“He didn’t know whether this was the place
of his childhood or some unknown, mysterious place
that had entrapped his soul centuries before.”
“He only said the truth is elsewhere, life is elsewhere”
He saw her from the side. First the wavy hair that fell over her bare shoulder and a part of her face. He was shaken. He asked who she was and they told him her name was Persephone, the daughter of Kosmas.
His heart stood still. He waited to see her move to see all of her.
He imagined her in the white waters. In the white river. An erotic, ivory body. With the misty fog-like dress. Where did she come from?
She turned her head and looked at him. Their eyes met and he was blinded. And he knew that she, alone, was the girl of his dream. She was his fate. He felt a strong attraction. An unyielding desire to touch her. If love was that hot wind blowing within him and driving his mind to frenzy, then he was incurably in love with her.
Kosmas looked at him puzzled. He stood there for so long without saying a word. Only when the girl disappeared behind the door of the house did he speak.
He explained who he was, and Kosmas was thoughtful for a while. So this was the lost grandson! He looked him over from head to toe. Then he talked about his brother, the monk Avgoustinos, who had died one month before. He did not recall that his brother was inclined to the monastic life, he said, “something happened when I broke my hands… something strange, and he went into the desert to understand…”
He ran his fingers through the white beard that he was growing as a sign of mourning.
“He never spoke about it. He only said the truth is elsewhere, life is elsewhere, and he left.”
Narkissos shuddered to the bone. The same words. The same thought that occurred to him on the stone threshold of the cell. He felt an abyss under his feet. A sudden insecurity, a feeling of doubt that unsettled him. And he knew that this abyss opening under his feet was a giant snare, was the prearrangement of his own human adventure. He caught the thought vaguely and panicked. He could not escape. What was about to happen was fixed, awaiting him, lived perhaps in the unknown dimensions of time.
In those few moments he reflected on the conceit of his life. He thought that he was the chosen one because he had studied the science of the soul with the game of truth and illusion, the game of madness and death. Or because he had studied the luxury of fear as he had seen it in the eyes of his patients, the terror of the void on a level of doubt. And he believed that he possessed the luxurious privilege of existential questions. That is why in his own fantasies he preferred solitary creatures, those sensual creatures that experience the solitude of a personal madness—as he dreamed he would himself.
He realized that his life was bathed in arrogance. And he was ashamed.
He took the key. A huge, iron, rusty key. He held it in his hand for a few moments, weighing it. He thought that with it he would unlock the mystery.
The moment he was leaving he saw again the girl of his dream. Persephone. She was standing on the stone threshold and looking at him with the same insistent gaze. He felt magnetized. Never, never in his life had he felt this overwhelming attraction. Not even when he fell in love with Marian. It was as if his soul knew her centuries ago.
He wanted to disrobe her and make love to her at that very moment. So ready was he for this love. Ready since he was eight years old.
And he was frightened.
He remembered that as he was driving by ancient Adonida he had seen a seaside hotel named Adyton. And he approached her. His body and voice were shaking. He felt fear draining his veins. Guilt piercing his brain. And when he said to her “I am staying at the Adyton…” he felt that he was playing the most insane scene in some metaphysical film.
She will come…she must come.
His teeth chattered from desire. He throws the bag with the computer on the bed and falls on it face down. It is the first time this is happening to him. He feels the dream rising up from the depths of his being, a fluid matter, archetypal, primordial that rules his senses, his brain, matter from the madness of the universe. And he experiences it with full alertness. As if this strange dream that has tortured him from his eighth year is suddenly conspiring with the most insane reality. As if it was granted to him to live time in all its secret dimensions.
She will come…she must come.
His body is shaking, defenseless. And the thought of Marian, the thought of infidelity, evaporates before this desire. It is not only the wavy hair and the ivory flesh. It is the attraction. An unconquerable attraction, the same one he felt each time in the dream when he ran to meet her. He would enter the river, against its current, and his senses felt pain from his desire. But he had never touched her—except for that first time. Whenever he approached her she disappeared. Sometimes there would remain a hand or a lock of hair on the water’s surface, sometimes a torn piece from her dress, and it drove him to frenzy. To the point that he believed she was a creature of the other world. That she came from the Asphodel Meadows of Hades, which were close by, a little beyond Adonida.
He gets up, his body still trembling. He looks out the window. The seagulls peck at the ocean sensually. Sensuality everywhere, in the half-light of the room, on the seaside road with the aged pines, the damp smells, saltiness and invisible buds struggling with spring, and birds’ wings.
A nervousness. Cigarette, coffee. She will come.
Now he reflects that he had never told Marian about the dream. Never. Out of defensiveness perhaps. Out of an inward need to keep secret his love for the girl. That was another world, pure, and he did not want to bring it into his everyday life. It would have lost the seductiveness it exercised over his soul.
