The shirt that does not become wet in the rain
There, in the packed lecture hall, with all eyes fixed on the dazzling up to date electronic equipment that the fascist Herman Sotiriou had prepared for his momentous announcements, Prometheus was trying to find the correspondence between the black shirt of Avgoustinos, the shirt that did not become wet in the rain, and the symbolism of the identical curious shapes that appeared on the Emerald Pillar and on the Sacred Chart, which spoke of the genetic mystery.
He felt dizzy, lost, and did not know why.
The shirt that did not become wet in the rain formed one side of the imaginary triangle of the exercise that tormented his mind. The second side consisted of the primal symbols, those primordial mechanisms of the soul that were encoded in a script that no one could read without the apocryphal manual for its decoding; and the third side was blank in his mind.
A lame triangle, deficient, like his mind.
Beside him to his right and left sat Pavlos and Kladas. And every so often they would squeeze his hand to give him courage. They saw him, sometimes bathed in perspiration and sometimes shaking with chills, and did not know what was wrong with him.
“Are you afraid, perhaps?” one of them would ask. “Have you changed your mind, perhaps?” the other would add.
He did not answer. He was living his personal torment.
He saw the monk Ioannis enter with Tabor. Tabor here? The deficient triangle extended its sides a little toward the old man, but he did not yet understand what that meant. Then he saw Nicholas who took a seat beside them. He turned and looked at him. All I need is for the horse to come into the hall, the thought passed like lightning through his thoughts. In this world of madness, which is defined by the inexplicable and the crazy, everything was possible.
At some moment a discreet bell sounded. The doors closed. No one else could enter, there was no more room. All the seats were full. He looks around as if searching for something. Madness is in his glance. The thoughts that pass through his mind are crazy. He cannot distance his thoughts from the “correspondence” he was trying to find between the black shirt of Avgoustinos, the shirt that does not become wet in the rain and the incised symbols of the genetic secrets, which are identical on the Sacred Chart and the Emerald Pillar.
He noticed that only one seat was empty, in the first row, nearly beside the electronic equipment, where Hans, who was in charge of its operation, was standing uncomfortably.
It was strange. There was a paper ribbon on the seat, indicating that it was occupied, and no one sat there, while so many stood at the back of the hall.
At one moment he feels Nicholas’ hand on his shoulder “Tabor is here to lend you support…”
Dazed, almost angry, he looked at him. And what can Tabor do? That is, how can he support me…he asked with his gaze. And removed the hand from his shoulder. Nicholas slid back to his seat, and Prometheus was again left in a void. It was the third time that he was expressing doubt about the monk Tabor. But he had no time now to think of that.
The dizziness he felt continued and his anxiety increased. He was waiting for something outside of conscience. Something significant that he was afraid to touch with logic. He was pale and his teeth were chattering. Pavlos helped him put on his jacket—Avgoustinos’ jacket. Then he whispered, “If you don’t feel well, we can leave…”
He did not move. He waited. It was clear that he was waiting for something, something that he both feared and hoped for. His eyes were on the empty seat. There, motionless. The empty seat which now formed, you would think, the third side of the triangle. His mind was exploding.
“He will come…He must come…”
Pavlos and Kladas exchanged worried looks.
“Who? Who are you waiting for?”
He looked at them, lost. The minutes are heavy. Hans, with his straw-blond hair and his angular face was already in his place, ready to operate screen and slides. Before long Herman Sotiriou will appear. Before long, before long… In his thoughts is Eliot’s verse “With these fragments I have shored up my ruins…” And he does not know why this particular verse now; my entire life is fragments and ruins, he reflects, and he repeats the verse aloud, to hear it”
“With these fragments I have shored up my ruins…”
“Sh…” Pavlos and Kladas nudge him to bring him to his senses, for at that moment Herman Sotiriou was formally entering the lecture hall, and a burst of applause shook the room.
Prometheus feels a chill deep in his blood. The same as in the past. And in his mind there is still the persistent sense of fragments—impossible to escape from it, the persistent sense of fragments, with a smell of urine and acidity this time, a smell of the wandering chaos, I may come out of this hall in handcuffs, maybe, maybe—a sudden panic, and he turns to look with anguish for the person he is expecting.
“He will come…impossible that he won’t come…”
He looks at Herman Sotiriou, who is greeting the important people, carried away by his own feelings of importance. If they could delay a little longer, he thinks, a little longer… He is dressed formally, in black dinner jacket. A little longer…His body moves this way and that, nervously, on the velvet seat.
