A/N: This was something I wrote for Religious Education class ages ago, so sorry if it seems a bit drabbleish. It's been sitting in my folders ever since and I thought it was time to share it. Enjoy :)
The stars winked at him as he struggled up the rocky incline. He grabbed at the bracken to steady himself as the rocks gave way under his weight, and their sharp twigs tore at his hands. The path was bathed in the weak light of the waning moon. Shadowy talons reached out and grabbed at him, but he pushed on.
Finally, he came to a fork in the path. The path he was on evened out, but the other path was narrower, steeper and even more precarious. At the top of the path was a cave, barely visible in the silver light. He began to climb.
His lungs burned as he reached the top. He rubbed the heel of his hand into his eyes to clear the spots that were dancing in front of them.
"Hello. It's strange to get a visitor at this time of night," said a voice from an indistinct location. He looked around to find the owner of the voice, and finally his eyes settled on a hunched old man sitting by the dying embers of a campfire.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you," he said, sitting down opposite the old man.
"Not at all. In fact, it's quite pleasant to have but one visitor. Normally they're queuing all the way down that hill!" The old man chuckled.
The young man raised his eyebrows incredulously. "I've never seen anybody."
The old man waved his hand dismissively. "Of course you haven't. You don't look. Anyway, what is it you want to know? It must be some question, for you to come all the way up here in the dead of night."
"Oh, it is. I've asked everyone I know, but they all gave me different answers. I thought that of anyone would be able to help, it's you. You are a Wise Man, after all."
"Go on then."
The young man took a deep breath. "I want to know the Answer."
The Wise Man furrowed his brow. "You what?"
"I want to know the Answer! The Answer to Life! The Universe! Everything!"
"Now that is a hard one. At least the tourists ask me proper questions. How am I supposed to answer that?"
The young man leaned forward eagerly. "You will try, won't you?"
"Yes, but you must allow me to meditate." The old man crossed his legs and became motionless. After a seemingly endless stretch of time, the old man opened his eyes and grinned toothlessly. "You like riddles, young man?"
"Um, I suppose so."
"The square root of rope is string."
"That's the Answer. The square root of rope is string."
"What kind of Answer is that?"
"Think about it."
The young man buried his head in his hands. "You know, I was half expecting you to say 42."
The Wise Man inclined his head thoughtfully. "No, that Answer's a bit too vague. Although it does start to make some sense with a bit of deep thought. Perhaps Douglas Adams was on to something after all." His eyes acquired a distant look.
"I'm going to go now." The young man heaved himself to his feet. He winced as the cuts from the bracken opened again.
"No, hang on! I have something for you." The Wise Man reached into one of the many pockets in his raggedy coat. He produced a small bundle wrapped in white tissue paper. "In case you're a visual learner," he smiled patronisingly, before closing his eyes and receding back into meditation.
The young man took this as his cue to leave. He started stumbling back down the mountain path. When he reached the fork in the road, he flopped down on a large rock and began to think. It was most uncomfortable.
What could the old man have meant? "The square root of rope is string." What could that possibly mean?
He remembered the gift from the so-called Wise Man, and unwrapped it. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. He was holding a worn length of thick rope; it was frayed at the ends, and it was almost broken in two. The only things holding the two halves together were a few tattered threads. That shrivelled old man was obviously teasing him. He had no use for a useless scrap of—
The realisation struck him like a lightning bolt. He gave the rope a gentle tug. Sure enough, the threads held the two halves together. If he looked closely, he could see that even the straggly bits were made of countless tiny fibres. Each of the fibres was part of a bigger thread, which was woven into this incredibly strong, sturdy length of rope.
He understood the Wise Man's message. "A big thing made of smaller things made of smaller things," he thought to himself.
Without warning, his mind hurled itself back to a time in his early childhood. All he could remember was that someone rather important—he couldn't quite remember who—had died. He recalled how certain people had reacted by grieving alone. They had broken away from the rest of the community, just like the threads that were presently falling to his feet. He thought of how the rest of the community had stayed strong but had changed since the death, just like the two halves of the rope would if he—snap!—broke the fragile strings holding them together.
He turned back to the cave and cupped a hand around his mouth. "Thank you!" He didn't know if the old man would hear him, but that didn't matter. He set of back down the mountain with the rope in his hand and a spring in his step.
A/N: I do not own the quote "The square root of rope is string". It is from a videogame called Portal 2, which I would very highly recommend if you haven't already played it. Nor do I own the concept of "Life, the Universe and Everything"-that's from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I would also recommend. Like I said, this was written in an RE class and I only posted it because I didn't know what else to do with it, and I'm aware that I probably could have done better. Since I only used one quote, I didn't think this would count as a fanfic, but I could be wrong. 0.o Thanks for reading! :)