Manfred Kyber - Little Mandrake

Table of Contents
Little Mandrake's Birth
The Nutcracker's Views
Little Mandrake's Walk To Those Who Are Asleep
Little Mandrake's Walk To Those Who Are Awake
An End That Is Only A Beginning

Little Mandrake's Birth

It was a dull, rainy day when Little Mandrake was born.

It was no steady rain that one hopes something from.  It was a wet, cold fog that erases all colors and smudges all outlines.  It was in February and carnival time and masks were darting through the fog.

Little Mandrake was laying in the cushions, whimpering and looking hideously.  Three doctors were standing there and were talking in Latin.  In the end, they thought that the child was a case, and they could not guarantee its ability to live.

The parents were very saddened.  It is not pleasant to have a case as a child.  Children should be pretty normal.  Only, most of the time, one does not do something in one's own life.  One marries according to one's status and one's purse and then calls that God's will.  Nature has to comply with that.  But she does not do so.  Therefore, Nature is also not decent and one disguises her whereever possible.  This behaviour is called morality.  From that what is called God's will and from that what is called morality, human life is built up.  It also holds up wonderfully if all is pretty normal.  Only when the rude Nature announces her presence, the dam breaks.  From which one has to see that everything should be pretty normal, that one has to exclude Nature as rude, and everything has to be the way as it is baptized.

Thus, Little Mandrake was not normal, and therefore one did not know for sure how to baptize him.  I say him because Little Mandrake was a boy, provided he stayed alive what the doctors vividly called into question with Latin words.

The relatives also stood around and consoled with the known and heartfelt love among relatives that should arise from the fact that one bears the same name; and said it could still become something of it.  One could never know and there should have been cases where… They recounted the cases.

It was very loving of them; because quietly they were glad that the case had not happened to them.

Finally, one pulled oneself together on every side and gave Little Mandrake also a name.  But it is out of the question for us.  We want to call him as he appeared to the people, as Little Mandrake.

Little Mandrake is a changeling, a mandrake that is rooted quite deep in the earth and becomes a changeling when one pulls the roots from the earth.

Then, tactful relatives considerately drew the cradle's curtain, and Little Mandrake remained in the half-light of his life's first hour.

Outside, it rained and the masks darted though the rain.  Inside, it was still.  The clock ticked quietly, and a big tomcat was purring beside the fire.

Finally, the tomcat got up, softly crept to the cradle and cautiously pushed aside the curtain with the paw.  His whiskers groped their way carefully to the front, and he gazed and sniffed at the something in the cushions with the greatest possible knowledge of the subject.

No, that is not a human being, he said appreciatingly, that is like something of us, but again not completely.  It is very strange.  I will have a look what becomes of it.

Then, the child's hand reached for the tomcat's paw and held on to it.

That was Little Mandrake's first friendship.


The Nutcracker's Views

The main thing in life is that one chews everything and one always neatly spits out two shells and a kernel, the nutcracker said, and looked at Little Makdrake challengingly from his water-blue eyes.

Little Mandrake was no longer a baby, but a little boy and had received the nutcracker for Christmas.  He stood in the middle below the fir's blaze of light, had a colorful uniform and a pigtail, and looked exceptionally furious.  His uniform, the long pigtail and the furiousity always completely took up his entire little person.

Little Mandrake loved him his way, like everything that had been placed in his care.  But he did not like the uniform and the pigtail, and he found the wooden dignity strange.

Little Mandrake was just not a normal child.  Still not yet, as the relatives said.

Yes, the nutcracker said and properly crackled with the jawbone, always chew and spit out.  Then one knows where one is with.  Naturally, you are again of another opinion, he closed reproachfully.

One cannot chew everything, Little Mandrake said thoughtfully.

The nutcracker indignantly took hold of his pigtail.

Of course one can, he shouted, at least I can, and all who have a uniform and a pigtail and such a mouth like me!

Little Mandrake shook his head.  He thought of the nights when he had lain there with wakeful eyes and had seen things that were intangible.  For Little Mandrake saw the soul of the things and heard silent voices whispering.  Oh, the chest of drawers had recently recounted so beautifully from the grandmother's time and had added such funny gestures with its dainty little rococo legs, and the kettle had always opened up and snapped shut the big spout and had interrupted until the chest of drawers stopped peevedly.  Later, shadows had sat in the room, faint, barely perceptible forms with clothes like from cobweb and they had looked quite the way like the chest of drawers had reported it.  They had pointed at the old grandfather clock and nodded to each other… Oh, so much Little Mandrake had seen, even while he could not yet understand it.

