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Preface: This is a work of original fiction. The author is entirely ignorant of the true origin of Karma- except that it is a point of Hindu and Buddhist belief. If there is a story behind the creation of Karma, I am unaware of it. The purpose of this story is meant to entertain and in no way detract from any potential dogmatic or religious scripture attached to the belief of Karma.

This is just a fun yarn that popped into my head not two hours ago (4:30 AM, March 6, 2002). I hope you enjoy it.


Once upon a time there was a young boy named Karma. Karma was a mischevious child, always causing little problems for his townspeople and misbehaving in all sorts of new ways that he could dream up. Karma's imagination was limitless, which is not surprising for a young boy, but his imaginative mind proved to be the bane of his town's existence. Each day they faced some new problem to deal with. The reasons for Karma's little forays into wreaking havok on his town were as simple as "just because he could." There was never any rhyme or reason to his antics. One day a kindly farmer would find his fields awash with too much water; the blacksmith, which was hated by all the townspeople, might discover a jewel-laden bracelet at his doorstep (which had gone missing from the school mistress' lockbox a week before); or the mayor might learn that his peace officers were running around town and putting out, literally, small fires, which would distract them from their duties. Indeed, Karma knew no bounds and justice was not a concern for him. He did as he so willed.

One day, the wise man of the town, a man who was not exactly a cleric but not altogether ignored by the townsfolk, sought to occupy Karma's mind with something less detrimental to the town. "My boy," he told Karma one day, "have you ever heard of the Talisman of Gauru?"

The young boy had never heard of any such thing and said so. "No. What is it?" he asked with mild interest.

The wise man smiled kindly and said, "It is a special necklace. Magical and mystical. Legend has it that the Talisman of Gauru can turn its bearer into any animal he or she wishes. Let us say that you have a fascination with birds and wish to fly. Put the necklace on and, before you know it, you will be airborne and looking down upon the world with the eyes of an eagle. Or, perhaps your interest lies in shadows. Why, the cat is the best prowler of them all and the night is a friend to all cats- especially black ones."

Karma shrugged with a quickly growing disinterest. "So what?" he asked impatiently. "What does this magical necklace have to do with me?"

"Well, I have it on good authority," the wise man said in a secretive manner, "that the Talisman of Gauru is hidden deep in the caves just outside our small town."

Karma's ears pricked up at that. "Do tell!" he said with renewed interest. "Is it hidden behind a labyrinth and nasty traps? How is it that such a priceless item has laid at rest in the caves for so long and no one has bothered to gain possession of it?"

The wise man rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he pondered the questions. "Well, that even I should know about it is somewhat remarkable. You see, it is an ancient thing, this magical necklace. It has been hidden there for ages. Most people have forgotten about it by now. That I remember it can only be attributed to the fact that I heard about it when I was a young boy, about your age, and just now, when I saw you walking towards me with the glint of adventure in your eye that I myself had so long ago, I was reminded of it. Of course, it could be nothing more than just a legend, but I seem to recall it being regarded, in my time, as something of a rather spectacular legend. There were old tales of heroes and kings attached to it, but it has been so long ago that I have forgotten them all by now." The wise man leaned down to Karma and said, "But one thing I recall quite clearly is that it is in those caves. If you are feeling adventurous and spry, perhaps you might find it there." Then the old man's eyes brightened. "Ah! But I also remember that those very same caves are off limits by the town's ancient laws. It is likely that the reason for those laws is that our forefathers felt the Talisman would be best left alone. After all, what if some young boy should come upon it? Wouldn't that boy's parents be mighty upset if he should up and disappear into the forests one day in the guise of a squirrel or rabbit?"

Karma stood up immediately and proclaimed, "I have no worries for my parents! They all but ignore me anyway. What would they care if I should disappear? It would be one less mouth for them to feed and they are always complaining about the trouble I get myself into. I could find this Talisman of Gauru and become King of the entire land with its powers!"

The wise man shrugged. "Perhaps so, but there is more that I have just remembered: legend also has it that the Talisman has the power to change the orientation of those who hold it. For instance, if it is a good man who finds it, he will become evil- and the reverse is true. It changes a person's outlook to the direct opposite of what they were like before ever finding it."

Karma waved the admonishment off. "I am but a boy. I have not yet learned all the ways of evil or good. I am not a man. It would not affect me either way. And, besides, we are only talking of legends! Maybe that was just tacked on to give people more incentive to leave it alone."