“Impossible… impossible…” Perspiration rolls over him. And he is short of breath.
Pavlos and Kladas grow more concerned. They do not speak to him. They only observe his glance that moves between the closed door and the empty seat.
Just as sometimes in a dream you feel that you have fallen into an abyss and no one can save you, then suddenly the abyss itself rises up and brings you to the surface: that was how he felt. The irrational can only be confronted with the irrational.
The voice that came out of his breast had such reverberation that, although a whisper, it was heard throughout the huge hall.
And Herman Sotiriou, who was standing pompously before the cameras in dialogue with some distinguished men, turned to see where that strange hoarse voice had come from.
Prometheus was laughing now. His entire face was laughing. And the feeling of fragments and ruins immediately dissolved. As if he had come out of the dizziness that abstracted him. He squeezed his friends’ hands to his breast.
“Here we are, you bastard…” he said and cast a threatening glance at Sotiriou.
Prometheus was seated among the front rows, and Sotiriou caught the sound of his voice, or rather the reverberation, and he was shaken.
As if he had caught the threat in mid-air. For a moment he started to run toward him, to throw him out of the hall. But he was trapped now. The scientists, mostly the foreign ones, were impatient to hear about this incredible revelation that he had publicized. They knew only a few things from the invitation, and waited with heightened interest. Herman Sotiriou, calculating the criticality of the moment, saw that he could wait no longer, and that he should not create an episode.
In the meantime, Pavlos and Kladas, who understood nothing, began to suspect that Prometheus was not in his right mind, that perhaps his upset was the result of great fear.
He realized what they were thinking.
“Don’t worry, I have never been better…,” he says.
His eyes are still fixed on the empty seat, which, for Prometheus, was no longer empty. A black shirt, the shirt that did not become wet in the rain, a shirt with a vertical collar, like that of a monk, and the man sitting there had his hair pulled back in a pony-tail.
The third side of the imaginary triangle was now complete in his mind. And he recalled the words of the abbot, Tabor, “you will see more…” when he, incredulous and sarcastic, had asked the monk whether he saw everything.
He turned to look at him, to beg forgiveness with his expression. He saw Nicholas and the monk Ioannis who were holding him, almost in a faint, and escorting him out by the back door. What happened? It was as if from the moment the black shirt entered the hall, the dizziness he felt had shifted to the monk Tabor. But he did not have time to think of even that now.
Suddenly, the creaking of a door was heard, and all eyes turned to look. Two individuals entered quickly, and in the special lighting of the lecture hall Prometheus recognized his step-father and his beast of burden, the son. He smiled again.
“The entire cast of the Mafia is on stage!”
Pavlos and Kladas jabbed him with their elbows to quiet him down.
He waited to see where they would sit, and noted with surprise that they did not go near the place that had been set aside for them.
On the screen is the impressive title of the announcement. And again universal applause.
THE ARCHETYPES OF AN ANARCHICAL GENE
EMERALD PILLAR AND SACRED CHART
The applause continues and Prometheus searches among the foreign scientists, biologists and geneticists, to discern which faces belong to the Mafia.
At the right edge in the first balcony, there were some angled faces with straw-blond hair like Hans’, persons with a harsh piercing gaze, like the one he knew, and he supposed that they were the ones. They, they, the invisible murderers of Avgoustinos.
The voice of Otto of the Wandering Chaos is mixed in his thoughts with the time he is living, this present time, time condensed by a throbbing reality. It appears to him that he is, in a strange way, fleeing into abstraction. This time is present, however it contains whole the moment of Avgoustinos’ death. That means that present time is not only present, but a compressed strip between the past of blood and the future of madness. Because only a sacred madness could bring order to this anarchy.
“Have you considered that you are living only to defend him who is dead?” The hoarse voice of Otto of the Wandering Chaos, is persistent in his ears. And he knows now that he could not be anywhere but here today, to defend all those lost, duped, betrayed souls, all those witnesses of innocence, those romantic idealists who almost always end with a well of blood in their temple, and who await their justification in some other dimension.
He was here today for all of them, and he realized that at the tip of his thought.
He gazes at Avgoustinos’ pony-tail—he is sitting just three rows in front of him–and his black cassock-like shirt. His movements, his mass in space, the energy of his body appear totally normal and he wonders whether the others see him. He looks at Kladas’ face, who had known him, to find the answer. No, he did not see him; that was clear.
He notes, too, that next to Avgoustinos’ seat is the distinguished Destephanos, the president of the university, and next to him is his professor, Adamantios Lampidis.
