(READ PART ONE, PART TWO. PART THREE, PART FOUR, PART FIVE, PART SIX AND PART SEVEN OF THIS STORY)
CLING CLANG BOOM… OUCH!!!!
The writer has just crash landed in the Womb of Time, shattering the frozen waterfall in thousands of ice pieces, actually enabling the water flow to timidly resume its course, one diamond droplet at a time.
-Huitlacoch…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!! Charlemagne sobs and shouts in fear, brutally awakened from his dream within the dream within the dream, dropping the ear of corn he had been holding in his hand for so long. The plant’s mysterious “dis-ease” was being transmuted into powerful medicine, through a beautiful oneiric teaching.
–Wiracocha!?!? misunderstands Samuel. I was dreaming about him too!!!! He was giving me the secrets of the Gate of the Sun… adds the Jewish vizier as he stretches. Losing his balance, he almost falls off the howdah, where the three men were sleeping atop Abul-Abbas, the very patient white elephant Charlemagne had received from Harun al Rashid. Through an amazing trick, Samuel had brought the animal back to life.
Zyriab, rubbing his eyes after the rough awakening, is trying to make sense of his two friends’ dream memories.
-You scared me to death, waking us up so abruptly! the Frankish Emperor rebukes the “fallen writer”. Good thing I’m dead already! he adds in a very bad mood.
Then he roughly grabs what Abul-Abbas gives to his master with his trump: the fallen ear of corn and a piece of ice from the waterfall that was broken open by the writer’s landing. The animal seems happy to finally interact with humans again after so many months of forced slumber.
-Yes, thank you, dear Ka(rolus). I think I’m ok, no broken bone. It was kind of you to ask though, ironizes the writer from a bruised ego. Apparently the only wound is this small cut in my hand, because of the piece of broken mirror I held when I fell on all fours after my rough landing.
She inspects both her body and the surroundings of the cave, and realizes:
-It’s strange, my triangle-shaped mirror exactly matches this piece of frozen waterfall.
She assembles the two triangles, and both fragments immediately merge, imprisoning in their union a heart-shaped blood drop. Playing with the remaining frozen shards, mosaic style, she draws a bigger heart.
Then she adds:
-How sweet of your elephant to pick the broken pieces for you, Ka. Seems like you and I are being asked to play frozen puzzle to see if our hearts can melt again, dear Emperor, or at least stay warm! I guess it’s a reminder to let go of the “holy” cross splinter that was kept for so long under its glass prison… she ends metaphorically, with this mention of a Catholic relic Charlemagne kept with him at all times when he was alive.
-So it seems, yes, mutters Charlemagne in a softer tone, with a warmer heart than seconds earlier. Funny that you should mention the splinter… When we were eavesdropping the conversation between Annie and the young man in the Venetian mask shop, “la Commedia”, we heard him say that he was haunting the building next door, where he found Blue Sky the eaglet. The place is called “Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista”, where another fragment of the Holy Cross has been kept since the 14th century…
-What I remember from what he said about the “Scuola” is that they held concerts there. What a dream venue! Should I play a gentle oud melody to celebrate that the writer is back?
-No way, no way, protests Samuel, if you play the lute, we’ll fall asleep again, and now that the writer is finally here again, I want her new stories!
A little disappointed, Zyriab sighs heavily and leaves his lute alone, however still happy about the writer’s come back.
-Why did you leave us for so long? wonders Sam. It was so boring down here… We watched the new encounter unfold in Venice for a while, then we all fell asleep somehow … until now.
-Oh gentlemen, I’m so sorry, apologizes the writer. Many things have happened in the land of the living: Rudy died and I needed to write a very long letter to the heavens for him; many other people died; we’re still in a pandemic; many earthlings are going nuts; so-called leaders around the world take advantage of the chaos to give it a try at dictatorship, I ran into a very familiar outlaw and…
-I am so done with politics, I’d rather hear about the outlaw! exclaims Samuel.
-Sure! the writer says. That outlaw is OF COURSE the reason why I have landed so “gently” back in our lovely cave. I should have known he was aware of the exact spot of the Womb of Time. Who knows, maybe he created it in the first place, some time, somehow… she says looking up, staring the ‘ceiling’ of the cave at the feet of the Moorish Palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
-So what happened? asks Zyriab, suddenly as captivated as Sam.
-I thought I was going back home for good, starts the writer, but it’s true that I had some unfinished business that required my attention, so the outlaw pushed me back here after John and his cut-out literary dad were taken by Raven through the Wild West portal, turning my beautiful flying horse Rico back into his old doll self. That was before I performed Billy’s regression with Annie though…
-Annie? You were with Annie? asks Zyriab.