Again, the wise old man shrugged. "Maybe," he conceded. "But there is only one sure way to know."

Karma's eyes narrowed, as though he were reading the old man's mind. "You are right. The only way to know, for sure, is to find it and see what happenes."

"And you will do this? You will go searching in the dark, dangerous caves for the Talisman of Gauru? You are a brave little boy, young Karma! Braver than even I, when I was your age. Though you may be right, the legends might very well be just a myth, my years of experience have taught me that many legends have a grain of truth to them."

Karma squared his shoulders back, as he had seen the mayor's guards do before going into battle, and said, "Well! I shall prove them wrong! Make way, old man! I wish to find this Talisman and show you that the legends are just old lies after all." And Karma began to walk away from the old man in the direction of the caves, then and there, with no food or gear to support him, should the adventure last longer than expected. Such is the way of little boys, charing off the realms unknown with little more than adventure on their young minds.

"Be careful, Karma!" the old man shouted after the young boy. "Be careful what you wish for! You might get more than you bargained for!"

 

Karma searched the dark caverns for two days straight, winding this way and that through the stone corridors and finding nothing but dead end after dead end. Still, though, he managed to never turn back and found many forks and hidden paths throughout the caves. He was very hungry and began to worry that he would never find his way out of the caves, let alone find the Talisman of Gauru. Just when despair started to overtake his every thought, as he wandered aimlessly in the dark, he noticed a glimmer of light just ahead of him.

Intrigued and hopeful that he had found a way out of the caves, he moved swiftly towards the light, renewed thoughts of food and rest at the forefront of his mind. Finally, he broke out into a small chamber within the caves and there, in the center of the chamber, was a short stone pillar, enveloped in a bath of light from a hole in the ceiling. Resting peacefully and in perfect condition, was a simple, gold necklace, with a medallion dangling from the end of it.

Immediately Karma stopped in his tracks and started to scan the chamber carefully with his eyes. He knew, of course, that he had found the Talisman of Gauru, for what other necklace would he find in these abandoned and windsome caves? But the memory of his conversation with the wise man gave him pause. What if there were traps or treacherous secrets between the chamber's entrance and the Talisman itself? He saw no skeletons or writing on the plain walls which warned tresspassers away. He saw no thin lines to indicate trapdoors or snares. All he saw was the small stone pillar, some dust on the floor and the skylight shining down into the room. Even the walls of the cave were nondescript and bereft of noteworthy detail.

Karma steeled himself, gathered his courage and trod carefully to where the necklace lay waiting. When he reached the pillar, nothing had happened to him. There were no secret mechanisms or traps, no ghostly sounds or unseen threats. The only sound he heard was his own breathing and the echoes of his own footsteps. Boldened, he reached out and took the necklace into his hands. He looked at the Talisman's medallion and saw that it was etched finely, the emblem a perfectly drawn picture-gram of a Griffin holding weighing scales in its lion-looking paws.

Karma's only favorite animal is the wolf. The reason he is so fascinated by the wolf is because it is neither dog nor anything else that can be clearly described. It is an entity unto itself and it is smarter than even the most nefarious fox ever seen by his people. The wolves hunt and prowl the plains around his town night and day, always picking their prey of other animals from the sick, old or extremely young. To Karma, the wolf represents an aspect of his own spirit, a spirit guided by freedom and adventure, intelligence and independence. Of all the animals that Karma could ever wish to be, it is the wolf.

Karma placed the necklace around his neck and, as though it was as normal as anything else, he began to change into the animal of his deepest wish: a wolf, not a cub, but not yet an adult, either. He could tell that he was now quick on his feet, quicker than any human could ever imagine, and had keener senses, too. He could smell scents and odors in the dark air that, as a boy, he was totally unaware of. Indeed, by the very sense of smell alone, he could find his way through the caves and his heightened vision allowed him to see in the dark as well as any cat. So elated with his discovery that at least some part of the old man's legend was true, that he let out a whoop of a howl of delight and joy. With his newfound speed and strength, he darted off from the hidden chamber and ran straight for the cave's entrance, where he had started just two days before. He was still hungry and was in the mood for food, whether it be cooked by his negligent mother or had from the world of nature, via his new and unexplored skills of hunting.

