Dance #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

dance

 

“Those stones don’t belong to our time, they exist here only in our minds…”

I hear the words, I see the mist, I wish I could go back.

“You don’t need to, just wait for this veil to be lifted in the sunshine, then you will see, the true spirits dancing, alive.”

But I know that the circle of stones is there, has been for millennia. Once upon a time, maybe, the spirits inhabited this land, and what I see now is the proof that they left, leaving us wondering, at a loss, longing for their magic world.

Entrance #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

portal

 

In the depth of the cave lies a long hidden secret, visible only to the initiated: to those who truly love this land, who have ploughed its fields, nurtured its trees and respected all that lives here. The secret tells them where to hide, how to protect their children and how to honour their ancestors.

The initiated know that the invaders will come, again, as they did in the past, hate and fury, rage to destroy. But they will be, again, defeated, as were the others before them and the ones who will come after them.

For deeper still, lies the Magus, who will awake, at the sound of the horn, when the land is violated. Fear his wrath, as he avenges those who were slain by the Evil, and the corpses of the invaders line up the roads all the way back whence they came.

Catharsis

Arnold_Böcklin_-_Die_Toteninsel_III_(Alte_Nationalgalerie,_Berlin)

 

How to fight Evil? Some say, the Goods and the Angels must rise: only the Sword can triumph, in the Name of all that is Holly. I am no longer so sure. Isn’t the Enemy already among us? Can we still recognise the Fallen one, among the Angels? For he’s an expert of disguise, borrowing beauty and charm when it suits his ends: the ever-changing Joker.

Today he’s everywhere, in the sweet songs, and the laments, in the unctuous speeches of the virtuous. One day, the hateful legion, the next Innocence, in all her nakedness. And the fools to applaud.

Yet, we have been victorious before. All it takes is determination, and clarity. In this world, and beyond.

Image: Von Arnold Böcklin – 0wFgMTIQ3kZCpg at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Gemeinfrei, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13251755 (Original in Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin)

Forgotten #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

forgotten

 

No, we haven’t forgotten: through this gate we walked, you and I, when the wall was new, the grass so green, and the sky so clear. We believed, the future was a wide alley, bordered with roses, your hand in mine, our eyes to the horizon.

Then came the clouds, and the blizzard, metal locusts. I held the shield high, and you were safe. That haven would not be taken. But outside, down in the valley, beyond the wall, the hordes of demons attacked, days after days. We could no longer breath, they scorched the earth, killed everything. The companions and I retreated, and stood by the gate.

There we died, one by one, till the sea of Evil receded. The last one who stood tall, alive, you know. He’s your Lord now, a Saint, in shining armour.

I, haunt these woods, remembering the day, when we crossed the gate.

Honour #writephoto

Honour

knight

 

The small crypt was still in darkness  as we approached, on that frozen morning of January.  Every year, on the same day, we gather here, on this desolate hill.

As usual, we were silent, as all of us know the place, the rite, the reasons. Besides, had we anything to say we would have done it, without words.

This year, we noticed the trace. Footsteps, in the fresh snow. Our horses noticed also the scent. The scent of a woman. We are rarely surprised by anything. But we were… intrigued.

We dismounted and followed the small path. A crow, perhaps too young to know, or remember, took fright and disappeared in the deep forest.

Our leader gave the sign. In our minds the words of the litany formed:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer…”

Our leader pushed the door open. In ranked order we entered the crypt.

“Fear is the little death…”

As we knelt on the ancient slabs, around our lord and liege, we saw the rose, and the message.

“And when it has gone past me, I will turn to see fear’s path…”

She was here, not that long before us.

The witch, she remembered. Her scent…

“Where the fear has gone there will be nothing…”

Our leader stood up, then we followed him, and drew our swords.

We let our blades rest on the stone, a faint ray of light illuminated the rose.

Our leader bowed. We left the crypt, one by one, leaving him alone with his brother.

Outside, we, wraith knights, waited.

The snow fell.

We prayed.

Every year, on the same day, we gather here, on this desolate hill, since our lord passed away, and we brought his body here, all the way back from the Holy Land.