-Sure, we summoned her from mirror to mirror, from mask store to saloon.
-OK you lost me at the “Wild West Portal” confesses Charlemagne.
-I understand it’s a bit confusing, recognizes the writer. I guess I will have to explain more in detail, starting from the beginning…
-Wise move, says Zyriab with a wink.
-Yes, I’ll explain it all in a second, but before that, It would help to know what happened before Annie fell asleep. What did she talk about with the mysterious young man who found her eaglet outside the Venetian mask store?
-Aren’t you the writer? You should know that, jokes Zyriab.
-You know my stories really have acquired a life of their own, she smiles. When Annie was needed in the fake Wild West World, I looked through the mirror of my make-believe saloon, and I saw her asleep in the Venetian store, alone.
-Well, says Charlemagne, I believe that the young man is the one responsible for that slumber! Annie’s and ours!!
-True, adds Zyriab. And if I may suggest, dear writer, if I were you, I would store those pieces of frozen waterfall. I’m sure something was recorded in there while we were sleeping. Remember these are pieces of our magical screen!
-Great idea! agrees Samuel. Here, take this cup, I ran out of pomegranate ink anyway…
-Thank you, says the writer. She approaches the elephant’s howdah and stands on tiptoe to grab the beautiful cup Sam hands it down for her, and she comes back to the cave entrance to rinse it with the waterfall droplets. Then, very delicately, she starts storing in there the pieces of ice scattered at the bottom of the fall. Squatting to make sure she grabs each and every one of them, she suddenly hears a faint voice in her head: “Fear not. I will send you more stories from my Limboland Adventures, but now make sure you finish what you started years ago… This is the best way to feel the warmth you missed… I’ve watched you since you were born, and I trust your intuition, so please, keep trusting it too! This Ghost King without Crown here will send you precious Crown Jewels: the stories of my spirit travels… I will be back soon! ”
Although intrigued by what she’s just heard and eager to learn more, the writer heeds the advice of the mysterious “Ghost King without Crown”, trusting the divine timing of her writing processes. Now that she’s done saving the frozen water, Zyriab starts retelling the Venice scene to the writer.
-After you vanished into the world of the living, leaving us behind in the Womb of Time, we kept watching Annie and Franz –that’s his name– through the waterfall screen. The two young people were getting acquainted with each other, through exchanging pictures of their respective lives. Annie kept hers in her famous ele…, ahem, you know, in that weird leather case, he corrects himself, fearing he could hurt Abul-Abbas’ sweet pachyderm feelings if he mentions Annie’s case material. As for the young man, he kept his pictures in an old box he carries around everywhere he goes. The box sports his portrait.
-Yes, I remember that, confirms the writer. I noticed the box when the young man rescued Blue Sky, the Eaglet.
-And you know what that box held before Franz’s pictures? interrupts Charlemagne. Chocolate!!! I sure love that divine gift, and I’m proud that my country has now become so renowned in its production!
-Haha! laughs the writer. I am happy about that Belgian specialty too! Glad that the young man taught you about it.
-He was basically teaching Annie, who happened to have visited Belgium too, corrects Zyriab, eager to mention certain details he loved about Annie’s second Venetian encounter. Franz also said that his father’s first wife, Josephine, was an expert in making hot chocolate, a drink she had learned to prepare in her native island.
-Oh, I see, says the writer, now more and more convinced of the mysterious young man’s identity, and suspecting that he might be the famous “Ghost King without Crown” who whispered in her head a while ago.
-Personally, Charlemagne interrupts anew, I was fascinated by Annie’s adventures in the Wild West Show. She showed Franz a picture of her in Rome, signed by a local photographer who immortalized her flamboyant horsemanship.
The two new friends found out that the photographer… what’s his name… happened to be one of Franz’s relatives!
-I wrote it down, says Samuel, looking through his notes. Here is the exact connection between the two: Giuseppe Primoli, the photographer, was the great-grandson of one of Franz’s paternal uncles, someone named Lucien. Giuseppe owned a museum in Rome, which still exists in the linear time of the living. Franz had actually come to Italy because of certain ties between his family and the boot-shaped country.
-Correct, admits Charlemagne. Thank you for your precision, Samuel. Franz was so fascinated by Annie’s lifestyle that he wanted to emulate her.
-Yes, Zyriab continues. She was really eager to accompany him for the rest of his trip around the world, but he said it was best if he traveled without her for now, because in his lifetime other people always made decisions for him, smothering him in every possible way.
