A long time ago, in a place which may have been Ireland (but could just as easily have been Africa or Madagascar) there occurred a very unusual series of events.
Two men - good friends - heard of a great golden statue found standing in a great hole in the Earth, quite close to their village. Now, these were simple people and rumours spread like contagion. Some said it was not a statue, but not a man either. One thing was certain: it never moved. But it was also said that it produced a noise, a sound, or several sounds from time to time. Now and then, people had said, it made all of its noises at the same time. The men made a plan to visit it. They left early one morning.
They progressed slowly.
"Do you feel exhausted as I do?" said the first man.
"I've felt better," said the other "but we much achieve our aim."
After many hours the first man stopped in his tracks, staring into the distance.
"I see it," he said quietly.
"What do you see?"
"A gleaming of beautiful gold, a great haze of light..."
Despite their tiredness, they began to walk faster. But however briskly they walked, the distance between them and what the tales referred to as "the gleaming golden light" remained the same. After a while they stopped. They were very frustrated.
The quieter of the two men said, "We'll never get there."
"If we walk back, we will get there," said his friend.
The other surveyed him.
"Why do you think so?"
Without replying the first man rose, turned around and began walking back the way they had come.
To the amazement of the other, after a while the light became visible to him too and as they walked it drew closer. Soon the countryside around them began to look as if there had been a great fire. Blackened trees lay cracked on the ground and the Earth was scorched and barren. They felt uneasy. But they carried on.
Sure enough, they came to a massive charred hole. It was as if a great rock had been hurled from the heavens.
"What a mess," said the first man, "let's go and look."
"You go," said his more cautious companion, "tell me what you see."
His friend crawled to the edge of the great hole. Hanging onto a blasted but well rooted tree, he peered over. In the great pit gouged from the Earth was the tallest figure he had ever seen. It was of a beautiful golden finish, entirely smooth. It was not a statue, but it was not a man. He had never seen anything like it, and he couldn't look away.
"We have come so far," he said to himself. "I hear it has voices to speak of things we cannot speak of." He looked around and there was his friend next to him and he was staring into the crater.
He said "I am told that when a man hears its voice, it stays in their ears, they cannot be rid of it. It has many different voices: some happy but others sad. It roars like a baboon, murmurs like a child, rustles like water in a glass, sings like a lover and laments like a priest."
"I have heard it only says one word," said the other.
His friend looked at him, "I was told it depends on how you listen."
"What can you mean?"
"Imagine a creature with a melody for a voice. You either hear it or you don't."
"I do not understand," said his friend.
"He describes himself but he cannot see it; when he sees it, he cannot describe it. But there is always the sound, he will always make the sound."
They fell quiet. a long time passed. The second man turned to the first man.
"Doesn't look like we're going to hear it, does it?"
"I have heard it."
His friend looked at him sharply. "But there was no sound. None. What are you talking about?"
"Cheer up cloth ears," he said, "it's only a fairytale, innit?"
By William Murray