Jamie Winchester gripped the ledge before falling down the mountain. His hand started to bleed. He needed to reach the top; even if he was alone, he needed to reach the top. His guide had abandoned them just as they had reached the Geneva Spur.
Jamie’s father traversed back to help his son up. “That’s a pretty deep cut. Maybe we should head back,” Mr. Winchester warned his son. Jamie shook his head and looked around until he found a cave. He pointed in the direction, and both father and son entered. Jamie wrapped his hand in bandages as fast as possible. He then tripled up on gloves and sat down.
“How’s the hand,” Mr. Winchester asked.
“It’s fine, just stings.”
“Eat some chocolate, and we will be back on the trail in 5 minutes.” Jamie chuckled. The thought of reaching the top as a trail made him smile. It was no trail. Why reduce the single greatest thing that he had to do to a simple hike in the park? “I don’t think we should go; the guide warned us that the weather was going to get worse.”
“I can’t go back,” Jamie said, covering up his face with his oxygen mask. “Hillary Step is just over that ridge.”
“You don’t know that,” his father said.
Mr. Winchester nodded; how could he say no to his son? He knew it wouldn’t change his mind. Jamie had always been aiming for the peak, aiming for what’s at the top. Ever since Jamie was a boy, he was always looking up. Mr. Winchester could never understand why Jamie seemed distant, but this didn’t stop him from loving his son. He supported him in everything he did. Even though this trip was the first time, they bonded.
Jamie continued to climb up; it was rough on the feet but even rougher on his hand. He struggled with each movement; he needed to move. He had a feeling he was running out of oxygen, and then he started to see them. “Ghosts,” he whispered. They were climbers of people before him, people who didn’t make it back or to the top. They seemed like fleeting whispers for the eyes. Phantoms.
As Jamie and his father moved up, they would usher him on. Then he lost his footing and took a knee. Jamie couldn’t go on. He just couldn’t go on. His body began tightening up around his lungs and his head throbbed in pain with each pulse of blood. Fatigue started to settle in. His body just stopped responding to him. Then he felt his father’s hand on his back. Mr. Winchester grabbed his son’s arm and picked him up, and together arm in arm, they inched forward. Until they reached a bouquet of flags at the top. Jamie released his father’s arm and turned to see the sight that had captured Sir Edmund Hillary so many years ago. He’d reached the top, but it wasn’t for glory.
Jamie unhooked himself from the line and started to climb past the flags and to the tip. He looked to the other side to find an entrance hidden by the snow. It had an ancient Chinese design to it, but this is what he came here for. He aimed himself in the direction of the entrance, and then his body gave way. “Let the ocean guide my soul,” he said as he rolled down the hill. His gear ripping and tearing on the way down, but he felt relief as he rolled, and then he stopped. He now laid in front of this entrance that led somewhere. Jamie started to crawl down the stairs slowly. But before he disappeared into this darkness, he looked back at the top and saw his father standing there. Jamie continued down.
It was pitch black on the way down, and the pain from rolling over the top started to kick in. Somewhere along the path, his heavy breathing changed to light and more natural breaths, but the tight feeling in his chest was still there. The path was winding and dark, no lights anywhere until Jamie found himself in front of a door. There was fresh air sweeping from underneath it. Jamie struggled up on the walls of the path and reached for where he believed the doorknob would be. There was nothing.
He placed both hands on the door and search for a way to open it. It had grooves in it, like a design of some serpent. Then he heard a click and the door slowly opened. Revealing an open room with only three walls and the fourth wall being an opening in the mountain. An old man sat at the edge of the opening. The room was very bare with only one green stone table, one bed, a stone coffee table by the old man with two cups, and a kettle. Jamie looked around for another chair until the old man pointed it out. Jamie dragged the chair towards the old man and took a seat across the coffee table.
“Are you Shenghuó,” Jamie asked, finally being able to rest. The old man stared at the ocean of clouds before them and just nodded.”Can you teach me Áoxiáng lóng?”
The old man said nothing.
“I read about it many years ago when I was a child. After years of training and mastering, I have — ”
“Jamie Winchester,” the old man interrupted. Jamie stopped talking. “Where is your father?”
Jamie looked down for a moment, and then back to the door, he came through and saw nothing. “He was right behind me, I swear. He’ll catch up with me later, Shenghuó can you teach me Áoxiáng lóng?”
“Jamie Winchester, where is your father?’
“I’ve come a long way here just to meet you — ”
“Where is your father?”
“It’s a simple yes or no question. Can you teach me?”
“Where is your father,” the old man demanded.
“I became an Olympic swimmer; I have 4 degrees in Chinese culture, language, art, and history.”
“Where is your father,” the old man demanded again, this time slamming his fist into the table.”
“I have studied everything I needed to know in your book Shenghuó. I followed the instructions to meet you. I am the only person in this world that knows you are here. I saved your legacy by picking it from the trash,” Jamie roared.
“Yet trash has found its way into my home,” the old man said. Jamie could see the old man crying now. “I will ask you again, Jamie Winchester, where is your father?” Jamie sat back and slumped in his chair.
“I left him at the top.”
“Do you have no honor, Lèsè?”
