Tuesday, October 30, 2007
A long dagger of lightning split the sky somewhere beyond the forest.
Christopher cringed and stopped; with eyes squeezed shut and tight fists, he counted aloud. … 15 …16 …17 … Then the thunder broke – a rolling sound of anger cast upon Earth from the unforgiving heavens. Still at a safe distance, he thought. Not for long.
He hurried along the road, laboriously, clutching the leather briefcase to his chest, cursing the weather and his own weakness. Again, he hasn’t had the courage to stand his ground in front of Mr. Heath, the notary, his employer. What document could have been so important for its dispatch to suffer no delay on a night as wretched as this one?
Old Lord Harrington, gouty and frail, with one foot in the grave, had visited Mr. Heath two days before. The rumour was he’d changed his last will and testament again, this time in favour of his nephew, the young Viscount, who was leading a life of debauchery in London. Christopher didn’t care. He’d been told to reach Lord Harrington’s castle that very night and he was doing it.
Another spear of lightning made him stop and count. The thunder roared, with painful intensity, as if up there God was rolling some monstrous barrels.
When the rumble subsided, from the darkness behind him, Christopher heard the tinkling of a bell and a muffled clacking of hooves. He threw a scared glance over his shoulder, was met only by the darkness, and walked faster, ready to dive for a useless shelter among the low bushes that lined the road. A coach, it sounded like a coach.
All the old superstitions about the phantom coaches, all the stories he’d listened by the fire and secretly dreaded in the long dreary nights of winter, surged to his mind like unleashed demons. Death-coaches, his grandmother was calling them, the black wagons pulled by six headless horses and driven by a headless coachman, whose purpose was to gather the souls of the dead. Has this one come for him?
The first drops of rain splattered against his face.
Behind him, in the thick moving shadows, Christopher glimpsed a light’s dance. The next lightning revealed a huge carriage, moving swiftly. He began running.
The coach passed him in a moment then halted. Was it waiting for him? Its door opened slowly.
At least the coachman had a head. He did not speak, did not stir, but his head was there on his shoulders – a poorly reassuring find for Christopher.
Despite his terror, Christopher peered inside. In the farthest corner, he thought he could distinguish a shape, darker than the night.
“Who are you?” Christopher said, his voice faltering miserably.
The shape lifted an arm and beckoned to him, as if inviting him to get in.
“Are you going to Harrington Manor?”
His voice’s strange echo inside the carriage was his only answer. Yet, he was already holding the handle, he already had a foot on the first step.
He felt he should protest, but could not disobey. He knew he had to run away, but his legs were leaden. If only he had some gold on him – he remembered his grandmother had told him that gold could repel the dullahans, though little good did the gold crucifix do to her when her time came.
Shaking, he climbed inside, let himself fall clumsily on the seat; the coach set going immediately.
He dared not speak another word, he barely dared to breathe. The interior of the coach was giving out a smell of dust and earth. He squeezed himself in a corner and waited.
Where was he taken? The coach outstripped the wind and Christopher wondered if they were still on Earth, for the ride was smooth as if on air and he could not feel the road in his bones anymore.
Before he knew it, the coach had stopped again. Was it collecting another soul? Were they in Hell already? He peered outside through the velvet curtains and saw lights of windows, many lovely lighted windows. An inn. Thank God, he had reached civilisation again, he was back among humans.
He descended on wobbling legs, incapable of running as he thought he should. The storm was still gathering strength, with lighting bolts dancing their cruel criss-cross above the forest, but the clouds had poor tears.
A man with a friendly figure, pot-bellied, carrying a lantern, came out to greet him with open arms.
“Hunter’s Inn” was the place’s name and its appearance was warmly inviting.
“I cannot stay,” Christopher said quickly, thinking of his empty pockets and of his urgent errand. “Pray you, is this the road to Harrington Manor?”
“Just come and rest for a while, my young sir,” the innkeeper said with a gentle smile, “and wait the storm away. It should be gone in an hour or two. You’re not far from the castle. You’ll be there in no time…”
“I have to get there tonight,” Christopher protested, but weaklier now, peeking at the enticing lights in the windows.
“And so you shall, my young sir, and so you shall…”
Against his resolve, his heart was lulled into acceptance by a strange torpor. Yes, he thought, just for a little while. Anything was better than the black coach and the storm.
Another lightning lighted the forest and the sky’s fury rumbled in thunder. As if at a signal, the deluge started.
“Just for a little while,” he mumbled. He turned to the coach – maybe to offer thanks – but it was gone and behind him stood only the forest with its dark shadows.
He ran inside, following the innkeeper.
