Extracts – The Angel of Ashes
The house of a thousand years old was waiting for him
( pp 15 – 16)
IT WAS still raining when Phoebus Dalezios reached Aides, the small town near the river with the narcissi.
He quickly puts on his raincoat and stands on the stone pavement outside the station, suitcase in hand. A cloud of mist, a fog, envelops him; he sees nothing. The trees, wrapped in a flowing wetness, seem to pulsate with the rhythm of his heart. He is eager to reach that solitary stone house which he saw three years ago, which attracted him in a strange way – a house that looked more like a pile of ruins. Yet the landscape had intrigued him. Narcissi and asphodels and giant cypresses and murmuring streams that shuddered as they flowed from three rivers into a huge lake. A landscape wet and soft, friable, enveloped dream-like by swirling patches of fog. There, solitary and abandoned, stood the house. He bought it immediately. That is what I want, he thought, I will come here one day, when I am desperate or in love.
He panics. I am both.
Or perhaps only tired?
His body still aches from the nights of love, aches with anger and desire.
Here I will recover my lost soul, he murmurs, and tries to banish the thought. Drenched from the rain, standing in a rural train station at the ends of the earth, now is not the time he wants to remember Moira and his last night with her on the banks of the Seine. Nor does he want to think about his beloved Hector, his bosom friend and collaborator, who betrayed him.
His mind aches. Oh, yes, it was betrayal to choose another composer for his new film.
Suddenly an undefined fear comes over him. Am I starting to grow old?
“Does the gentleman want a taxi? A cart? Where are you going?”
The voice is suspended.
“You are English? French?”
He turns and sees a tall man with clear eyes and a face that is both rugged and gentle. He quickly shakes off the rainwater and tries to appear less absent-minded.
“To the house near the river with the narcissi…”, he says, in fluent Greek.
His parents were Greek, and his childhood was spent in a poor neighborhood in the foothills of Kolonos. He felt Greek to the bone, even though he had grown to manhood in the revolutions of Parisian Mays. Today he would say that his homeland is music.
“But…but…no one lives in that house…”
His eyes were incredulous.
The rain has almost stopped; it is drizzling, and the autumnal landscape is clean and bright.
“We’re here…”, the voice of the driver.
He looks up at the imposing house. Fortunately, they had finished the repairs, and his heart leaped, like a child’s. Here is where I will stay, then, here I will think, dream, and above all, I will forget.
I want to forget.
“What is your name?”
He gives him a generous tip and Nikola takes the suitcase and guides him through the creeks and the sand lilies.
An inaccessible, forbidding path.
When they reached the door, Phoebus asked him to go to Aides to shop for food and various necessities. “And if you can, come occasionally to look after the house…” He accepted. Nikola had already taken a liking to this strange visitor who appeared kindly and a bit strange.
pp 20 – 24
Phoebus Dalezios needed to forget. To forget Moira, Hector, the bloodbath, the throngs of refugees, dioxins, television, menacing genes, revived prophecies, and the new millennium that was approaching, unbridled, dragging a huge tail of cosmogonies.
To forget, yes.
He would welcome the new millennium here, alone. He would make a cup of coffee and look out the window at the narcissi by the edge of the lake. Then, he would play a piece of his own music. He shuddered at the mere thought that he might participate – even as a television viewer – in the rituals that were being prepared to welcome the new world. What new world? This world was only old, aging and weary. Rotten with sickness and conceit. From the arrogance of a threatening technology. A world full of raving false prophets who envisioned a spectacular world-end.
Neither television, he thought, nor news. Here, alone at the edge of the world, I will proclaim my own No.
He has not yet opened his suitcase. First he wants to see the house, to touch it, to smell it. Will it reconcile itself to him? Will it accept him? He feels a strange charge in the air, an imperceptible trembling, as if the life that passed through the place had left its mark.
He fills two glasses with wine, one for himself and one for Nikola, to propitiate the spirits. Then he takes the bottle and empties it onto the floor, as if pouring a libation to the dead.
The rooms are large and austere, with stone divans and arches of cut stone, an authentic old mansion with balconies and interior courtyards.
Happily, there were beds and coverings; his lawyer and architect had seen to everything.
“To your health… and good fortune!”
Nikola’s voice was friendly, and he liked the “good fortune”. It seemed to him that he was starting a new life – in the end that is what he was seeking.
He wandered from room to room with a child’s eagerness. Everything was in its place, the piano, just as he had ordered, the faucets with the clear local water; there were even flowers planted in the flower-beds, violets and marigolds.
Nikola was in the kitchen preparing a light meal for him, and he went out on the stone balcony to take in the view. Despite the dampness, the weather was pleasant, a mild climate, with autumnal shades of gold.
His body missed her. He was used to her smell, her outbursts. When he saw her inspecting herself in the mirror, after a prodigal night, he expected her tears and hysteria. She could not abide the wrinkles around her eyes, her facial hair, her tired dull skin, which, at those times, she felt particularly threatened her. Then she would become insecure and carried away.
His body. His body remembered her, and ached.
Each time he embraced her he could feel on her skin a myriad looks of desire, the unfulfilled longing of a throng that never knew about the hours of insecurity that bared the wrinkles on her face. What would he not give to be with her one more time, to lose himself in the dark pathways of her flesh, to panic. Perhaps his desire for her was an existential need, a deep awakening of the fear hidden in the thirst for life.
Or, perhaps, it was only another attempt to erase the image of Alma inside him, the image that so tormented the deprived years of his youth. From the moment he set foot in this place, Alma’ s eyes look at him from every corner, an image that rises up, ivory-like, out of death. All his later loves were only a desperate attempt to forget her.
“Phoebus, your meal is ready…” Nikola’s voice from the kitchen; he wonders at the familiar tone. Deep inside it pleases him.
He watches him as he comes out on the balcony, satisfied.
“Lasagna Epirus-style, with fresh gruyere from Aides….”
He looks at him with interest. The odors rouse his hunger.
He must be around thirty, much younger than himself, and he seemed intelligent, his eyes quick and friendly.
“You know how to cook…”
“I studied for two years to be a cook, but never worked as one; now is my chance…”
The autumn breeze that enters from the open balcony carries the scents of the place, and he takes deep breaths, as if he seeks to rinse off the smells of the city. He looks out at the landscape wrapped in a white moving fog that makes it seem transparent and dreamlike. Asphodels and willow trees everywhere, and strange whitish cypresses, and huge flowering narcissi that cover the shores of the lake. New smells, a new sight. New sounds. Birds with a strange voice and sounds of water and whispers of giant trees and murmuring hisses in the air. He had not yet defined – Hector would have said “analyzed” – each smell separately, each sound, each tree and flower of the superb sight before his eyes.
Three rivers embrace, there in the distance, their boundless sandy banks full of water lilies and willows overgrown with wild pomegranates and narcissi. They embrace with a restless stream of waters drawn from the depths of time, which flow into the huge Acherousian Lake. The Lake of the Dead. Phoebus knows that. He knows, too, a few things about how the souls were ferried by boat to Hades. But those were myths. “In ancient times, this entire region was called The Gates of Hades…”
Nikola’s voice surprised him.
His glance is swift. As if he is reading his thoughts.
He had brought the food out on the balcony of the upper story and Phoebus invited him to share the meal on his first day, to keep him company.