His anguish is at its peak. He still awaits something. A moment, half a moment…something important. And there it is!
On the huge screen appear the letters of a powerful sentence that evokes applause from the audience:
“Whatever genetics, in its arrogance, has discovered in our times, the mechanisms of the soul knew centuries ago. Is that primordial memory still there, somewhere at the edge of the brain?”
Then, the cunning Hans projects on the screen the emerald pillar, as it was in reality: iridescent colors, turquoise and emerald green and deep blue with shimmering streaks of purple. A blood-like purple that formed the sacred symbols—the codes of knowledge. And beside it he held up the Sacred Chart—that majestic text of the symbols inscribed on an ancient parchment, an image that inspired awe. There was no way it could be converted to electronic form, he said—the text itself would not allow it—and he placed it on a stand in such a way that the inscribed symbols—the codes of primordial knowledge—were discernible.
And beside these artifacts he projects an enlarged gene with all of its inscribed secrets, which await decoding.
Then he projected the text; beneath the Emerald Pillar, he had written:
“I will find the secrets you hide, will place them beside the genetic material, to prove that you were born out of wanton time, at the same cosmogonic moment that life was born out of its intelligence, with the same archetypes, with the same movement of the hand…”
And beneath the Sacred Chart he had written:
“Carvings of another time. Symbols. Identical ones on the Emerald Pillar and on the Sacred Chart. Exactly the same cryptographic shapes that speak of the genetic secret. The secret of life, which they call today a gene or copying particle, and are trying to find the encoded message written in its nucleotide alphabet a t c g that bears, inscribed within it, the ‘commandment.’ The Emerald Pillar comes from the time of myth. The Sacred Chart comes from the age of prophecy. And the gene is the molecular archetype of life. Both contemporary and primordial. How can these three primordial scripts have met? And most frightening: how is it possible that they speak with the same symbols about the same thing? This is the grand revelation I will announce!”
He did not want to see more. Shudders rolled through his body like a fever. Those were the words of Narkissos Mavroleon, the same words that he had found in the research of his son Avgoustinos. The same, the very same words that he was seeing on the huge screen, projected imposingly by the Mafioso Herman Sotiriou.
They were the secrets of the sacred texts he had stolen and was presenting as his own.
Immediately, he stands up and approaches the President, Destephanos. In that moment of mad anguish, he notices that the seat where Avgoustinos was sitting is empty. Without further thought, he sits down, and with shaking hands hands him a printout of an electronic note.
“I must speak with you,” he says, trembling.
The other is surprised, “Now?”
Lampidis bends over to see what is happening. Everyone knew of his admiration for Prometheus’ genius.
“Now. It’s necessary…”
Destephanos tries to read the note, “What is this?”
“It’s the reply of the scientific journal The Gene, which says that the article of Avgoustinos Mavroleon was accepted. It’s what you will hear shortly….The secrets that will be revealed are…”
“I don’t understand.”
Prometheus sees that he does not have time. Herman Sotiriou is looming over him and throws him a murderous look.
“It’s all of the research and not a part of it. Soon the precious treasures of the Sacred Chart and of the Emerald Pillar, the codes of the secrets of life, as he calls them, will be in the possession of the entire scientific community…”
“What are you saying? And why now?”
“I had to be certain…”
“And what do you want from me?”
“Whatever happens to me, remember that the article was sent to the journal The Gene prior to the announcements of Herman Sotiriou…”
Lampidis, who was listening to the conversation, intervened:
“What do you mean, whatever happens to you?”
“They may kill me, just as they did Avgoustinos Mavroleon…I don’t have time to explain… but with the publication of the research, no one will be able to abuse the ancient knowledge …”
Destephanos appears troubled now, even more, frightened, “What are you saying? Do you know what you’re saying?”
Lampidis, on the other hand, looks at him uneasily. He knew Prometheus’ character and seriousness. And he bends down near him:
“Come to see me tomorrow morning,” he says.
He slips back among the audience who look at him with curiosity and regains his seat. He is shaking like a leaf on a windblown tree. He takes the hands of his friends in his and closes his eyes. In his mind he hears only the whistling of the wind; so great is his shock. I cannot stop now, he reflects, and as he opens his eyes, he sees before him, in the first row, the black shirt and the ponytail.
“Avgoustinos is here…,” he says, motioning toward him with his glance.
Pavlos and Kladas look at him mistrustfully, with a tinge of irony.
“Come, calm yourself, you’re having delusions…”
He did not reply.
