Part the Third: A Door Closes
Thus follows the account of P'rin, last apprentice to the Right Venerable Al-Nilam, professor of astrometry and assymetry at the University of Azza Westside...
We awoke in a field, a gloriously green field, with no recollection of having fallen asleep.
I did not know, could not know, how many hours later. Or was it before? Time slipped around us like clouds passing, their direction dependent upon which way you look upward.
I felt my face, streaked with dirt washed along by wet blubbery tears, and remembered. The dark passageways, edging along, hands raw from scraping along cold stone. The madness. The tiredness. The wishfulness that we had never, ever touched that door, let alone opened it. How our hearts sang with excitement, then fear. How we moved through -- what was it, a keep, a dungeon, a palace? -- looking, at first, for secrets, then searching for upward, and light, and exit.
And now, here we lie, somewhere dark? Yet green. Cool air moving around us and over us. Us. I had not looked. Did not know. I turned left, then right, finding no professor. Panic. I twisted onto my elbows, lifted my face forward, and saw his scalp. Head to head we'd lain stretched out like matchsticks. I reached out, shook his shoulder and heard a faint groan.
Hours later, we'd walked what seemed like miles in the shadow of that thing, that wall, which at some point had spat us out like dusty vomit. It towered, not evilly mind you, just towered like a thing that was, that is, that will be in our lives. Reflective here, bespeckled with stars in what must be perpetual night. We had no way of knowing, or guessing, the passage of time. Maybe it behaved differently here. We felt an unease of hours, like we had missed a deadline, or supper. We hadn’t eaten. Or had we? We questioned each other, then retraced our steps, only to not find where we had been.
Finally, we just sat, stared at our new world. The wall. The damned brackish river, always between, filled with those balloon-like creatures, ever floating, glowing, blue, mimicking the surreal haze around us.
In our first hours - or was it minutes? - the professor had looked down into that water and laughed, and continued laughing, a guttural laugh that chilled me to the bone.
“Helix,” he cried. “Helix. Helix. They swim in helixes. By the Azzan gods, real helixes!”
I pressed him further, but he would not explain. Just laugh, and mutter helix under his breath.
Like a sleepwalker, I wondered if we evaded reality, or it had evaded us.
There is little left to tell now. We sat for a time. Then, they came. The robed ones. They came in processions, to the mirrors, that lined the river. Oh, I forgot the mirrors. Uncanny things. Not reflective, yet we could, somewhat, see ourselves in them. Each bordered by black wood with a cage atop the frame that held one of the amphiballoons. I made a joke, about them being doorbells, and the professors yelled, fiercely, telling me never to never say that word. Ever again.
He’s right, of course. It only makes us think back, to how we got here. We just opened a door.
Anyway, the mirrors. We'd stopped counting at three hundred and sixty four, stretched on and around the river. Or maybe they were fewer, and we’d counted the same ones, the hazy light or our own folded thoughts made it impossible to know for sure.
And the robed ones. People? I don’t know. Just robed figures, who'd stare into the mirrors, and who always moved away from us, just out of arm's reach, and never changed, despite our screaming, which left us hoarse and thirsty and eying the river. Its luminous life below and above the surface. We never drank. We would never drink.
The professor screamed, and I screamed, and we yelled, our shrieks splitting the night’s silence, and soon we gave in, or over to our panic, and we pulled, and pushed, and prodded the robed ones, and the mirrors, until one cracked, and the balloon fell from its cage, and its cry stopped our hearts.
A withering mewl, wretched in cadence, on and on, until the professor picked up a shard of the mirror, stabbed its glowing belly until the silent night returned.
He looked up once, twice, three times to the wall, raised the shard, severed his jugular, and fell.
I laughed, at his fate. My fate. And began these last words. The ink from his sacrifice, on paper torn from our clothing.
If you find this, if anyone finds this, remember. Doors. They seldom lead nowhere.
Instead, they lead here. A place of only reflections. Only the end of passageways. A place twisted and torn from the fabric of our worlds.
No doors. No doors. Just the ever-dark. The portal-less night. Nothing else. No doors. No doors.
Just freedom we, I, can no longer contain.
#AzzaJono #TinAzza #BarelyEdited
Note: I’m going to upload all three parts of my AzzaJono tale of P’rin and the professor to Tablo soon. Watch for it.