“These three rivers that you see have been here since ancient times. Today they are called Black, Dumb and Acheron.”
A new interest. He likes it.
“There must be various local legends…”
“There are many, strange stories from older times…there are even some about this house…”
His smile is hurried.
“What do they say?”
“Leave it for another time…”
Another time. He takes his pullover. He cannot wait now to wander about the place, to touch it, to smell it up close, to see his reflection in the waters, like Narcissus. It is afternoon and he wants to see it before the day is gone.
“I will expect you tomorrow…”
The rain has finally stopped.
A grayish red mist envelops the place.
And the sky is brilliant now with red bands on the horizon.
Κonstantinos is there
( pp 84 – 86)
KONSTANTINOS is there, leaning against the wooden arch that supports the landing. He seems emotional. He is again dressed in black. Simpler clothing this time, a cotton fabric, a bit rough, in a modern cut, that reveals a more manly and lean figure. His eyes, too, shine darkly, like the depths of the ocean at night. Even his blond hair seems dark at this moment. He is pale. A sensitive face and at the same time distant. The lines of tenderness around his mouth are trembling. Where did he come from? He had been watching the paths constantly and did not see him.
“I could hear your music…it was audible all the way down to the road…”
The same shock. Which way did you come, he wants to ask. But he is silent. And Konstantinos continues.
“That piece you played is really the most lyrical of all your compositions…If I am not mistaken it is the second part of My Lost Paradise”.
“Yes, it is, but how do you know that? How can you know that? The cd was released just a few days before I left Paris…”
Konstantinos moves around the house slowly, as he did the first time. But now he is uneasy. His face is pale and trembling. He touches some old things, then bends down and smells them, to assure himself that his senses are functioning like those of a mortal. The old cedar wood, the worn latch, the old stone divans. He runs his hand over them with unbelievable tenderness, and then inhales deeply, with anguish, to make sure that he is not mistaken, that yes, he perceives their particular smell, their particular touch…
Memory is a smell… a smell of existence.
I exist once more.
Touches and smells overwhelm me…
This was my house.
He is radiant. And he feels it. He sees his trembling hands. This emotion is very strong. So it was not by chance, then, that I felt the scent of the rain this morning… that I breathed in the smells of the wet earth and of the aconite…it was not by chance.
He looks up at Phoebus. He is certain now, beyond all reason he is certain that Phoebus has liberated his body.
Phoebus does not comprehend. He will never learn what has happened to Konstantinos’s body. He is only puzzled. He wonders why the old objects in the house move him so, as if they were testimonials of his life, or as if he wants to raise up their lifeless memories.
Konstantinos keeps his secret. In the end, even he did not know the extent of his life – that endless wandering between desire and ashes. He sinks into the cushions on the stone divan. He feels exhausted from all these emotions. From the whirlwind of the past, which was trying to expand time, to fit into the present. Outside, the day was moving in a brilliant, uncertain flight, as if escaping from some guilty dream. But he was there, painfully present, painfully vulnerable to the unexpected hidden inside one solitary moment.
“Don’t talk to me, don’t ask me anything, let me be near you…”
pp 89 – 90
Konstantinos knows now that he is able to make the “journey in time.” That solitary journey, which he dreamed of for centuries. To find his life as he left it. Unmoving and covered with ashes. To find, one by one, the people he loved, wounded, perhaps betrayed, to learn why he has reached this point. “You must find your history… that is your path… Like the star that vanishes… that disintegrates in the firmament, and then gathers the fragments of its brightness and becomes brighter again…” The words of his teacher.
He could know the minutest detail about Phoebus’s music or about events in the world – since the world was writing its history on his body. But his personal life was
lost in a mist. Like a painting deteriorated by moisture. Or like a mirror in which he could see only small broken pieces of the image that was lost. Pieces of destruction, half-erased, and always surrounding her face. She remained untouched. The ashes of time did not touch her. Nor did they touch his love for her. He loved her with the same exclusiveness, with the same adoring anguish. And he waited only for the moment when he would find her again. Every torment was worth that one moment. He leans down on the stone seat covered with woven wool covers. He smells everything now, the covers, the stone, his hands. He sorts out the smells, analyzes them with great interest, orders them in his mind, to have a point of reference. For centuries now, his body smelled only of frozen night. A smell of dead stars and ash. And now he senses with pleasure all the subtle scents and smells of things. Because memory is a smell, yes. Now he knows that. The awakening of memory has brought him the scents and smells – the dead senses.
Memory is a smell of existence. And he exists now. He exists and remembers and feels pain.
And he knows that Phoebus — the music that flows in his blood — has liberated him.
“You…that’s why I was waiting for you…”
He is silent. He wants to find the appropriate words to express himself.
“My spirit is liberated by your presence”.
Phoebus does not understand the words. And he has learned now not to ask. The only difference he finds in Konstantinos is the scent emanating from his body. It is no longer only the scent of mist that he sensed at first. He seems now to exude a
particular scent unlike any other in this world. Something like fragrant crystalline water that flows in cool meadows. As if, suddenly, its youth exudes a fragrance. Water with sprigs of lavender and laurel in its passing.
The autumnal afternoon is waning
pp 156 – 159
THE AUTUMNAL afternoon is waning in pale reflections and a restless mist lends the landscape a motion of unending flight. Moist fragrances come through the open window, wet leaves scattered by the damp light, a breeze and a strong odor of earth that gluttonously swallows the smoothness of summer. The trees bend over to consume their shadow.
Konstantinos had no idea how many hours he was lost in the journey of memory. And Phoebus sees him looking outside. His gaze is still for a moment and there is an intensity in his expression. Something must have surprised him. He sees him running toward the balcony, and follows him. A bird can be heard close by, a bird with a strange mournful voice, and he listens.
Konstantinos’ s face is pale and his hands tremble. He leans on the oaken doorframe and strains with his entire body to hear this strange bird’s cry. It is as if it awakens the old memory within his body.
Phoebus is puzzled. “What threnopouli?”
He is submerged in his own time. This sound of the bird may be coming from that cycle of his. Simply and incomprehensibly.
From that same night of the engagement ceremony.
He leans over the edge of the balcony to hear clearly, to enter into the zone of the lament. And the falling night covers the landscape with its dark veil, envelops the trees and the water, threads of another reality, moving, piteous threads of another life.
Phoebus runs to the piano and tries to find the keys that will yield that mournful song. He wants to capture it, to immortalize it. But he cannot. Quickly, he turns on the tape recorder to record it. But he cannot. It slips away and eludes him, in the same way that the sound of the strange hoof beats slipped away and eluded him.
And Konstantinos does not help him. He only trembles. Phoebus sees him trembling intensely. Perhaps from the emotion. What does it signify to him, this mournful song that makes his body sag with such pain?
“Not now…not yet… I will speak to you when the time comes, when I am ready.”
And he sinks down. His body becomes the sound-chamber of time. Konstantinos sinks into the awakening of the other life. And he tries to understand where he is. In what time. Perhaps the thousand years are only one endless incomprehensible moment?
His eyes fill with tears. He does not know…he has not learned that yet.
The knowledge and initiation, which he struggled with such discipline to obtain, did not give him the answers.
And he weeps.
