Maral was covered in a sticky sand which could not be brushed off. After her tumble from the firm path, she had imagined- with exposure to a few days in the relentless wind as well as her own attempts at brushing the sand off her person- that she would be clean. She was wrong. What did happen was that her skin became raw and terribly sensitive.

Nevertheless, though she was physically in a sad state, her mental condition was much improved. What accounted for this was her habit of straining to hear the words of Wisdom. They didn’t come easily as before this season of wasteland wandering but she worked tirelessly to hear and clung to whatever reached her. With her mind absorbed with this work it left little room for contemplating her uncomfortable environment.

After many days and night of traveling in this manner, she suddenly had the eerie sensation she was not alone. Looking up from her dusty feet she saw a stranger. He was an amazingly odd-looking individual with ragged clothes and a rope. She froze.

She was sure he was as aware of her presence as she was of his, but he did not look at her. His intense gaze was locked on the horizon. Fearfully, she crept past him as quickly and silently as she could manage. However, he never once transferred his attention.

Still, she made good time to get as much distance from him as she could before she returned to her normal pace. She pressed the weird encounter from her mind and returned to her former pattern of listening to Wisdom’s voice.

Though it required all her concentration, Wisdom’s voice was clear and unmistakable. Maral froze as she received Wisdom’s instructions to return and speak with the odd unknown one. Her fear propelled her forward, unwilling to follow the instructions, but no matter how far away she walked from the stranger, she was called to return. Wisdom, it seemed was unyielding on this point.

With a deep sigh, she turned. As she retraced her steps her logic argued with her- this was unwise and dangerous. This mental battle distracted her from the weary acknowledgement that much ground was being retraced. She had lost large amounts of energy and time by delaying her response to Wisdom’s instructions.

It still seemed that all too soon she was near the stranger. Cautiously, she approached him. He was tall and terribly thin, but didn’t have the air of someone hungry or demented. Now that she was really looking at him, she noticed his stature was one of strength and dignity regardless of his unkempt appearance and clothes that spoke of poverty. She was dazzled by the contradictions surrounding this stranger. She was much closer now and her fear had evaporated. She saw his eyes, still locked on the horizon, had intelligence and kindness, though his face looked rough and weather beaten.

She wondered if perhaps she had judged him too harshly. Maybe he was not as unwelcoming as a first glance might suggest, but then he spoke. Remaining motionless he said matter-of-factly , “I see that you fell.”