 

As he approached the mouth of the cave, he saw that it was now daylight outside, just turning dusk. Karma recalled walking past a small brook just a short distance from the caves, so he headed for it with the intention to drink his fill of some much-needed water. Within moments, he stood at the small creek's bank and bowed his thirsty wolf-head to the running water. Just before be started to lap thankfully of the stream water, he glimpsed his reflection and saw that his fur was just as he had imagined it would be. It was light gray with one silver streak on each side, running down his rib cage. The place where the necklace should be was marked by a soft-yellow/tan line that looked remarkably like a necklace and punctuated by a tuft of light brown. There were no traces of his clothing, which had been dirty and torn in some places before he found the Talisman of Gauru, so he naturally assumed that the clothing had been magically altered by the Talisman and made to be a part of his fur coat. Pleased with his new appearance, Karma began to lap from the water, at first carefully and slowly, for he did not want to get sick from drinking too fast, and then more steadily as his strength returned.

 

When Karma's thirst was slaked, he turned away from the stream and set his paws upon the path to his parents' home, where he was sure that his parents would not have even noticed his absence. A short while later, after the sun had completely set and dark had overtaken his small town, he came upon the farmland that belonged to his father.

Still in the form of a wolf, he approached his parents' house and heard some shouting coming from within. His parents were in the middle of a heated argument and he could tell, with his improved hearing of a wolf, that they were arguing about him. His mother was certain that his father had said something unkind to Karma and chased the boy away from the house. Meanwhile, Karma's father denied the allegation and accused his mother of not disiplining the boy while the father was away at work in town- and that was why Karma had gone missing. The two adults fought bitterly and, for a moment, Karma was glad of it. Had he known his unexpected sojourn would have caused this much of a stir, he would have gone missing a lot sooner in his life. Part of him was dismayed that his parents were fighting, but an equal portion of him was glad to know that they cared so much as to worry about him at all.

Suddenly, at the climax of the argument, Karma heard the unmistakable crack of his father's hand striking his mother's cheek. The sound so surprised Karma that, for just a fraction of a second, he did not know what to make of it. While he did not have a good relationship with his parents, he could see no reason why he should be the cause of such a heated debate that it would come to blows! The mother screamed shrilly and, before he knew what he was doing, Karma bounded right through the house door, knocking it clear off its hinges and cut loose with a menacing growl.

Karma saw his father standing over his mother with his large palm raised for another strike and that was all Karma needed to see. Without another thought, Karma growled again and charged. His father was so astounded by the intrusion that he froze with fright, his eyes wide and unsure. Karma, with the swiftness now afforded him, sank his wolfish teeth neatly into his father's backside- not so hard as to cause severe damage, but hard enough to get the man's attention.

Karma's father let out a loud yell of pain and jumped high into the air. Karma thought, then, to change himself back into his natural, human state, and lecture his father on the wrongs of hitting one's wife, but found that he could not make himself change. The Talisman of Gauru was an actual part of his fur now and could not be removed, nor did Karma's will seem to have any effect.

Karma, as a young wolf in his parents' house, blinked a few times at his father, who stared in disbelief at what he thought was a most peculiar wolf. Unable to make himself return to a little boy, Karma let out a small whine and, not knowing what else to do, bolted back out the doorway and into the night. As he was running into the shadows, he heard his mother come to his father's aid, and ask in a concerned tone if the man who had just struck her was all right. At least now they aren't fighting, Karma thought.

 

Confused and bewildered, and still hungry, Karma wandered the outskirts of his town until he finally came to the house of the old wise man. Inspired with a hope of seeing a familiar face that might be friendly to him, he came to the wise man's door, pawed at it a few times and let out a low whine of supplication. He kept trying to say, "Help me! Open up!" but all that would come out were a few yips and more whines.

Slowly, carefully, the door opened and the old man poked his head out. As soon as he saw the young wolf sitting as docile as can be on his doorstep, he gave a start. He took a deep breath to call for help, but the wolf whined again, as though pleading him not to. The wise old man paused for a moment and took what stood before him in carefully with his eyes. He saw all the strange markings on the animal, noted its obvious youth and began to realize who his visitor was. News of Karma's disappearance had already spread through the town. The old man had never said anything about where he knew Karma was last headed because he, like most everyone else in the town, had not been so displeased to hear that the boy might be gone for good. After all, Karma had caused a lot of trouble for nearly everyone in the town.

The wise man smiled knowingly and nodded. "So," he said to the wolf at his doorstep. "Karma has finally come back home. And in the form of a wolf, no less. How fitting."

