Shadow of the Dream
Days later the covert expedition made its way into China undetected by the ever-vigilant Chinese military. Benefitting from Evan’s early planning and well-placed connections, their caravan of antiquated cargo trucks was soon throwing up an impressive cloud of dust as they raced across the high Tibetan Plains.
The mighty Gurla Mandhata Mountain once reigned over the isolated domain casting its watchful eye on all that passed. But this day the approaching interlopers found it deposed, its once stunning peak enveloped in a poisonous shroud, enslaved to an occupying force of darkness.
Still, the ominous cast of an angry heaven could not diminish the breathtaking expanse of the vast plain nor obscure the austere beauty of the world-above-the-world.
Across the mountain-hemmed rooftop of earth, the captive kingdom shimmered with life. Evidence of life’s enduring triumph could be seen in the clamoring hoofs of wild donkeys that raced beside the caravan, the centuries-old monasteries that clung to the distant cliff tops, and the glimmering turquoise waves of Manasarovar Lake.
Sheridan stood at the helm of the truck bed, his face taut and dry, his lips cracked, the crisp wind whipping through his graying hair. Far from the cloistered life of his quiet bookshop, the experience of the open road stoked his relic-hunting instincts.
His dormant senses began to stir. The dullness began to part. He could feel the shift, a current of energy pulsing through his torpid body. His latent muscles began to flex with strength. His lungs expanded with renewed breath.
The sounds of the caravan, as muted as the brittle tone of an AM radio, blossomed into an unrestrained rhapsody that wrapped around Sheridan like a marching band.
In the firm grip of his hand, holding fast to a makeshift railing of two-inch pipe, the dimpled metal’s paint and rust read like Shakespeare in Braille.
Sheridan pulled his leather jacket tight, his wind-chilled fingers fumbling with the top button. He turned a closed mind to the sensory overload, retiring to his preferred haunt of solitude.
Withdrawing deeper still to a familiar retreat of unlit grief; he entered a private dungeon where unanswered questions sustained an inescapable longing.
And there, in that secluded darkness, it appeared. It was tiny, infinitesimal really, no more than a spark, like the intermittent flicker of a firefly. But in a black cesspool of misery it shown like a lighthouse on a distant shore.
It had been the last presence to forsake him and one he had swore he would never welcome again. He had once longed to be visited by the captivating light but in his darkest hour he had grown to distrust its counsel and resent its company.
Yet there it was once again—
the glimmering ember . . .
Sheridan knew why it had suddenly chosen to make its appearance; it was always the ready companion of a dream.
But for Sheridan this expedition bore none of the illusions of a dream.
It was a Hail-Mary pass, a last ditch effort,
Sheridan’s last stand.
For dreams required faith and carried a price he no longer could afford.
Sheridan began to think on these things when,
from the depths of his emptiness,
a melody arose to accompany his poignant reflection: