© James Huber - all rights reserved.

The Sledders and the Monk

It happened one day that a group of Sledders met an insane Monk who lived atop a snow covered mountain. Feigning hospitality, the Monk gave them food and drink laced with powerful sleep inducing herbs.

When the Sledders awoke, they found themselves bound to their sleds. The Monk laughed insanely as he explained to them their predicament.

"This mountain is too dangerous to sled on lightly. You must take it very seriously, and go with utmost caution. I've tied you to your sleds so you won't fall off and hurt yourselves. You'll all probably die anyway, but at least I should get some yucks!"

With that, the Monk gave the first Sledder a push, and sent him off down the mountain side. The Sledder struggled and thrashed, but could not free himself. Very shortly, he slammed into the side of a tree and died.

The Monk laughed insanely (which was only fitting) and said: "See, you mustn't struggle against the bonds, they're there for your own good." With this, he shoved the second Sledder onto the slope.

The second Sledder had seen the fate of the first Sledder, and decided he had no chance. Rather than spend his last few minutes of life struggling against the inevitable, he decided to enjoy the ride. Very shortly, he hit a rock, and died. But he died with a wry smile on his face.

The Monk grabbed the third Sledder and, with a hearty "tally-ho" sent him down the mountain. The third Sledder was a person of strong will and great determination. By leaning first one way, then the other, he was able to steer around obstacles. "I am the master of direction. I go where I wish to go." Yelled the third Sledder.

"So long as it's down hill," muttered the Monk. Soon his meaning was clear. The third Sledder, believing himself free to move as he desired, attempted to cross a gully. Unable to force his sled up the far slope, he slid back to the bottom of the gully, then started to slide along its length. Faster and faster he slid, kicking up a fine white powder on the way. Unable to see where he was going, he lost what control he had, tipped over, and suffocated in the powdery snow.

The Monk laughed and clapped, and shoved the fourth Sledder down the mountain. The fourth Sledder knew he could steer, but also knew his ability to steer was limited. Looking ahead, he steered for gentle slopes, and other places where his control would be greatest, and steered away from places that might make him lose control.

As the fourth Sledder vanished from sight, the Monk opened a cabinet. Within the cabinet was a television displaying the fourth Sledder and his progress.

For quite some time the fourth Sledder continued on his way, the Monk and the other captives watching his progress via a series of hidden cameras. Finally he came to a huge chasm, the far side hidden in swirling mist. Unable to avoid the chasm, he sailed off the brink and vanished into the mist. The Monk laughed and applauded. The camera panned back, revealing that the chasm went on for miles with no end in sight.

One of the captives screamed "You Bastard, that chasm stretches for miles. There's no way to avoid it. There's no way we can win!"

The Monk glared at the complaining captive "Have a little faith. The bonds I gave him kept him from straying too far from the path. He sledded straight and true. Surely he'll land safe on the other side! Here, I'll show you." And with that he shoved the fifth Sledder down the mountain.

The fifth Sledder did as the fourth had done, but with a trail already blazed, his going was easier. In the places where the going was easiest, he worked to loosen his bonds. It took time, but the bonds became looser. As the bonds became looser, his control became greater. As his control became greater, he had more time to loosen his bonds. Finally, he freed his hands and arms.

By carefully steering, he was able to check his speed. When he had slowed enough, he grabbed a low-hanging branch. Bracing himself against the trunk of the tree, he removed the rest of his bonds, stood up, and had a look around.

A hidden speaker in the top of the tree crackled to life, and voice of the Monk issued forth. "No, no, put the ropes back on. Without those bonds to hold you safe, you'll be tempted to stray from the path. You'll be doomed, doomed I say!"

The fifth Sledder sat awhile, and contemplated his position. He was going to die; there was no doubt about it. He could freeze to death here, slam into a tree or a boulder, or sail off into the chasm. There was no way to walk out, no way to get help. No way even to get back to the Monk's cabin.

He took a nap, then sat awhile and enjoyed the view. That was why he'd come here in the first place; to enjoy the view...and to do some serious sledding. The fifth Sledder got back on his sled, screamed and headed off down the mountain.

The Monk chuckled and rubbed his hands together. Then he noticed that the fifth Sledder was not screaming with fear, but with joy. The Monk gnashed his teeth and pulled his hair and screamed "You idiot, you're not supposed to have fun; stick to the path, or you're going to die!"

Without the bonds placed on him by the Monk, the fifth Sledder was able to truly enjoy his sledding. Of course, he still avoided the areas that would make him lose control, and he still tried to stay on the mountain as long as he could, but he always remembered that he was here for the sledding.

The Monk continued to curse and yell and scream: "You're crazier than I am! How can you be enjoying yourself! You're doomed, don't you see! You should be looking for a way off the mountain, not enjoying the ride! There will be plenty of time for fun when you get off the mountain!"

The fifth Sledder stayed on the mountain for a long time, but in the end there was no way to avoid the chasm. With a whoop and a holler, he sailed off into the inevitable. As he flew off the edge, he turned and saluted the mountain. "Thanks for some damn fine sledding. Too bad it has to end." Just before vanishing into the mist, he turned to the nearest of the cameras, and flipped off the Monk.

The Monk gnashed his teeth and tore his hair. After a time he regained his composure. "I think It's safe to assume our rebellious friend did not make it to the other side." Turning to his remaining captives, he said: "I hope the rest of you have learned your lesson and will be more responsible..."

Inspired by the fifth Sledder, the others had freed themselves. "We've learned our lesson all right. I don't think we'll be needing these ropes and chains. I don't think we'll be wasting much time trying to find a way off the mountain, either."

With that, the Sledders headed down, pausing just long enough to warn the next group of Sledders about the Monk and the chasm.