And when he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold… the sun became black as sackcloth, and the full moon was as blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up…”
The titles of the chapters are indicated in the course of the summary.
A few excerpts from the novel follow the summary
1. The Hour when the Waters Shift
Adriani, the narrator of the novel, is preparing the “libations” that she will offer to the ruined site, the Site of the Ancient Mysteries, as it is called, to appease its spirit, to soothe the earth so that it bears fruit again, so that the trees bud again. Since the day of the catastrophe, the day of the burned child, that spot is considered polluted, “infected,” and no one will go near it.
She cuts her hair and prepares the old wine, the ritual wine, for the libations that she will offer to the spirit of the site, because after what has befallen her she knows that this place is alive, animated by the energy of the ancient legend.
She is seeking a cleansing, a purification, to banish the “infection,” as the phenomenon is called.
As she prepares the libations, she relives her adventure.
2. The Road of Ritual
Adriani, together with her husband, Pavlos, visits the Site of the Ancient Mysteries. Some supernatural phenomena that occur there arouse in her an intense interest to learn about the history of the place and the mystery it conceals.
At the entrance to the site there is an old Byzantine fortress which is now a monastery. The monk Lefkios lives there.
Adriani goes out alone to walk around the site and finds the ancient ruins, the broken altars, the stone troughs used in the rites of purification, the sanctuary of the temple, and learns that a mystery cult existed there in antiquity.
Suddenly, she sees the water in the ancient spring rising up, in defiance of gravity. Then she discovers some signs, and the monk Lefkios explains that they are “the signs of the burned moon,” mentioned in the legend.
3. In the Spell of Decay
Since the day she went to the Site of the Ancient Mysteries, certain dreams have troubled her sleep. A woman of stone, whose face wears a sad expression and from whose bosom hangs the broken arm of a child, appears to be conveying a message to her.
She was seven years old when she lost her mother, and was raised by Marmi, an obscure, gloomy relative. She married Pavlos, fascinated by the power of his wealth. Now she sees how empty her life with him has been.
She sees Pavlos getting out of the car with an unknown man. It is raining, and he is protecting the man with an umbrella. That act disturbs her. She learns that the man is the new architect who will work with Pavlos.
A strange attraction agitates her. She learns that they are to go to the Site of the Ancient Mysteries, and asks to go along. Despite Pavlos’s opposition, she goes with them. They stay at the hotel in Krypte, the small town that holds title to the site, and she runs to the monk Lefkios to learn about the legend and about the mystery that inhabits the place.
4. The Signs of the Burned Moon
Again, she dreams of the stone woman with the broken child’s arm dangling from her bosom. This time the trees and the sky are also made of stone, a stone that is inhabited by sorrow.
Lefkios tells her about the ancient legend. This place is ruled by the spirit of the Stone Woman, who is buried somewhere nearby. On some nights when the moon is full, the place comes to life, because the erotic myth of the moon awakes. It is then that the supernatural phenomena, the “anarchy,” occur.
He tells her also about the forbidden book of prophecy, which contains the code- word that will revoke the ancient curse on the material world. He says that he cannot find it in the crypt of the monastery, that someone has moved it.
She learns that Pavlos is interested to buy the site, and goes immediately to the mayor of Krypte, Angelinos, to prevent the sale. Angelinos, who knows about the legend and about the supernatural things that occur there, tells her that no one will be able to destroy this place, that “the place itself will resist…”
Coming out of the mayor’s office, she meets Jason. He exerts an irresistible attraction over her. She feels trapped in a primal desire. The moon is full. She goes to the moonlit site and falls on the stone troughs of the cleansing rituals. She feels that her body is a mythical extension of these stones, that she is the goddess Demeter, Persephone, Rhea, Eurydice. Jason is the Orpheus who will lead her out of Hades. And she summons him with all the primordial powers awakening in her body.
Jason comes and the erotic coupling is frenzied. Tonight she is the Earth Mother; she is the Stone Woman, brought to life by the power of legend.
5. The Stone Woman — or a Journey to the Abyss
Returning to Athens, Jason gives her the key to his house. She goes almost every day. Marmi follows her, discovers the truth, and threatens her. For the first time, Adriani foresees that her passion is doomed.
She begins to write the story of the Stone Woman, the woman of the legend. A curse, they said, caused her to turn to stone on the night of the full moon when, transported with passion, she was to leave with her beloved.
She tries to fill the gaps in the legend. There must have been a child. Anarchy — what we call miracle — occurs in the interest of nature. The thought of the child upsets her; her own body is barren.
All night long, she writes. She is Pythia, Sibylla, and Chryseis. She lived here in this place, where there was a cult, and the priestess, that sinful woman who anoints her silken flesh with precious oils and perfumes, as if in preparation for a ritual of sacrifice, incurs the duty of the desire that is doomed. She will push her toward the stranger, the worshipper, toward passion, and then she will detest her.
Her thoughts turn to Marmi. That was how Marmi looked after her body, then, preparing her for the ritual of sacrifice. The story of the Stone Woman, the story of the legend, turns into her own story, and she is terrified.
