I admit is a kind of retread. That is, a story I’ve explored before. So, yes, is a Lenten cheat.
Once upon a time, I had a writing experiment. About five years ago. It was based upon two songs I’ll address in the next post. For those of a certain age, it’s obvious. I first thought it was about Machines. I was wrong.
The original form was muddled. I’m trying to tighten this up as something very, very, odd for me:
Allegory. Allegory of the Cold War in Europe.
He was made to watch the border. That was made easier being on an island. So he moved about and watched.
There were beaches in the south. Those were nice: the gentle surf stirred by the tides. Turning north, the coast grew irregular and rocky; at some points, it was nigh-well impossible to see the border, but he found a way.
Further north he could spy the islands to the west and northwest. He knew that those islands were inside the border, but there was no way to cross. A bit further north was as far as he could go. He went east until there were more islands: to the north. It was time to go south.
South, east, south again. There were great mountains to the interior and cold, gray water to the east. He continued on; it was easier on the east side of the island, although there were some rivers to cross. The last one, in the far south, reminded him he was almost back to his starting place. This time, though, he skirted inland just a bit. From the tops of the high, chalk cliffs, he would be able to see further.
Far to the southeast, he could just perceive the other land. He did not know why but felt that what he was watching for came from there. But he saw nothing. He moved west.
There was never anyone else. He once, out of idle curiosity, kept track of the number of times he circled the island. That number was in the millions. He never bothered to count again.
Once more in the south. This time he made his way to where the white cliff soared over a small beach. There was an odd sound just ahead. It was not the wind nor waves or rocks. Was it, perhaps, what he was to watch for? He turned the corner…
And his world changed.
He beheld a young girl. Both of those facts were a surprise as just a moment ago he did not know what those words meant. Facing away from him, she was looking further down the small beach, to the west. Her golden hair was past her shoulders and she wore a simple crimson tunic with a rope about her waist. No shoes.
What were these words?
She turned and saw him. Her eyes were brilliant blue: holes punched in a perfect sky. She smiled at him.
What is blue? What is a smile?
She spoke. What does that mean?
“I am Europa.”
In naming herself he changed. In surprise, he looked down at himself for the first time. He was a boy. He could not see his head so his hair and eye color was a guess. His tunic was white with some blue pattern on the upper left. The rope was similar to hers. He looked back up. He felt his new mouth move.
“I am Logres.”
They stared at one another. As the wind caught her hair, she gestured at the cliffs.
“Is this your home?”
Her words formed more and more complex images in his mind.
“Yes. This island.”
“I’m from across the sea,” she pointed with her right. “And far east from there.”
New concepts came faster and faster. If this was his home, that made her… a guest?
“Welcome to my home,” he tried.
“Thank you!” She smiled.
That was twice now. He thought he should try smiling too.
“Before I saw you, I heard a strange sound. That is why I came.”
“A strange sound?” Her smile fell, but as it returned, she made the sound. “I was laughing!”
“Here! Let me show you!” She stepped right to him and reached out and played her fingertips up and down his ribs. Quite involuntarily, he made a sound similar to her.
New ideas, faster and faster…
“That… that was fun!” he said. He stared down the few inches to her face. She blinked and turned to the cliffs.
“Before you came, I was looking at things. See there? I made stacks of pretty rocks!”
She had modified his home? He wanted to see this. Stepping past her, he took her right hand with his left and tugged gently. It was the right thing to do.
There were three stacks, sorted by size and complexity of shape. He’d never done something like that before. Raising and staring at his new right hand, he realized that until moments ago, he couldn’t. He should say something.
“They are very nice.” He paused. “Europa.”
“Thank you!” she gave his hand a small squeeze, “Logres!”
Another pause. She pointed at more rocks.
“Let’s find more! Will you play with me?”
The brightness of the sky never varied. Sometimes there were fewer clouds, sometimes more. Even light rain. Rocks were sorted, shells collected. They chased one another in the surf or played hide-and-seek.
Once, in one of the brighter times, he paused at a small, shallow pool of water. Curious, she drew next to him. He raised his hands to his face, seeing his reflection.
“I did not know what I look like,” he said. A boy on the cusp of manhood. His hair was coal black and slightly curly above his sea-gray eyes. A new word came when he considered his face: ruddy.
“I think you are handsome!” she said taking his left arm.
He lifted his gaze from the pool to the girl, no longer interested in him.
“And you are beautiful.” He was getting better at smiling. “Play some more?”
The rocks were sorted and the shells were a complex mosaic on the beach waiting to be erased by the tide. He was aware of a change: the more they played together, the more their eyes went from their toys to each other. Confusion. From the water’s edge, he stood abruptly.
“There are better beaches,” he pointed west, “that way. Let’s play there.”
There was an odd play of emotions across her face. He learned ‘doubt’ and ‘confusion.’ She looked over her shoulder to the land across the water and back to him.
“You will stay with me?”
It had not occurred to him that they would ever be separated. He did not like that idea.
“Okay!” She took his hand.
He discovered that “walking” about the island was not the same as how he had moved before. She asked question after question about things he’d not given thought to in ages. He was rediscovering the world through her eyes. He wanted to show her the beach with the smaller island just to the south, but they stopped sooner at the wealth of shells on this beach. A rain began.
“Logres! Look!” She held an unbroken shell in each hand, the water from the sky washing them clean. Her flaxen hair was matted to her and her crimson tunic stuck to her in interesting places. He walked to her, an avalanche of new ideas in his mind. He reached up to take her wrists and examine the shells.
“Very pretty.” He looked at her. “Prettier!”
He kissed her mouth.
From when she first laid her eyes on him, it was only the second time he’d seen surprise. But surprise was quickly chased away by joy.
“Thank you, Logres!” She took a half step – “Are you well?”
He held his head.
“You must go.” His voice but not his words.
“Oh.” Her gaze fell.
“I… do not want you to go!” He shouted. She was already walking towards the water.
The water was halfway to her knees. She paused.
He ran to her side. Why couldn’t he touch her? What was wrong with him?
“I… I will come to your home! I’ll find you!”
She took a few more steps; stopped.
“It… it won’t be easy,” she whispered over the surf. “Things… are different there.”
He again moved to her side, his arms raised helplessly.
“I love you.”
She nodded. Without looking at him, she raised her left hand and touched his lips with her index finger.
Images flooded into him. He understood none of them. But with enough time…
A few more steps and the water was to her waist. She leaned into it and began swimming. South. To the land across the sea.