Short Stories, Fiction
Date Published: January 20, 2017
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The Windless Echo is a collection of stories that delve into the minds and feelings of characters as they struggle to resolve, understand, and uncover the realities of their experiences.
Joy and emptiness, rest and effort, meaning and madness – these and other themes weave their way into the tales and the problems these characters seek to unravel.
Contents: 18 Short stories, 178 6”x9” pages, ~62k words.
Preview on Amazon contains the first story, “The Ashen Heart”, and 3/4 of the second, “The Woodchopper’s Son”.
Two of the stories, “The Woodchopper’s Son” and “The Prisoner of the Ashen Lake”, have been put into audio form, read by the author, and can be found here:
Wow ok, this was a great book with very deep and well thought topics, that at some part became a bit difficult for me to follow, not because I was not interested, but due to the high level of expressions he used and words choice. Regardless it was very much appreciated by me as this is great way to learn new vocabulary and see how beautifully complex a language could be when written in such a poetic way I would say.
I totally admired the fact that Oliver actually interacted with the reader in a very witty way it made me feel like he wrote some of the stories for me especially. 
My favourite short story became The Earth, the Sky, and the Petulant Cloud  thus, I want to share its beginning with you:
Once again, the man stands in nothing. But it is not nothing, but something. Something special, terrible, inconsequential and real. A sustaining force. A… nothing. Nothing, nothing about it. Nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to be, nowhere to go, nowhere to stay, nothing to lead, nothing to follow. Everything was just, nothing. Nothing at all. But, it was still something. What sense do these words make? No one knows, but as we wind ourselves in our way from here to there, what sense is there that is needed? What necessity is it that wakes us and requires us to “make sense”? Or shall we tell about tomorrow? About our imagination of things’ continuance, even though there is no proof. No proof that we will awake tomorrow, no proof that reality will even exist, or continue to exist as it always has. We do not know so many things, yet we continue, we let it in, we look for patterns, we form judgments, we question judgments – our knowledge is flexible. And so we continue…..
If you are looking for something more deep with substance that will thought provoke you this is the best choice to go with. 

The Ashen Heart

“Where is this life going?” one might ask, along the way from here to there…
I… will answer no such question. I will keep going from here, and…
What will there be?…
I know not…
My breathing is heavy
What has become?
Of this, or of that?
The world is upside-up… And what are we to do about it?
Shall we shiver in shawls made of wool and linen, talking about the good old days,
Or shall we merely shiver and shake, enduring the passing moment like weary travelers intent on their next step, yet still ragged and uncouth?
What do we do…?
When all the world’s possibilities begin to close in upon us – no, everything is quite – just alright. It’s fine. It’s good. Everything is fine. What is it that we’re doing? Go away from this scene of plenty, this magnificent array of “good fortune” – down the alleyways, away from noise, and entertainment.
Away down there, away past everything we once knew, we know the place where heart resides,
Where simple joys once filled us with meaning, but
Where now, things are uneasy, and strange…
Why is it like this now?
We kneel down beside her – our heart, holding a heart of ash.
We do not understand why – we do not understand what.
We see it there, we’d like to write it off, and perhaps leave it for consideration another day. But joy-
Joy is one thing we…

And, what of the ashen heart? Why is it like this? Who caused it to creep away into disrepair? What negligence have we endured? Why are things so bare?
And yet, we look in on our heart, and take the ash, and smear it on our face, and on hers.
She paints our face in return, and we look at each other, not knowing what to do.
Shall we plant the dust, and lay it down to rest,
So that some sprouting plant may one day find its way out from its ashes?
And what has burned the heart? And what has fooled the joy, and created a sorrowful remainder?
What of it, here, that lays in our hands, and moves so easily with our coaxing?
It is not solid, but dust.

And yet, have we made our heart out of ash? Or have we connected to the dust?
Have we, in all our longings and yearnings, made of ourselves something… crude? Dusty? Dry?
What is this thing that we seek to return to fullness?
What is this thing we wish to have a greater sense of life?
We call it “heart”, but what is it?
Why is it so downtrodden?
We have valued it – or so we thought – and yet, it cannot be coaxed out of its shell.
It cannot be goaded into serenity.
We’d like to wake it, like to… cheer it up – but what can we do?
Should we merely lament? As if that would do any good?
No, industriously, it feels to us, we must apply ourselves. We must coax it back to life – but how?
How indeed? Such a mysterious thing. If only it could respond to our plaintive cries, to our longings and disappointment.