Now he is doubtful about his abilities. He is doubtful about his wanderings. About the struggle he carried on to keep his soul in an endless state of painful wakefulness. He could easily have drunk from the water of Lethe and forgotten. He could have renounced life as he knew it with its beauty and its ferocity, with the power that is contained in blood or oaths. In duty. And he wonders now, duty toward whom? Toward her? Or toward himself? Was his love for her a pretense? Did he choose wakefulness because deep within he thirsted for the smell of lentisk or for a handful of cool water? He remembers saying sometimes, let me hear the sounds one more time and then let me bend to the earth. But no. The next moment he longed for the wandering. That which brought him knowledge. And he was intoxicated with his power. With his capacity to control. And here he is now. Living the final act of the drama of his wandering. He knows that the curtain will fall before long. He will disappear forever. And only one spectator will be there, one witness of his life: Phoebus. Even if he does not realize it. Even if he does not know exactly what his role is in this perilous drama which is unfolding before him painfully and immutably, and in which Hades is the other protagonist.
He raises his large dark eyes, full of sadness, like those of his horse, and thanks him. He can say nothing else to him. Nothing yet.
Phoebus does not know what to do. He does not even ask. It is enough for him that he is here, next to him, that he can still watch this fragile and refined being that holds within him the most incomprehensible powers. This smell of night and water that his body exudes drives him to frenzy. An incomprehensible smell that carries him to the ebb and flow of stars, carries him to unknown depths of moving tender crystals that seek to release their brilliance.
It is enough for him that he can see him thus, happy and desperate at the same time.
With his curly hair that falls over the wide clear forehead, and with that manly and at the same time gentle and sensual face. With the strong body that appears to hide a bright and yet aged youth. With his impenetrable silence. With the inexorable charm. That charm holds him captive to desire.
Kerberos did not stir from his place. He opened his eyes for a moment and looked around, then curled up again. And when Konstantinos sat down again on the aged divan, he started to lick him. To touch him, to comfort him, making soft mournful sounds.
Phoebus brews strong coffee and lights a cigarette. He sinks into the armchair and drinks it in gulps, watching the rings of smoke. He has not eaten or slept. All these
emotions have exhausted his nerves to their breaking point. Yet, in spite of all that, he feels a deep fulfillment, a tranquility, from that specter of tranquility that covers insecurity and existential doubt. The charm that Konstantinos exercises over him is stronger than the doubt. And he wants to live to their fullest these moments of his presence.
Passion, an anguish of love, keeps him in a state of vigilance.
Nicolas has left a glass bowl with grapes on the table
pp 160 – 161
NIKOLA has left a glass bowl with grapes on the table. Tempting, fall red and muscat grapes. As his mouth was bitter from the cigarettes and lack of food, he picked up a bunch and ate it slowly, deep in thought.
What meaning that moment had for Konstantinos!
He got up quickly to watch him eating the bunch, grape by grape, and his mouth felt the sense of taste returning to him. Forgotten tastes, lost for centuries. Suddenly he knew that if he ate a grape, he would feel its sweetness to his fingertips, even more deeply, to the endings of his nerves. He wanted to eat grapes, felt the irrepressible desire to eat grapes, even one grape, he who for centuries now, had drunk only water.
He stands up calmly and picks up a bunch of grapes. Phoebus is puzzled. He sees him eating slowly as the tears flow from his eyes. It is the second time in a short while that he is weeping. Who is he? He wants once again to ask. Why does he weep at such insignificant things?
Or perhaps they are not insignificant?
“It depends…from what dimension you are experiencing them…” Konstantinos replies to his thoughts. He smiles. He eats the grapes and his face is beaming. He feels
their sweetness to the endings of his nerves. Even the sound of the crushed grape in his mouth intoxicates him. He remembers the day on which smell and touch returned to his body. How his soul leaped for joy…He was with Phoebus then, too, down at the Gates of Hades.
He turns and looks at him. He does not want to tell him that thanks to him (that) he is becoming so strong. That thanks to him, piece by piece, he is raising his lost life to consciousness.
After he finishes the last grape, he lies calmly on the seat. He slips into the passageways of the duchy.
Memories cannot be restrained.
They seek to enter the present.
The memories of his past life seek desperately to emerge from the mist that covers them.
The struggle of the shadow with the tree
(pp 260 – 261)
THE STRUGGLE of the shadow with the tree — that was his struggle. Silently, he watches Phoebus and waits for him to finish his messages. He is irritated with Phoebus’ s agitation. He needs to be calm tonight, so that he can enter into the journeys of his life, and he must hurry. Something shocking must have happened that night when they stopped him outside the duchy; he detects it through some vague sense, smells it like burning darkness; but what… what was it?
He sits on the seat, like the other times, with Kerberos at his feet. His body, lean and bony in black clothing, traces a sensuous curve, and Phoebus sees him and tries to calm himself. He wants to forget his friends and the celebrated cruise, to forget the slly message he sent. He opens a bottle of red wine and offers a cup to Konstantinos, who drinks it with great relish. He smells it first, so that his veins swell up, blue, then he drinks it with insatiable happiness.
Phoebus sits at the piano. He feels that these moments contain the meaning he seeks, these uncertain, fragile moments, when the existent body of Konstantinos is lying on the divan. A body both sensual and unapproachable. With that mysterious charm. A pleasure-loving body – even if it will not bear to be touched. With the gold coins around his forehead, among the curls.
He again wants to ask him about the days he was gone. But he does not dare. Where can this solitary being have gone? Is it possible that he traveled? And by what…how? Whom did he see?
Konstantinos plays voluptuously with the drop of wine on his lips.
“And yet, it was a trip…” he says, making his whereabouts more enigmatic.
Phoebus feels ill at ease. The thought that he perhaps went to meet her, the Beloved One, bothers him. The more he sees him, the less he knows about him. Yet, once again, he reflects that the only thing he wants is to see him. To be there, near him, and to see the blue vein on his hand and the pale, sensitive and sad face.
Konstantinos does not speak now. Only his eyes are bright, a blackness of erebos pierced by the silver of night waters.
The three of them are on the deserted path
pp 358 – 361
THE THREE of them are on the deserted path and the moon moves among the drooping trees and the dark waters. Phoebus holds the lamp high to light their steps. Konstantinos leads the way, Kerberos, his tongue hanging, is behind him, and Phoebus is last. Like the other time. When they were going to the sea cove.
He feels a strange arousal. On this windy night, Konstantinos is leading him to the secrets of his charm, this endless night of hallucinations dissolves like a musical awakening in his soul.
He sees the trees drooping toward the earth and then rising again, their roots moaning. Some do not droop; they fall with a huge crashing sound, and lie there, exhausted. He hears the night birds shrieking wildly, and the wild animals that have come down from the mountains. He remembers the night of the wild beasts and shudders.
What is Konstantinos seeking tonight? Where is he going?
He does not ask. It is enough to be with him. To see his firm body and to breathe the fragrance of his youth – the fragrance of his seven-sealed secrets.
Tilted, deserted crosses on the overgrown graves.
They have arrived.
Konstantinos runs directly to the Stone Tree, the one that Nikola said was blooming. Its tall thick trunk is bent over the earth. It droops over the grass-covered tombs and still moans, as if writhing in pain.
