1 Mount Pilatus
In the sweltering heat, Pat pushed his way over another boulder. Finding a level piece of ground he sat down, leaning against the massive rock of the mountain he was climbing. The sun scorched him mercilessly. As he sat there, he contemplated where he was going.
“I’m crazy!”, he thought, “Who in his right mind would undertake such a journey, for this particular reason?” Wiping dripping sweat from his brow, he reached for a bottle in his rucksack to have a drink of water.
It wasn’t the fact that he was hiking up this mountain, hikers did it all the time, and there were probably hundreds at various stages and heights right now. No, it wasn’t the hike which made this climb seem so unusual, so insane. It was Pat’s reason for climbing.
He shook his head again in disbelief at himself. How could he believe such tales. What if all of it was simply that: just tales? Old legends from long ago without any truth or foundation. Yet he felt a deep resolve inside him, the determination to continue, to keep on climbing. He had to know. And the only way to be sure was to go up this mountain.
The mountain itself was shrouded in mystery. Many legends held visitors captive. Stories were told of fierce storms, a mysterious small lake atop its peak, a missing corpse and yes…..there were the old legends of dragons. Mount Pilatus was famous for its dragons.
But then again, so were many other mountains in Switzerland and around the world. Why were there so many stories of these fiery, flying creatures all over the earth? And why were there no signs of them today? Not even a skeleton or a fossil. Nothing, except for their stories.
It was those secrets that kept the visitors coming, traveling up the cog train that was the steepest in Europe, with its red dragon painted on the ceilings of all the station buildings along its route. Towering over the city of Lucerne and the lake at its foot, Pilatus held tight to its past, unwilling to reveal it all to even the most determined and thorough investigators. It was exactly those mysteries that drove Pat upward, along the sides of this mass of rock, alone and against his better judgment.
Why did his path seem to be the one exposed to the sun all day? It was beaming down relentlessly on his uncovered head. He just wasn’t prepared for this weather.
Inexperienced in hiking, Pat’s English city upbringing did not equip him with the necessary skills and know-how to traverse the giant rock. Truthfully, he had never been much of a sporty person, and until recently work had kept him at the office most of the time. ‘Had’ being the operative word, for the business he had jointly owned with his friend Jonathan ceased to exist. The Swiss financial authorities had seen to that, and he lost everything: His income, his business, his life’s savings, and his reputation. Right here and now, it seemed, that he had also lost his sanity.
Looking up the side of the mountain he asked himself: Why, why am I here? What do I hope to find? What if there isn’t anything to be found? I know, many have searched before and found nothing?
Yet, Pat knew that he had no choice. He had to keep going. He had to go and look and hopefully find something. He needed to know the truth. He had to see for himself, if what he had been told was true. His life, his future, his sanity depended on it.
Looking to the valley below, downward was the only other direction to go. But for him there was no going back, not yet, not now, not before he was sure. He returned the bottle to his rucksack, slung it onto his back and rose to his feet.
“It can’t be too far now” he thought. “There must be answers up here”. Slowly, carefully, he walked along the trail, ever higher, ever closer. The trail turned and he could see the lake below.
It was a strange looking lake, with its four arms stretching out, like… he remembered the shape from studying the map but why was he only seeing that now? Strangely, even the Lake Lucerne is shaped like a winged dragon.
Amused at his comparison, Pat moves on. His wife, Jenny, was waiting back home. She and Auntie had been shopping yesterday, so Jenny wanted to rest today. Her tummy was huge now in her seventh month, and she had insisted he follow his heart. Aunt Gaby, her usual self, did not interfere. But the silent looks she gave him said enough. Pat knew she was quietly urging him to go. His mission was fixed in his mind. He had to find the answers to his dreams.
For weeks now he was having unusual dreams. They never seemed like dreams at all while they were happening, but when he woke from his restless sleep, they felt like a reality he could not explain.
There was a giant glowing eye, a stark whiteness, and then there were the voices. And although Pat could not fully understand the things the voices were saying, it was those very words that drove him up the mountain, hoping it would somehow reveal its secrets to Pat.