These are sad eyes who see this.  These are Little Mandrake eyes.  They are rare, as Little Mandrakes are.  That is a big luck because, else, where would all the uniforms and pigtails be left, the normal morality and all that what people call God's intention, if many with the sad eyes could see beind the things?

No, not everything is tangible, Little Mandrake said, there is really much, much more than that which one can grasp.  The tangible is only on the side.  It is not the real.

That is nonsense! the nutcracker shouted and became even redder than he usually was.  What is not tangible, one cannot chew and spit out, therefore, it is not there at all.  That is the single truth.  That is exact.

He spit out two nutshells and a kernel, right before Little Mandrake's feet.  It was like a spit-out proof.

Little Mandrake pushed the shells aside and ate up the kernel.

What was in the kernel? he asked.

How shall I know that, now that you have swallowed it? the nutcracker shouted angrily, you are a dumb boy!

This was also a proof, and even a very usual and popular one.  Little Mandrake had already heard it often from others, in school and at home, when he asked for such things.

The nutcracker recognized that he had gone too far.  He got so many nuts from Little Mandrake and was carefully put into a little bed in the evening in which he could comfortably stretch the wooden legs.  That was necessary.  Because it is much more tiring to stand on wooden legs than on movable ones.

He therefore decided to give in.

Anyway, you would do much better, he said, and you would not bump into everything and get you bumps if you stayed in one spot, nice and wooden like me, instead of hanging around in all kinds of areas.  One always has to stay in one spot.  Then nothing happens to one.  One does not disturb anyone and is not disturbed because everyone knows: in that spot, there stands the nutcracker, I will not go there, else I will kick him and he will shout at me.  That is quite simple.

But if I still step on him — not on you, of course — but for example everywhere else where other nutcrackers are?

Nobody who is reasonable, does that.  Because who is reasonable, sits in one spot and does not move.

But I do,, Little Mandrake said stubbornly, what then?

Then all nutcrackers will take a snap at you.

Little Mandrake laughed overjoyed.

Huh — that must look funny!

Don't be cheeky, you know, the nutcracker said, that goes beyond the pigtail, do you understand, that is revolution.

Little Mandrake did not know what revolution was.  He thought that it would not be so bad if it only concerns the pigtail.  Little Mandrake was a child and did not know how strongly the heads are attached to the pigtails and that if often costs blood if pigtails are cut off.

No, that's no good, the nutcracker continued, you always have to stay where you have been placed.  That's the only true wisdom.

I want to go to the distant shore, Little Mandrake said and looked into the dusk with sad eyes.

What is that — the distant shore? the nutcracker said disapprovingly.  Can you grasp the distant shore? No.  Therefore, it does not exist.  Only the spot exists on which you stand with he wooden legs.

I see the distant shore, Little Mandrake said, I see many, many distant shores — I want to go to each of them.  It must be beautiful.  I want to know what is behind it…

What is that worth? the nutcracker said, can you chew that and spit it out?

No, Little Mandrake said somewhat abashedly.

Because the distant shores were far, very far, as it seemed to him.  It must be a long way, much longer than, for example, to the town, where the fun-fair was on Midsummer's Eve.  One could already not go there on foot.  At least, it was not credible.  But the distant shores, these were farther, much, much farther…

You see, the nutcracker said satisfied, just stay always nicely on the same spot! You also have to wear a uniform and a pigtail, then you look like all the other people and no-one kicks you.  That's the only true wisdom.

But are all people in the world nutcrackers? Little Mandrake asked.

Of course, what else? the nutcracker said and stood up on his stiff wooden legs especially powerfully.  Of course.  At least the reasonable ones.  The others are out of the question.  That is a big luck.  Else, one had to keep moving forward and would be shoved.  Thank you! One would have to move from the spot, and the spot is so warm when one always stands there.

He just spit out the shells around him.

But I don't want to, Little Mandrake thought and looked into the dusk, until where it became lost in uncertain lines — in the distant shore…



Little Mandrake was sitting in the sun near the tomcat.