But something wavered inside him. Was his anguished mind forming the image of Avgoustinos?
It was too late to respond to the questions of his anguish. And once again, the verse of Eliot, the “fragments,” crossed his mind.
I won’t be able to shore up my fragments with anything, he reflected, and an enormous sadness darkened his face.
Kladas is curious.
“What was the paper you gave to the president?”
The reply of the journal The Gene, that they had accepted Avgoustinos’ article…”
He looked at him admiringly.
“You managed to do that so quickly?”
“All day yesterday and today I was in contact with them to explain that I absolutely had to have the acceptance…”
Soon the lights were dimmed. He saw Herman Sotiriou step to the podium and silence spread throughout the large hall.
He turned to look for the monk Ioannis and the abbot Tabor. They were nowhere to be seen. He met only the look of his step-father and the son. And fear chilled his blood. He was afraid. Now he was afraid.
As he was closing his eyes in desperation, he hears her voice.
Iris was there.
She was wearing a wide garment, like a cassock, and her hair was golden, like her angelic face and her weeping eyes.
She proceeded confidently, without a care that important people were there, and sat down in the empty seat.
When the chaos stirs
He looks at the packed lecture hall and a chill runs through his blood. All these people will crucify me in a little while, he tells himself. They will rush without thinking to tear me limb from limb. These people, these people who do not know me, but will need to throw my body to the vultures. And I, who know that, I who am afraid of the pain, I, the two-cent Prometheus, am here to tell the truth.
Because I can no longer keep from telling it. I am trapped.
I am the innocent man who has met fate on his path.
There is only the shrill voice of Herman Sotiriou in the dead silence. And the strange symbols of the Sacred Chart, identical to those inscribed on the Emerald Pillar. There lay the secrets of immortality, perhaps written by a divine hand. The secret herbs that Asclepius and Machaon and Polyeidos and Christ used, each of them from a different path, to effect cures and to raise the dead. But he said he would not reveal those things. He said he would keep those for himself—and perhaps for his Mafia. That unbounded power he wanted only for himself.
He clenches his fists. I won’t let you, scoundrel.
So great is the tension, the anguish, the fear, the anger, that he feels the shudders pouring over his body like a fever. Shudders, and sweat, and chills.
I must stand up… now, I must stand up now and stop the bastard… and yet he does not do it. He does not dare. In a minute. In the next minute I will stand up… and his feet are nailed to the floor.
He is raving within. They will take me away in handcuffs… I am lost…lost, and his mind slips… If he does not speak up now, he will never again speak up. And he knows that. Because after the presentation, no one will believe that it was the result of theft. After the presentation he will triumph, so that no one ever, no one… Now, I must do it now… and he cannot. He cannot move even his little finger…. And that dream of the night before found the chance to blend into his thought. His palms are moist and his breathing heavy. Pavlos and Kladas are silent. They are shaken, like the entire audience, by what they see on the screen. By what they are hearing.
The dream. The dream of the previous night tormented him. His cliff. For years, he had not dreamed of the cliff he used to climb as a child to see the carvings hidden at its top. Since his childhood he had not seen that dream, and then, last night he was a child, climbing it again. He was climbing up high, scrambling, anguished, but he could not; he was sliding down like Sisyphos, as he did when he was a child. Until, in the end, the cliff itself began to crumble, and blood flowed down to his feet. The heart of the cliff melted as if it was his own heart.
Why, why this dream now? His anguish peaks.
Why me? Why me? He wants to shout once again. But it is not the moment. Suddenly, he hears wild applause and he is afraid. Is it over? Is the presentation ended?
He looks around to understand what is happening. No, fortunately, it has not ended yet. The wild applause was because he had reached the seventh parchment page of the Sacred Chart, where the stones of immortality were—building blocks, in unchanging order, which served as a unit of natural selection and which the high-ranking Mafioso Herman intended to keep for himself. A madness comes over him. Two more parchment pages remained in the Sacred Chart—nine in all—and perhaps he would not talk about those either, because they contained the most important secrets, the methods that bring life to its immortality. All these things he had read in Avgoustinos’ article, which contained all the scientific substantiation provided by contemporary cellular biology. He had found some of them also in the manuscripts of Narkissos Mavroleon. It was clear that Avgoustinos was continuing the work of his father, he reflected quickly. And in his panic he sensed the same sadness that he was unable to understand the research, as he had never taken a course in the department of biology. He did not know, let us say, what the thymine and the gouanini represented, and what the alphabet of four letters signified with its encoded orders of “beginning” and “end” that gave each individual his or her uniqueness. A uniqueness that now aims at conquering eternal time.