The room was large but almost empty, and lighted only by a lively fire.
A lady was seated at a table next to the hearth and beyond her there was a woman, holding a baby on her lap. The baby was playing and cooing in the content carefree way that childhood only still retains.
The lady was young, yet her eyes had an air of melancholy and her gestures a mellowness that added much age to her fresh features. She smiled to Christopher as he came in, watching him with great benevolence. Her smile soothed and reassured him, like only his grandmother’s did when she was still alive.
“How you resemble my long lost son,” she said, the gentleness in her voice tinged with an overwhelming sadness. “Come, sit with me.”
He obeyed willingly, laying his briefcase on the table in between them.
“Where are you travelling on such a pitiless night?” the woman asked.
Christopher told her eagerly about his errand.
She went on questioning him about his early life, and Christopher obliged her gladly, feeling as if he’d known her for a long time. And every time he mentioned his grandmother, the lady’s eyes glistened with tears, and for every hardship he recalled for her, her face shadowed with a deep compassion.
He spoke with an ease of which he wouldn’t have imagined himself capable, after all these years when – except for his poor grandmother – he’d only encountered mean and petty people.
She ordered food for him and wine, and when they arrived and Christopher started eating without hiding his hunger, she said,
“This Lord Harrington – have you met him?”
She seemed to be immensely relieved.
“My darling boy,” she said. “Lord Harrington used to be an old friend of mine. Oh, don’t be surprised. Indeed, we have been lovers when I was very young. From this unlucky union two children were born, two twin boys. He wanted to know nothing of us and later he thought of us as a danger to his good name and fortune. Twenty-three years ago, when you were only eight month old…
Christopher’s eyes widened in disbelief. How could she know his age?
“No, my child,” the lady said, as if to soothe his unease, then smiled. Over the table she reached and took his hand (how cold her small hand was despite the fire) and said, “Do you have a ring, Christopher? A ring with a blue lapis lazuli stone, cut at an odd angle, as if something was missing from it?”
He gasped in surprise. Indeed, he had it – it was hanging on a tiny string at his neck – his dearest and most mysterious possession. How could this woman know about it? Without a word, he took it out of his shirt.
The lady nodded and showed him her hand. On the ring finger she wore the stone cut to match the one Christopher had, to form a perfect circle if brought together.
“Twenty-three years ago,” she continued, her voice so low that Christopher had to strain his hearing to distinguish her words, “Lord Harrington called upon us to join him at his manor, pretending his intentions were to repair his mistake and make me his wife. We were commanded to stop at this inn and wait for his instructions. Twenty-three years ago, on this very night, he came here in bad faith and with the worst of intentions.”
She paused, as if to draw her breath and strengthen herself for what was to follow.
“His behaviour was of an indescribable violence. He came alone, and he, alone, with his bare hands, murdered your brother.”
Christopher winced. He looked at the nurse and the happily cooing baby, wondering why he had assumed that it was the lady’s child.
“I could not do anything,” she continued, a deep sadness hardening her features. “Your grandmother escaped with you, and hid you from the guilty fear with which he must’ve looked for you for years to come.”
Her voice faded and for a long while she sat in a strange reverie. Christopher respected her silence despite the tumult his mind struggling to escape in innumerable questions.
“You must have this ring, my son,” she said finally. “It is yours now. Guard it well. You’ll have a use for it very soon. Now rest, my child, you can accomplish your errand tomorrow…”
His heart fluttered, almost painfully. What was he to understand of this? This young heartbroken woman, how could she be the mother he’d never known? His mind was spinning, he could hardly concentrate. He’d have to speak more to her. In the morning, yes. He took another sip of the strong wine. Yes, she was right, he didn’t have to get there that night; he could do it the next day. No one could blame him for a little delay on a night like that. How well he was there, how warm, his stomach quieted for once. He rested his head on the table, in the cradle of his forearms, and closed his eyes. A small hand came to stroke his hair, the fire crackled, the baby cooed. He abandoned himself to sleep.
A bird, cooing its morning song, awoke Christopher. He opened his eyes and looked around, his mind struggling to understand the discrepancy between what he remembered and what he saw. He was in an odd clearing, all darkened, and had slept on a tree trunk. No wonder he was so stiff. He rubbed his eyes. Where was the welcoming inn where he had spent the evening with the kind lady? He stood up, walked a few steps, went to touch with a shaking hand a darkened wall – a few charred beams were all that remained from the building that had stood there the night before. Dazed, he turned, his eyes wandering aimlessly. Had it all burned down in a night? Hit by the lightning, maybe? Could he have dreamt everything? He saw the hearth then, by which they had talked, its shell of soot covered stones still standing whole. Inside it, the remnants of the fire still flickered, and on the incandescent coals he noticed his burnt briefcase. With a cry, he jumped to its rescue but it was too late; little remained of it and nothing of Lord Harrington’s new will, only a charred paper that crumbled under his fingers. Surrendering to despair, he dropped to his knees in front of the hearth. What was he to do now?
