A Mountain Story

A cat reaches the top of a mountain after a long climb through the snow. He is cold from the bottom of his fur to the tips of his claws. He is sodden and wet, and we all know how much a cat hates to be wet.

At the top of the mountain there is not much to see. What may have been a breathtaking view is instead a murk of freezing mist and at any rate, snow assails the cat’s eyes and whiskers. He shivers and sneezes.

“Bless you!” cries a dog who is already there, he sits about twenty metres away and is wearing a pair of sunglasses. “Come here and rest a while weary traveller!” He motions to his left and sweeps about two inches of snow off the bench he is sitting on. It is painted green as though it has been just this instant transported from a suburban park.

The cat explains how arduous his journey has been. How he had heard the wolves howl in the evenings, how he had forded rushing rivers of water so cold he had feared that their icy grip would forever stain his bones, how the stark and unrelenting stare of the moon had borne down upon him with such cruelty that he swore that it had begun to mock him.

“You must be starving! How rude of me!” interrupts the dog. He offers the cat a bit of kitkat. It’s a green tea and white chocolate one, like they have in Japan. It tastes strange despite the cat not being sure whether he has ever eaten a regular kitkat anyway.

The cat gets upset. “Why are you here? Did you not struggle also? Why are you wearing sunglasses? Why is this bench here? It doesn’t make any sense!” Hot tears streak down his face and they sizzle into the air, the warmest thing for miles around.

As the cat composes himself, the dog explains how all things are impermanent and transient. “All of this is an illusion” he says, “not in the sense of whether it is real of course…” He leans forward and pinches the cat, who hisses in reaction. “No, it is an illusion that any of this has a meaning and I am not just talking about park benches at the top of mountains or the cruel face of the moon…”

The cat stares out blankly at the snow. The mist billows into patterns that have never been seen before, patterns that will never be seen again.

The dog asks the cat to tell a joke.

The cat says that he doesn’t know any jokes. “I’m afraid I never could remember them well and I could never really tell a story very well.”

To this the dog asks “well then, how on earth will you tell anyone about what happens next?” With these words, the dog hands his sunglasses to the cat and promptly disappears.

Meanwhile, on the mountain, the snow continues to fall.

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