And then there was the mysterious book. As he plodded along with the lake behind him, it occurred to Pat that the appearance of the mysterious book hat set everything that was happening into motion. Or was all of this just a strange coincidence? Yet, wasn’t it the book that spoke of life being absent of coincidence.
According to the book, all determination and direction in life was based on the decision of man. Not fully grasping this, he tried to determine in his head if his current undertaking would qualify as such.
The book was an old book, with no known publication date, which had been in Auntie’s possession for a long time. It was the story of some warrior looking for a treasure. And, of course, there was the dragon which he encountered. Pat couldn’t let go of the thought that the warrior’s experiences were very similar to his own.
All of it centered around the explanations within the book’s last chapter. Although they left Pat more confused than ever, they were the reason why Pat had decided to conquer the mountain.
The tales told in the book were very similar to the legends of old Mount Pilatus. Was this the mountain the ancient warrior had been on? Was such coincidence possible? Pat stopped in the shade of some trees to look around and determine his direction.
In his dreams, that felt like visions, Pat had seen this mountain. “Follow your heart,” the voices had said, the same thing the warrior in the book had been told as a youth.
Pat had always found it difficult to listen to his heart. He knew of course that he wasn’t listening for his heart beat, but the voice of his inner being. Pat was aware of this voice, but he but had never paid much attention to where it came from.
“Everybody has voices in their heads, people talk to themselves, it’s natural”, Pat had always thought.
Since reading the book however, Pat had learned that this inner voice tried to speak through all the usual mind chatter, but often was not heard or heeded. Pat began to sense that there was another part of him, hidden deep in his being, that was drowned out by the noise of the many thoughts in his mind. Pat had learned that this other part, this inner being could guide him, if only he would listen to the inner voice.
As he thought of the warrior, Pat took off his rucksack and sat against a tree. Following the warrior’s example, Pat closed his eyes, took a deep breath and filled his lungs with the sweet mountain air. Exhaling he tried to blow all thoughts out of his mind along with his breath. This was a difficult exercise, considering everything that had happened in the past few months. His life had been turned completely upside down.
“Allow the thoughts to settle”, he remembered the instructions from the book. And so he sat still, focusing on his breath, and after a few minutes all was still. He was aware of birds singing, a bee buzzing by, voices from somewhere above, a gentle breeze against his cheek and arms. Another deep breath, he slowly let it all out.
Direction. He wanted direction. A picture flashed in his mind. A pile of rocks against a niche in the mountainside. Something moved and some rocks fell away, revealing a gap. Cool air hit his face. A cave! The mountain was hollow! At that moment his arm dropped and he jerked up. Had he dozed off? This was the way it always happened: he would see scenes or images in what seemed like a dream, just to suddenly wake up.
He stood, picked up his bag and walked away from the trees. To his left, the mountain rose steeply, but just beyond the trees where he had sat, he now saw a niche that appeared like a corner in the rock, just like in the dream he just had. Moving up towards it, he began to see that there were rocks piled up at the base of the niche. And again, it was just as he had seen in his vision. Was there a cave here? Or was he just remembering this unconsciously and imagining the rest? Only one way to find out.
As he edged his way over rocks and loose stones, no longer on a prepared path, the ground leveled for a few feet around the fallen rocks. What now? Some of these rocks were huge. He examined the niche from a distance, where he thought the cave might be and decided to climb up the rocks to get to the niche. He stepped on a first rock, then on a second. But just as he was about to place his next foot forward, the rock under his feet suddenly shifted. A small rockslide moved several rocks, missing him by only a few inches and rolling over the edge where he had just been climbing. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he could see a dark shape right in the niche. Carefully he resumed his climb. About halfway up the pile of rubble he felt the rocks shift again, and although he heard a rumble of falling rock, no rocks were falling. He took a few more steps using his hands to steady himself.
There it was! A dark black gash, about the height of a man, was now visible. The rocks must have fallen on the inside, he thought.
Pat climbed the last few rocks until he stood in front of the gap. Cool air hit his face. This is it, thought Pat, there is something inside this cave, and I will find an answer here.
Looking back he realized that both the gap and his location were hidden from view, those below couldn’t see neither him nor the gap. He could only make out the tops of the trees where he had rested.
He took his new flashlight from his pack and examined the gap. Carefully setting one foot in front of the other, he slowly moved into the gap.