Grow again, dear treasure.
Grow again, be freed.
And where would you wander, if no expectation was placed on you?
Would you climb under the covers, and huddle with yourself for warmth, staring blankly towards the wall?
Would you go about your daily chores, awaiting some spark to reignite that fire for which you yearn?
What is it you wish for? Where is it you’d feel you belonged?
With vacant eyes, you stare ahead, unconvinced, placid, yet ill-eased.
Still yet you do nothing, as we wait, watching to see if, perhaps there is some chance, some way, some yet unlearned thing, to teach us the answer to this strange riddle.
Within what sadness you seem to dwell – within what melancholy…
And shall you wake with the harp’s refrain?
What fire-filled days do you dream of?
Or is fire no ally to you?
When all things burn away, is all that you are left with, a distant sadness,
Nestled in your heart for untold years, centuries?
You hold your heart in your hand, and see it crumple into dust.
Yet you must carry on.
A bold new future, perhaps, lingers on, somewhere in possibility.
Perhaps, for you, there are encouraging words, somewhere, even if you haven’t heard them yet.
Perhaps for you, a silent melody waits for you, to be heard.
And what then will you hear it? Will you forget your melancholy? Will your preciousness be fulfilled?
The comfort of a time gone by, the return of the present to the future, and the future to the past…
Times blend together, as you sing a mournful note, meant to be cheerful – yet you stay abreast of the misery. You stay abreast of the downfall.
And so it goes – when all miserable things fade away –
And only brightness remains.
Shall you look up, inactive but joyful?
Hearkening to some unheard tune?
And what then? Shall you listen forever? Or, floating towards it, will you then,
Find yourself lifted from your common place, and into a floating place of light?
With everything shining on you – comforting, beaming…
It gives us hope in times like these,

You listen all the most closely.
To the gentle, star-like melody.
Its beauty is serene,
And demands no tribute.
Here, your heart no longer falls apart – and you wonder if it has turned to gold –
So solid is the piece.
Running your finger over your heart, you reflect,
Yet your thoughts are vacant.

Closing your eyes,
You drift into an easy sleep.



The Tyranny of “So”

