even found a gold coin with a woman’s image on it. The pilgrims told me to watch out for the white wolves in the ruins but I never saw them there. I was afraid of wolves, but knew I would never see them there. My greatest love was the fortress’s minarets. One day I climbed the highest one and looked down on the empire of endless winds. I saw the yurtis from afar and the smoke and pilgrims on the mountain from a distance. Sometimes I saw the priest on a rock or a hill with his hand protecting his eyes from the sun as he looked on. As I stood in the fortress I counted the minarets. Each time as I counted them I stopped at twenty-five and thought of what I would create if I were a painter or a writer. I thought of my fortress and flourishing women riders coming in and out of its gates, the snorts of the horses, the clang and voices of the blacksmiths, clamor and laughter.

Once I raised my head and saw a huge camel bellowing, running straight to me. I ran quickly, thinking only of saving myself. Is it correct then, that the meaning of life is simply to save oneself? The ceramic pieces fell down and the camel ran after me, as if death himself. It is said that if you ever see the camel in your dreams, it is surly a sign of death. But I saw the Priest in the distance, running, his voice bellowing, a stick in his hand. He overtook the camel and stopped him. I flew to his arms and felt him palpitate and tremble with fear.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “Don’t worry, have no fear. I am with you. The camels seek out the color red in the spring. This one- he saw your red dress and followed you from afar. This is the land of camels. They hibernate here.” He paused, “Look at me!”
I could not look at him.

He went on: “Where did you come from? Why?” he asked me despairingly. “I spent fifteen years of my life for nothing. To withdraw all my material possessions to withdraw from all things. But again, I am crossed by a woman. I have lost my mind this way!”

He pleaded, “If you have mercy, please leave me. Get out. If I change my ways I will die. Your way is different and you do not belong to this ground.”

So I left this land. The empire of the winds. The camels, virgin girls, ruins of the fortress, burrs and weeds… all left behind. As I left I thought of the meaning of a human being’s life and of the constants of separation and loss. I walked along the path and thought of the sacred moments that changed my life completely, the black recollections of my past. How will I live on now and what will my fate be?

As I left this foreign land I murmured these words, “Oh my spiritual guide, my great sheik Sa’non, it is I a woman, knocking about these two worlds for I became the Mount Bouton!”

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