The two loved each other very much and were together all the time when the tomcat was not hunting mice or was otherwise professionally occupied.

He had also introduced Little Mandrake to all secrets of the animal world, as far as he knew them and he deemed it right to convey this knowledge to Little Mandrake.  Even if Little Mandrake was half an animal, he was still human and developed with human slowness.  Therefore all had to be done with a careful paw, and such one the tomcat had.  He was extremely wise and even among these animals, he was a philosopher.  But above all, he loved Little Mandrake, and love guides even safer and better than philosophy.

I am feeling strange here, Little Mandrake said sadly and fondled the tomcat behind the ear.

The tomcat squinted toward the sun with screwed-up eyes.  You will always be a stranger, he said sympathetically you experience Nature differently than the humans.  You are feeling one with it.  The humans think they stand above it.  They still have to return to it.  Somewhere, all mouse holes lead to the outside, even if they are very artistic and branched.  It is expressed somewhat sporty, pardon me.  But it is quite similar.

Little Mandrake looked very sad.

You don't need to grieve because of that, the tomcat continued and purred soothingly, after all, you are not a real human.

What am I then? Little Mandrake asked.

I don't know, the tomcat said, probably, you're a little mandrake.  I also don't know everything.  Only the humans think that they know everything.

I want to go to the distan shore, Little Mandrake said, there, I surely would experience it.  But the nutcracker says that there is no distant shore.

The nutcracker is a piece of wood, the tomcat said.

But he speaks and even scolds.  He says 'dumb boy'.  The chews nuts and spits them out.  He is very fond of that.  He has a uniform, Little Mandrake objected.

Many pieces of wood do have a uniform, the tomcat said.

Little Mandrake gave more details.  He straightens the legs when I tuck him into the bed.  It then cracks.  I heard it clearly.  He therefore lives.  Doesn't he?

What one calls life, yes, the tomcat said, but it is still a nutcracker, nothing more.  A piece of wood that has been carved into a figure.

The teacher at school does it quite exactly the same way, Little Mandrake said, he also says: That exists and that doesn't.  If one asks more, he also says: Dumb boy! But he still is not a nutcracker? He is also not of wood.

The tomcat grimaced arrogantly, as arrogant as only cats can.

One does not need to be of wood to be a nutcracker.

Little Mandrake was thinking.

His sad eyes were opened wide and longingly.  He took hold of the tomcat's front paws and looked him straight into the face.

I have always loved you, as long as I can think, he said.  Have you been to the distant shore?  Then tell me how one gets to the distant shore!

There, the meadow-green in the tomcat's eyes disappeared.  The little eye slits dilated and the pupils became dark and deep as if nothing but riddles laid behind them.  He sat down in front of Little Mandrake, big and thick, and said in a solemnly meeowing tone: I knew that you would ask me about that.  I will tell you.  For you have to go the way to the distant shore because your eyes are looking for it.  One always recognizes that in the eyes — with my practice, of course.  Until now, I wasn't allowed to tell you.  You were not yet ready for it.

After all, I am still a child now, Little Mandrake said doubtfully.

Children often find it more easily than adults, the tomcat said, one will find it if one looks for it.  One is ready if one asks for it.

A transfigured smile went over Little Mandrake's face that was pale from all the thinking.

I cannot lead you to the distant shore, one does have to look for it oneself, the tomcat continued, we only know the entrance.  It is a big mystery.  The humans knew it.  Now, they have forgotten it.  But earlier, you know, in the Isis temples, when they still treated us as holy and saw their brother in all living beings, — there, where the pyramids stand on the yellow sand and the palmtrees in the blazing heat of the sun — it was a holy land —, they knew the mystery.

You have told me of that land, Littie Mandrake nodded.

Now, only few know it.  The humans now say that they stand above it.  They are nutcrackers.  But I know it.  I also was in this land — through the entrance, you know.  The land looks differently now.  But the traces still exist, dug into the desert sand by the bronze humans who loved the cat and who knew the mystery.

Little Mandrake trembled.

Then teach me the mystery! he begged and looked into the intelligent animal eyes as into a temple.

You don't have to become excited like that, the tomcat said friendly, it is quite natural.  The riddles do not lie in there, but behind it.  We don't know them.  It is the human in you that is so excited.  It will pass.  The humans are alienated from all what is Nature.  They have separated themselves from it and cling to that which they have made up by themselves.  The no longer hear the voice inside them.