Fear: the untangled web of lies forgetting to forgive itself, the mercy upon forever, the dark mark bleeding its way onto the edge of the page of our livelihood, forgetting itself and our many memories as its works its way into our very being, poisoning our well, poisoning our minds.
Fear: the one thing that forever haunts our time together, that unknits our undoing, that holds us tightly in its still embrace, one of terror, a fixation as the tall day passes and the shadows lean forward, and then out of sight and into everything. Very well then. We shall talk about fear.
Fear is a funny thing, fear does not beget any prejudice, nor does it right any wrongs. Fear does not beget any emotion save for a few things here and there, a bit of mental prejudicial leanings towards the way toward the emotion that shall not be named. And if in fact there is something about fear to be removed, or named, or used, or abated, it shall be named: so.
So? Yes, so.
For “so” is the word so often used when equating one thing to another: “so it was that I walked down the street to the ice cream parlor”, “so shall I name my first born son after my second and third hereafter”, “so, something something something is named for the first born son of forgetfulness, and reasoning, too”. Yes, “so” is frightening thing. Ever more so than the age of which there is many, and the endless expanse of forgetfulness, wherein we make our way ever forward into the black abyss of time, winding, ever winding, forward, ever forward. So it is that things that are not what they seem to be shall be in tune with what is forever after known as “so”.
So? Again – it sends a chill through our spine. A simple word turned radical. An innocent thing turned into a cringing demon with a smiling face, full of ill intent. So. The very word causes commotion, chaos, confusion, forward-thinking, resolutions, resolve, fear, brokenness, fearfulness, a very well laid plan to avoid such things as the word “so”, for “so” shall be so imbued with fear as to become ridiculous. And let the child point that out.
For “so” was not a harbinger of despair, nor some ill-omen, though the very mention of the possibility might send men running. No. “So” is but a word, ill-used when in the hands of the cacophonous. “So” is not so gentle when used as a knife, to cut and skew, and to rework and restitch meaning to suit some twisted end, some craven reminder of a very surely focused stitch in time to resolve the deafening silence of forgetfulness. No. “So” is not some monster hiding under the bed. “So” is some word, some phrase some nearly-punctuation used in every day speech. Shall we make a monster out of nothing?
So it is with fear. So it is with every fear, even fear of knives, more so than words. For words are easy to excuse, brush off, though somewhere in the back of our minds, along with the black cats, they take up a place of curious suspicion, one that shall not be named, but forever remains as a hypothesis upon reality, one which cannot be proven, yet could serve as an extra layer of protection against threats not-yet-proven. Better to not use the word “so”, if one can get away with it, no? Better to use protection against such absurdity as to be cursed by wordage, to be called to an ill fate by a wanton word, so carefully misplaced within the structure of a sentence.
So – oh, but now we’ve done it, haven’t we? We’ve so imbued “so” with so much importance, that NOW it seems that we cannot escape it, that every phrase or sentence at least must have two or three or FOUR “so”’s! It is absurd. So? No, not so. So! Yes, yes so. Very well then. So it is. So? So. So. Hahaha – so! We say it with a kind of absurd freedom. So! So! Yip yip yipeee, we can say the cursed word without having to pay for our crime. So! Hah! A spit in the face of danger. So so so so so so so! With more so’s, we have so outwitted our enemy, so greatly eclipsed the power of the one we fear, we can now laugh and sing and boldly say “so” as many times as we please! Why not have a “so” holiday, while we’re at it? Very well then, we shall! Haha, hurray! So’s for everyone! A “so” here, a “so” there, “so” “so”’s everywhere!
And a very good thing it is, too, that we should be so happy. For somewhere in the back of our minds, behind all the fun and frivolity, and the festivals, and the happy-leanings, we still wonder – “has our ill fate just not arrived yet?”, “will it be coming to get us?”, “what if we, or I, was wrong to laugh in the face of so, or to act out, and speak such an accursed word?”, “what if I, in blaspheming against the almighty ‘So’, have made my punishment all the worse than if I had only muttered it once, under my breath, by accident? Will all these send me further towards and over the cliff into an obscure and unsightly fate? Maybe I shouldn’t have… but I did! Maybe I should… but I can’t! What’s done is done, and for those who have so willfully betrayed the taboo of ‘so’, they shall pay the price. And not to mention that, but what about other taboos?? Having broken one, am I somehow predisposed to breaking more?”
And all the while a sort of wide-eyed terror is on your face, reader, on your face as you are in the party where the party-goer has been trying to hand you a glass of punch, while wearing a big smile on his face.
“So, pretty cool, huh? That we can say so, so much? Hah! Don’t you love it?”
And, shaken finally from your fervor, you stammer out a smile, and weakly reply:
“Ah, yeah, it’s great!”
You fake a smile.