After a moment’s hesitation, he started looking around him, searching for the littlest of signs to show him that he hadn’t gone completely mad. What was there to find among those desolate ruins? Yet, something caught his attention, a whiter shade amidst the soot. With blood pounding deafeningly in his ears, he started rummaging through fallen leaves, digging the soil with his nails. When he removed enough earth, he stopped and fell back, dazed. The criminal had left them there to burn. No fear came to grip his heart, only a devastating outrage and, when its waves died, an overwhelming peace.
Three skeletons lay there, one of which was a child’s. He reached out with a trembling hand and gently stroked their dried bones. One hand was coming out of the earth and on it, there was ring with a blue stone strikingly similar to the one hanging around his neck. He took the skeletal hand in his, very lightly, as to not shatter it to pieces, and waited, longing to feel it caressing his head one more time. Then he took the ring from his mother’s finger and put it on the string next to the other half.
Old “Hunter’s Inn” in the Norwood forest had burned down twenty-three years before the very night Christopher spent there as a guest. From it, only a few ruins remained, which nobody dared to touch, nor even come close, especially at night. Voices were heard from there and, sometimes, lights were seen, dancing in ghostly windows, but no peasants approached the place for fear of its ethereal inhabitants.
Lord Harrington died the same morning. For him, the hell wain has come after all. In his will – the one he had meant to destroy – tormented by guilt, he was admitting to his triple crime; he was recognising Christopher as his son and sole heir and was leaving to him – if he were still alive - all his fortune, but only under the condition that Christopher would produce his mother’s ring as a proof of his identity.
Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Bizarre things started happening in our building after Mr. Glick moved in at 2C, a few month ago. He was a tiny balding man, in his fifties, with a furtive gaze and neat little restless hands. He barely exchanged a few words with the neighbours upon his arrival, then disappeared inside his apartment, never to be seen again.
No later than the next day, a parade of masons, carpenters, plumbers, interior decorators and other craftsmen started wearing out the marble steps and hallways of our building in a messy coming and going. Mr. Glick was fully remodelling his condo, we extracted from a chatty electrician.
For a week, we endured the continuous hammering, whirring, and clanking, which died out only late at night. Then, the noises ceased, but our building never regained the insulated silence it enjoyed before. At night especially, there were creaks, and clangs, and loud prolonged gurgling noises coming from the plumbing. It was as if the building was settling down again, after some major surgery that it had suffered.
Before long, people began complaining, with nosy Mrs. Dean, from 1B, as a focal point of their growing animosity towards him.
Mr. Glick never got out of the house, never answered the neighbours’ phone calls, or their knockings on his door.
“He’s a recluse,” I was arguing to an overly excited Mrs. Dean. “So what?”
No one could deny that foul smells had invaded the building, and there occurred many incidents of malfunctioning garbage compactors and ebbing toilets. Repairmen proved helpless confronted with ever occurring blocked drainages.
People’s complaints were met by the firm wall of Mr. Glick’s (or Mrs. Glick’s?) dismissals over the interphone. What arose my curiosity was that all men who had tried to contact him were talked out of their intention by a woman’s sultry voice, while the women spoke to a man, whose baritone didn’t resemble at all Mr. Glick’s. I heard it myself, under a poor excuse, and must admit it stirred something deep inside me – I wouldn’t have minded meeting that man, who could not have been the same Mr. Glick, under more romantic circumstances.
Mrs. Dean took upon her to give me updates every time she caught me passing in front of the door. She somehow invested me with a special statute, since I lived in 2B, and my condo shared one long living room wall with his.
That’s how I found out about Mr. Newman’s poodle that went missing inexplicably. And that Mr. Glick had food delivered to his door everyday. When questioned, a delivery boy, pissed off at the perpetual non-existence of a tip, admitted never having seen him.
And when one day there was a new face delivering pizza and whatnot, Mrs. Dean could’ve sworn she’d seen the predecessor entering the building but never leaving it again. She even called the police, and then swore that the policeman who had come to investigate also never left the building.
I couldn’t believe this. She’d probably missed him, because despite her qualities as a spy, Mrs. Dean was also a human being who occasionally had to use the toilet. She somehow bullied me into going to the police, where I was humiliated to find out that the said policeman had resigned the very day in question, leaving a quitting note on his desk.