-I wrote that down too; it was so sad, says Sam, looking through his notes again. On his deathbed he recalled sighing: “My whole story boils down to my birth and death. Between my cradle and grave, there is a big zero.”
-Oh wow, reacts the writer, feeling deeply sorry for poor Franz. He sounded like he had such low self-esteem and… “zero” sense of purpose.
-Yes, quite a statement, sighs Charlemagne. You react just like Annie did. Actually at that point of Franz’s story, she got up, went to the back shop where Marco had disappeared to make tea, and she came back with a box of small wooden sticks with a red end. She started to “write” something with the sticks, which made her new friend beam: she rearranged the sticks that made up the first letter of “zero”, in order to write “hero”.
-That’s my girl, smiles the writer. I guess what she used were matches, to make Franz feel warm in the heart, both directly and metaphorically. And she loves playing with words, just like me.
-He looked so happy, recognizes Charlemagne. He said that all the times he heard that word, “hero”, it had been to describe his father, never himself. He also mentioned that not even in death was he free from the weight of his father’s aura. Imagine that directly above Franz’s tomb in Paris, France, there’s a statue of… his old man!
-France… Franz… Maybe that’s why… whispers the writer in an enigmatic way. I’m so glad Annie found a sweet way to make him feel better… warm in the heart…
-True, Sam acknowledges, but it still did not convince him to invite her to partake in his travels. He said that now that he was a ghost, he’d rather be by himself on his adventures, except for a certain Sophie Blanchard. The word game seems to be a constant trait here. From the Venetian mask store, Franz summoned her spirit while playing with the letters of her name, like Annie had done with the sticks. He used them to write S-o-p-h-i-e-B-la-n-c-h-a-r-d. Then looking at Annie, he started rearranging the letters, and when he was done recreating words, he read his creation out loud, looking straight into Annie’s eyes: “Phobia Chandlers”! Instantly, Annie fell into a deep sleep on her chair, so we made Abul-Abbas the elephant get closer to the waterfall screen to try to understand what had happened. The second we did it, Franz sensed us and he got closer to the mirror in the shop. He smiled mysteriously at his own reflection, to let us know he knew we were there, and then he went back to the table to play with the letters of the name of this mysterious Sophie again… Once back to the mirror, he whispered “Help Arachnid Sob”. That’s when Charlemagne fell in the same deep slumber that had taken Annie.
At those words, Charlemagne vaguely remembers falling asleep and regaining his spider self in the long dream he enjoyed until the writer came back.
Now Zyriab says:
-I had barely noticed that the Emperor fell asleep when I myself dozed off after Franz pronounced yet another version of the letters. “A Polished Branch” was the magic formula that sent me dreaming about new musical instruments, until you broke the spell by falling through… the fall.
-And as you will have guessed, adds Sam, I was the last one to fall asleep, when Franz whispered “Shh, Parabolic End”. Before dreaming about Wiracocha, I had a painful, vivid dream in which I witnessed the first pogrom of Granada against our Jewish community, in my son’s time, he says with great sadness.
-Wow! says the writer. Franz sounds like he knows a lot about you three. I guess he spent long hours reading about History to know which kind of words would strike a chord for each and every one of you! I wonder how he knew who you were, just looking in the mirror though… Annie’s formula is a bit more enigmatic, don’t you think? Maybe Franz was referring to the fearmongering voices she worried about when the pandemic struck, so he sent her to dream about ways to stop fear from spreading further among the living… I wonder which words he would have used for me. I know who Sophie Blanchard is, well, was. She was a balloonist whom Napoleon Bonaparte admired a lot.
She died in a tragic accident, when her balloon caught fire. I would have loved to see Les Tuileries Palace from her balloon, minus the crash, of course! You know what? If I were Franz, and if his ghost is indeed traveling the world in Sophie’s balloon as we speak, I would say, referring to me, “Shh, Pencil Aboard!” in honor of a writer’s basic tool, haha!
-Beware! warns a wary Charlemagne. We don’t want you to fall asleep like the rest of us! We depend on your stories to close old timelines here!
-It seems I broke Franz’s enchantment for good, says the writer, still very much awake after waiting for a few seconds to see if she’d collapse under her self-inflicted spell. Pencils are Magic Wands, and I know how to wield them! she jokes. So let’s get back to what happened after I left you here in the Womb of Time, stuck in a frozen dream…
-Yes, please! The three men beg her.
-All right, so here is my story. It’s called “Twice Upon a Time in the East”…
TO BE CONTINUED (here)
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