He stands before it for a few moments, panting with anguish. Then he puts out his hands and embraces it – he who had not touched a living being for centuries, he whose body dissolved, turned to ashes each time he passed by there.
But now he embraces it, the tree that turned to stone for his sake – according to Dominikos, it turned to stone on the day of his death, from his mother’ s lamenting. He opens his arms again and again, opens them wide. He trembles with the desire to hold it to his bosom.
A thousand-year-old gnarled trunk that exudes sweet breaths, warm sweet breaths, and an odor of Good Friday.
His eyes fill with tears.
Phoebus brings the lamp closer, to watch. He is puzzled that Konstantinos shows such tenderness for this haunted tree… forgotten here, in God’s desert. And in the flickering light of the flame he sees the bird. It looks out with huge eyes, like holes of the abyss, and makes low mournful sounds. Konstantinos raises his head and looks at it. This mournful sound is familiar, but he will never learn that the bird’s name is Teiresias and that it is the same mourning bird – the one that opened time to enter the night of the engagement ceremony. He only sees it beating its wings around him, as if it wants something. And he admires its colors, yellow and green and brown with a spot of blue at the edge of the wing.
Phoebus turns on the flashlight, to see better. What is Konstantinos going to do?… He is trying to do something. He sees him position his back under the trunk of the tree, but is it possible? He is supporting it on his back as if he is going to lift it. A huge tree, half-stone, half-green, like coral that a hundred men could not move. And he, by himself, the untouchable and gentle Konstantinos, with the unreceptive and tender hands, raises it up on his back…he is raising it up.
With bated breath, Phoebus watches him spread his legs, standing solidly on the ground, and open his arms, slowly, almost ritually, like metaphysical wings. And with one final motion that was more perceived than real, he raises up the tree.
The tree moans. A moan that seemed to come out of the bowels of the earth, out of the bowels of Hades. Then it shook its new foliage and stood on its own feet.
An enormous, giant tree.
In the moonlight, they both noticed that it was a lovely white cypress.
The one that was descended from the cypress trees of Hades – according to Nikola.
The one that came from the Asphodel Meadow of the souls.
Phoebus was speechless. He could not believe his eyes that Konstantinos raised it up on his back.
Konstantinos saw him and was smiling.
It was at that moment that the wind stopped. As if some hand had cut it with a knife. As if someone commanded it to stop.
Kerberos was rolling on the ground, making those whimpering sounds.
A calm spread over the place and it was washed in moonlight. Nearby, the Nekyomanteion loomed, silent and forbidding. But perhaps it was not. Perhaps another life form, that of the living myth, participated in some incomprehensible way in what was happening.
Phoebus unconsciously raised his hand and touched the small birthmark on his temple. His hand felt blood. Konstantinos saw it out of the corner of his eye and bowed his head. He was ashamed. He was using Phoebus. He was using his devotion, the purity of his love.
“One day you will understand. Wherever I am, one day I will repay your love.”
It was the second time he repeated the same phrase. Phoebus did not speak. At that moment he was living his own ecstasy, his own passion. A passion that was simultaneously love and music and the incomprehensible. It was desire and yearning for the impossible. It was transcendence and hubris and mystery.
He wanted to return home quickly, to write the music that was flooding his body. The music that was born of the mind’s pain toward the incomprehensible.
Konstantinos saw it.
“You go ahead with Sgouros…, I’ll come along shortly.”
He stood watching him until he was no longer visible on the path. In his black clothing with the gold around his forehead. A sorrowful angel. As tall as the shadow of the cypress.
As the shadow of the White Cypress under the moon.
“Rise up, my little Konstantinos…”
pp 370 – 380
Rise up, my little Konstantinos…
The first words are the harsh ones. Then comes the tenderness, with the rending and the tears. The first words are curse and malediction. When she walked out of her door on this night, Konstantinos’ s mother knew that. Nothing could restrain her now. She would tear apart the tomb with her hands to find Konstantinos, her little Konstantinos, to remind him, with entreaties and curses, of his oath Whether alive or dead, go and bring me my Arete… This is your duty…
I can no longer bear the anguish alone…
You made God your guarantor and the saints your witnesses…
Do you hear me?
Whether you want to or not, tonight you will hear me Konstantinos…
I have no violets or marigolds for you…
I bring only oath and curse, rise up, rise up…
Wherever you are, awake now…
You do not deserve to sleep, you who sent my little Arete away…
There is only the moon.
In the desolate scene at the grass-covered tombs, only the moon lit the scene, cleverly hiding the ashes.
They could have lined up as they did on the night of the engagement, the dead on one side, an invisible pale throng of thirsty souls, under the watchful eye of Hermes Psychopompos, the Guide of Souls, and on the other side the living, with their multi-colored clothing and rosy faces.
The ceremony might have included both the living and the dead, like a theater company of souls with Mother as leader of the chorus. And perhaps – perhaps, I say – the chorus of the dead was there, on this wayward night. But no one saw them. Only Teiresias and the White Cypress, who watched with bated breath and heard the mother calling her son, her youngest, tender, beloved son, come, come, come… rise up, my little Konstantinos…
Inarticulate cries, wind
The calling up of the dead
A gleaming invention of the desperate.
Only Teiresias and the White Cypress.
Those two know that Konstantinos hears his mother’s voice in his watery sleep, hears the beloved voice in the ebb and flow of the depths, and does not know whither it comes, whither it pierces his heavy sleep and reaches him, what is it, mother, what do you want? Where I am I cannot, so heavy are my eyelids… and the moon lights his face, cleanses it from its ashes, you can, you can, you can do anything, you were my beloved son, for your sake I gave her in marriage in a foreign land, come now, come, do you hear me?
Even she was unaware of her power.
She struck the stone with her hands, to rend it.
A crown of gold around his soul
A CROWN of gold around his soul, the word “oath” weighs hopelessly on him, hurts him, a crown of molten metal from a melted star, and he holds it tight in his hands, makes it a bridle, a crown of melted morning star, where is my horse, my Black One?
Only Teiresias, with his fresh colors that become moist in the moonlight, yellow, green, brown with a spot of blue on the wing, only he and the White Cypress, which bloomed this spring to beautify Good Friday, are witnesses to this scene.
No one else saw it.
No one heard the lament of the mother on this night.
Except, perhaps, the dead.
Perhaps the Dark God permitted their presence.
Because the whole time a slow lapping was heard from the water of the Acherousian lake, and they said that it was the black narrow-prowed boats that were going back and forth.
But no one turned to look.
There was only a fog, like rust.
And, in a short while, when men find the tomb empty and the tombstone thrown aside, they will only guess.
Dominikos and Anonymos will be the first to see it and will run to the village. But nothing else.
No one will learn what happened.
Only Anonymos, the poet-troubadour, will lie awake at night. And the galloping that will be heard soon, that strange galloping, like a hum and like a wind, will torment his writings.
Like a hum and like a wind.
Because Konstantinos found his black steed
Because Konstantinos found his black steed
With that bridle of melted star in his hand he rose up and could hear his mother’s voice more clearly now. He heard her lament. Not you, Ioannis, you sleep, for you I bring violets and marigolds, and not you, Thomas, nor you, Asterios.., nor you… nor you… But you, Konstnatinos, you, you, come, the moon will light your way, rise up I tell you, you swore an oath, I will tear open the grave with my hands, I am talking to you, do you hear me?