Enough was enough. This was no longer a fun diversion. I started using earplugs, turned my music a little louder, bought some air fresheners, and tiptoed in front of Mrs. Dean’s apartment.
What finally did it for me was the following: One day, as I returned from work, I noticed a pale liquid coming out from under Mr. Glick’s door. It had extended to form a small pool, which was slowly crawling bigger, streaked with yellow and white bits of something I couldn’t recognise. It smelled terribly and, as I stepped nearer to get a better look, I realised it had the acrid reek of vomit. For a few moments I stood dumbfounded, my stomach convulsing, the urge to run away fighting inside me with the compulsion to get closer.
Then the door opened and I saw Mr. Glick, ankle deep in this liquid, manoeuvering a mop with not much efficiency. When he noticed me, he retreated quickly and I only got a glimpse of his entrance hall, which was draped in some glistening beige velour.
Shaking, with my heart high up in my throat, I stumbled to my door and managed to get inside after dropping my keys only twice. Only when I slammed the door behind me, I regained some sense of security, but it was a feeble one.
I had no one to turn to except my old friend Fox, Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI, and I called him immediately. To my relief, he was home.
“Sounds just like an X-file,” he said, in his soothing smooth voice, after listening to my story.
He didn’t need more than that. He drove from Virginia the same evening, and in three hours was at my doorsteps.
“Eek,” he said, making a funny grimace, after releasing me from his embrace.
“Shh,” I said, afraid our guffaws would stir Mrs. Dean. But she didn’t open her door as usual, which proved quite convenient and very odd.
The whole staircase reeked of vomit. We climbed the steps by twos and rushed inside my apartment.
Soon a long thundering reverberated through the building.
“So, have you had beans for lunch?”
He looked at me and smiled.
“Are you crazy?” I said in mock anger at his obvious hint.
He shrugged, miming innocence.
“Somebody just farted.”
We laughed, but somehow his remark seemed more reasonable than I would have liked to admit. It truly sounded like a giant’s flatulence.
We agreed to wait till the morning to do anything more.
It was midnight when a loud gurgling noise woke me up, a prolonged dance of air and water, somewhere deep in the pipes of the building. Mulder was sitting on the couch, in the living-room, awake in the speckled darkness.
“Did you hear it?” I whispered.
“Borborygmus,” Mulder said.
“A growling stomach…”
He rose and walked to the infamous wall my apartment shared with Mr. Glick’s. He put an ear to it, but retreated immediately, wiping his face where it had touched the wall.
“It’s warm,” he said. “And moist. Turn on the lights, would you?”
I saw it then – the whole wall was covered in beads of moisture, as if the painting itself had perspired. Could I believe it was a monstrous sweat, as Mulder suggested, without going completely mad?
It was by chance that the next morning I caught a glimpse of Mr. Glick leaving the building. I couldn’t believe it.
“That’s our chance,” Mulder said.
I stood behind him as he worked on the lock, scared we were turning into common burglars. In a moment, the door opened smoothly into a large corridor.
“Ohhh!” Mulder groaned, swiftly taking a handkerchief to his nose. The stench was odious, and made me gag instantly; desperate I couldn’t find anything inside my jeans’ pockets, I just lifted my blouse and covered my nose with it.
The walls were glistening under Mulder’s flashlight, but I realised it wasn’t velvet at all that covered them. They had folds and crevices, and looked moist, covered in some sort of mucus. Mulder stepped inside and I followed, still holding onto the back of his jacket. The floor was sticky and the soles of our shoes made a popping sound every time we took another step.
It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and I imagined that’s how the inside of an organ would look under a laparoscope.
A sudden gush of fetid air, accompanying the same gurgling sound we’ve heard before, almost knocked us down.
“What the hell!”
At the same time a splash of liquid hit Mulder’s shoulder, and at the spot a burnt hole appeared, its edges fuming. The smell was telltale – chlorine.
“I bet it’s hydrochloric acid,” Mulder said. “Even better – gastric acid. Let’s get out of here.”
In front of a cup of coffee in my kitchen, his ruined jacket on a chair, Mulder said,
“We’ve got to get a better look. Looks like a giant stomach…”
I only was half outraged.
“What if it’ll chew us?”
“I don’t think it will. It relies on hydrochloric acid and enzymes. Watch for Mr. Glick. I’ll get us some supplies.”
He returned an hour later, carrying a big package and a canister. I hadn’t seen Mr. Glick coming back.
The package contained two rubber suits, complete with oxygen masks.
“Our own enteric coating,” Mulder said, his eyes gleaming, while he helped me put on mine.