And now, the clever Herman Sotiriou wanted to appropriate this monumental effort of genius entirely for himself.
I will not let you, you angular-faced riff-raff of fascism.
I say, even if it costs me my life.
You are more powerful, but I am not afraid of you.
Nor will I let you commit sacrilege.
Merchant of human pain.
You will be consuming my being and I will be proclaiming my madness.
Because that is what I want to do.
He is terrified by his own thoughts.
His fists are clenched and he is sweating.
At this point, I have only this way forward, he says aloud, to hear it.
And he stands up.
He appears very tall; or he feels very tall.
All eyes turn immediately toward him and watch.
Sh…is heard all around. How does he dare interrupt?
He moves forward steadily. His expression serious. Serious and also harsh. Determined. And he is not shaking; he is not shaking any longer. Fear has turned into strength. And he does not let his anger show. Calm. “As if ready for a long time…”
He stands in the middle of the packed auditorium. And Sotiriou is at a loss. He is the one sweating now. And he immediately nods toward his henchmen. But Adamantios Lampidis who understood more than Prometheus had said a short time before, imposes order.
His voice is stern:
“Let him speak…”
There is dead silence now.
Prometheus stands before the center of the huge screen and his voice is clear, a voice pierced by all the dissolute centuries of human suffering.
“Out of respect for the toil and genius of those who have sacrificed their life for today’s revelation, I must tell you that…”
There is a disturbance, and he is frightened. He is in a rush to pronounce the substantive part: that the research was stolen and that Sotiriou will market it for his personal gain, but something is happening and he does not know what. He sees his step-father and his asinine son who are moving threateningly toward him. Then he sees Iris faint. And he tries to utter the essential phrase. But what is happening is beyond him. And he looks up.
Tabor is coming toward him. He is walking alone, an erect elderly bearing, and his austere appearance evokes awe, he walks directly toward him, approaches him. His blind eyes are looking at him now. Then he turns his head and looks at Sotiriou, and the latter is shaken. He, he who had not hesitated to murder for this research, is shaken. And the entire audience is speechless now. What does a monk want in this scientific gathering?
And blind…. He is blind… Whispers everywhere.
Again there is silence. A fragile silence, ready to shatter into a thousand pieces like sharp glass.
And Prometheus hurries to speak. Now, now there is silence. And he takes the microphone.
“He stole this research… what you saw… not one word is his own… he stole it from Avgoustinos Mavroleon, who worked for years to decode the symbols, with the help of the monks… Then he stole the Sacred Chart as well from the monastery of Saint Porphyrios, so that together with the international Mafia of which he is a part he could use this ancient knowledge selfishly. Or worse, market it. Because that is what he will do. But we will not let him. These treasures belong to every man… these treasures represent the end of pain and disease for every man… and I sent the text of the research in its entirety to the journal The Gene… Before long… it will be the possession of everyone…”
He sees Herman Sotiriou who is angrily rushing forward to attack him and is being restrained by a few men. He is shaking now. He looks at the audience which is ready to explode. He looks at his step-father and the latter’s son who are approaching him threateningly. He looks at the hard angular faces that are taking up positions of attack. And in the midst of all that he looks at his professor, Adamantios Lampidis, who is smiling in a curious way.
Sotiriou is now protesting that this is all lies and he shouts as loud as he can for order. But impossible. And enraged and unrestrainable, he again moves toward Prometheus. The latter pushes him away and steps back to gain time.
He is not finished. He has not finished saying all he had to say. And the anguish is exhausting him; he cannot breathe. He looks around the room; the disturbance is peaking: frustration, people gesturing and shouting. And he has not finished. There is something more he must say, and he does not remember. He has forgotten something significant. And the floor is giving away on one side, like a cliff, he feels that he will fall, that he will be carried down by the cliff before all eyes, he will collapse right there on the floor that is giving way, and he tries to hold on to something, somewhere, somewhere, and he sees an arm stretching toward him, an arm covered with a black cassock and in his shock he realizes that it is the hand of the monk Tabor.
He clutches it to his breast and makes a last effort to remember the significant thing he had to say. And he must hurry because he does not have much time; the angular faces have almost reached the place where he stands, and the ceiling is falling now, the ceiling is falling on him.
The voice of Tabor brings him back. He says one word, only one:
But he does not understand. And he becomes angry. In that minute particle of time he wonders where the good man saw the blessing. And the thought passes through his mind that this is the fourth time he has doubted the monk. But he has no time for that. He tries to take a breath. One more; one more breath. Some men are pushing the monk. Pushing him roughly, ready to trample him. And he sees Nicholas rush up to lead him out.