Her hands were long like the stone arches that support the house of Hades, and her voice came out of a primeval anguish, I am talking to you…
I am talking to you, do you hear… hear… hear…
Inarticulate cries, wind…
Do you hear…hear…
My black steed, where is my Black One…
Yes, mother, I hear you, mothe-e-e-r…
This cloud moans…
The tombstone is so light…
Just a moment while I shake off the clods of earth…
Why are my riding breeches like that… the morning star can’t lift me…
There he is, my Black One, oh what joy!
How tall you have become; I can’t reach you…
And how do you gallop like that, on air…
You will knock over the mountains…
My hands hurt… and these ashes are blinding me… This rust red like blood…
Just a moment, oh, just a moment… they hurt…
Only when they saw his tomb empty and the tombstone cast aside, did they begin to guess.
And that galloping sound that was heard a little later, a sound that was roar and wind and hiss together caused them to wonder.
At the tavern of Kyr Bonaccio that is all they talk about. And everyone has his own explanation. But where is the tavern?
Teiresias and the Stone Tree
TEIRESIAS and the Stone Tree, the one that bloomed and became a lovely White Cypress, knew that all these events had taken place a thousand years earlier. And that Konstantinos remembered them on this night, under the same moon.
He remembered as he looked at the drop of blood that flowed from Phoebus onto the silver mirror. It was that particle of matter, the magic password that opened time, allowed him to enter the last part of his past life.
And now, astride his Black One, he is going to fetch Arete.
And Teiresias accompanies him.
He bestrides mountains and valleys… Seas and rivers.
Arete awaits me on the other side of the water… The great Beloved.
Ah, how your eyes hurt me…
The bridle in my hands is a melted star. And my clothes are full of earth.
Just a moment…don’t turn around to see me yet.
Let me comb my curly locks…just a moment I tell you.
The moon remembers me…
The moon remembers him
The moon remembers him.
But Phoebus knows nothing. What happened?
He sees Konstantinos twitching on the covers of the reclining seat. Sees him dissolving… his handsome body becomes ashes.
“Konstantinos… what is wrong? Konstantinos, speak… Why are you covered with earth? Are you crying? Konstantinos, are you crying?”
No, he cannot. Konstantinos cannot speak to him about what happened.
He can only weep. And the black ring becomes blood in his hands.
He drinks a cup of water and sinks back again. He must endure this memory, too.
To go and bring back Arete.
He is here, on the old divan. And he is there, outside Arete’s house.
He can even see her brushing her hair in the moonlight.
“Please, don’t ask. Just stay near me. A little longer, near me. In the morning everything will be different. But tonight, continue to play the melody from ‘Lost Paradise;’ your music will bring me back.”
Phoebus is confused. The anguish makes him ill at ease. Konstantinos’s body is dissolving, becoming ashes, and he is a mere bystander. Watching the ring that has become a wound. Your hand is full of blood… why is your ring bleeding tonight…
He hears his name, spoken with such entreaty by his lips. It is the first time he calls him by his name. And as he watches him, a being that is helpless and torn apart in the silence of the secrets he carries with him, he bows his head.
“Yes, I’m here, Konstantinos, I will do as you ask.”
He begins to play as sweetly as he can.
“Lost Paradise” envelops the voids of memory.
Envelops the pained abyss of their lost dimensions.
The night of the tall shadows.
p 379 – 380
Only the shadows of the mountains and the shadows of the trees.
The shadows of the silent waters.
They saw the Dead Horseman, who held Arete tightly in his arms and galloped proudly in the moonlight.
The very tall shadows. And I. An insignificant mourning bird, flying breathlessly beside them; I had no time even to quench my thirst, so quickly did the cheerless horseman gallop. As if he wanted no one to see, no one to learn about their love.
And only at night.
This journey unfolded only at night.
The day found them sleeping in darkly shaded meadows and, as soon as night fell, they resumed their path over mountains and gorges.
Even though she begged to look at his face in the dawn light, his handsome face, she said, the much-beloved.
The shadows of the mountains and the trees and the silent waters saw them.
And a wind that whistled strangely, with a touch of rust at its edge, as if it had just emerged from an empty tomb.
As if it wanted to whisper something to the shadows that grew taller and taller under the moon.
But no one spoke, really. They honored the aching lovers and fell silent.
Even I, who had prepared so much to say to them, did not speak during this endless, wasted night, when only the hoof beats of the horse could be heard in the moonlight.
I did not speak. I did not utter the words, those words that I knew from olden times, from a thousand years ago. I only sang slowly and mournfully. And I thought about how I would relate the story of this love to the White Cypress.
I, a mourning bird forgotten by time, with borrowed colors on my wings, heard the words, those that Arete spoke, and those that Konstantinos wanted to speak.
The words of love.
The tall shadows, too, heard them.
And when dawn broke, they folded up their secret, hid it deep in the heart of day, so that the ashes would never find it.
Because, I believe, such a love, is found only once in a thousand years.
His first teacher was Ezekiel of Ephesus
pp. 440 – 457
One hundred seventy difficult years. Konstantinos does not even want to remember them. They were so painful, so humbling, that he begged for sympathy. But he was not lost. A small spark had survived within him, kept alive by the image of her, the Beloved. Who was she? He remembered nothing of his life before the wandering. The years of thirst parched his body. The water of the spring gave him a new birth and intelligence. He looked at his perfect body and smiled. How was it when he was alive? He did not remember it. No. But the particles of matter were ordered to recreate him as he was, and they did.
He looked at his fingers, the nerve endings, the blue vein on his wrist, his joints, his curly hair. Everything was perfect. And above all, he remembers, he was moved by his voice. He spoke, talked to himself in the desert, to hear that deep manly resonance of his voice, which was pierced by streams of rushing waters, a rough roar of flowing metal and faraway ebb and flow – whose source he now recognizes – and tears and shouts.
He lacked only three senses, a lack that was painful, touch and taste and smell. As for taste, it did not matter, since he only drank water. But he wanted to smell the world
again, to sense that earthy smell of the fog and the rose, of human flesh. He wanted to be able to touch again the rocks and the grass, to feel them on the tips of his perfectly-formed fingers, a contact with the mystery of the world that he had regained.
At that time he did not know yet that he could dissolve and reconstitute his body. Did not know that he could balance in the air like a bird, above gravity, that he could travel by negating distance.
Bit by bit he was discovering his powers. Each time that he summoned new particles of matter, to form a piece of clothing or a tool, it was as if he was gaining some new knowledge, and he was pleased. Pleased. The initiation he had sought he found as knowledge on his body. His body was a source of information that he was discovering bit by bit. The history of the world was inscribed on his body. He had only to look within himself and to read. He was the center of the world. Its beginning and its end. And he was able from that time, eight hundred years ago, to see Phoebus coming into his life. All things are ordained in the harmony of the world. It suffices to be a part of that harmony. He felt that his intelligence had brought him to the center of the great harmony that orders knowledge.
It was then that he began to search through libraries and ancient manuscripts. He wanted to study, to learn about his situation.
If he was not a mortal, what was he?
