iota (part 1) 💮 back to life 💮
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Light and shadow, alternating in slow motion. Colorful shapes with fuzzy edges moving in spirals. And with them, a feeling that time is flowing along a tiny closed loop and I’m living the same moments again and again.
Pain. Agony. Perhaps time itself is an illusion… I feel like I’m riding on a giant pendulum back and forth between past and present, never reaching the future. Is this a direct experience, or is it an intense memory that came to haunt me from the depths of my brain?
I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. It seemed I was being lifted from the ground and carried away. My vision was blurry and my sense of hearing was not working, so I couldn’t be certain of anything I was experiencing at that moment. I was unable to move or talk, all I could do was breathe slowly, but even the air coming in and out of my lungs felt sticky and viscous, like a mixture of water and mud.
Everything I was going through didn’t seem real, my mind perceived it like a hallucination, like a nightmare. Only the pain in my whole body felt genuine, and it was overwhelming. Still, I couldn’t utter even the slightest sound to complain about it.
Perhaps I was being taken somewhere. But where? And by whom?
This must be the heart of Hell. I suppose I have been evil while living on Earth, after all, even though I used to see myself as a good person. Now it’s time to pay for my mistakes. I didn’t deserve to be saved and an eternity of suffering is all that’s left for me.
My eyes stay open and I can’t move my eyelids. My gaze is glassy, immobile, like the gaze of the dead giant lizard. I seem to lie on my back inside a long canoe, but can’t be sure of what my wretched senses tell me. Everything that is perceived by my eyes looks trembling and distorted. And I can’t hear anything.
The huge sky is pressing down my skull and the clouds are burning my head. They go in and out, unconcerned about my pain. My skull is as big as a mountain and I can’t change its position. Soon it will get crushed under its own weight. At least, this would give me some satisfaction: I imagine the clouds inside it being trapped and squeezed until they pop up like soap bubbles. This image makes me want to laugh, but my mouth remains stiff, as if my lips were made of stone. Now I see, all my body is made of stone, that’s why I can’t budge any part of it.
As if coming from a long distance, a face is moving across the sky. It’s a young woman’s face. I can’t get a clear view of her, but she has long black hair, pale skin, big eyes, arched eyebrows, full lips, and a small, straight nose. It seems I’ve seen her before. Or maybe I have dreamed of her? Wait, I think I have already expressed these thoughts, not so long ago… Where and when did I do that? I can’t remember… I’m too tired to remember…
It appears now to me that this is not the Hell, after all. You can’t have beauty in Hell. Nor compassion or hope. Something comes close to my lips. It looks like a cup. She’s trying to open my mouth and pour the cup’s contents inside it. Despite the intense pain that tortures my body within, I am completely numb to external sensations. There is a swallowing move a few moments later, induced by the gentle pressure of her fingers against my neck, but it doesn’t seem to come from me. I can’t feel any taste, but somehow the liquid slides down my throat.
My eyes continue to stay open, as if frozen, and I can’t lower my eyelids over them. The world around me is fading away and a few moments later I dive deeply inside the realm of dreams. Only my fixed, empty gaze, like the gaze of the dead lizard, remains in this world, embracing the vast sky.
For the first time in a long while I hear voices. I don’t know for how long I have slept. My body is stiff and in pain, but I can slowly move my eyelids and rotate my eyeballs. I can also close my eyes, and this is a blessing. My vision has improved somewhat, now I can see with a reasonable clarity the things that surround me. Tree branches are cutting the sky at regular intervals. Strange red fruits are hanging from many of them. Sometimes, they transform into white birds and fly away and sometimes white birds come from somewhere else and become fruits.
The canoe is sliding quietly downstream, moving with natural grace over the river’s calm waters. I see the face of a middle-aged man smiling at me. I try to smile back but my lips are still too stiff. The faintest attempt to move any part of my body throws me into an ocean of pain. The man is pouring again something from a wooden cup in my mouth. This time I can feel my throat swallowing a warm, bitter liquid. Then the girl’s head appears above, also smiling. They are probably father and daughter as there are obvious similarities in their facial features. They speak in an unknown, musical tongue that sounds vaguely familiar. Is this language the same with the one I’ve heard at the palace during dinner time? I can’t remember what it sounded like, but I think it was not so different from Latin. The effort to recall facts and things is still beyond my weakened power, and I fall into a deep slumber again.
When I come back to my senses, I am lying in a bed, inside a room full of light. I can lift a bit my head and move my lips, but the rest of my body is still sore and unresponsive to my commands, feeling heavy and rigid like a block of stone. The bed is made of an unknown type of dark-red wood. In front of me, a table and two chairs from the same material are the only visible pieces of furniture. Further ahead, a large window opens towards a garden full of trees. The Sun is just rising from behind a far-away mountain ridge that marks the horizon. I am alone and spend some time trying, without success, to lift myself in a sitting position. The whole room looks surprisingly similar to a typical room from my world. Nothing really exotic about it.
Soon, the young woman comes in and examines carefully my face, neck, and hands. She says something in her musical language, but I can’t understand her words. I’m trying to answer back. My lips are moving, but no sound is coming out of my mouth. She smiles and adds a sentence that sounds like encouragement. Then she brings to my lips a cup with some kind of herbal tea. The taste is a little bitter, perhaps similar to what I was made to drink in the canoe, but every sip seems to pour a little more strength into my body. Then she closes her eyes and moves her head to the side with the joined palms next to it, suggesting I should go back to sleep.
