The secret of happiness

abandoned hut

Once upon a time there lived a guy named Asunaro. He had always been unhappy as long as he could remember. Happiness always seemed so close, it teased him, let him come close, within the arm's reach, and then ran away like a startled wild animal. No matter how hard Asunaro tried he could never catch it. All his efforts ended in failure. This made the guy bitter and miserable indeed.

One evening he had been on his way home as usual. The weather was that of a wet, chilly young spring that was still half-winter. He sloshed through the mud under the dull, yellowish light of the oil lanterns. The rain drizzled from above, its droplets shining briefly in the light of the lanterns before falling to the ground and ceasing to be. Asunaro headed home, knowing that his home was cold and empty and that no one waited for him there. An old man who walked in front of Asunaro slipped on the treacherous mud and fell on his back.

"Nothing is worse that indifference," thought Asunaro, waving his own troubles away for the moment. Then he helped the old man to his feet.

"Oh, thank you, sonny!" said the old man. "My legs are not as good as they used to be. I fall all the time. Would you be so kind as to walk me home? I live in a small hut with a bamboo door."

Asunaro agreed to help, of course. The little hut was not hard to find for it was the only wooden house among the brick buildings. The hut looked as old and shabby as its owner. If it weren't for the brick walk of the nearby house the hut leaned against it would have tumbled down a long time ago.

"I know my home doesn't look like much, but please, sonny, come on in for a minute, be my guest," the old man said.

Asunaro couldn't refuse him for he knew too well how lonely an empty home can be. He didn't expect to see anything special inside the shabby hut. How wrong he was!

The hut was a lot bigger inside, so much bigger it was no longer a hut at all but an ancient stone shrine with a starry sky in place of a ceiling. The old man had transformed too. He looked ghostly, ethereal, like a magical creature not out of this world.

"For eons I had been looking for a way back to my shrine," said the spirit, "after being cursed to wander alone forever. If it weren't for you I would've never found the way. For this I will reward you. Ask me a question, any question, and I will answer. What to do with my answer is up to you to decide."

"I've been unhappy all my life! What is the secret of happiness?" asked Asunaro, his hopes suddenly soaring high. He fell to his knees and raised his hands to the starry dome, pleading.
"All things exist in equilibrium," the spirit's voice boomed from above, "When there is draught in one country there is flood in another. When one man lives in luxury another man starves. Your case is similar. There is a man on this earth who is happy every time you are not."

A great grief had been in the spirit's gaze as he said that.

After the vision had ended, Asunaro found himself standing inside a small abandoned hut, alone. Rain drizzled through the holes in the roof, wind howled through the holes in the walls and made the bamboo door creak on its rusty hinges.

With his head full of thoughts and his heart full of worries, Asunaro went home. He couldn’t sleep that night at all. Whenever he tried he kept hearing the spirit’s words repeated in his head again and again. In the morning he decided to find the man that owed him happiness.

Asunaro had been searching for him for many years, but finally, he found the lucky man, the one who had everything - wits, good looks, luck, talent, love - Asunaro could only dream of.

Asunaro, hiding behind the fir trees, watched him go for a walk. Oh, how he hated his destined “twin”! The longer he watched him the more his hate grew. Eventually, it exploded into a rage, blinding Asunaro to everything for a moment, just a moment, but that had been enough. When he came to his senses he found himself standing above the dead body of the lucky man, with a bloody rock in his hand…

Asunaro felt someone looking at him, raised his eyes, and saw the old spirit. Tears glinted at his wrinkled, half-transparent cheeks.

“Are you happy now?” the spirit asked him. “Eons ago I did the same thing…”

Asunaro screamed in utter terror. He threw the bloody rock into the pond and ran away.

They say he still wanders somewhere, forgotten and miserable, and begs random people to show him the way to the wooden hut with a bamboo door.

(March 30, 2004)

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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.