“What’s in the canister?” I said.
“Our exit ticket, just in case something goes wrong - castor oil, a very nice laxative.”
We entered the apartment for the second time. Yes, he had to be right, despite the huge absurdity of this; I could see so much more now with a well-advised eye. It looked disgustingly organic, and even without the smell – blocked now by the mask – it was a nauseating sight.
“The oesophageal sphincter,” Mulder said, pointing the light at a muscular structure that surrounded the entrance to the hallway. Whatever its purpose was, it looked lax now, possibly sick.
We took several steps inside. The floor was soft and elastic, covered in the same material as the walls. It all formed a continuous lining, loosely following the contours of the room.
The “hallway” opened to a “room” which seemed to occupy now the whole apartment. Nothing had been kept of the original configuration – all interior dividing walls had disappeared to leave space for this… stomach, I reluctantly had to agree with Mulder. What else could it be?
We continued slowly, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to advance now, with the pits of what surely was an epithelium increasing in depth, and the mucus tugging at our feet, and what had proven to be gastric acid being secreted at an alarming rate.
I thought I saw something glinting but whatever it was, it slipped inside a fold. Mulder rummaged inside and brought out a pair of glasses. They were all gooey and the exposure to acid had pitted them badly, but I could instantly recognise them as Mrs. Dean’s.
“Mulder, it’s eaten her!”
“Yes, as it’s probably eaten the dog and all the others.”
A small continuous earthquake started just then, making it suddenly impossible for us to hold our footing.
“What’s happening?” I shouted.
My left leg slipped in a fold and I fell inelegantly, my arms flailing.
“I think it’s trying to churn its food. And we’re it! Come on! Let’s go!”
As he turned toward the door, Mulder tried to grab my hand but failed, almost falling over, unbalanced by the weight of the canister. My feet kept sliding between the moving folds, but my struggle to climb back only made it worse. The claws of panic had my heart in a cold embrace. The pressure was enormous – I was afraid it would soon break all my bones.
“Mulder, the oil!”
He managed to uncork the canister and clumsily tried emptying its contents. But it was impossible to stand straight, and the movement threw him instantly again on his back. He lost the canister, which rolled over, carried by the solid waves moving through this monstrous epithelium.
He dove after it, unsuccessfully, only to be caught again by the grinding flesh.
The entrance was unreachable, the exit nowhere in sight.
That’s it, I thought. What a pathetic way to die, inglorious, ridiculous even – broken down into nutrients by a gigantic stomach. My whole body was a hurting mass, and I was sure not one of my bones was still intact.
“At least we’re getting the massage of our lives,” Mulder roared in mad laughter.
He was still holding the flashlight and I saw him, covered in gunk just as I must’ve been, his face barely distinguishable under the slimy mask, and the absurdity of it hit me with its whole force of relief, and I too fell about laughing, still struggling, still swimming in this impossible solid sea.
Then something changed. A deep shudder passed through the muscular mass, the churning halted abruptly, and heavy convulsions replaced it. A growling sound gathered strength, rising from the deepest crevices.
“We just caused it a massive indigestion, I’m afraid,” Mulder shouted, to cover it.
I played along.
“What’s it gonna be? Vomit or diarrhoea?”
All delusion of control was lost for us as now we were being pushed, not just tossed around, in a precise direction. And it wasn’t the entrance door, that was certain. Its faint reassuring light disappeared quickly. Our forced voyage lasted probably a few seconds but had the feel of an eternity, lost in an uncontrollable whirlwind, then we were spurted out with tremendous force in a gush of liquid and debris.
A soft mattress took my fall, and for a few moments I didn’t even try moving, flabbergasted by the sudden stillness. Then I stood up awkwardly, and wiped my faceplate as well I could. Mulder was standing next to me, a stunned statue covered in yellow faeces, in a garbage and gunk filled courtyard I didn’t even know existed behind our building.
I sat quietly in the car while Mulder loaded my luggage in the trunk. To live for a while in his apartment, in Virginia, was suddenly a sweet perspective.
The headlines in the newspaper read “Man without stomach found dead in Washington Square – biological anomaly or organ theft?”
I read it to him, while Mulder drove. The cause of death was unknown, although the question was how anyone could live without a stomach. The victim had been identified as a certain Mr. Glick, from Manhattan. They had yet to make the proper connection with the giant “organ” found in his apartment.
“He’s not the only one,” Mulder said when I finished. “There are two such bodies reported in the X-files, but only now we have the answer.”