Only a few moments have passed. Events are unfolding like lightning, and he feels that he is dying, that his life was over. And his anguish, to have the time to utter what he had forgotten. That significant thing.
And he is sinking; his weakened body is sinking now. All his life is lost. He wants to cry but he cannot. Not yet. He wants to remember what he had forgotten, but his mind is blank. One moment more… half a moment… everything is over, he feels it.
But no; in that chaotic state, he sees his professor, Adamantios Lampidis, who stands up. It is clear that he has been affected by what is happening. And in a loud voice that rises above the din, he looks Prometheus in the eye and asks him:
“Why did not Avgoustinos Mavroleon himself come to speak?”
He quickly recovers his clarity of mind. Recovers his calm.
That was what he wanted to say; that was what he had forgotten. And he smiles. In that pandemonium in that murderous hour, he was able to smile. And Iris, who is before him, now looks at him, like a lioness.
“They murdered him…” she cries out.
“He did not come because they murdered him, he repeats, in order to steal his research. And I will prove that.”
He did not have time to say anything else. They trampled him. On the spot where he stood. Before the shocked eyes of the audience they trampled him, while at that same moment Nicholas was dragging Iris away from the angry crowd. They beat him to a pulp. All the angular faces bent over him and like conjurers removed him from the auditorium. And as they were dragging him down the half-darkened aisle, he could hear Sotiriou shouting:
“I beg your pardon for this unfortunate incident… He is a student with a recurring mental disability… I am sorry, I am sorry… Here are his father and brother, and they are willing to attest to that… I was the victim of robbery… I… we can continue… shame, shame… even the monks came to entrap me… those God-possessed hypocrites… instead of being grateful to me for bringing renown to their monastery and bestowing value on their neglected parchments…”
Doubt had fractured the boundless admiration. One by one, the guests got up and left. And Sotiriou was rabid. His mouth foamed. What he feared was before him. And he was twice as rabid that he had not got rid of him when there was still time. He saw the step-father and his son, who were standing next to him. They had the same thought: they did not get rid of him while they had the chance, and now they would lose the house, too.
“We can confirm that he is not right in his mind…,” they were shouting.
But no one was listening to them any longer. The fact that Adamantios Lampidis, the distinguished professor whom everyone respected, supported Prometheus with his stance had unsettled them. And what remained now was a vast curiosity. A curiosity that was growing into suspicion: why did he wish to conceal the most significant secrets of the Sacred Chart? Might Prometheus be telling the truth?
While they held him down, awaiting the police—his head was touching the cement, and he spat blood—he heard Ioannis and Nicholas pass by with Iris. And he was calmed. It was madness for her to speak, total madness.
Then he heard the angular faces speaking among themselves. “Antonio… be careful…,” said one. “protect Diedrich…,” said another. And in the prevailing panic, he thought he heard the voice of the asinine son, “hey, do him in; you are late…”
When chaos stirs, nothing can stop madness.
They came from the newspapers and asked to interview him, but could not find him anywhere.
He heard them, bent over and spitting blood. Footsteps of reporters and photographers in the aisles. They were looking for him with unbridled frenzy. But no one knew, they said.
Only on the next day did they learn.
The unavertible present
The aged Tabor was on the floor of the Byzantine chapel with arms outstretched, his cheek against the cold marble, his body forming a cross. There he remained all that night and the entire following day, a black living cross, and he prayed to avert the disaster that was coming. The disaster that he saw approaching with stony steps; he saw it, dark and unavertible, and thought that he could contain it with prayer, with the deep prayer that dissolves the body; but impossible. His prayer was not being heard, it seemed, so overpowering and immovable was that which was happening, which would have Prometheus in jail and the monastery tested with profoundest ridicule.
And he was terrified.
Chills flowed through his blood and he felt insignificant.
No prayer could move that unalterable present which held them more and more captive, ready to hurl them into annihilation. What power was hidden in this disaster that he could not control with his own power of good? Avgoustinos had already been murdered, Prometheus was in chains, the treasures of the monastery ransacked. Or perhaps not? Perhaps those treasures had been preserved? Had Avgoustinos and Prometheus given their blood to preserve them?