No no, I’m not blaming you! It’s good to keep your cover. After all, amid this party of ‘So’-defilers, you are the one who still holds something of a loyalty in your heart to that which shall not trespass against ‘So’. You, you are someone who would go back if they could. You would repent, and go back to being the way you once were. You would, well, apologize. What else could you do? Not that there was anyone to apologize to, but you were sorry for your actions, sorry for the way you trespassed against “So”. So – you cringed at the mention of the word within your own mind – what would you do?
Again, you shiver and shake. Someone stops by and pats you heartily on the back.
“You ok there, buddy?” says the man, in a Scottish accent. “You look like a ghost went and ate your dinner. Here, have some cake.”
“Ah, it’s ok,” you say, trying to be polite and smiling with fake cheerfulness, a mask over your core of solid cold fear. “I’m on a diet.”
“Ooh well, more for me then!” says the Scottish man, although at the end there he didn’t sound all too Scottish. Never mind that. You have a mission, and you can’t forget it. You must attain forgiveness for your wrongdoings, and change your life back to how it was before. You’ve stepped over a line you mustn’t cross, because, on the other side… well, who knows? No one had dared cross it before, and now… this?? The results could only be diabolical.
You gag on your own spit, as thoughts of demons flood your mind. You’re naked in the dark amongst them, and they dance and sing. What profane and evil creatures! You think this, but at the same time, you feel powerless against them, and they poke at you with their black pitchforks, smile at you incessantly with their sharp teeth. They buzz around your head on little wings.
I said I’m sorry!! You think aloud within your mind to them, trying to make them go away. And, thinking about how they should go away, they catch your thoughts and sing:
“Rain rain go away,
Come again another day!! Ah-hahahaha!!”
You cringe, unaccustomed to such rude treatment. This was surely the work of the ‘so’ transgression. These thoughts, these demons within your thoughts, they were surely messengers of punishment, put to the task by whatever forces so deemed it prudent to avoid the word “So”. For a minute you imagine a hero to fight them away, someone who would stand up for breaking through the barrier of “So”, and, in… so… doing, in so doing they would perhaps, perhaps find a way to free you from both the curse and the fear of its punishment. But the hero is quickly overwhelmed by the demons, consumed by the writhing surface of them. But in a good way. For as quickly as you reach into your mind to pull out yet another unaccustomed leaning of your own disposition, you wonder aloud…
But the fact that you had almost said something, it wakes you up to the reality around you. The party is dying down, people are going home. The euphoria has worn off, but you see that everyone still looks quite content. But not you, no, no, not you. But should you be?
Hah, after all, all this “so” nonsense really is nonsense after all, isn’t it? “So” is just a word, and as a word, it is relatively harmless. No harm in a silly old word. How did this all begin, anyway? Did someone just happen to say that “so” was a curse word, or an attractor of ill omens, and ill luck in all things? Hah, preposterous! It must’ve been some cruel joke, targeted at the weak minded and those of us who dispel such nonsense with a stifling cough, rather than not allowing them to take root at all. Yes yes, how silly of you to fall for the trap of fear at all, here. “So” is really just a petty, meaningless word. Well, despite its proper definition, that is. Really now, what fear is there to be had in the proper use of language? For goodness’ sake! Let’s be sensible here.
And yet you wonder why you had gotten in such a tizzy over it. Was it its taboo nature? The fact that in breaking a silly taboo, you might begin to question the ones that are less silly? That – that really would be a scary pathway! Can’t blame yourself for being scared of that, now, can you! But, forever there is something still on your mind. Something you quite can’t shake, something you must lean towards without knowing it, something of a kind that is most puzzling, and something you can’t quite put your finger on.
The word pops up out of nowhere. How absurd to think of “love” right now! No such thing exists, at least as a remedy to this situation. Not that love doesn’t exist. It does indeed! Doesn’t it? Ah, why would you be questioning it, of course it does! But why come up now, when you’re busy puzzling about the whole business of fear, and of the silly word “so”?
Fear – fear is what you were after, fear is what you were seeking. No not the fear itself, but a remedy for it. Fairly well, shall there be anything else to it? Fairly well – you found what you were seeking, now away with you!
But you haven’t yet. Still, the puzzle remains of what connects love and fear. Very well then. It feels to you like you’re holding in your hands a strange puzzle made in the shape of a wooden block. You twist it this way, and that, looking for an answer. But still it eludes you.
You know! You’ll reference the great philosophers, and put in your mind some romantic notion upon which others have tread. You’ll fill yourself up with – no not a lie, but a great and noble truth! Or something that sounds true enough, to you. You can always pick up where they left off.
