The Question Is...

Tibetan prayer flags flapped all around me. I pulled my scarf tighter across my face. The monk, unfazed by the cold air, sat cross-legged on a frayed cushion, his eyes closed.

“Excuse me,” I said, with a polite, British cough. “Can you help me?”

An eye opened, a dark iris focussing on me, diving deep into my soul, knowing all of me in an instant. I shivered.

“What do you need?” he asked, in slow, broken English. He must have asked that question a thousand times, but it was still calm and respectful.

“42,” I said. “They say it’s the answer.”

The monk nodded. “This is true.”

My heart quickened. Could it be…?

“Then,” I asked, “what is the question?”

The monk smiled, turning to look at the majestic mountain peaks surrounding us. My gaze couldn’t help but follow.

“Who am I?” he asked, eventually.

“A monk?” I asked, confused. He chuckled softly.

“What number am I to you?”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t understand.”

His gaze sent a shiver through me.

“Then you are not yet ready to know the question.”

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