He learned about the huge library at Ephesus and about a priest who was there, an Initiate, Ezekiel, and went to him. It was his first trip. And he made it by boat – he did not yet know how to negate distances with that special balance.
It was a slow boat with two banks of oars, which smelled of salt and human stench – smells that he could only imagine. Men and women, children, all were piled there on the deck, amid their food and garbage, with a look of self-pity. The rowers, half-
naked men, toiled to pull the oars simultaneously. The captain, a bearded old sea-wolf, walked about giving orders.
He leaned on the edge of the prow and watched the sea. It was the first time that he found himself among mortals and he was uneasy. But no one realized that he did not belong to the living. No one looked at him with curiosity. Only with admiration, because he was blindingly handsome with his curly locks tied back in a small braid, his expensive black clothing, his aristocratic hands unused to labor. His one fear was that someone might touch him. His flesh would dissolve immediately into ashes.
He looked at the sea and breathed deeply. His lungs filled with sea breeze. He tried to remember the smell of salt water, of the foam, of salt. There were momentsts when another gust of sea breeze rose up from his inner being, a salty breeze from the sea cliffs of his youth – where were they? Perhaps he did not remember his life, but the gust of sea breeze had survived in him – in the end, nothing is lost, everything we have lived through, sounds and smells and images, we carry with us outside of memory.
There, on the deck of the boat, Konstantinos felt his power in a different way. His body was full of wind and he was happy. He could rise into the air, fly, so light did he feel, but he did not dare. It was a feeling of freedom that he was finding for the first time. The power that he had gained gave him a pleasant sense of freedom, as if he, by himself, could change the course of the boat. And he said, yes, I want it to change.
To everyone’s puzzlement, the course of the boat changed. There was fear, panic, on their faces. No one realized that he was the mystical power. No one realized that a little later the ship returned to its regular course. What his brain transmitted was invisible and obedient only to his command.
He was still standing next to the sea-worn prow and smiling when the shore of Ionia appeared in the distance, bluish in the dawn light.
The priest Ezekiel, an Initiate in the esoteric knowledge of secrets, understood immediately. “Sit down and rest,” he said to him in a voice that was affectionate, as if he could imagine the painful wanderings of his hundred and seventy years. Konstantinos remained silent for some time. Then he asked “How did you know?” Ezekiel showed him the ring he was wearing, the ring with the black stone that was part of his flesh, the “stamp.” And he brought him some old, yellowed manuscripts. He was the marked one of Hades, he told him. One of the “mark-bearers.” And he read: “the mark-bearers are stamped, with a mark like a ring.” That was the sign, the sacred “stamp” he had received from Hades, the engraving of his soul, he went on.
There, in those worn manuscripts – which were copies of the Sacred Papyrus – he read for the first time the phrase “…sacred ring, sign of Hades” a fragment that he found again some centuries later in Florence, on the authentic Sacred Papyrus.
For some time Ezekiel gazed at the stone ring, that black, deep black ring that was part of his skin. Then with his hoarse voice, he told him about the Sacred Book, which the elders had called the Sacred Papyrus. He told him that in it was sketched in symbols the entire geography of Hades and its laws, exactly as they were created at the command of Chaos. Then he brought him some small pieces of parchment kept in a glass case. “What you see is from the authentic Sacred Papyrus, he said; it is from this that Hades’s power springs.”
His voice was hoarse, as if blown by the wind.
“This is what the Order of the World fears.”
Now Konstantinos reflects how much that conversation helped him in his subsequent desolate years. Since some men before his time recognized the sign of the strange ring, he thought, I am not alone. Someone lived through the same experience as I, was exiled perhaps from Hades, wandered, attained the higher initiation.
His thoughts wander. Does the Sacred Papyrus still exist, six centuries later?
He remembers the word “thirst” in a half-erased phrase. He remembers the two words that were legible in another “…of the dead, he who sleeps.” He remembers, too, the broken word “sevenstr…” He is certain now that it referred to the seven-stringed lyre. He is certain, certain now, that all the knowledge that Ezekiel and Hierokles possessed was from the contents of the Sacred Papyrus. Twice, in the ensuing centuries, he went to Florence to look for that crypt, to find the Sacred Papyrus, but everything was lost. No one knew.
I must go again, the thought crosses his mind, must go now that I know…
He began to grow close to Ezekiel. It was the first time that happened to him. He reflects now that there were only three men that he was close to, Ezekiel of Ephesus, Hierokles of Egypt and Phoebus Dalezios. Three human beings during the thousand years of his wandering. All three of them initiates. Teachers of knowledge. Phoebus did not know yet that he was an Orpheus, but he would learn that soon.
There, leaning against the trunk of the Stone Tree, in its cool shade, Konstantinos lives his journey. For the first time, after one thousand years. He connects the moments, the pieces of knowledge. Then, when he met Ezekiel, he was still terrified. He was in the first awakening of his post-Hades youth. I lived for a thousand years in doubt and uncertainty, he reflects, with the pain of wakefulness, to understand who I am, what I am, what I want. And he inhales insatiably the odor of earth, tree bark, grass. He touches the trunk with the palms of his hands to feel the coarse living contact with the White Cypress, his beloved tree. He again feels loved. The elements of creation have received him, have shown compassion for him. Now, only now, does he understand these things.
But Ezekiel is waiting for him in the dusky cellar of the library of Ephesus. There is his cave. He sees him moving about nimbly among the old papyri and parchments, that is where he came to love him, to admire him.
He was his first teacher.
He wore an off-white silk caftan and his gaze was powerful, it saw beyond the present. He taught him the secrets of knowledge, the secrets of the world, the power – and the weakness – that is concealed in matter. He taught him how to balance in the air, beyond the earth’s gravitational pull, to fly like a bird, negating distances. On his return journey, he did not take a boat. His body was very light and he controlled space. That was another, higher freedom. His body was light as air and his movements were in an ineffable harmony with the harmony of the world.
Ezekiel told him that in order to attain the higher initiation, he had to learn the history that he carried with him. His life, the life before the wandering. He went to Ephesus many times, while Ezekiel was alive, and when he died, his soul came and found him.
“Do not forget that you have goodness within you, he said. If you forget, you will be lost.”
For two centuries those words tormented him. What was the goodness he had within him? Was it she, his Beloved? Perhaps his oath? But who was she? And what was his oath? On some starry nights her face was mirrored on the surface of the waters, and he started. Who was she?
Two centuries later, he went to Egypt and found Hierokles. He was an old priest who had reached the highest degree of initiation and was living as a hermit. He had set as his goal in life to be the guardian of an ancient collection of parchments that contained secrets.
He was his second teacher.
He initiated him into the secrets of another knowledge.
His second teacher was Hierokles of Egypt
pp.447 – 450
It was when Egypt was still powerful. Egyptian civilization concealed treasures that attracted many researchers, wise men, travelers, merchants, adventurers. When he arrived he found a lively city, Alexandria, where all types of madness existed. Prostitutes, saints, anchorites, guardians of the dead, teachers of esoteric knowledge, fierce Muslims, fanatical priests, all together lived in a frantic present, a crazed persistence in whatever gave meaning to their madness.
He went immediately to the Blue Library, as it was called, where Hierokles was the sworn guardian of the sacred objects.