But where was it? Ah, yes… Love and Fear – “Love is the opposite of Fear”, some say, and that is good enough for you. Very well then, to escape the fear of “So” you shall love yourself, or rather, inspire love in yourself to such a fiery extent that you shall black out all who oppose you, that you shall tear down the empire of fear within your heart, and replace it with one of love. Monumental love!
You feel your back straightening with these thoughts, and feel puffed up with, well, not pride, but similar. You feel puffed up, and tall, and much more strong. This plan that you’ve decided on, well, not like you’ve thought it through, entirely, but it shall hold up, or forever hold your peace. Oh, what were you saying? You had no idea what you were doing, and were just biding your time with words strung together in a nonsensical way, though word associations. But you’d buy your time long enough to strum a little further along the path towards you goal, where you’d surely, surely fulfill yourself with a destiny warm with the delight of remembrance, and alive with the possibility of, well, fearlessness!
It occurred to you. You didn’t use “so” in a while now – you haven’t thought that word. Not… to your memory, at least. You could only see back so far. Was there a point more recently than you noticed? This seemed important to you, because if you had just breezed over the word “so”, then perhaps you were already free, and broken of your habit. Perhaps you were really, finally free! Hah!
But, no, there was no proof of that. You didn’t remember, and furthermore, you could just see it as carelessness, rather than as the issue being resolved. For the person who walks across a street when the light hasn’t changed really doesn’t stand a chance of being noticed by the oncoming traffic’s vehicle protection act. Wait, what? Nonsense again! What you meant to say was that for the person who walks across the street, at such an inappropriate time as the one implied, that they would likely get run-over. It’s not about that they suddenly became “fearless” of the road, or of cars, or that they overcame some great obstacle, no! It was that they were careless! And carelessness here could indeed be the case, too. Carelessness here could indeed be you failing to notice a wanton use of “so”, while the question of its.. its.. well, its danger, its curse-iness, hung in the balance. Now, if one knew for sure that “so” was safe, 100%…… but no one can know anything 100%!! Argh! Fail-safe, fool-safe, fangle-safe – words that felt good for your mind to say. Yes, you’d say just about anything right now to feel good. No, no, thinking that was wrong, intense, bad, because saying or doing just about anything to feel good could lead to some bad, bad, very bad consequences. It’s not like you were in a really desperate state or anything right now, anyway. No, you were fine. Fine! Not a worry in the world kind of fine. Yep, everything was just dandy.
And yet, in the back of your mind again – darn that back of the mind, it’s always acting up! – in the back of your mind you can hear yourself think: Well, that sounded like denial. And yet you pull back from that! Denial, no! Just because you say things are fine and dandy?! W-well, they are! And don’t you forget it!
You think all these things, but now a sadness takes over. “Oh boy… didn’t do that one very well.” you think. Ah, well, what is life? What is love? Oh no, that song again. Oh well, at least it’s better than fear, at least it’s better than this constant pacing, and this strange roller-coaster ride of unpleasant emotions. Very well, take me away, song! Take me to better places!
And yet your forlorn attitude follows you along with your mentally-remembered song, and you soon drift away from it: it doesn’t take hold. Ah well. You lean against a wall, in a chair, in a room… an empty room now that everyone’s left.
“Everyone’s left,” you dare to say aloud. “Is there nothing left for me?” You moan and make a theatric out of it, a small leap of whimsy into the realm of the real, and out of the realm of the imagined, which had been placing such a burden upon you. Very well.
For a moment you thought you heard a voice in reply. You sit up, perplexed, and look around. Was it your own thoughts, mimicking the voice of what a reply might be? No, no, that couldn’t be it. Someone was here, you were sure of it.
You moved to get up, and heard it again. It sounded like it was objecting to you getting up. It was a light, pixie-like voice, like the voice of little girl.
You heave a heavy sigh.
“If you’re here, please come out. I heard you, so, there’s-”
But you stop. Out from under the table where the cake was, comes a little girl in a dress. However, her appearance makes her seem like an apparition. You shake your head and jostle your eyeballs. She’s headless. Or, appears to be. After all, headless people don’t just walk around like that, do they?
“Don’t look with those eyes,” she said. “Look with these eyes.” And without, she pointed to her heart.
A quaint notion. Look with the eyes of your heart? Pha! Hilarious! Well, not hilarious. No, you didn’t want to discredit it too quickly, that would be absurd, and a little rude. Yes, you’d try to play along.
Trying your best to look from your heart, instead of your eyeballs, and finding it quite the difficult task – at least on the surface, you keep looking at the girl.
“Here, let me fix that for you,” she says, and walks up and pats you on your thin tummy.