I know that, Little Mandrake said, but please, tell me the mystery!

Don't be impatient! When you know it, you'll need even more patience.  You know what muffy-muff is, don't you?

Yes, Little Mandrake said a little disappointed, if you lay down yourselves that you look like a bath tub, and place the front paws in a way that it looks like a muff.  That's cat's custom, I have learned it from you this way.  But what's all this?  It looks sweet.  But that is not a mystery at all.  I see that every day.

All mysteries are ordinary.  One only doesn't know it.  The mystery is muffy-muff.  The humans in the holy land called it meditation.  You therefore have to do muffy-muff — muffy-muff. The tomcat showed the muffy-muff position although Little Mandrake knew it.  The rest will come by itself, he explained.

But I can't do muffy-muff correctly, Little Mandrake said and tried in vain.

You only have to be similar to it, the tomcat consoled, you only need to fold your paws as you do when you recite your prayer in the evening.

Yes, I can do that, Little Mandrake said, and all the other things will come by itself?  Then, I will go to the distant shore?

Only to the entrance, the tomcat teached this evening, we will both try, when you have gone to bed.  But you have to lock the nutcracker away in the cupboard.

Little Mandrake was very happy.

Where will we go first? To the holy land with the Isis temples?

No, the tomcat said, I can't take any responsibility.  We will go to the entrance first.  Habakuk will tell us everything else.

Who is Habakuk?

A forest screech owl who is a friend of mine, but only muffy-muff-wise.

So we will go to Habakuk, Little Mandrake said, does he also have such lantern eyes as the owl in the animal picture-book?

Yes, he does.

I am so excited and I thank you, Little Mandrake said.

You don't need to thank me.  You were loving me.  Goodbye until the evening! I am going to be occupied professionally now.

The tomcat sneaked into a hedge where he heard something rustling.


It was a quite still night in Little Mandrake's sleeping room.  Only the breaths were audible, of an animal and a human child that was not a real human child.  Both their breaths were weak and soft.  It was as if they breathed only like plants in a sultry night.  Their souls were far.

The moon looked into the window with a pale face.  It saw what it had be seeing for thousands upon thousands of years: meditation — muffy-muff…



Little Mandrake did not sleep.  But it was very similar as if he was falling asleep.  For him, it was like a wheel was turning around him, a big wheel with many spokes.  It turned faster and faster, one could get giddy from it.

Then it stood still.

Little Mandrake felt as if something separated from himself that was free, and as if something of himself remained that was not free.  But that which was free, was the real one.

Little Mandrake was walking on a green forest floor.  He felt the soft moss clearly under his feet.  The fern leaves were rustling.  Their strange forms were moving in the wind.  It was dark in the forest, but it was still light.  It was as if all things were shining by themselves and if everything had its own light.  It was soft and weak; but nevertheless, one could see everything more clearly than in the light that shines on the things from the outside.

Little Mandrake looked around.

The tomcat was walking beside him.

They passed a bird's nest.  Little wings laid motionless beneath the mother's wings.

We will now arrive at Habakuk, the tomcat said and stopped at a hollow tree trunk.

Is Habakuk at home? he asked a toad that sat at the tree's base.

Yes, indeed, the toad said and flirted with the eyes.  Toads are full of warts but they have very beautiful eyes.

Announce us, please, the tomcat said condescendingly.  He did not think much of slimy people.

The toad who, on her part, did not think much of old tomcats, flirted with Little Mandrake.  Then it croaked something into the hollow tree trunk.  It was a kind of internal telephone; because soon after that, Habakuk appeared up in a hole.

He looked like a packet of feathers whom someone had inserted eyes.  The eyes were glowing.

Good evening, the tomcat said, allow me to introduce: Little Mandrake — Habakuk. He performed a perfect movement with his paw.  The packet bowed.

Little Mandrake wants to go to the distant shore, the tomcat said, he wants to ask you how to do that best.  You are so very clever.

The packet cleared its throat cawingly.

Yes, I want to go to the distant shore, Little Mandrake said, I would also like to go far, if only I know where to go.

Habakuk looked at him with his big eyes for a long time.