“Only I will remain.” 

 

 

Watcher #writephoto

Watcher

waiting

 

The moor already wears its autumn veil, and, soon, we will be home. I know what you will say, when we walk up the hill, towards the place we have chosen for our retreat.

“Look! He’s waiting for us, he’s there, can you see him?”

But I know that only you can see him, that he ever appears only for you, through the ancient mist of long gone times.

For you are his beloved, the one he lost, when the Earth was young, and I, poor mortal, was but dust in a distant star.

And, as always, I will say:

“Yes, I can see him, bless our guardian, the watcher over our fragile spirits…”

Circle #writephoto

Circle

circle-of-stones

 

They were six of them, and their leader may have been Galahad. There, they fought, back to back, from one dawn to the next, for days and nights, against the armies of Evil.

There they died, for, then, knights never surrendered. And there, the circle of stones remind us: the battle continues, and they watch us, puzzled, at times amused, more often annoyed. So much effort, for such so small people…

In the Land of Ago

A reading of 11.22.63 by Stephen King

3-front-quater-top-up-sunliner

 

How often do we think: “If only I could change this”, or, in whatever form, “if only I could have a second chance, go back, and do something different”? Going back, erasing, and changing the past is an old dream, the subject of countless tales and fiction works. Of course there is a second law of thermodynamics, to keep things simple, that says “no-can-do” – but still…

But imagine one could go back, reverse entropy, and travel back in time, would it be possible to change anything? Or, is the past resistant to change, obturate enough to stop, or at least oppose, a time-traveller interfering with what was, and, maybe, should be? And, even if the time traveller could change the past, what would be the cost? Perhaps more ominously: what would be the consequences?

Changing history is a special case. History, they say, is written by “the victors”, whoever they may be. It can also be rewritten, and this without, perhaps because of (not), going back to the past. There is the “official” version, and the “conspiracies”. A long-lasting, and still sinister, such story is that of the assassination of President Kennedy.

Jake Epping, not a crying man, is an English teacher at a high school in a small town in Maine. The year is 2011, and this is the end of term. Jake is, unique among his school colleagues, the customer of Al Templeton, the proud owner of the fat burgers diner. More than just a customer. He’s soon someone with whom Al is about to share a deadly secret. At the back of Al’s diner trailer is an anomaly: a fissure in time. Al has a mission, one he cannot complete, for he is dying of lung cancer. He wants Jake to take over, as he has identified Jake as someone who could, who will, bite at the bait. So Al teaches Jake, explains how this could work, and Jake listens. There is a first trial, then another. On the other side of the fissure it is Spring 1958, and America is young. Jake likes what he sees. He enjoys the fresh taste of root beer, the sweet air. Jake also has a personal objective: to prevent a domestic tragedy and help his friend Harry Dunning. The first leg of the story is there: the killing of Frank Dunning. Jake, armed with Al’s mission and notes, as well as dollars of the time, embarks on the journey.

Saving the Dunning family will take two attempts to get it “right”, or so Jake thinks. Then his personal odyssey will start , on the road to Dallas. For Al’s, now Jake’s, aim is to prevent the assassination of President John Kennedy, on November 22, 1963, nothing less. Jake has five years to adapt, plan, live, and, finally, execute Al’s mission.

Jake follows a route of nostalgia: an all-American Ford Sunliner, overnight stoppages in motels, drive-in cinemas, finally a small town, and an equally small school, in Texas. Later, much later, there will be Dallas and the horror. For a while it is (almost) paradise, his class, football, friends, a girl he falls in love with, America’s early 60’s: (almost) perfection.

Jake decides to stay, he won’t go back to 2011. But, in the end, he does. For fulfilling the mission has unpredictable consequences. When, on the threshold of his desperate return, Jake faces a dystopian 2011, he finally understand what Al had missed: that interfering with the strings of time has a price, and this is proportional to the change.

The novel concludes on a note of hope, an ending for which Stephen King credits his son, Joe Hill, at the end of the book.