He was the lure, I thought, watching the endless string of lights on the highway. What becomes of life when one has to satisfy huge appetites, be them physical or of any other nature? Does it, at some significant point, drift away from pleasure to become a burden? In the end, it was too much for Mr. Glick; he chose to ran away from his cumbersome duty even it meant suicide.
Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.
(Of course, this is not a real Halloween story. However, it involves something monstrous, so I thought I could give it a place here, more easily than someplace else.
The X-Files was/is my favourite TV series. This is a modest homage to Fox Mulder, a character who belongs to Fox and upon whom no copyright infringements are intended. But I loved him then, when I watched the series, and I love him now. For obvious reasons, Scully’s on vacation for this story.)
Can you tell out of which episode of The X-Files was this picture taken? Get the answer on November 1st.
What whisper summons me?
Is it the wind
in drying leaves?
Come to me…
Whispers of doom,
or hoot of owls
or howls of wolves?
I am coming, yes…
The whispers grow,
and whirl, and growl…
In their cold embrace,
on the dark shore,
in noctambulic walk.
The sea - a lake of tar -
sends rumbling surf,
of phantom brides,
onto the sand.
Come to me…
From far, from near,
a song of death
I am here…
I see the ghostly ship,
its masts, and spars, and sails
bleak statues of decay,
no living soul on it
yet full of empty souls.
to make of thee?
A stir in me…
Run, I could
still run away!
the boat slides
My bride… Come…
ply the oars.
And at its bow
I see your eyes of fire
bear down on me
Like in a dream,
I step into the waves.
My robes are heavy
chains held by Okeanos.
Unearthly arms of fog
extend to help me.
How proud you are,
tall at the prow,
your gaze of embers
handsome face -
in my night.
Come quicker… Hurry…
But what is this?
my eyes still
in your hypnotic grasp.
Shouts, vile barks,
thunder of guns
awaken me, while
torches light the sand.
The sea’s aflame.
The spectral boat
multitudes close in.
and then another,
The sea embraces me.
I almost touch your hand.
Strong voices call my name,
My struggle’s vain
I’m dragged away
pulled from your ghostly grip
by warm live arms of men.
I know, my darling,
all is lost,
till next time…
And as I close my eyes
against the burning night,
your waning whisper echoes
on my face,
Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.
(The legend of the Flying Dutchman has several versions. In one of them, Vanderdecken, a Dutch shipmaster of the 17th century, while rounding the Cape of Good Hope in a gale, swore before God he would enter Table Bay or be damned. His blasphemy condemned him to sail those waters forever. In Wagner’s homonymous opera, the Captain is allowed ashore once every seven years, to seek the love of a woman and thus redeem himself.)
Can you tell out of which movie the above picture was taken? Get the answer on November 1st.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
You’re walking in the dark on a deserted street.
The street lamps are rare. Their cones of feeble brightness are only islands of illusory safety in an ever thickening fog.
Every now and then you stop and listen, holding your breath. Those footsteps you heard, were they yours? The feathery touch on the nape of your neck, is it the wind?
You want to run but you’re afraid. Where could you run?
An evil is creeping inside you through the cracks of your heart.
Halloween is coming… Look for more signs of it on October 29th…
Can you tell out of which movies were these pictures taken? Get the answer on November 1st.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
What I like about this picture is that apples have been chosen. That’s a good thing because apples could be a little sour so the results won’t be sickly sweet but pleasantly sweet – sweet-and-sour, hmmm, that I can deal with easily…
And here's a picture to bring some sweetness to your heart - a bunch of funny decorated pumpkins (just imagine the little hands working on them) in the schoolyard, at the Pumpkin Ball, on a beautifully warm Sunday afternoon...
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The first from the famous Uffizzi gallery.
I remember quite well. After waiting for almost four hours in a thick snail-slowly moving line of people, exasperated at the groups of tourists who were always given priority, despairing at the rumours of certain areas being closed, and pissed off (excuse the language) at not having where to piss (I apologise again), we finally got inside the gallery.
Having to move with a crowd, with little freedom inside it, takes away half of the pleasure. Combine that with some poorly exposed paintings, at which you were forced to look from too close, not finding the bust of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the philosopher, my favourite emperor, when all the other Roman emperors were there, and indeed finding some of the rooms closed for (maybe) renovation – and you can paint a good picture of my state of mind.
I always envied and scoffed at those film characters who sometimes meet in an important museum, like this one, and there’s no one else there to hinder their contemplation – they can sit endlessly on a bench and admire the Raphaels and the Botticellis and have meaningful conversations…
When we got out, I bought this postcard of the portrait of Lorenzo di Medici. It makes up for the mundane troubles endured.
