In Search of the Swami

A ficlet by Mike Yamiolkoski

At the base of the lonely mountain, staring up into the cloud-hidden summit, stood Jane Lane, gathering her courage for this final step of her journey.

For five long years she had traveled the world in search of the fabled Swami.  Five years since she had left Lawndale, barely less than that since she had seen her dear friend Daria.  Although they had corresponded as often as possible through notes and letters, Jane was relieved that her long journey was nearly at a close.  She never thought she would miss her home so much.

The path up the mountain was only slightly worn, for few possessed sufficient determination – or desperation – to make the journey this far.  Jane wondered briefly into which category she fell.

The walk up the path rapidly progressed to a climb, and Jane was grateful for her choice in footwear as she navigated the treacherous slope.  With the journey so near its end, she couldn't help but to reminisce on the long, strange trip that had led to this climactic moment.  It was her mother who had persuaded her to seek out the Swami, though it had taken the additional push from Daria to actually send Jane on her way.  The first three years had been an agony of frustration, following one blind rumor after another, finding so many dead ends, traveling the world as only a Lane ever could.  The only benefit she could count from those first years were the fantastic additions to her sketchbook.

The climb had become nearly vertical, sapping her strength quickly.  Just as she felt her grip begin to fail, Jane pulled onto a tiny ledge – tiny, but enough to lie down on and catch her breath.

It had been two years ago to the day, after she had nearly given up hope, that there had come a rumor that held truth.  It hadn't led her to the Swami himself, but deep in the heart of India, she had at last found someone who could.  For a year she had followed this pilgrim who refused to give his name, at last on the true path of the Swami.

She resumed her climb.  A thousand nearly vertical feet lay between her and the sacred home of the great Swami.

The wind whipped her long, raven-black hair around her face for a moment, causing her hand to slip dangerously on the cold, weather-beaten rock.  Hair that had once barely touched her neck now reached to her waist, uncut since she had begun the journey.  Carefully, Jane found her balance, and her grip, and continued upward.

Though many had sought the Swami, scant few ever had found him.  Jane counted several remnants of her predecessors on the way up the mountain, a shred of clothing clinging to a sharp rock, a scraping that could only have been caused by a metal tool, even a tiny round of stones that had marked a campfire on the next ledge.  Jane paused for another moment, a final chance to rest and breathe deeply of the thin air, before continuing on.

The pilgrim she had followed had led her as far as the base of the Himalayas before despairing, and giving up on his journey.  He had given Jane barely enough information to go on, and another long year was spent traveling the mountains, trekking from one lonely village to another, always in search of the Swami.

At last… at long last… one who had been there.  One who had seen the Swami and could tell Jane the way.  One who could at last confirm that this was the true Swami she sought, for Jane had not even known for certain that her entire journey might not be in vain.

Then, after a month of rugged travel, she had arrived at the mountain.

And, after hours of exhausting climbing, she had reached the top.

She picked her way along the rocky path to the arched door that led to the Swami's domain.  At last, at long last, her journey was complete.  She stood face-to-face with the Swami himself.

"All right, Trent," she said.  "Enough of this stupid Swami business.  Take off that ridiculous robe and get your ass back to Lawndale."