11.22.63 is a great novel, to read, reread, and cherish. It is also a book to meditate on, seriously, listening carefully to the voice of its author.

Photo: Ford Sunliner 1958, via eclassicautos.com

 

No Rhyme #fivewords

Inspired by the Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Challenge #124

farnese-isis-full-shot

 

He felt her insistent stare on him, as he held the precious tablet, still covered by a thin film of blond sand. The text looked like a list, but he guessed that it might also be a poem, perhaps both. Was there a rhyme? His knowledge of the language was not advanced enough for him to know. He turned to the goddess, and met the emerald eyes, still fixed on him.

A long time passed, he knew she would speak, and so waited, in the silence of the sacred valley. At long last, he heard her voice, melodious, as if coming through a long tunnel: “It’s no poem, it is an ancient spell, and who casts his sight on it, shall be turned into stone.”

Image: A Roman-era version of the Knot of Isis worn by the Goddess or Her priestess, via https://isiopolis.com

A reading of Seveneves

Seveneves, a novel by Neal Stephenson

 

From times immemorial, we have dreamed about it, painted it on caves walls, written fiction and speculations, prayed for it not to happen: it is mankind’s common nightmare, Armageddon, the end of our world, the end of our species. Will it be caused by our own misbehaviour, a punishment from our creator, our poisoning of the Earth, our Mother, or a nuclear holocaust? Neal Stephenson’s novel tells the story, of Armageddon from Space, from an unknown source, by an unknown “Agent”. This book, perhaps his best work to-date, is an uncompromising account of our destruction, down to, literally, a dwindling group of survivors, pitiful remnants of a once arrogant civilisation, ours, now hiding in tin cans orbiting the once beautiful planet. The story is, also, of a possible rebirth, couched in such a way as making the reader wonder: has this happened before? For, in some ways, haven’t we been there: the fire from the sky, the flight, the long terror, the survival of the few?

The description of the destruction of the old Earth by the “Hard Rain”, and of the hopeless, harrowing, and ultimately pathetic struggle of those, chosen to escape to Space, occupies the first and larger part of the novel. We learn of the heroic sacrifices of a few, of human nature, once again, leading to disaster after disaster. The males of the species are wiped out, leaving to the seven Eves the final decisions as to the future of humanity. This prepares the reader for the rebirth, the renewal of mankind from the shelter of the asteroid where the Eves have found refuge.

The second part of the book has a distinctly Arthur C-Clarkian flavour to it, as we sweep through five thousand years of post Zero history: mankind lives mostly on a ring of spatial habitats orbiting the Earth; the “New-Earth” is being seeded with recreated creatures and plants; the descendants of the seven Eves, from whose genes the two billions of “Spacers” derive from, have developed separate cultures, in each of the seven genomes legated by the Eves. This is a world of partial segregation between “races”, where orbital mechanics, robotics and genetics dominate science. The description of the “Cradle” reminded me of the “Fountains of Paradise“, but this legacy is not acknowledged in Stephenson’s notes, so it must be an association of ideas. This world is evidently very different (but very classical in terms of the science fiction literature) from ours, and yet the same old rivalries have reappeared (Blue versus Red).

The reader, after a long journey, is left with many unanswered questions. Stephenson, like Clarke before him, holds the human female as more adapted to the conditions of Space: better able to cope with cramped living conditions, isolation and solitude, biologically superior. The novel shows that the decisions made at the Council of the Seven Eves, to fundamentally conduct a differentiated genetics-enabled rebirth of mankind, initially through parthenogenesis, endure after five millennia. As the Spacers come to meet some of the “rootstock” survivors on the surface of New Earth, will they be considered as alien mutants, cowards who abandoned ship,  and unwelcome intruders, or a curiosity from Space? As we remain baffled by the “Purpose”, the nature of the Agent likewise remains veiled in mystery: judgement of God, random micro blackhole, or, simply, destiny?

Seveneves is a fantastic read, from end to finish. The world Stephenson created, its appeal and at the same time repulsive logic, will stay with us forever. So will the Seven.