Up, up, up…the steps narrowly cut into the hillside were never ending. Higher and higher we climbed, my breaths coming in ever deeper gasps. From the bottom, the hill looked like any other. So why hadn’t we reached the top yet?
‘Aren’t we there yet, master?’ I uttered, pausing a moment to catch my breath.
I hated how childlike I had sounded, but I needed to ask because I couldn’t grasp what was taking us so long. I was expected at the hilltop temple for my final test before I could ascend to the next level of my training. Being late would give the impression I didn’t care. It wouldn’t look good at all.
Before my master could answer, I carefully turned about so I could see how far we had come. I scratched my head. How…?
We had been climbing for an hour, of that I was sure. But we were only ten steps from where we had started.
‘I don’t understand…’ I mumbled.
‘The lesson is a simple one,’ my master said quietly behind me.
I turned to face him. He was ancient, with a long grey beard, braided down to his waist. I noticed, feeling terribly annoyed, that there wasn’t a single bead of sweat on his forehead and his breath was as steady as if he had just woken from sleep.
I took a few deep breaths and closed my eyes, clearing my mind as I had been taught to do. It didn’t take more than a few heartbeats for realisation to dawn.
‘This is the test,’ I said aloud.
‘Good. Now tell me what the lesson is.’
‘Rushing won’t get me to the top of the hill. I will get there only when I am ready. When I have understood the lesson.’
‘And the lesson is…?’ My master prompted.
‘Good,’ he said again. ‘Now shall we see how you have faired?’ He turned about and began climbing the hill once more.
With a lighter heart and even lighter tread, I followed.
Written for: Crimson’s Creative Challenge #128 from 21 April 2021. At 320 words I’m quite a way over the 150 word limit, so apologies for that…