He was a tall lean man, wearing a black jellaba of coarse cloth, like a monk’s habit, and a round cap on his head, like those worn in monasteries. His gaze was quick, shining. Like Ezekiel of Ephesus, he understood immediately.
“First I will teach you how to perfect your balance, he said, and then how to negate distance.”
He was not surprised. But he was curious to learn how he recognized him.
“What was it that gave you to understand…”
Hierokles turned his head and showed him the parchments and papyri that he guarded.
“If I was unable to recognize you, I would not be here…”
He persisted. “What sign…I want you to show me the sign…”
He bends down and lowers the jellaba from his shoulder. Precisely at the root of the joint, a small mark was bleeding of its own accord, and a minute drop of blood was flowing on his skin.
“You need this minute drop of blood in order to participate in the life of mortals” he said to him.
And he quickly brought him various parchments that spoke about that. Among them was the verse of Homer, “and when he had drunk the dark blood, then he spoke to me…”
He was speechless. It was the first time he heard this. And he thought about the escaped souls, during the first years of their wandering, which thirsted for blood. Now he understands, only now. There, leaning on the trunk of the Stone Tree, he thinks of the mark on Phoebus’s temple, with the fresh drop of blood. He was born so ready to meet him, that he even had the mark.
“I thought you would have recognized me from the ring with the black stone…” he said.
“Do you know… speak, do you know?” Konstantinos continued, in anguish.
Then Hierokles stretched out his hand and showed him the middle finger. He wore a similar black ring out of petrified teardrops, which was part of his skin.
He leaped up.
“You…so you, too…”
“Not in the way you think… not like you… But I, too, am one of the “marked ones” of Hades from previous cycles of my life.”
He said no more, and Konstantinos did not ask. Each individual carries around his own past from the abysses of his history. His own ebbs and flows, his own anguish of memory.
He, Hierokles, spoke to him about Orpheus and about how the Dark One fears his seven-stringed lyre. Ezekiel, too, had spoken to him about that, but Hierokles had deeper knowledge about the Adyton of the Souls. The seven-stringed Orphic lyre with its engraved symbols awakens the thirsting souls, brings them out of forgetfulness.
“All these things are written in the Sacred Papyrus, but not everyone can read it…”
He meant the decoding.
He told him further that he would find the seven-stringed lyre, that he would accomplish his purpose, and explained to him the properties of the seven sounds of the lyre, how they correspond to the seven properties of the soul, to the seven colors of light, to the seven stages of knowledge.
“Remember that only with the seven-stringed Orphic lyre will you be liberated from the Invisible Dark God, only with its melody will you be able to oppose him.”
Hierokles was his second teacher. It was around 1360 when he met him. And for many years he went to visit him every so often. He taught him the secrets of matter to a more precise degree than Ezekiel. How to master it more unerringly. How to control it. When he died, his soul came to find him.
“Now you will be alone, until you meet Orpheus, he said to him. You have infinite time to perfect your initiation. You will attain pure knowledge only when you remember the life that you lived. You must open time and enter into that memory. Then you will be made whole. And do not forget that you have goodness within you. If you forget it, you will be lost.”
The same words that Ezekiel had spoken to him.
He had a long journey still ahead of him to attain the knowledge that he sought.
Now he was entirely alone.
The broken arrow of time turns back
pp. 451 – 457
Phoebus is standing on the balcony looking at the footpaths. Konstantinos has not appeared yet, but a presentiment tells him that he will be there very soon, brilliant in his linen clothing and satin-like skin, with the brightness of amber in his eyes, as he saw him the last time at the Stone Tree. Konstantinos will speak to him… today he will speak to him, will tell him who he is.
A shudder rolls up his spine, disconcerts him. What is the great secret he hides? Phoebus feels it, understands that Konstantinos is not an ordinary creature; he is carrying something else, different, in his aching soul, a knowledge perhaps, a faraway
pain… he knows nothing, accepted him as he was, adored him as he was, an adoration that was compassion and awe and admiration, that was the irresistible charm that went to the source of his music, to the metaphysical and the incomprehensible.
The morning was drab.
A mist like dull crystal envelops the place and everything appears to float, the trees, the sacred rivers of Acherousia, the waters. It must have rained during the night, he reflects, and looks down from the balcony at small channels with muddy water that shimmer behind the moving masses of fog.
He brews a cup of coffee and enjoys it, sunk in time. All his life is there, his mother, Alma, Moira, Alexia, women that marked him. And then his father, Kyr Apollo the lyre-player – the lyre singer, as he called himself – the friends who had betrayed him, the success that had diminished him, his unborn music.
Today his half-finished composition torments him, the one abandoned in the drawer, the one he had written when Alma died. “The Descent to Hades.” He remembers that a dream had tortured him at that time, the same dream in variation each night: the road was deserted, frozen, and Alma was walking barefoot on the wet pavement. He called to her anxiously from the window of the upper story, wait… I am coming, wait for me… She walked on as if she did not hear him, her hair flowing over her shoulders, wearing a light dress that came to her knees. Where was she going so silently? She would raise her head and look at him then continue on her path, silent, as if disdaining. If I had those manuscripts now, I would finish the piece, he reflects, so strongly did it rise up within him.
I could write Alexia to send them to me.
He is puzzled at his mournful disposition.
“From this, liberating joy springs, don’t forget it; it is your freedom…”
He hears the voice of Konstantinos and quickly turns around. He did not hear him coming up the stairs, nor did he see him on the path. He is wearing the same white linen clothing and his eyes still have the brilliance of amber. Golden breezes flow from his curly hair with the gold coins about his brow, and his skin is tender and white, like a satiny flower. There is an aroma of rose in the air and he bends down to smell it. It is his flesh that exudes that exquisite aroma. The same transformation, he reflects, that I saw there, at the Stone Tree. He is no longer a creature with Erebos in his eyes and fog on his skin. He is a new Konstantinos, fragrant with light and roses.
He looks at a packet of manuscripts in his hand.
“It’s ‘The Descent to Hades’,” he says, handing him the packet.
He is speechless. “And how did you know that I… how…”
The question remains suspended. He takes the manuscript and holds it to his bosom, like an old beloved friend. And Konstantinos smiles. He is radiant. It is the first time he sees him this way. And Kerberos at his feet emits light cries of devotion.
Impatience overwhelms him. He wants to know now, to know who he is, what this transformation means.
“You will talk to me, today you will talk to me, I cannot wait any longer, the hour has come.”
Konstantinos looks from afar at the roads he has left behind to reach this satin-like flesh that exudes fragrance.
“Yes, the hour has come. Set the table with all the good things, honey and milk and grapes and clear water. And bring two cups of red wine, unadulterated wine, I want to drink… I need to taste the blood of the earth, to feel it in my veins, then I will talk to you.”
Phoebus was shaking from the emotion. He set the table with the linen tablecloth that Kyra Leni, Kyr Matheos’s wife, had brought him as a gift, and he placed on it all the goods of the earth. Milk and amber-colored honey and early grapes and a bottle of
red sweet-smelling wine. They lifted their glasses and their glances flew together like magnets. Two different worlds that were meeting in the dusk of time, so that one might complement the other, so that one might be incorporated into the wisdom of the other, might be loved, so that one might be perfected in the silence of the other, might be torn apart by the triumph of the other’s presence.