A world inaccessible even to his science. Even though he had become a psychiatrist in order to explore it.
He turns on his computer and connects to the Internet. Three messages. Two from Marian. “I prefer to be with you rather than to have you missing me” was one. And the other “You have only to say the word and I will come.”
He was frightened. Not now. It was impossible to think of his wife now. Impossible to see her before him. This madness that had overwhelmed him was upsetting. Something more: it was beyond reason. “Please, I need to be alone for awhile,” he wrote to her. Even though he knew it was harsh. He could see the tears in her eyes. Yet at the same moment, a dark force that he was unable to check shifted his mind, freed him. That which his body was living, that which it sensed or prophesied, he was determined to experience with all his senses.
His body was quivering.
He runs his hands over different parts of his body. His limbs ache. A cold shudder. As if he does not control his shaking.
His body was the road that would lead him to his soul, he was certain. And now he sees it trembling alone, this body of his, trembling and sweating with desire. A desire which was also a fear that Persephone was indeed the girl in his dream, that ivory-skinned girl who came down in the clear water of the river, for years on end, wearing the same misty fog-like dress with her hair wrapped round her bare shoulder.
Desire and fear together.
She will come…she will stand at the door and look at him. Then she will lie next to him and he will feel the fresh water of the river flow sensuously over his body, smells hidden for centuries.
He reads the third message. From Ion. “I wish you would invite me. I am ready to leave Chrysa and to come. We’ll remember our youth.”
He read it again. Thought about it. He could talk with Ion. But no. This adventure of his mind was a personal one. Those paths that lead to the soul we must walk alone.
“When I am ready, I will invite you.”
It grew dark. He waited one entire day; his nerves were shattered. He had awakened before dawn and waited like a schoolboy. Coffee and cigarettes. He ordered a bottle of local wine to cloud his mind. This is foolish behavior, he thought. And if he had a drop of dignity, he would forget this fantasy and take up his life where he had left off.
He puts on his raincoat because he feels cold. Nothing to eat all day and with all the coffee he was exhausted. He wraps the coat around him and the solitude chills him. Suddenly his hand touches a letter that was neatly folded in the pocket. He is shaken.
He takes it out quickly and unfolds it. The letters dance before his eyes, Byzantine letters, calligraphic. His shock is stronger. Someone placed this strange letter in his pocket. He tries to read it.
Behold, I am a sparrow living alone in a chamber, bearing my worldliness to a faraway place; my blood is green metal and my foundations are the roots of mountains.
Yours is the message and the hour of light; desire is mine.
Behold I, ploughing the faraway places, am clothed in the rags of my worldliness and give you in return fear and mercy; for if you wished a sacrifice, I gave it.
Monk in God, Avgoustinos.
His fingers are shaking. They are holding the strange letter and shaking. He folds it quickly and places it in the pocket of the raincoat. He does not want to think about it. Not now. Someone is seeking to ensnare him. This place is full of snares. I will sell the house and leave…leave.
The monk Anastasios? Was it he who copied the passage from the prayer-book of Avgoustinos and placed it in his pocket?
His thought is suspended for a moment. His raincoat was in the car. A cold sweat covers him. He takes out the letter and looks at it again to see whether it is real. He turns the page over. There is another paragraph in the same calligraphic Byzantine letters.
You order and I struggle to decode the oracle with your sacred alphabet. Codes of the seven mysteries that sleep my sleep.
Do not be silent, Lord, for in you is my hope.
He looks outside to see how dark it is and whether he has time to return to the monastery, to ask the monk Anastasios. However it may be, he will know, he reflects, he will give me an answer. And then, I want to see if it is really from the prayer-book of the monk Avgoustinos.
No, he cannot travel the same rough road at this hour. Night is falling. In a while nothing will be discernible. A dark, moonless night.
He lies down on the hotel bed and curls up there, wrapping the raincoat around him. He did not even pull the blanket over him. Even though the cold is biting. He is hungry and frightened. He is alone. A mad fantasy is pushing his mind to frenzy.
In the morning I’ll make some decisions, he reflects. And he thinks sadly of the unfortunate day he spent, waiting for the girl.
But what girl? The girl of the dream or of reality? The same doubt. How much distance separates the one from the other? That is what he wanted to know. The distance. Perhaps his own time was centuries ago. Perhaps that was when he met the girl, a priestess in the temple of time.
He presses his palms to his head to stop the thoughts. But they flow into his mind with a vengeance. He gets up and pours a drink. He needs reality. Tactile, unrelenting reality. But the shoes bring him back. Those worn shoes with mud on the edges and dry blood. I must go..go to the monastery to learn the story, he reflects. And I must do it soon.
As he was picking up the key to go out, to see other human beings, there was a knock at the door. And he was speechless.
It was Persephone.
The novel is all translated into English, by Theony Codos and Minos Pothos