It’s a posthumous portrait, by Giorgio Vasari, painted in 1533, forty-one years after the death of the Magnificent. I find it has an incredible force, and tells a hundred stories in its sombre composition. It makes me think, more than all the others, of the Golden Age of Florence, of the height of the early Italian Renaissance, when Lorenzo’s court included artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Michelangelo Buonarotti, but also of what politics meant in Italy of that time, of Savonarola, of the Borgias, of the Sforzas, of the popes (two of Lorenzo’s sons became powerful popes), of poetry and crime…
However, my true moment of ecstasy came soon after.
I don’t remember if it was the same day or the next. We crossed the river Arno on Ponte Vecchio, and walked to Palazzo Pitti, the austere Renaissance palace of the Pittis, the rivals of the Medici family. No crowds there to disturb our voyage through art just as beautiful as the Uffizi’s.
At some point, in Galleria Palatina, we entered a room, whose walls were red if I remember well - even if they weren’t I prefer to think of them as red, a vivid red of satin. And there he was, next to the door, on the left.
Portrait of a Man (“The grey-eyed man” or “The Englishman”) by Tiziano Vecellio, circa 1545.
He was alive. I fell in love with him. It never happened to me before, to fall in love with a man in a painting, and this hit me with an incredible force. Look at his eyes, look at his hands… He is alive; he’s real, watching me, about to speak, though his eyes speak even more.
Scanned postcards are not significant enough to show the real force of these two paintings, nor are my words. But the feeling stays and stands out exquisitely among other memories from this trip to Italy….
Monday, October 15, 2007
"Used" is the word, because they’ve all disappeared two or three years ago. And not just in my back yard but in those of my neighbours’ too. The hedges were teeming with these cute noisy birds, and now they’re silent. I haven’t realised there was something going on at first; when I had the sudden revelation of this silence, I was intrigued and saddened.
Then I came across some articles on the Internet. I was surprised to see that the disappearance of the house sparrows was perceived as a growing phenomenon in Europe and that some people have started studying it. Among possible explanations are: predators, pesticides that have destroyed the insects upon which the chicks need to feed during their first week if life, mobile telephony, and harmful by-products of unleaded petrol. Researchers are still working on this.
I don’t know what the cause is. I’m tempted to say that it’s something we humans are doing, some uncaring selfish act that will increase our “comfort” and momentarily appease our greed at the expense of fellow dwellers of this planet. But maybe it isn’t, maybe it’s just nature, rearranging itself. After all, there were many sparrows in Cuba…
After they cut the forest not far behind my house to build those half a million dollar homes that make our "nice" neighbourhood, there was a little red fox I could sometimes see at night, on the street, probably visiting the dustbins. I’ve seen it for a couple of years, maybe, and then, it too, was gone. And one year, there was a hare in my garden, and the next spring I spotted it in my front yard with three (!) babies. They, too, have vanished now. What is a fox’s life, or a hare’s, or a sparrow’s, compared to our "needs" as "masters" of this planet? Nothing… How ironical…
So, are we entirely guilty? I really don’t know.
What is certain though is that my little birdhouse is empty…
Sunday, October 14, 2007
My dear Absolute Vanilla… (& Attylah) has given me this “You make me smile Award”. Now I’m overwhelmed by this warm and fuzzy feeling… Thank you, Vanilla! You too bring a smile to my heart.
And this is some of what other (better) people have said about smiling:
Smile, for everyone lacks self-confidence and more than any other one thing a smile reassures them.
'Tis easy enough to be pleasant, When life flows along like a song; But the man worth while is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
Most smiles are started by another smile.
Frank A. Clark
The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions - the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A smile is the shortest distance between two people.
All my blog-friends, all the people who are so nicely and considerately writing their thoughts in their comments, make me smile in the best of ways. I would only be glad if I could do the same for them...
Thursday, October 11, 2007
When your spirits are down (or even up) there’s nothing like receiving a sign of appreciation from somebody. Canterbury Soul brought sunshine into my cloudy day, and so did Absolute Vanilla, by mentioning my name in conjunction with the adjective “nice.” I thank you both from my heart! No matter that one thinks of himself as not being such a nice guy, and the other admits she doesn’t like the word “nice” – they are both incredibly nice people and I feel fortunate to have made their acquaintance.
Most of us don’t know of each other much more than what comes out in these words that we send into the blogosphere. But I can say – and I don’t think I’m too naïve by doing it – that it is possible to know someone quite well from these minute and discreet discoveries. That over the time, you can build closeness and ties that come from the encounter of kindred spirits.