As far as you want to go, I have never been.  You are also probably unable to go as far as you want, he said.

Don't take offence, dear Habakuk, the tomcat said, these are owl's cries.  We also don't believe that you have gone very far with your rheumatic talons.  We want clues to hook into.  Do you understand — meeow!

Habakuk threw a green leaf in front of Little Mandrake's feet.  What you want can be read from all leaves, the green and the withered ones.

Oh, read it to me, please! Little Mandrake begged.

Habakuk screwed up his eyes.

This can't really be read aloud.  It says, the path begins with those who are asleep.

It begins with those who are asleep, Little Mandrake repeated, what does that mean?

I don't know that, Habakuk said, then it leads to those who are awake, and from those who are awake, it leads to the distant shore.

I don't understand that, Little Mandrake said.

Do you believe that I understand it? Habakuk shouted indignantly.  Else, it would not be a mystery!  Be glad that you know that!  What do you need to know more than an owl? One has to believe that!  You are a dumb boy!  The packet disappeared, enraged.

You see, he says the same as is always said to me, Little Mandrake said, depressed.

He is an impolite patron, the tomcat said, he doesn't mean it like that.  He has got rheumatism.

Now I will never find my way to the distant shore, Little Mandrake said sadly.

Well, there is nothing to do about, the tomcat consoled, it will work out some way.  We just have to look for it.

Yes, we want to look for it, Little Mandrake said.

The dawn was spinning its first treads into the darkness.

The toad had crept away.  In the bird's nest, the little ones were moving their wings beneath the mother's wings.

Seek and you will find, Little Mandrake said by himself.  He had learned it in school, but he had not understood it.  It also seemed to be a mystery.

It was peculiar that it occured to him now so suddenly.  Perhaps it was the mystery that lead to the distant shore?… Did he even say it himself? It appeared to him as if it had not been his own voice.

He looked around timidly in all directions.  Nobody was there.

Only the tomcat trotted beside him through the morning dew and cautiously lifted the paws.  It looked very funny and Little Mandrake had to laugh.

This way, Little Mandrake slipped back into human life.

He woke up in his bed.

The sun shone into the room.

The tomcat sat and licked his paws.


Little Mandrake's Walk To Those Who Are Asleep

The wheel turned again.  Then it stood still.

Little Mandrake had become quite small.  He was amidst the earth.  For that, one has to to become quite small first, else one cannot get into it.  In there, one could see quite nicely, although it was in the earth.  It was similar to the night with Habakuk.  The things were shining by themselves.  It was as if they were made from colorful glass and were lit from within.

Little Mandrake was standing at a stone.  It was a clear crystal of bluish color.

It's too deep for me, the tomcat said and sniffed, I want to go to the surface.  There should be field mice.

His whiskers bristeled.

Little Mandrake was not listening.  He was seeing something what he had never seen before.  The stone moved.  At first, it was barely noticeable.  Now it happened faster.  The stone was growing.  He was growing nothing but clear, bluish crystals.  One was so much like the other as if they had been growing into a form that was not there.  Little Mandrake wanted to look for the form.  But he did not find it.  The new crystals were moving again.  It was as if they were breathing.  Little Mandrake climbed them up.  The tomcat followed.  It took quite a while until they were on top.  Because they had become to small.  Yet, the whole thing was no bigger than a stone in a ring.

There was earth on the crystals.  It was soft and warm.  The tomcat pawed in it.  He found nothing than a seed.

I am going to the surface now, he said, the thing with the stone was very neat.  But I believe there are field mice up there.  I hear such faint, drumming steps.  Too bad I'm here only in meditation.

The tomcat disappeared.

The drumming did not originate from above.  It was down here, in the seed.  Little Mandrake heard it clearly.  It knocked softly against the cover from inside.  The cover split and a faint little flame was blazing up.  Little Mandrake took heart and dived into it.  He fit into it completely.  For he had become so small.  The little flame had strange forms.  There was a whole structure in it.

Now, fine roots came creeping from it and clinged around the crystal like feeble little arms.  Now they had wrapped it up and were holding fast to it.

Little Mandrake was glad.  He found it very practical.

All of a sudden, he was being dragged upwards.  He was sitting like in a tight tube that had also many thousand small tubes running through it.  It was working in there permanently like in a big water tube.  Little Mandrake felt how he was being lifted higher and higher.  It was very beautiful — as if one breathed a sigh of relief and the pressure around one becomes weaker.  Only, it was pulling in the limbs strangely.

