The game: you give me a Buddhist-themed noun, an action, and a location, and I create the story. Today, I was given the noun “wall art,” the action “to age,” and a location “abandoned home.” Hope you enjoy the read!
Two loud knocks, a pause, followed by another three loud knocks; Hiroshi went through the motions, even though he strongly suspected the house was empty, abandoned, as it had been twenty-four years ago.
Normally he would unlock the door and walk right in, but not today; he took a few deep breaths and mumbled a small prayer. “May you be safe and sound behind this door, my dear daughter,” he allowed himself to think, and he remembered the day he first brought her to the derelict, weather-beaten house. Born out of wedlock, the baby girl was not yet a day old and already her whole family had wanted her gone from this world. At just fourteen years old, Hiroshi had volunteered himself like a man. “I am to blame for this mess, so I will take care of it,” he had declared.
But when he took his daughter into his arms, he knew instinctively that he could not do the deed. Her silent renunciation was mesmerizing, as were the deep, black eyes that looked back at him with eternal understanding. He made as though he were heading towards the raging river, an ideal destination for the discarding of unwanted goods. Once there, however, he followed the river bank all the way down to the abandoned home he had stumbled upon in his youth. Empty save for some wall art, he placed his daughter on a pile of blankets, under the protection of a painting that displayed four dancing dakinis.
Looking at the house now, Hiroshi felt a pang of guilt as he took the key out of his pocket; his daughter had lived a whole 24-years without ever seeing anything beyond this door. Every day he brought her food and spent an hour in her company, but that was no substitute for real life. How he had hoped, and planned, for the day she would become an adult. “On your eighteenth birthday, I will take you to our town.” Her eyes lit up every time he said this, and he could only guess at her excitement.
Hiroshi had been unable to follow through with his promise. Although his daughter miraculously grew to be a healthy teenage girl, something strange had happened around her fourteenth year; she stopped aging, completely. Each subsequent birthday went by without her having gained in height, weight, or physical maturity—her small frame remained the same, as did the innocent round face with the rosy cheeks. Only her black eyes indicated wisdom beyond her years.
A girl that young could not face the world without the inevitable questions about her family origins coming up. So he had kept her locked up; and she had been a willing prisoner, trusting that her father knew best. Or so he thought… it was now exactly six weeks since she had gone missing without a trace. Her meager belongings had been left behind, and there was no sign of the door lock being compromised, nor of windows being broken into (or out of). It was a mystery that pulled desperately at his heart strings; a tragedy that he could share with no one.
As he unlocked the door and stepped into the empty house, he made his mind up: he would take something to remember her by, but he could never return to this place if he wanted to move on with his life. Devastated and determined, Hiroshi approached the painting with the four dakinis only to have his breath knocked out of him: for it now featured a fifth dancing dakini, whose statue was smaller than the others, and whose round face and rosy cheeks were unmistakable; as were the deep, dark eyes that stared out at her father with rapture.