Wind beyond frigid howled in the mountain valleys around the monastery as icy shards of blizzard were cutting the last few leaves still stubbornly attached to the branches with a ting that, if it were a day, would emit a spark. But it was a night, in which the ashram stood lightless - the rats had gotten to the candle supplies, so darkness was considered a new standard, and the few remaining candle-ends were rationed only to ensure trips to latrine don't end in a tragedy. Of course, wood and coal were not as appreciated as beeswax by rats, so deep in the bowels of the building flames were roaring in the infernal furnace basking monks assigned to the fire duty in orange-white light and copious amounts of infrared radiation of a substitute sun.

It was the dark confines of his cell in-between the fires of heavens and the frigidities of hell (or vice versa) that Master Bodhisattva contemplated The Place Where Black Stars Hang. It was a wondrous even if dreadful place where an antipode of light exists instead of mere absence of light; something, if intense enough, would put out even the everbright light of hydrogen nuclei fusing together. It was said that soul posesses the power of a fusion device, but even souls that do shine so bright would be extinguished – and worse yet, what souls would be born of it?

It was rather obvious that things were not going great in the ashram lately. Between meditations on frozen Black Stars in the stifling darkness of his cell and on-fire duty considerations of The Dimension That Contains Only a Bowl of Two Oranges and which is accessible only by the act of self-immolation, Master Bodhisattva struggled to find a path among the irreconcilable opposites. He was a human, after all, only perhaps more aware of the absurd callousness of the universe, and he was lost.

Master Bodhisattva, however, tried real hard to keep an inquisitive mind and rather chose to perceive threats, even existential ones, as curious developments. He was failing to, recently. There was plenty to be happy about, even moreso to be thankful for, but there was a dark star radiating anti-light upon himself, the ashram, mountain range, the world and the whole forsaken universe, and it was putting everyones' souls out bit by bit. It was the dark anti-light companion, the Master thought, that waits around the corner for anyone ground in the wheel of samsara, just beyond perception, just before comprehension, of which people are at best dimly aware until it presents itself face-on and snuffs out the light of the soul; previous occupant of the throne of conciousness is gone and another, stranger, settles in, but only eventually. What walks the face of the Earth meanwhile? Master shuddered, then calmed himself: everyone is the ship of Theseus. Everyone is the grandfathers' axe. Everyone fails to be the same person stepping in the same river again; and even if the change is drastic, there is still continuity, there is still some constant, real or imagined, bridging "before", "during" and "after".

Even in death. Especially in death.

His mind fell silent, mid-breath. The wind shrieked ever stronger; Deep below the fire rumbled in a rhythm growing ever fiercer. He felt the dark companion approaching, nearing comprehension: soon, he would face it. The paragraph would end. The story would conclude. Master Bodhisattva here no more.

And it was all right, he resolved. Master opened his eyes to the darkness and raised his gaze towards the small window near the ceiling. He gasped: through a tear in the raging snowstorm, a single bright star twinkled.