Their hands were still aloft, an arc of triumph. On their faces, happiness has such a different meaning. For Konstantinos it is memory. He remembered his life and his death, the ebb and flow of the depths, the great thirst. He remembered Ezekiel and Hierokles, the Sacred Papyrus, his struggle to emerge from the ruins of his life, his wisdom.
For Phoebus, who knows nothing of all that, and cannot even guess, this moment is the recompense for love. Whoever Konstantinos is, whatever history he may carry with him, this hour deifies love, that adulation which brought him to exile at the ends of his anguish, to walk naked and barefoot in the footpaths of his soul.
“To our unerring encounter!” says Konstantinos, and brings the wine to his lips.
The taste drives him to distraction. He empties the glass and fills it again. Again he empties it, enraptured. He feels the red intoxicating juice to the ends of his new body and closes his eyes, to live the ineffable happiness.
“To our unerring encounter!” replies Phoebus, struggling to understand the words, “in what way ‘unerring’?”
He does not respond, as usual. He looks at the landscape enveloped in the dull crystal and his heart leaps. It is mine, I acquired it again. He feels the roads of his wanderings, the somber roads of his history, dragging themselves within him.
Phoebus waits with nerves on edge. For him, too, the moments are anguish. He does not know what he will learn. What Konstantinos wants of him. Somewhere, he fears that he may continue the game of silence. But he has no further reserves of patience. Either now or never. He will take his anguish and leave, disappear, he cannot bear any longer the secret that he carries with him – this transformation of his has alarmed him.
Konstantinos looks at him with a serious gaze.
“I never played with silence, nor can you imagine what I went through to arrive here. I will speak to you, yes, I will tell you all that you can comprehend. The rest you will make into music. That will free you from me. Remember, when I met you the first time, I told you that you are Orpheus. This manuscript I brought you, you have signed as Orpheus. That is who you are.”
Phoebus’s hands shake, still holding the glass of wine. He feels trapped in the sensual charm that Konstantinos holds for him, trapped in the seven-sealed secrets that he carries, by his irresistible beauty, his intelligence, his superhuman powers.
“But I don’t want to be liberated from you, he tells him angrily, I want to come to know you…”
It was the first time that he made a demand on him and Konstantinos was upset.
If he left him now, he was lost. He needed his melody to be liberated from Hades, to confront him, as Hierokles had told him. Besides, he reflected that all he had achieved he owed to Phoebus, to his unqualified acceptance of him.
He shook his head and his eyes became dark. He thought he was strong, while deep inside he was still very weak. The minutest disturbance became darkness on his body. Phoebus knew that at such moments he drank water, and he ran to bring him fresh water. He took a glass pitcher and went down to the fountain in the garden, which drew water directly from the spring – cool, clear water.
But today it seems dull to him and, when he had filled the pitcher he quickly emptied it into those streams of mud that were underneath the balcony. I’ d better give him bottled water, he thought. But when he returned upstairs he found Konstantinos beside himself.
What was that moment when he saw Phoebus thoughtlessly throwing out the water into the streams of mud… A small insignificant moment that suddenly grew large and jarred the thousand years inside him, shifted time, and awakened the years of thirst, the centuries of the great deprivation, awakened the pain of the ashes that inflamed his body. He leaped up like a giant. He stood in a frenzy.
“How can you throw the water into the mud… to spill it with such abandon… it’s because you have not experienced the great thirst… you did not have to beg for one drop.”
He did not know what he was saying. The deprivation that had suddenly awakened inside him drove him mad. His eyes shone. He was shaking all over. He remembered the times when he wanted to become water, to become a drop of water, a perfect drop, which would retain his memory for ever – the memory of pain and of the endless thirst. He would be inside the one perfect drop. If that had happened, today Phoebus would have thrown him into the mud with the same thoughlessness. A madness was battering his brain, a wild frenzy.
“You know nothing of the great thirst… but I begged the springs for centuries for one drop of water… I, who lived through the martyrdom of ashes.”
Phoebus stepped back in fear. It was the first time he saw Konstantinos so carried away, shaking with anger. Above all, he could not understand why. He found his behavior so unreasonable, and that “I begged the springs for centuries…” seemed incomprehensible to him, and a little amusing.
He waits for him to calm down so that he can apologize. But, on the contrary, he sees him climb over the balcony like a jackal and leap down, pitcher in hand. Then with the same frenzy, he tries to recover the water from the particles of mud, the same water, which Phoebus had spilled.
He watches him kneel down on the small muddy streams, determined to recover it… to turn back time, to break its arrow”, to negate entropy.
It was the first time he was doing this, turning back time, to change its course, to enter into its inexorable flow and to turn it back on itself, to find the moment before the water was spilled.
I must recover it from the mud, that specific water, he kept repeating, frenzied, that is the one I want, as if that was the drop that contained him, the most important element of his soul when it was in pain, the origin of the world.
He recovered it.
The broken arrow of time is now looking at him in the eye.
He was able to break it and to turn it back, opening a path to the Impossible.
His voice was cracked, like the string of an ancient lyre that is awakening
pp. 488 – 490
HIS VOICE was cracked, like the string of an ancient lyre that is awakening.
Thirst burns me and I am lost
But give me to drink
To drink the cool water of Memory…
“My story is the words of the song that you will set to music. There you will find it. I will bring you the words, little by little, and from them, you will divine my story…do you accept?”
The last light of charm shines in his sensuous eyes, and Phoebus sees it. A presentiment tells him that Konstantinos is leaving. This transformation, from the day he put on the white linen clothing and his eyes became amber, makes him seem more like an angel or a god, so very tall has he become, so unapproachable and purified. As if he passed through the seven circles of purgatory and emerged, all-white and powerful, immaculate, with that white innocence surrounding the halo of his soul.
A sad angel.
He sees his body trembling with the desire for the melody.
“I will do as you want. Bring me the words of the song.”
“But who will sing it…who?”
“I will sing!”
The questions are burning his lips. Where? And for whom will you sing? What is the meaning of this melody on the authentic lyre of Orpheus? And why did you say you would talk to me and now refuse…
“I will never refuse you, remember that. You will find my story, I told you, in the words of the song. As much as you can understand… I have no other way to speak to you…”
“And all that you lived through when you were with me, what was that?”
“I had to remember my life… To remember who the Beloved One was and the meaning of the oath I swore…the oath that kept me in the great sleeplessness… I had to remember my wanderings, the huge experience of thirst…the journey of pain that brought me to this point.”
Then, more softly, more painfully, “I had to find my soul… now I know.”
His body is trembling. His body is still vulnerable to pain. Phoebus brings him a cup of water.
“Who is this Beloved One…is she living?”
“It is for her that you will compose the melody. Ask no more.”
Even if he asks, he knows that he will not receive a response. So he is silent. He notes the first verses that he gave him. The Orphic ones.
Thirst burns me and I am lost
But give me to drink
To drink the cool water of Memory…
He picks up the lyre and strikes the first notes. The sound soars, spills over the open balcony, a sensuous sound, alive, aching.
Konstantinos follows the sounds of the strings slowly, in a voice that is deep, clear, masculine, that vibrates with waves of an ineffable sweetness, like blood, like tears, waves of an indescribable pain.
The novel is partly translated into English by Theony Condos and Minos Pothos