On the third day, the monk Ioannis and the elder Porphyrios lifted him up from the marble floor of the Byzantine chapel; he was frozen. It took him three days to see the future he said. And with a voice that was pierced by all the waves of solitude, he uttered only one word:
The monk Ioannis and the elder Porphyrios did not understand exactly what he meant, but they did not inquire further. They provided their own interpretation, that finally justice would befall all that was happening, that perhaps the acts of Sotiriou would come under the judgment of justice.
On that third day, the monk Ioannis took with him the entire nest-egg of the monastery and went down to Nicholas so that the two of them could find a way to help Prometheus. Until that moment he knew nothing, no newspapers reached the monastery and he did not know. When he arrived at the stable, he found Nicholas beside himself.
The newspapers were spouting their poison. They were asking to speak with Prometheus, but he had been isolated and no one knew where he was. The step-father and his son had used every means to have him placed in solitary confinement. At the same time they were feeding the newspapers material that made him out to be mentally disturbed, “a criminal personality who had by diabolical methods stolen the research data from Herman Sotiriou’s computer in order to claim the glory for himself…” And that “the truth will come out and the distinguished researcher will be vindicated…”
The first question the monk Ioannis asked when he arrived was where he was being held.
Nicholas explained that he had gone to the police three times to inquire, and no one would tell him. “When the trial takes place,” they said to him icily, even as he insisted.
“Let’s go once more… and we will not leave until they tell us…”
Ioannis was experiencing psychological states that he feared to analyze. It was the first time he was experiencing passion. The suppressed layers of his soul, untrodden for a lifetime, awakened unexpectedly and upset him. He sensed that this passion he felt to help Prometheus was a transformation of his secret love for Avgoustinos. A transformation of his secret passion. And nothing would stop him.
Passion, forbidden by all the canons of his monastic life, brought him abruptly face to face with what was most precious in his soul: his love for Avgoustinos. A love hallowed by prayer and vigils. Transformed into prayer and vigil. A love that awakened like a thunderbolt and drove him mad.
“From the age of ten he was in my hands, you see… I formed his soul and… and his child’s body matured in my hands…”
Nicholas was startled.
“Are you talking about Avgoustinos?”
“We must find the murderers… everything is now coming into focus…”
“At this moment we must help Prometheus, he says to him curtly. They may murder him too and then the truths for which he sacrificed himself will be lost… those men are unhesitating, they will distort the facts…”
Ioannis was thoughtful and sad. He remembered the look of the Abbot Tabor on the morning when he asked for leave to come to Athens. A piercing, austere look. Did he know? Did he see? He bent over to kiss the coarse-hair garment, and the abbot laid his hand on him.
“Go, he said, the cross is for everyone…”
Tears well up in his eyes now. It is the first time this has happened to him since his childhood. Tears, tears. And he touches them with the palm of his hand, as if they were precious. Pain that lives is precious. His soul is in pain. His soul is alive.
“Then let’s go find Prometheus…,” he says.
And they went.
Only on the next day did they reach his cell, after they had bribed all the guards. A damp cellar of isolation. And he was shouting from within, I want to talk… I want to see a lawyer… no one listened to him. No one yet.
They found him hanging on to the iron door, his fingers bloody and his face furrowed with wrinkles. When he saw them, he no longer had the strength to speak. For three days and three nights he had been shouting. Then he fell on the iron door and remained there.
He looked up at them, and only one word came from his dry lips:
Their first act was to give the newspapers his appeal: he was asking the help of the State; the help of the legal community; the help of the university community. He was asking for the help of the official church. I am innocent, he wrote. All that I said was simply the truth. Because the treasures of the monastery belong to every man and they cannot be sold by one Mafioso. Those treasures will liberate mankind from pain and disease. And that is a gift—a gift that comes from the depths of time, from the depths of the human experience.
No one responded. No one, no one. Only a film producer, Nikolay Romanoff, asked to see him. No one knew what he wanted. He communicated with Nicholas and the monk Ioannis and said that he wanted to speak with him. On the same day that Prometheus’ appeal was published in the press, Pavlos and Kladas went to see him. They were shaken. They could not believe what they were seeing: an unrecognizable Prometheus, covered with dried blood and fresh blood flowing from his wounds, a Prometheus who, perhaps, differed in no respect from the mythical Prometheus whose liver was eaten by the wild eagles of Zeus.
On that same day his professor, Adamantios Lampidis, visited him. And he could say nothing. He only remembered the incident with Herman Sotiriou in his office, on the day when Prometheus was the victim of robbery. At the time when he was begging to work so that he could finish his studies. He remembered the exact moment when he had thought that this boy with the clear glance and shining genius would bring something good. A thought that seemed prophetic to him at the time.