Inside, the air was cool and refreshing. The gap led into a small cave and its floor was a foot below him. The fallen rocks had provided a similar rugged ramp to that outside. Pat climbed down to level ground. Inside the cave he shone his torch around. It looked like a natural cave, about the size of a large living room. The floor was sloping down slightly away and to the right. It led to what looked like a tunnel. The tunnel was spacious, tall enough to walk upright and wide enough for two or three people. This being the only option now Pat walked into the tunnel scanning the walls and ceiling as he went. The tunnel floor maintained the downward slope. After a few paces it leveled off and a few paces more the tunnel walls opened up into a much larger cavern. It sounded cavernous, indeed Pat’s light could barely be seen on the far walls. Scanning the floor of the large cave Pat could see other rocks of various sizes scattered around but nothing unusual. He decided to do a systemic search.
Starting where he stood he turned to the right and began to circle the cavern staying close to the walls. His plan was to move in a spiral towards the centre, thus covering the entire floor. He couldn’t tell from here if there were any other tunnels. He scanned with his torch as he walked, occasionally moving around larger boulders or stepping over smaller ones, but examine every corner and nook for any signs of anything other than natural rock.
Halfway round he began again to question his sanity. Why was he doing this? What did he hope to find? But wait a minute. Look where he was. A few minutes ago he didn’t even know this cave was here, and most likely no one else knows its here. He continued his search. The walls revealed nothing but rugged and jagged rock. There just didn’t seem to be anything else here. Then, hidden behind a large boulder, the wall of the cavern looked like it turned inward. Perhaps another tunnel. Stepping over the edge of the boulder he shone his light into the darkness.
It was a large recess in the rock wall, almost dome shaped. As he scanned with his torch the beam of light hit something unusually shaped. Pat’s heart began to thump, Whether it was excitement or fear or both he didn’t know. Frozen where he stood, he tried to make out the shape but the light was too faint at that distance to make out detail. He moved closer, slowly, cautiously. He thought he could make out thin rope. Moving closer, he could see it definitely was nothing natural. It was a bundle tied with rope. He moved closer till he stood over the object. His heart almost jumped into his mouth. The ragged bundle, covered in dust and debris, and tied with strange looking cords now rotting apart, was roughly the size of a man. The cloth wrapped around the sheet were worn and broken away in places. Pat kneeled down for a closer look. Was this the missing corpse. He had read about it in Auntie’s old book and thought it ridiculous. However on doing some research he read of the old legends of the missing corpse.
He shone his light into a gap in the cloth. What he saw could only confirm the stories. He jumped back in shock. It was true. The book is true. The old legends are true. Could it be him? Could it be the man whose name was given to this mountain? Pontious Pilate, or Pilatus as they said in German, the man who crucified Christ! It had to be. He was here all along, or at least his corpse was. Brought here centuries before, according to legend, by a local priest to take the murderer of the Saviour out of Rome where it was no longer welcome. Pat couldn’t believe his eyes. Who else could this be? Hidden here for God knows how long.
What did this mean? What significance did this have? Pat knew the answer. For him it meant the other legends were likely to be true as well. Kneeling where he was he picked up his torch and scanned. Another shock met Pat’s eyes. There against the far wall lay the evidence he was looking for. “Oh God!” Pat breathed. “Oh my God.” He held his hand over his mouth and wiped it over his head in bewilderment. “It’s true! It’s all true! But how could all this possibly be? How can this be here close to where I live? How can this all be happening to me? Who am I? Why is this happening to me?” Pat’s already broken world was fast collapsing completely. Sitting with his elbow resting on his knees and his head in his hands, he did the only thing he thought of doing. He cried out to someone, whoever could hear, anyone. “Tell me!” He cried, listening to his own voice echo in the cavern behind him. “Give me answers! What does this mean? What has this to do with me? Why me? What is happening to me, to my life? How can all this happen, these coincidences, these happenings bringing everything together, to me?”
Pat knew he had stumbled, or was he guided, unto something significant, and yet he felt he couldn’t tell anyone what he just found. If this is real, then this meant only one thing. He had been chosen. But why and for what purpose? And most of all, by whom?