“Hey now, I told you where he is, now just teach me,” Jamie shot back. The old man got up and stood at the edge of the opening.
“It would seem that my legacy ends with me.”
“Hey, what are you doing? Don’t jum — ” Jamie started to say, but the old man had already leaped off.
Alone Jamie sat there. He couldn’t go back, he was out of oxygen, and it was a bloody miracle that he even made it here. Now the room started to feel cold, but Jamie could take it. He was just as cold.
Days went by, and without food or water, it left him weak. Not to mention he had climbed the trail on an empty stomach. “The trail,” Jamie thought. Maybe somebody would find his footprints and follow after him; maybe his father had already made it back down and went to bring back an expedition to come find him.
He bit into his lip, and it began to bleed. How could he even think that his father would find help? He has been nothing but a nuisance to him. Even when Jamie excitedly tried to explain his research to his father, he would smile and say, ‘Good job, son.’ Such patronizing actions from his father enraged him.
No one understood how powerful and important all of this was. If he could learn Áoxiáng lóng, this could revolutionize humanity. They would not be a weak, feeble race that could not only survive but could now conquer. Jamie then peered over to the opening. He remembered how the old man jumped. His last hope was gone, 26 years of hard work gone.
Jamie crawled himself to the edge. There was no point anymore; he never found love or a woman's warmth because of his obsession. He could never apologize to his father for all the things he did. He would never be known for anything, a life with no worth. He was just Lèsè, the trash that needed to be thrown away. Jamie struggled to his two feet and raised his head towards the sky. The moon was out.
“I’m sorry, father,” Jamie whispered and started to lean. As he was about to fall, someone pulled him back. In a desperate struggle, Jamie started to cry. He tried to grab the person that had brought him back inside. “Father, Father, Father, let me go, Father, please, let me go. Father Fath-”
“Where is your father, Jamie Winchester?” the stranger said calmly and caring. Jamie didn’t look.
“Frozen, on Hillary Step. He didn’t even make it to the top. I unhinged his hook to let him drop, but I lost my footing and sliced my hand on a rock, trying to save myself. I don’t deserve this. You should’ve had let me fall.”
“Jamie Winchester, knowing that you are wrong is the first step to learning Áoxiáng lóng,” The voice said. Jamie looked up to see the old man helping him up. Together they went to the opening, and the old man led him to a staircase connected to the edge that led to another door that was already ready open. Once inside, Jamie was placed at a wooden table and was given food and water. The house was warm and cozy different from up top. There were many doors and a hallway. Fatigue had plagued Jamie, and he couldn’t even feed himself. So the old man, with patience and kindness, started to feed him each bite. Jamie started to cry.
“Jamie Winchester, the Áoxiáng lóng is a sacred technique, and it can only be digested in a type of drink called Línghún. But first, you must free yourself and know yourself so that the Áoxiáng lóng can form. Let us begin by first drinking the Línghún; only then can you start to digest,” The old man said, giving Jamie a bowl. The liquid inside was black, transparent, and hot. As Jamie peered into the bowl, he could sense something swirling inside. The old man tilted Jamie’s head back, and he started to drink. It was slimy and thick as it went down. He felt it swell in his throat and twist. It swelled to the size of a bowling ball, and then it shot up, releasing itself. Jamie could feel something wrapping itself around his skull and brain. He could feel a feathery tail wrap around his heart.
Then he saw it, the ocean. Large and blue, a sky of wonder. He soared among the clouds until he found a large tower. It seemed to rise into space and even further beyond. The bricks and stones that made up the tower were from many races and cultures. A mix-match of the human race. Some stones didn’t even seem human. Then he was brought back.
The old man was gone, and Jamie was lying on a bed in the room. He started to get up, but his bones were stiff. They crackled as he moved. He stood up but then caught himself on a dresser by the bed. He found a cane nearby, and he started to move around the room. He looked down the hallway, and then he looked across the room to the entrance. Jamie opened the door and was graced by the mountain air. He turned around and headed for the hallway. There were two doors on each side and one door at the end of the hallway. One of the doors on the left was open. Jamie peered in to see that it was a bathroom. Once inside, he had the urge to go, which took him longer than usual. After the business was done, he noticed a mirror in the room. Jamie peered into it and found himself different than when he first entered the mountain. He had grown a beard and had a dragon tattoo that crawled up to his head and to his chest.
“Morning, Winchester,” a voice said outside the bathroom. Jamie turned to see that it was the old man. “Come, we must meditate.”
Jamie followed the old man to another bigger and wider room and had another opening in one of the walls, but it didn’t feel cold.
“Is that glass,” Jamie asked. The old man nodded and found himself a seat. Jamie did likewise.
“For the souls to merge, you must free yourself from your worldly desires. You are only one small fish in a bigger pond.”
“I have one question,” Jamie asked.
“And that is?’
“Where’s the library?”
“Where the soul meets the mind.”
“Have you been there?”
“That’s why you’re here, Jamie Winchester. Now focus. You have a lot of demons you must get rid of.”
“How,” Jamie asked. The old man looked at him and then back out the window.
- Áoxiáng lóng (翱翔龙) means Soar Dragon in Chinese
- Línghún (灵魂) means Soul in Chinese
- Lèsè (垃圾) means Garbage in Chinese