“In court I will help you as much as I am able…,” he said to him.
Prometheus found that very vague and bowed his head. Then he said, “I will never get to trial. And Lampidis was shocked.
“Why do you say that?”
He said nothing more. All indications were that they wanted him out of the way. That it was a matter of days. And he bowed his head even more, as if accepting his fate.
He thanked Lampidis for coming to see him and sank into silence. They would kill him, yes, the thought has become rooted in his mind. One more accident… so insignificant for them. And the only thing that comforted him was that he had time to send the entire research article with the precious genetic secrets to the journal The Gene.
Pavlos and Kladas, coordinating their efforts with those of Nicholas and the monk Ioannis, did not rest all day, they knocked on doors of newspapers and agencies, seeking support, but they had now lost hope. They, too, believed that it was a matter of days before he would be killed, so great was the hatred of the Mafiosi. Too, many political strings were pulled by the step-father and his asinine son. They succeeded in turning the power of the State against the unfortunate Prometheus. “He is an ambitious student, disturbed in his mind, who dared to commit sacrilege and to steal the valuable research of the distinguished scientist…,” they said on the news broadcasts.
Nothing would save him; that was clear. And Prometheus told them not to come again, to disappear, so that his own misfortune would not drag them down.
But early the next morning, they were again at the jail. And this time they met him in the visiting hall and not in the subterranean damp cell with the iron door, which they could reach only after paying off all the guards. Professor Adamantios Lampidis had arranged that. He had spoken with the Director of Prisons and succeeded in having Prometheus removed from isolation, where he was being held as if he were a long-term detainee.
Pavlos and Kladas tried to give him courage. They, above all, knew how innocent he was. How he had been entrapped by Avgoustinos himself… had been entrapped by the metaphysical, however crazy that sounded. And it was impossible that justice would not be done.
Today, they told him, the renowned producer Nikolay would be coming to see him; he had produced two important films with strange titles: “The Memory of Water” and “The Earth Mother.” Prometheus was amazed. He had seen “The Memory of Water.” It was a curious story based on the novel of an unknown author, titled “With the Storm Lamp.” The author had centered her story on certain supernatural phenomena that occurred on an island. He and Pavlos had seen the film on a Sunday afternoon and he remembers how impressed he had been. And now he wonders whether the film bore some relationship to his own adventure. Did the supernatural element in the film have some correspondence with the crazy, supernatural events occurring in his own life? And he waited now, impatiently, to see Nikolay Romanoff. As he recalled, he had signed the film with the pseudonym “Prometheus.” And it had a subtitle: “The Stone that Speaks.”
Something good will happen to him today. He lies down on the black floor of the cell, and curls into an embryo shape; so great is the pain of the wounds on his body—from the kicks the angular-faced men inflicted on him. And his eyes close. He wants to sleep but is afraid to. And every few minutes he springs up. He thinks that they will kill him while he sleeps, so shaken are his nerves. And he tries to find a position that is less painful for his tortured body—his wounded body that no doctor or nurse has come to treat. And tears well up in his eyes now. He wants to cry for all that is happening to him. He wants to say: I am innocent.
I am innocent!
And his eyes are heavy with sleep.
I am innocent!
From all corners of the dirty cell, from all the moldy walls covered with thousands of graffiti comes Avgoustinos, holding his calculator. He is wearing the same black garment with the stand-up collar, like a monk’s cassock, and his hair is pulled back and tied with a black cord.
He hands him the calculator in his hand, “It’s yours now, he says to him, you will find the heart of the cliff… but watch out for the streams of blood; they must not be washed away by the waters… the blood will show you the way…”
The guard woke him as he unlocked the iron door with an awful noise.
He sprang up, drenched in sweat, “where am I?” it was the first time he had slept so deeply since the day he arrived.
The guard felt sorry for this crazy student who dared to take on the international Mafia. He considered him to be a romantic and a fool. Of course the newspapers said something else, but he, with the experience of an old fox, could smell dirty dealings. And he liked very much the little sums that the prisoner’s visitors placed in his pocket.
“A visit…,” he said to him, and pushed him roughly, lest his sympathy be visible to the other detainees watching from the cells opposite.
In the small closed visiting room an unfamiliar tall man waited.
He was wearing a tight black garment and a vest, also black, embroidered along the edges. And his hair was long like Avgoustinos’, curly and pulled back.
What can this particular producer want with me, Prometheus wondered, and, curious, he moved toward him.
The novel is all trnaslated into English