I don’t see the Sun through the window anymore, but it’s still light outside. How many days have passed since I was brought into this room? Or is this my first day here? I can move my head and arms a little now, but the rest of my body is still numb and paralyzed. The positive part is that I don’t feel any more pain. The man is sitting on a chair at the table, writing something on a sheet of paper. Through the open window, I can smell the pleasant fragrance of the flowers outside.
“Hello,” I utter in a weak voice. I can hardly hear my own words, but the man puts the pencil down, turns his head and looks at me. He replies in this unknown tongue, and I can’t follow what he says. I point the index finger to my chest and say: “Alberto.”
The man understands this is my name. “Eori,” comes his reply. We smile at each other. Now I start touching the bed and say “bed,” he touches it and says “lito”. It sounds more like “leeto”. The wall, table, chairs, and window are brought into focus in the same way while I point towards them. The whole effort makes me very tired, but I’m happy I can begin to communicate with these people. Soon, probably seeing my exhausted expression, the man closes his eyes and moves his head to the side, saying “dormo”. This time I know what he means, it has to be the word for sleep. I repeat after him “dormo,” then sink inside the realm of dreams.
Probably one more day has passed. My health continues to improve. Now I can lift my body in a sitting position for short intervals of time. I still can’t feel or control my legs. On a chair placed near my bed lie several empty sheets of paper. Next to them is a pencil: a narrow charcoal cylinder inserted in a long tube made of a reed-like plant. It definitely looks as good as the pencils from my country. The paper is slightly rough to the touch and has a vague greenish color, but otherwise appears to be of decent quality. I suppose it’s made from a species of local cane. My rescuers must have left the sheets here for me to take notes, to learn new words, and I feel grateful for their gesture.
The young woman comes in again and I discover that her name is Nivit. My eyes see clearly now and can’t stop from admiring her beauty. She definitely reminds me of the princess from Gold City, hence the feeling of familiarity when I saw her face for the first time. The long black hair, the oval face with pale skin, the black eyes with arched eyebrows, the full lips and a small, straight nose give her an aristocratic and slightly oriental appearance. She could be easily taken for a sister of the king’s daughter. Yet, now I doubt my memory of that princess’ visual aspect is correct. I only saw her directly in my long dream, in a dream where I remained trapped inside a giant underground maze.
I ask, with a gesture, to be given my wooden box laid on the table. Nivit reaches for the little case and puts it into my hands. I open the lid slowly. The notebook and the pencils are inside, all in good condition. I look at her and smile, expressing a wordless, grateful “thank you” towards my savior for not losing my little treasure.
Soon I shall begin to fill some of the remaining pages from my log with more notes about the recent events, but now I would rather focus on expanding my vocabulary in the local language. In the next ten minutes I learn a few more words and write them down on the sheets of paper brought in by my new friends. Then the young woman feeds me with some kind of cereal balls made of brown seeds and tasting like cooked rice.
Day after day, strength trickles in small drops back into my body. I can feel and move my legs again, but I’m still too weak to stand up. My sleep intervals are now shorter and I can stay awake for one hour at a time. In the garden outside, white birds are flying among trees with orange-like fruits. Far away, high mountains covered in snow guard the horizon. At night, my rescuers use luminous globes, like the ones in the city, to light the room. If the windows are left open, moths with blue wings come from outside and begin to circle leisurely around these unusual sources of light. I am surprised to see the globes here, too. What makes them stay alight for such a long time? What kind of fuel do they use?
With the expansion of my vocabulary in their language, the communication with the local people improves in small steps. The grammar is simple and regular, the words are easy to learn and pronounce. New constructs can be built by combining the basic blocks, following clear and easy-to-remember rules. Ideas, concepts, questions and answers fly back and forth between me and the locals. Little by little, I learn about how I was discovered and rescued.
Eori and Nivit were in the region close to the canyon collecting plants with healing properties when they found me unconscious, next to the fire that was still burning. I was lucky to be stumbled upon by them less than a day after my arrival in that area. The poison from the lizard’s bite was already on its way to achieve full effect on my body. Had they reached me just a few hours later, my journey to the World of Shadows would have been one with no return.
What I believed to be a fever generated by an infection of the wound was actually the effect of the poison from the beast’s saliva. The exposure to the low water temperature during my journey on the improvised raft cooled my body and slowed down the blood circulation. The spreading of the toxin was delayed, too, and I could survive to see another sunrise. However, the sunrays and the heat from the fire sped up the destructive process during the next day and I was already on the verge of death when my rescuers found me. Paradoxically, it was the smoke from my fire in such an unpopulated area that drew their attention and ultimately gave them a chance to bring me back to life.
So, perhaps I can say the fire did save me in the end, in spite of having its heat increase the speed of my body destruction. Seeing the lizard remains on the tiny raft tied on the bank and my wounded leg, Eori and Nivit guessed correctly the cause of my sickness and were able to start treating me right away with an infusion of plants designed to neutralize the effects of the poison and pull it out of my body. The leaves I had used for the bite would have been good enough for a normal wound, but proved to be inefficient for this situation.
Excerpt from "Butterfly's Dream", a novel by Marian C. Ghilea;
photo by Marian C. Ghilea: Old #barn and the #Princess' #Stones
(c) Marian C. Ghilea, all rights reserved
12 sample chapters (pre-final draft) are available here: http://nivitx.blogspot.com/2017/08/final-proof-reading-novel-almost-done.html
#scifi #literature #amwriting #romance #adventure #books #writing #fantasy #novel #comingsoon #ya #chapter #prose #history #photography #exploration #village #life #revival #river #mountains #recovery #friendship #romance #suffering
@ellowrites @ellowriting @gardenlovepoet @ellophotography @ello
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