Several months later, Hazen woke to the sound of his tent swelling and contracting with the wind. He'd grown accustomed to the sound, and to rains which bounced off his tent's cover. As he sat up from his pile of blankets, he stretched to relieve muscles stiff from sleeping on the single mat. He took a deep breath of thin, cool air and reached for his black robes to dress.
When Hazen stepped out of his tent, he looked first beyond the stone wall of the Kota temple. The scattered clouds above allowed bright sunlight to shine upon Gyantse's high hill nearby. A Tibetan monastery stood atop this hill of dirt and stone, and red walls bordered the hilltop like a crown. Far in the distance, gray-blue mountains stretched across the horizon. If standing outside the temple walls, Hazen knew one could see the surrounding land's greens and blues and browns, washed out with a hazy gray the farther one looked. There was also the highway that had brought them from Lhasa over the rivers and valleys and overall gorgeous scenery.
It's a beautiful land, thought Hazen. There's something quiet, holy, and completely foreign about this place. It's intimidating. We're so far from everything... But the locals in Gyantse are kind. And the Kota have taught us so much.
He turned to see the neighboring tents of his three friends. Jazzmon, also wearing black robes, had just emerged from hers. She hadn't been thrilled at first about cutting her hair as short as Renny's, and even now Hazen saw her stroke the unfamiliar buzz cut. When she noticed Hazen, they exchanged bows. Then Jazzmon headed off for her morning routine.
This practice of silence thing is killing me, thought Hazen. I don't know how Mino does this. At least we get to talk after noon.
He looked at the other two tents, but there was no movement from inside.
Renny and Oryan are probably already at chores, thought Hazen. Glad I don't have cow duty today.
He smiled and walked around their tents to the main section of the Kota temple. The locals of Gyantse had sold the Kota this land over a decade ago. The humble, white-gray, stone buildings were a good hike from town, but the Kota had worked hard to be respectful of the surrounding culture. The main, single-story building was shaped like an 'L' with a narrow porch of wood lining the inward-facing walls. Hazen walked over the bare ground to this porch and paused to look over by the stables.
Renny and Oryan, dressed in black robes, were indeed at work with the livestock. Oryan was leading Betsy by her halter toward the temple's gate, presumably taking her to pasture. Renny looked up from tugging on Otto's lead and spotted Hazen watching her, and she stuck out her tongue.
Hazen laughed silently and turned to enter the temple, slipping off his shoes at the door. The front room was warm from a fireplace in the far wall. A visitor had long ago gifted the temple with a thick, red carpet. In its center stood a low table surrounded by floor pillows. On either side of this communal room, hallways led to the monks' quarters, library, kitchen, wash rooms, training rooms, rooms for meditation, and the sensory deprivation chamber (not his favorite).
Making his way first to the simple kitchen, Hazen found an elderly woman in black robes preparing her breakfast. He recognized her as Mino's sister, who like many at the temple spoke little English. The head-shaved nun smiled with a small bow and continued her activities with a grace Hazen always admired. He himself tried not to clack his pan and bowl as he prepared tsampa porridge over the rudimentary stove. When he was finished, he poured himself warm tea from the communal pot, smiled at Mino's sister, and carried his meal back out to the front room's table. She joined him a short time later and sat across from him.
Renny's right, he thought. The Kota use such a jumble of religious and cultural traditions. They've tried to adapt to the surrounding culture to make locals welcome. They've adopted things like these robes, shaving our heads...bowing. And they call those who study here monks and nuns, but those are just the terms that make the most sense. Lhamo says the Kota faith is what matters. As long as that's the foundation, each Kota community around the world is allowed to live however they feel comfortable. That's pretty cool. I wonder what a Kota community in L.A. would look like. Maybe I'll start one someday and invite my mom.
YOU ARE READING
The ProphetScience Fiction
Mind your own dystopia. Hazen Stephenson grew up pampered, and he knows it. But he's never had it easy. Hazen's nightmares aren't merely products of his imagination, and he wrestles daily with guilt, responsibility, and questions of fate. Setting...