The ancient woods are vibrant with bees and morning birds, the early sun rays playing across the foliage of the oaks, ashes and beeches.
We follow the path, almost a straight-line to the little hill where the mausoleum stands, white on virgin green and blue sky.
There is a stile, then a sharp bend, and from that corner we admire the Downs, a vista of peace and tranquillity: the world is still asleep.
This is late summer, soon the rains will come, and a different landscape will unfold: grey clouds, heavy with storms, strong winds, and the escape of the migrating birds toward warmer climes.
We are much younger than the trees, and as we open our frugal meal, the steaming thermos of coffee, we wonder: are they protecting us, or us them?
Image: Darnley Mausoleum, in Cobham Woods, Kent © 2015 Honoré Dupuis
“I have a new one” she said, looking at her lover triumphantly.
He, knowing the ritual, smiled the way ancient gladiators used to smile when they entered the circus: at this moment she kissed him and, as she did, he tasted her unpainted lips.
Slowly he knelt, all the time holding her gaze, once again admiring the perfect curves.
She dropped her silks, soon exposing the mystery that bound him to her, made him her pet.
Mesmerised, he saw the glistening, dark red gloss at the soft entrance to his home, the tender door he would soon open.
In the silent house she sits, and thinks of you, writes a letter – which you will never receive.
Long ago you met, and you loved, in the silent house – and then you left.
Her, in her poor, wounded heart, she cannot leave – she lives in the bubbles of her memories, for you long forgotten.
Such is the law of love, a much asymmetrical feeling, one party always staying put, while the other floats away…
Away from the bubbles, gathering dust, and tears, in the silent house.
For us this is sacred land, soil enriched by the blood of our ancestors, in their endless fight against invaders.
As children we were told the stories, the lives of those heroes, alive today in the trees and our souls, and we were taught how to fight too.
So, when they came, huge, fat and white, full of water, we had no difficulty in recognising them: the thieves, the rapists, without honour or real courage, armoured and surrounded by their devilish machines.
The sun was high, the air hot, we could see them sweating under their armour, as their predecessors always did.
The eagle told us, their numbers, where they were, where their ammunition dump was; then the Son of the Eagle led us, it took only one small bomb to erase the thieves off the surface of our world.
“Would he lie to me?”
The insidious thought crossed her mind, lingered, before she recalled “he” had been gone for several months, in fact five months, and she was now free.
It might have been a great passion, the kind of encounter that leaves one bruised, ecstatic, changed, all at once, but she was glad now that it was over.
Still: was he lying, cheating, pretending?
Did it matter, as now her mind turned to this unquestionable fact: “he” was now but one of the old flames?
Image: Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) – La haine (1908)
Tirelessly, we walk along the shore, the light reflected from the trees, as if attracted to your beauty, the sea breeze caressing your hair: a summer poem.
Deep in the cove lie the lazy rocks, and, perhaps some deeper secrets, even a sea monster and her mermaid lover?
We laugh: waves lick the sand, wooing the careless couple, telling again the tale of her, whose face launched a thousand ships…
Are you Helen, the peerless beauty whose fate was to have Troy destroyed?
Or are you the mermaid, for ever courted by the many tentacles?
She’s a great captain: in her world, perhaps the most decorated of them all, besides being a beauty.
Sailing is her life, through the eery oceans of virgin planets, observed by multiple stars, and by alien, voracious and concupiscent eyes.
Adulated by her crew – and what a crew! of crustacean giants, sea spiders and weird creatures from the depth…
She’s feared by her rivals, but does she have any, or just jealous dwarves?
For she, who will conquer them all, is inviolable, the true mistress of Space.
Together they studied the map, gathering their memories of the paths, the streams, the valleys: out of that landscape they worked out their best chance of escaping the monsters.
For they knew the mountain was kind to those who respected her, and showed her their willingness to trust her, and patiently to explore her secrets.
So, in the end, when they were ready, they started the ascent, taking at first the difficult path, and then cutting through a steep gorge.
There, for a while, they were exposed, but they knew how to swiftly divert their route, avoid the ambush and continue their ascent, like spirits in the forest.
For that war was about hiding, moving unseen, silent and ready to strike: a partisan war.
Image: French Résistance fighters in WWII, le Maquis.
He woke up, immersed in the low hum of the ship, secure and relaxed in the familiar cabin he shared with Anna: she was already up, probably busy in the kitchen.
It was his birthday: every earth-year Anna would prepare a surprise for him specially for that day, last year it was the hyperspace astrolabe, a marvel of exquisite art and navigation engineering skill: Anna, ever attentive and watchful, his dedicated and beautiful companion, so human in the small imperfections he’d learnt to admire.
The door opened, silently, and there she stood looking at him, her warm smile on the sensual lips: “Good morning my love, are you ready for a cup of coffee? Happy birthday!”
He paused and took Anna in his arms: then he saw the small boy, standing proudly at the door, holding a steaming pot of coffee: on the boy’s face he saw himself, through eons of time.
“You see, I did not forget what you said last year about not having a son with you on this long voyage… He’s so much like his dad!” said Anna, smiling the eternal woman’s and mother’s tenderness, Anna, the near-perfect human, the elite replicant, his lover in the immense solitude of space.
We stood, silent, our eyes fixed on the painted desert: then you talked to me in the tongue of your ancestors, it was suddenly as if we were transported in time.
Children played on the circular ball ground, parents laughed, you spoke with them.
I saw the house, as it was then, in its splendour, full of happy people.
A joyful little troop came back from the fields, carrying basketfuls of corn cobs and fruits – I remember then what you’d said about those expert astronomers, canal builders and farmers…
I looked up at the cloudless sky, then, you said in English, your hand on my shoulder: “You see, that’s how it was, in the 14th century of your era, and we remember.”