The Boy and the Garden
Once upon a time there was a garden. It was filled with buds and near-blooms and branches laden with leaves about to burst. A thick ancient wall encircled the garden, one that had no door. And so it had remained, wild and empty, for century upon century.
So it was that one day a little boy, born under the boughs of a hemlock tree in the middle of winter where he was all that survived the night, found the stone wall before him. Forced to wander for bread, he had travelled far and wide. And when he came upon the ancient barrier, he circled round only to find he had come completely around without sight of door, nor crease, nor crack—nothing to tell him what it was that lay inside.
Such was his intent study of the wall that the sound of a cough caused him to jump and swing about in a sudden, startled motion. His gaze fell upon a woman bent under the weight of years, her withered, spotted arm upon a staff, her eyes a sharp, twinkling blue.
‘You desire to know what it is that lies behind the wall, do you?’ she asked, her voice a rasping, crackly sort of sound.
The boy nodded.
‘Then you must take upon yourself three things. First, find the wind that cannot dance. Second, bleed dry that which is heart’s bane. Third, run the world wide in no more than a moment. Then, well, we shall see.’
The old woman recited her riddle as though it had been said many times, and while her eyes twinkled, they, like her body, carried great weight. Indeed, it was true that she had spoken of these three things many times, but all passersby had left in defeat and unknowing.
But the boy had a lifetime of puzzles, for his existence had been born and bred through struggle; and to survive makes riddlers of even the smallest of us.
Thus, he answered quickly.
‘I breathe the wind that does not dance,’ he said, and, at the old woman’s gesture, breathed upon the wall.
‘My pockets are empty, my hands hold no gold—there is no greed to curse my heart,’ he said in answer to the second task and, following the flick of her fingers, placed his palm against the stone.
‘In my mind I see the world, and in a moment I have run it wide,’ he said to the third of the woman’s queries, and at a nod of her head placed his against the barrier above his hand.
At the touch of his head, a sound ripped through the air as though lightening had split rock, so loud the ground quaked under his feet. Blinking fast, the boy looked up. Before him stood a rent in the wall.
He looked toward the old woman, but she was gone. He saw the buds and branches that had not been seen in a thousand years. And as he stepped into the garden, it bloomed.