Then again, he was wrapped into nothing than fine clothes that were cool and smelled like roses.  Little Mandrake was wondering.  But he could not grasp a clear thought.  He lived and yet did not live at the same time.  He also did not see anything.  He just felt that he was there and that it was calm and relaxing.

Then, the fine, cool clothes unfolded.  The sun shone into it, and Little Mandrake rubbed his eyes.

I slept and I have dreamed, he thought.

Little Mandrake lay in a rose that swayed.

Down at the stem, the tomcat sat and purred.

I didn't find any field mice, he said.  I must have been mistaken.  What was walking on such quiet soles, was not up, but down.

Little Mandrake cautiously climbed down to the earth.  It was all quite strange, he said.  We want to go home.  But after all, it was a rather short stroll.

It is a very long way, a voice said beside him, it only seems so short to you because you were beholding the distant shore. It was the same voice that had spoken when they had left Habakuk in the dawn.  Was it his own voice — was it the voice of another one?  Little Mandrake did not know.

Then he noticed someone walk beside him.  It was a quiet, solemn man with good, sad eyes that beheld the distant shore.  He was dressed very simply.  Around his head was a shine of light.  Little Mandrake was not frightened.  It appeared to him very naturally.  He knew the quiet companion.  He only did not know when he had already seem him.  One time perhaps, as he had beheld the distant shore…

This was the walk to those who are asleep, the quiet companion said friendly.  They are asleep.  But they are already deaming.

Little Mandrake nodded and looked up to the quiet companion.  It was strange.  The man did not move his lips when he was talking.  But he was still talking.

It was a talking in silence.  Little Mandrake had never heard that before.  Now he knew that this existed.

He had no explanation for that.  But it made him happy.


Little Mandrake's Walk To Those Who Are Awake

The wheel turned again.  Then it stood still.

It is the wheel of life, the quiet companion said.

Little Mandrake saw him standing in front of his bed and was glad.

It's nice that you have come, he said, I am going to tell the tom.

We want to leave the tomcat in alone today, the quiet companion said and stroked the sleeping animal's fine fur.  Today, we have to go alone.  For your tomcat, the way is too long.

Certainly, this is the walk to those who are awake, that Habakuk talked about before he became enraged, Little Mandrake and was very curious.  It will certainly also not be too far for me, he concluded enthusiastically, because I really want to go to the distant shore.

The quiet companion smiled.  It was a sad smile.  The way is too long for you also, he said, at least today.  I will only lead you to the beginning.  Later, you will go on alone.  It is very arduous.  Step by step.  At the end, there is the distant shore.  Come!

He took Little Mandrake by the hand.

Then I will nervertheless really see the distant shore? Little Mandrake asked happily.

The quiet companion nodded his head.  A shine of light was around him.

One time, you will see it, he said.

The walked beside each other.  There was wilderness around them.  There were trails of blood in the wilderness.

Little Mandrake was no longer glad that he had gone along.

A predator brushed past them.  Little Mandrake could not recognize it.  It was big and strong and licked its muzzle hungrily.  Its eyes flickered.  It crept silently for prey on padded paws.  Then something screamed out, shrill and full of horror.  The predator howled thiumphantly in the thicket.

Little Mandrake trembled and took hold of the hand of the man who was going with him.

Does that have to be? he asked fearfully.

The quiet companion looked to the side.

It follows the traces of blood that others have left before.  It is a step.  The path that we are going is full of steps.  That's why it is so hard.

I think the path is too long for me, Little Mandrake said abashedly.

The quiet companion took hold of the child's hand quite firmly.  Yet you have to go it if you want to reach the distant shore, he said.  But today, I will not lead you much farther.  Otherwise, you will become too tired.  One must not become tired when one goes the path.

I will not become tired, Little Mandrake promised bravely, because I want to go to the distant shore.

The wilderness thinned out.  They reached a path.  Other paths crossed it.  There were few flowers at the wayside.  However, the ruts on the path were very deep.  A truck was creeping in the rut.  The wheels were crunching in the sand.  Now, the load was halting.  The driver was urging the tired nags.  They panted and submitted to their yoke again.  From the opposite side, a cow was driven to the slaughterhouse.  It yelled after its calf.  The calf did not hear her.  It was far.  The slaughterhouse stood big and grey in the thick, foggy air.