Karma, who had until so recently been a young boy, whined plaintively to the old man. He licked his chops in a suggestive manner, hoping to get the point across that he was hungry.

"Hungry, are you?" the old man asked. "Want some scraps of food, eh? Hmm... well, tell you what, young boy- or should I call you that just now? Anyway, tell you what? Since you have somehow managed to return home in such a state, thus proving the sincerity of the legend we spoke of just days ago, I shall reward you. I shall feed you grandly. All I ask is that you make yourself presentable before you come into my home. While you may think it is amusing to enter a man's house as an animal, I do not. Houses are meant for people, not wolves." Karma merely whined and looked fretful. He could not change back to his normal form, nor could he say so to the old man. All he could do was whine. "Well? Come on, Karma. I haven't got all night!" Still, no change occurred and then the old man realized why. "Oh, my dear boy! You can't change back, can you? Is this some part of the legend that was lost to time? Hmm?" Again, Karma could only whine. The old man nodded with understanding. "Very well. Come in. But I will feed you quickly. I can't say that I like the idea of a wolf in my house, let alone a wolf with your reputation as a boy! Come in. I will feed you."

The old man opened the door further to let Karma in and closed it as soon as Karma was completely inside. In the distance could be heard some shouting, but the old man paid it no mind. "As it so happens," he told Karma, "I was just making myself some stew. I will pour some into a bowl for you." He did so quickly and as soon as the bowl was on the floor, Karma began to lap it up with vigor.

Before Karma could finish his meal, there was a knocking at the old man's door. "Hide out of view of the doorway," the old man whispered. "I would rather not have to explain to people why I have a wolf in my home- especially when news of your diapearance is so well known! Quickly!" Karma reluctantly did as he was told and hid behind the bed as the old man shouted to the unexpected visitor. "Who is it?!"

"The mayor's guard!" came a gruff voice. "Open up, please!"

The old man harumphed and open the door stiffly. "What's the matter?"

"A wolf burst into the home of Karma's parents," the guard announced. "It bit the man of the house and then left without doing anything else. While this seems strange for a wolf to do, we are going around and encouraging people to bolt their doors soundly and keep on a lookout for the animal. Have you seen such an animal?"

The old man did not miss a beat. "Does my door appear to be beaten down? Do you see any claw marks? Am I complaining of any ferocious wolf attacks?"

"No," the guard answered uncertainly.

"Then you can assume that, no, I have not seen such an animal. But if I do, I know who to call. Thank you. Good evening!" Without waiting for a response from the guard, the old man slammed the door soundly. "I'm eating!" he shouted through it.

Karma pricked up his ears and listened as the befuddled guard strolled away in the direction of the nearest house and when he was certain that he was safe from discovery, Karma let out a small, quiet yap of thanks to his benefactor.

"Not too loud!" the old man said. "Just finish your meal and begone. Even now, no longer a little boy, you're causing problems! And why would you attack your own father? Was he cruel to you?"

Karma inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. Finally! A simple yes or no question that he could answer! He shook his head.

"Was he cruel to your mother, then?"

Karma thought about the question carefully. While his father was not given to abusing his mother or being especially unkind, the reason he had bitten him was because of the unjust slap his mother had received. Just then, another part of the Talisman's legend surfaced in his memory. He had done something as a matter of justice, which was not at all like the Karma-as-a-boy! But this revelation would have to wait. For now, he had a question to answer. He decided to both nod and shake his head, in that order.

That perplexed the old man. "What do you mean? Yes or no?" Karma repeated the gesture. "Hmm..." the old man mused. "Yes, he was cruel, but not often? Is that it?"

Karma felt that such an answer would have to do for the time-being, so he nodded. In an effort to attach a bit of ambiguity to the answer, he whined, too.

"When you attacked him, was he being cruel to your mother then?" Karma nodded vigorously. The old man's eyes sparkled with delight. "I see!" he exclaimed. "So the legend is true in that regard as well! If you don't mind my saying so, Karma, you were regarded as quite a naughty boy in this town. You made many peoples' lives miserable with no care for justice or honor. And, yet, here you are, defending your mother- a true act of justice if ever there was one! Your character has changed indeed, my boy." The old man picked up Karma's unfinished bowl of stew, refilled it and set it in front of the wolf-boy. "The day may yet come when the name of Karma will be regarded with both fairness and unfairness in the same breath."

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