I find it interesting that “nice” meant “foolish, silly, simple” originally and has its roots in the Latin “nescire” – to be ignorant. Does this mean that to be pleasant, kind, friendly also means to be foolish? Maybe. Foolish enough to expose your soul to people who might not be as nice as they seemed after all. However, I prefer to trust people and be as pleasant, kind, and friendly to them as possible – it is in my nature and even temporary disillusions will not change this (at least not for long).
I know I’m supposed to bestow this award upon five others but it seems an impossible task, considering that I think of all my blog-friends as being incredibly nice. Also, most of them have already received it from other very nice people. Anyway, please, if you are one of them, pick up this award, it’s for YOU!
Monday, October 08, 2007
- my family and, especially, my two beautiful daughters;
- my good health;
- living in a place and in a time without violence, without life destroying conflicts;
- an imagination that rarely allows for a dull moment;
- the discovery of so many blogging soul mates;
- books, movies, music;
- my crazy optimism;
- just being alive….
mmmm, and the anticipation of a luscious dinner…
Sunday, October 07, 2007
This is a cute squirrel I photographed from my bedroom's window.
a quiet October morning...
Where is my tail?!
Oh, here you are!
I love my tail / Oh, yes, it's true / I like to hug it / Dance with it, too.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
Total number of books owned
Many, yet never enough. I have several walls covered in bookcases now, in my library, and I grew up in a house that has several rooms with many more of these book-covered walls. I am used to books, I live with books, I couldn’t live without books. I dive in their well of knowledge, and experiences, let myself permeated by strong feelings, and come out transformed most of the times, my soul enriched with a piece of somebody else’s soul. The ones that touch me the deepest also make me cry when I close their covers, as if I were saying good-bye to a dear friend. I have books of science fiction, history (ancient, mostly), just fiction, astronomy, art, children’s books, mathematics, Earth’s enigmas, dictionaries, cooking books, poetry, etc., etc., etc. I have many interests, more than I could list here… I’m still dreaming of the mysterious library at the abbey in Melk (from Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”)…
Last book bought
I’ve just bought a few from Amazon Canada:
“Holes” by Louis Sachar and “Tunnels” by Rodercik Gordon And Brian Williams, both of these because of Jon (in the best of ways, it’s meant as a compliment, Jon, if you read this), “The Gate of Worlds” by Robert Silverberg, dare I say the greatest?, certainly one of my favourite authors of science fiction and fantasy, and “Roget’s International Thesaurus.”
Last book read
I always read several books at the same time, so that I can switch between them according to my mood, the time of the day, or the place. “The Ants” by Bernard Werber is the one I’ve just finished. More than science fiction, by this very good French author, it is a satire and an invitation for us to consider more carefully the intelligences just beneath our feet…
Five books which mean a lot to you
Ah, this is the most difficult one. Which to choose, which to choose out of so many? In no particular order, this is a list of (only) five:
“Voyage to the Centre of the Earth” by Jules Verne – this I read when I was about ten years old and reread many times since, including once this year. Everytime, it is just as fresh as the first. (Beware of most English translations, though.) This book has instilled in me a love for science, which has never left me since, and has opened for me the road of imagination not limited by the confines of our reality. Anything could happen and does happen in the world of science fiction…
“The Desert of the Tartars” by Dino Buzzati - an existential parabola, the story of Giovanni Drogo and others whose destinies are linked, by their own will or lack of, to this unnamed timeless fortress, at a vague northern border of Italy, where some leave, some die, and some are waiting their lives away. What keeps them tied to that place is the absurd hope of a “war,” of an invasion of “tartars” from beyond the mountainous desert. Although the human existence is ultimately tragic, it matters how you face your enemy, be it the “tartars” or the final one, Death…
“Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. In my mid-adolescence years, I was Scarlett and Melanie, and fell in love with Ashley, and Rhett, and the rich cruel history of the South. I lived in this book. I still feel like Scarlett…
“The Magus” by John Fowles. I am still astonished by the elaborate, fascinating deception set up for the one of the main characters in this book, in this intense “godgame” in which the border between reality and ireality finally disappears – I often wonder, how much of our own lives are like this…
“Foucault’s Pendulum” by Umberto Eco, this amazing manipulator of semiotic material. This philosophical tale embraces everything that, over the ages, has been given the rank of mystery: gnosis, secret orders, white and black magic, astrology and alchemy, the Hebrew Golem and the philosophers’ stone… all intertwined in a text of an amazing richness. It takes a strong will and desire to go past the first pages, but once you do that, you’re irremediably caught in it…
And now it’s my turn to “challenge” somebody:
Bernita, Dewey, Jon, Pearl, Poetess, you’re “it”!