Little Mandrake was tired and abashed.

I want to go home, he said.

They always go the in same ruts, the quiet companion said, they go in the ruts that others have gone before them.  The ruts are already deep.  It is a step.

They went on.  An old man was sitting in the ditch.  His back was badly bent.  One could see it clearly because he had taken off the crate that he lugged on his bent back.  There were knick-knacks in the crate.  The old man traded in it.  He checked the money that he had taken.  It was little.  But he could not go further today with the crate.  It was too heavy.  The man bent his back even more and coughed.  the way old people are coughing — dragging and painfully.

There are so few flowers at the wayside where the old man is sitting, Little Mandrake said.

There are more flowers, the quiet companion said friendly.  You do not see them yet.  You will learn to see them.

The old man, does he also not see them yet?

He will see them soon, the quiet companion said.

The paths are running all over the place, Little Mandrake said, I would not know which one I should go.  It was more beautiful with those who are asleep than with those who are awake.

They are awake.  But they do not see yet.  Therefore, their paths are running about.  Their paths are wanderings.  They are turning in circles around themselves in the old ruts.  All paths lead to a big road.  Few find it.

It is also too dark, Little Mandrake said.

One has to walk in darkness to see the stars, the quiet companion said.

I want to find the road, Little Mandrake said.

The shine around the quiet companion's head became quite bright and light.

You will find it, he said, this is only the beginning.  Further on, you have to go alone.

Little Mandrake got giddy.

The whell of life was spinning weird and wild.

— — —

— — —

When Little Mandrake woke up in the morning, he was tired.  So tired as he had never been before.


An End That Is Only A Beginning

Little Mandrake had moved from the contry to the town.  He should visit a scondary school.  It was the town where a fun-fair was on Midsummer's Eve.  It seemed to Little Mandrake as if there was always fun-fair in the town, colorful and loud and noisy.  He longed for the tomcat.

One day, he was told that the tomcat had died.  One told him considerately and cautiously.  One already knew that Little Mandrake was not a normal human child.  Little Mandrake went to his room and wept.  He wept bitterly because it was the first big pain of his life, and Little Mandrake was a child.

Little Mandrake did not know then that he would always remain a child.  Else, he would have wept even much more bitterly.

Little Mandrake cried.  He became oblivious to life's fun-fair, and it became silent around him as in the past, when he did muffy-muff with the creature he wept for.  It was quite silent.  Only his heart beat audibly.

I would like to see my tomcat one more time, Little Mandrake said.  But he said that silently.  It was a talking in the silence.  He could do that now.  It is a lot if one can do that.

Then, the quiet companion stood beside him and put his hand on Little Mandrake's eyes.

It seemed to Little Mandrake as if he saw the whole earth wrapped in a web of paths.  These were the wanderings.  He recognized them again clearly.  So many wandered in the web, it could not be overseen.  Right through the middle ran a broad road, so clearly and plainly that one had to wonder a lot that nobody recognized it.  There were only few on the road.

This is the road of mercy, the quiet companion said, now you are seeing the distant shore, because you have seen through tears.

Now, Little Mandrake saw the tomcat walking on the big road.  He recognized him without any doubt.  Only his fur seemed lighter, and there was a strange shine around him.

At the end of the road stood a bridge.  It was the most beautiful thing that Little Mandrake had ever seen.  But one could not make out where it lead.  It vanished in the light.

Little Mandrake saw the tomcat on the bridge.  Then he saw him no more.  The light had taken him up.

Then, Little Mandrake realized what he had only suspected as yet — the creature's holiness.

And hew knew which road he would go.  He also knew that he would be very, very lonely on this path.

For the road of mercy is lacking in people.

Little Mandrake hid his head in his hands.  He was terrified of his life.

Yet, you will never be completely alone, the quiet companion said.

It is not the end.

It is only a beginning.

It is a small beginning.

But it is an ascend.

In the path's distance, the bridge stands in the light.


From: Das Manfred Kyber Buch, Rowohlt, December 1985
Translation: Ulrich Messerle, February 2003
Published on:

Text version: 2006-12-11 (a)