A head appears, for a moment, but it’s a gruesome one. A head of a monster, not a little girl. An ogre-like face, framed in fur and hair, with wild eyes and gnashing teeth. It twists around like a, like a… well, you can’t quite find the fitting metaphor, or, well, simile, but all the same, it was twisting round and round, or at least round enough to look even more unnatural than it already was.
“No,” she said, her voice still sweet. The voice didn’t seem synced up with the lips and teeth-gnashing of the monster-head. “Look from – here.”
And then, she punched you in the gut.
“Ooph!” you go, taken by surprise. But you see the girl for a moment, her smiling face, the way she’s raising her first in the air – the one she punched you with – and seeming delighted about it all.
“There, I got you that time,” she says. But again, she seems to float into the air. “What are you doing?” she says. She steps up and shakes you by the knee, and your gaze is broken from the version of the girl who had floated to the ceiling.
“I-I, don’t know,” you stammer out, confused at the situation as much as, well, as much as you felt you could really be confused about anything.
“I know you,” said the girl, still shaking your knee. “I know your face.”
“Oh well, that’s, er, nice,” you say, wondering why she chose the words she did. She knew your face? What was she getting at? You don’t recall having seen her before.
“I know your face, daddy,” she says, and jumps onto your lap and gives you a tight hug. But somehow, you doubt these events, and just like that, you can see her still shaking your knee.
“No, not like that,” said the little girl. “I didn’t say that. I didn’t call you my daddy.”
“Oh, well, that’s a relief,” said the man, er, well, you. You said it. -You’re a man, by the way. “I should be concerned if I don’t even know my own daughter.”
“Well you don’t,” said the girl, but this time she transformed, mid-sentence, her voice becoming much more mature, and her body soon following. She was now a grown woman, with a forgiving sort of smile on her face. “Come on, let’s get out of here and go get some drinks.” She pulls you gently by the shoulder.
“But, er, ah, wait!” you say, “What about…?” and you look impossibly at the chair you had been sitting in. You feel like there’s unfinished business there, in that chair, or at least, having to do with that chair. You had been sitting there thinking about… things! About “so”! Ah, that topic seemed dreadfully – or thankfully – far away by now. But it was still perhaps worth thinking about. After all, there was no telling if you had truly reached the right conclusion, whether to find a truly freeing perspective on the whole matter, or else to, well, that first option would be the preferred solution.
Hah, and yet you stumble and wait no more, or wait a little while. You linger by the chair.
“What is it?” asks the woman.
Your hands are on the chair. You’re panting. You think that you feel as though this chair is your rock, your safe haven, your place to sit and think about it all, about everything, or perhaps about the important, or pertinent, things. Yes, this would be the place. The place to sit, and think, and dwell on things, until they were all resolved.
“Really now, what do you expect to accomplish?” said the woman. Or at least, the woman as you imagined her. But the real woman, sensing your thoughts, shook her head, and said:
“Now, I wouldn’t say that. Really now, I can be understanding. And maybe you really do have a good reason for staying here.”
The thought crosses your mind to question the nature of this encounter. See into your mind, your thoughts? Surely it was an ill omen, or at least, an unexpected one. Right up there with the monster and the –
You see yourself, waking up from your thorough imagination, and you see yourself, sitting in the chair, alone in the darkened room, head in your hands. Is this the reality? Which is it? Which is the one that best serves as an example of what really is going on?
And the you who you hold in your mind, who is alone, seems to swirl out of view, like an image suspended in liquid, suddenly tossed asunder by the gentle stir of a stick. Yes, swirl out of view and forget itself, forget anything, and everything, and nothing…
Ah, are you musing, again?
You smile, and laugh to yourself a little. Ah, musing… amusing musing. Very well then. Shall it be like that? Perhaps so. Perhaps so, indeed.

About the Author

Oliver Kaufman is an author and the founder of, a website dedicated to self-awareness, self-healing, growth, and the exploration of one’s own inner, conscious world. He currently lives in Redmond, Washington, in the US.
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4 thoughts on “BOOK TOUR REVIEW + EXCERPT: The Windless Echo – Oliver Kaufman”

  1. Hi – Oliver here. Thank you for the review! I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on the book, and some of your experiences with it. I’m glad it connected with you in this way, and it was cool to see the passage you featured, too! I wondered about the strength of some of the narrative sections, but I’m glad to see that one of them stood out to you in such a way that you would feature it here. Thanks for posting the excerpts, too : )

    If anyone would like to ask any questions, you can reach me via the comments section, here. Be glad to answer.

    1. Hello Oliver!! I am soo glad and happy that you stopped by!! First off thank you for the opportunity, I enjoyed the Windless Echo more than I thought I would and I am really glad that I could read your work. Should you have another book published I would love to read it too.


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