There once was a small town that bordered a magnificent lake. The town thrived because of the resources the lake provided, and its beauty was considered unrivaled anywhere in the world. The people who lived in this wonderful homestead boasted of water so clear, one could almost see to the very bottom. The men of the village were mostly fishermen but some of them made boats and some were farmers.
One night the god of the lake gave a man, who was a fisherman, a vision. It was a vision of treasure; a very detailed dream about finding a treasure. The fisherman did not heed the vision. The dream haunted the man all day, every day. It would drive him mad. So he pleaded with the god of the lake to make it vanish or help him figure the mystery. The god of the lake answered the man with another vision. The god’s gift was a map. The man was overwhelmed by the difficulty and demand of the map; he was sure he could not do it. He tried to forget his dreams but they would not go away. Finally with the man approaching madness, he surrendered to the mystery.
He sold all that he had to afford the time he would be away, for this was a formidable task. He said goodbye to his family, promising to return, and withdrew across the lake in his boat and into the forest on the other side.
The treasure was at the bottom of the lake. His vision instructed him to dive for the treasure in complete secrecy, silence and under the cover of night. The only way to the bottom would be to dive into its depths and swim back up to the surface. The treasure was not attainable with a fisherman’s net; only by the hand of the one who knew where it lay could extract the treasure. This man was not a good swimmer and his lungs were tired from the years of hard work on the lake.
The part that made the man weep at night was the fear of drowning. How could he dive to the bottom of the lake, in pitch dark and not fail or drown, he could not figure. But as he sat silently every night waiting for the god of the lake to give him guidance, he of his own will decided that he must train his body for deep diving. And so it was, that this man began to work on holding his breath for as long as he could, diving at night to conquer fear, and learning how to navigate in darkness. He sharpened his skills day and night, sun up to sun down. Then his god came to him with the final vision.
By now the man was ready to dive for the treasure and the lake god rewarded him with the vision of how and when to dive for the treasure. But the god of the lake did not tell him why. The man began to miss his family and his lovely town very much and looked forward to finishing this affair. The night drew closer and the man waivered in his confidence, but he did not quit.
The plan: quietly paddle the boat to the middle of the lake where the moon shadow of the largest pine stopped, drop a rope with a stone tied to one end and the stern of the boat to the other, slip over the side and take one dive halfway down the rope length where a knot is tied and back to the surface, take a second dive to the very end of the rope where the stone is tied, and on the third dive he was to let go of the end of the rope and swim straight to the bottom. At the bottom would be a particular stone which is unlike all of the other stones; it would be a smooth stone. He was to flip the stone over, for to slide the stone would scratch the treasure. Upon turning the smooth stone over, the man would have his prize. The god of the lake told him that he must hold onto the treasure with his right hand. If he did not hold the treasure with his hand, it would be too heavy and he would surely drown.
Just an hour before he would begin this dive, the man reflected on the lake god’s claim that this was a treasure above all treasures. He imagined how it could change his life; how it would be joyous to behold. He also contemplated the haunting of the vision that he for so long had agonized over. He could not believe that the hour had drawn nigh.
The man did as he was instructed; and one hour before sunrise, he slipped over the side of his boat. The water was cold and it took a while for his body to adjust. He filled his lungs and like a shadow, disappeared into the depths. The first dive wasn’t easy but the man had no problem. The second dive seemed to take forever; finally reaching the stone at the end of the rope, his lungs were burning like fire. He almost panicked on the ascent but knew that if he ascended too quickly, he would never be able to make the final dive. Upon reaching the surface and bellowing air like a whale, he struggled to not make too much noise. The god of the lake had told him that all must be done in silence. After a great while and the sun to rise soon, he decided to make the final dive. He decided that there was no turning back now; he would either emerge from the depths with the treasure or he would die.
In complete resolve, the man slipped back into the icy depths silently down the length of rope, past the knot, and to the stone at the end of the rope. He hesitated for a moment as he held the only connection and way back to the surface. The lake god had foretold of this moment, when all was dark, when he would have to let go, when he would have nothing but the vision to the bottom. He let go of the stone and his heart swelled in courage as he pulled with his arms deeper and deeper. The man noticed how cold the water was becoming, he noticed that his lungs were burning, he noticed he was not at the bottom yet. He almost turned back but realized that he had come too far already and would probably die either way. With what he thought was his last pulling of heavy water his arms could muster, he touched bottom. He fumbled around in complete, perfect darkness searching for the smooth stone and his hands were so cold he was losing feeling in his fingers. His lungs burned, his heart felt it would explode, his mind was silent and then he felt it. The stone! A burst of energy that he had not anticipated coursed through his veins and he stood on the bottom of the lake with his hands under the smooth stone and turned it over. When he turned his stone over, he lost his footing on the bottom and lost his bearings. In his excitement, he had been careless. He opened his eyes. It was so dark and deep that he could not tell which direction was up or down or side to side. The panic set in again and he was to yield to death at this moment. He had failed.
As the man hovered, suspended in dark space, and with horrified resolve to accept death, a light became visible to him. Right beneath him was the treasure glowing golden and magnificent! He quickly reached for it and managed to pull it from its place. He had seen this treasure in his visions but it was more beautiful than he had imagined. It was very heavy for its size. With strength he could not explain, he struggled upward with the golden treasure as fast as he could. He was pushed forward with the knowledge that all he had to do was to get the treasure to the surface. It was almost over and the sun was beginning to rise on the lake. Somehow he managed to find the stone that was tied to the end of the rope. Hope and expectation filled his heart as he ascended. Shortly after the hope came, the man began to feel the weight of the treasure; he could no longer swim so he climbed the rope hand over hand. It was very difficult and slow, especially with the treasure in his right hand. The closer he got to the surface, the heavier the treasure became. Nothing could stop him now he thought; he knew the god of the lake would either help him finish or welcome him to a watery grave. He would not quit.
As the sunlight began to sprinkle over the surface of the lake, the man saw the stern of his boat. With everything he had, he reached up and grabbed the side of his boat. But he could not lift himself up with one arm. His right hand barely gripped the impossibly heavy treasure and he tried to lift it to the boat but failed over and over again. He would have to let go of the treasure or perish. He had come so close to finishing the quest! But it was not good enough. He decided deep inside of him that he would rather die holding onto the treasure than letting it go and saving himself. He began to feel peaceful and warm inside and the light of the god of the lake filled in behind his eyes. He let go of the boat and began to slide into the beautiful lake and to return to the very bottom with the treasure, for he would not let it go.
The god of the lake had been with him and had watched him give his life for the treasure, so the god of the lake was moved with compassion and resolved to deliver the man. The man was in complete stillness, he was no more: no thoughts, no emotion, no feeling, just nothingness. Not even aware of his own existence, the man was no more.
Lightning flashed across the surface of the lake and the thunder echoed from hillside to hillside. But there were no clouds in the dawn sky, only glints of stars and the bright moon losing its brilliance to the advancing, soft hues of sunrise. But there were no clouds. Another awful burst of lightning traced a web of light covering the entire lake and one bolt struck the man’s boat and left in its wake three things: the smoke from the lightning, the treasure, and the man.
To be continued…