• 老贵阳

"Treasure Mountain Rd." Part II - The Elephant

Let me tell you the story of the Elephant of the Treasure Mountain…

There are many who have lived their lives here, in the City, without knowing his importance, or even noticing him at all. As for the Outsiders it goes without saying, as most probably don’t even know their own address - it’s the total eclipse that seems to shroud the Locals’ memories that shocked me the most. Every time I asked about the hidden treasure of my neighbourhood (as I didn’t even know about its fabled guardian back then), I was told it was just meaningless names chosen at random.

Names of places are a bit of a funny thing. They can mean everything, anything, or nothing at all, but it’s on us to decide which one it is. Being cursed with poor memory and disconnected from the past we chose to ignore what had been laid in front of us by the generations long gone - the messages of great importance, creating the places we still live in today. The very fine threads of the fabric that constructs our reality are contained in the names, yet we still opt for an easier, lazier way and say: it does not mean anything. And while I agree that in the grand scheme of things there’s probably more meaningless chaos than anything else, this is exactly why it’s so important we look for the meaningfulness where we can find some. The great dwellings we live in, The City with her multiple layers and dimensions being no exception, are full of such meaning. It is up to us whether we decide to pass our meagre lifetimes in ignorance of where we come from and where we’re going, or not, but even then we should remain humble and state that we simply don’t know about a thing or another rather than claiming a lie. Well, that’s obvious - I can see you thinking, Dear Reader - nobody wants to look stupid and unlearnt in front of others. Especially when it’s a Local talking to an Outsider. Unfortunately, the feeling of misguided local patriotism mixed with pride makes for a very poor advisor, and results in one looking not only like a fool, but an uncultured one on top of that.

That’s why it’s always better to know than to be oblivious; being the precise reason why I did not accept the answers I was given and did not give up on the subject, although, as it usually is with such things, found how to solve the riddle of the Treasure Mountain by accident rather than by proper research.

It all started with meeting the Elephant. Considering the location, I’d risk a pun that the feeling wasn’t mutual, as I didn’t quite recognise who he was and failed to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in my head. I almost had myself write that it was due to my poor language skills at that time, but I suppose I was just too lazy to check the facts or simply my thoughts were preoccupied with other things. For we met during one of my early Great Walks (of which I’d like to write in length elsewhere), and I remember it being just too exciting for one sunny afternoon to be able to focus on every detail.

Still, as I am gifted with an extraordinary memory to places and direction, it is easy for me to retrace my steps and relate the story of our first meeting. I feel my words could serve as guidance, should you ever feel like finding the Elephant yourself, and discovering the truth about your previous lives.

Let me tell you the story of the Elephant of the Treasure Mountain.

There is the Eastern Mountain and there is the Favourable Breeze Mountain. As you ascend the area between those two, you’d first pass a massive gate of stone, with a sideway path leading to the temple that basks in the bright sun. If you follow the main road, however, as it winds uphill, you’d soon find yourself surrounded with the red fabric of food and fruit stands, and the buzzing of the vending speakers. It is the heart of the Eastern Mountain, with numerous roads and alleys leading towards the most hidden gems of the City, as this is a place with strong anchors in the past and almost untainted by the plague of the concrete that oozes from the land of the Future beyond.

To the North there is a tower, or I should say, a Spire. It stands tall and slender, unmistakable in its solitude as it belongs neither to what we usually see as the Past, nor to what is yet to come. When I walked past it first and had a chance to climb it, I could feel it barely there in the Present as well. To this day I wonder if seeing the City from its top was but a mere dream - beautiful and inspiring, but still a dream only. I thought I caught a glimpse of what I now know to be the Coal Mine Village, but back then was just a sea of blue makeshift roofs, flooding the entire slope of the Favourable Breeze.

I mention this here as the way to the Elephant leads past the Spire, and past the outskirts of the Village - through a narrow street of sand-coloured houses, with alleys much resembling gutters on the left hand side leading down what used to be the mining compound, and vibrant colours of fruit stands on the right, as there was a sort of a marketplace there on the day of which I speak. It’s also full of those little kiosks I like so much, without all the flashy signs of one franchise or another where you know exactly what you’re going to find inside just by looking at the brand sign. Meanwhile in the local shops they always seem to have drinks and snacks unavailable anywhere else (including, if I’m on the roll, my favourite peach juice). I think it is said most people prefer the predictable, thus the set assortment of goods in every franchised seven-eleven-or-other in the entire world, yet I prefer to take a small gamble. It might also be that these little dark shops bring back memories of childhood kiosks and tiny grocery huts I so much adored. Separated by decades, and thousands of miles, they seem to have the same smell and atmosphere, for me almost soothing. I close my eyes and smile, as I am writing these words.

Past the kiosks we go. The road winds few times around an empty parking lot (where I once met a lovely little kitten that played with me for a while. I wish so much I could have taken her home), until it reaches a place called the Witch Hill. Now I don’t know much about the witchcraft in the history of the City, as this is by no means my field of expertise, (except maybe foul arts that are practiced along the Black Spirit Rd in the late hours of night, leaving the poor partakers crippled and cursed with blight for days after) but the thought alone that there were to be witches in the area is entertaining enough. What is more, there seem to be a house for the elderly in the area, looking rather eerie from beyond its tall stone wall adorned with a crown of broken glass to deter the more industrious individuals that might want to take a peek. I almost think it’s a shame I cannot name the place the Cradle (as it doesn’t make much sense being a retirement home), as it would definitely spice things up in my imagination. I am yet to come across an establishment of this sort to be haunted in games, novels or film, but why not?

Other than that it’s a lovely street with what could be classified as countryside villas along the way, if it wasn’t for the fact that everything looks decrepit and ruined. The (potentially) nice houses soon give way to more common single- or double-storey dwellings, as the Witch Hill changes into the Lion Rock Rd. It is only few steps away from where we go back to the usual dimension and the Treasure Mountain Rd. but before that happens, there he is - the Elephant. Solemn and stranded in the sea of haphazard construction, looking just like so many others knights turned to stone and lost forever in the flesh of the City.

I meet him for the first time and fail to find the way to greet him, or rather fail to try hard enough to do so. The wooden railings look half-rotten and unsafe. It won’t be until two years later that we become properly acquainted and the mystery unravels.

****

(Part 3 coming soon)


Post Scriptum: honourable mention for whoever gets the Cradle reference ;)

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