She discovers that the sale of the place is proceeding, and she stiffens. She feels like the wild animal that smells blood and cranes its neck. She runs to various offices, she implores Pavlos. In vain.
The woman of the legend preoccupies her. She must have had a child, yes. Miracles occur only in the interest of nature. Or perhaps it was not a miracle. Things participate in what occurs. The order of the world is a state of balance poised over a primordial disorder, over raw chaos that has not yet been “ordered by Nous.1”
She is in a hurry to finish the story, to save the Stone Woman, because she senses that the “raw chaos” is inside her, as well, that this story is intimately connected with her own life.
6. Truth Lies in the Invisible World — or “Nature loves to hide2”
Once again, she dreams of the Stone Woman with the sad expression and the broken child’s arm. In her dream, she goes to the site of the Sanctuary and there draws an imaginary circle.
Before dawn she sets out alone for the Site of the Ancient Mysteries.
She borrows a pickaxe and a shovel from Lefkios and searches for the sign. She digs with unbelievable strength, with frenzy. She believes that the Stone Woman has given her a sign, that she will find her buried there, and she does. There is a trauma to the breast, like a hatchet mark, and from it hangs a child’s arm. Chryseis, perhaps? Sibyl? Earth Mother? Or, simply, Woman?
She wanders like a drunken woman through the Site of the Ancient Mysteries. Now she knows that the power of the legend gives it life.
She senses its secret life. Night falls.
As she approaches the well, she sees that the water level is low, and then notices a bloody child’s shirt, left there, as if someone was washing it a little before. The scene she witnesses resembles a hallucination.
It is the Dead Soul, Lefkios explains to her, which washes the bloodstained shirt of her child in the water of the well. The water springs up bloodied now, spills into the stone troughs of the cleansing rites. She watches: the arm of the child is broken and dangling. She asks Lefkios to tell her the story of the Dead Soul. Is it perhaps a version of the legend of the Stone Woman, from another time?
She learns that Pavlos has obtained the archaeological clearance and Angelinos is pressured now, practically threatened, to sign the contract for sale of the site. She seeks ways of obstructing them.
With the help of Eudoxia, the wife of the regional magistrate, she organizes a resistance movement, which almost all the inhabitants of Krypte join. They are standing outside the town hall, their hands bound, holding signs that say, “The legend lives,” “Beware the mystery of the Site,” and other similar slogans. The police arrive to break up the protest. Clashes occur. Angelinos does not sign. The sale is postponed.
On the following day, Pavlos and Jason are inside the town hall, while the local people, led by Adriani, are outside, their hands bound with black bands and holding signs that read “The site will resist.” The local politician speaks on the public address system about the economic development of the region and about the revenues that will be generated by the international complex that is to be built there. His words are seductive and arouse the imagination of the inhabitants — even though they fear the legend and the supernatural events that occur there. Slowly they disengage themselves from the chain of tied hands. The site is sold.
7. The Site Shows its Tears
Jason tries to see Adriani. She lures him to the stone troughs, in the hope that the place will show some sign of the legend. Each of them feels desire mixed with anger and hatred tonight. Nothing supernatural occurs. All is calm until they reach the edge of the ancient ruins, where the forest begins. Then this strange event occurs: as Jason leans against a tree, it disintegrates, dissolves into a pile of ashes at his feet.
Experts arrive from around the world to observe the phenomenon. The following morning another tree turns to ashes. The experts say that it is an unknown deadly virus, a virus mortis. “The forest must be immediately burned.” And it is burned.
The work of purging – the macabre act of a perverted cleansing — has been completed. All that is left is burned stumps, macabre crosses. The inhabitants of Krypte are relieved. The experts prepare to leave, but they are stopped.
On the following day the dead birds begin to fall. It is a strange rain of dead birds.
Immediately, there are analyses, meetings. The experts again talk of the unknown virus, the virus mortis. There is panic in the small town.
The phenomenon ceases and the town of Krypte breathes a sigh of relief. The experts finally depart, but the inhabitants are now living in fear of the legend. They believe that what has occurred is related to the mystery of the site.
That same night Adriani goes down to the crypt of the Byzantine fortress to search for the forbidden book that talks of the “anarchy” of nature. On a torn piece of paper she finds the prophecy that Lefkios had told her about: “…and the sun became black as sackcloth, and the full moon was as blood and the stars of the sky fell to the earth…”
She sees works of ancient authors. Perhaps someone had exorcised them. She searches frantically for the power of the One Word. The One Word, the Code-Word, could govern everything that has happened.
8. The Descent to Hades
“The Water of Mnemosyne”
Adriani has some strange symptoms. Her body is transformed, appears to blossom, and at other moments feels as if it is disintegrating. Jason believes that she is the woman of the legend, the woman who is haunting the site.
The earth-moving equipment arrives. Adriani is desperate. She again dreams of the stone woman. This time she has the appearance of a water creature; she is dancing, light-footed, to the rhythm of the running water.
She decides to finish writing her story tonight. She does not like the way it is written. She does not want it to resemble her own life and tries to change it. She feels that she is living the anguish of Eurydice, at the moment when she was approaching the light. Hermes Psychopompus is escorting her up from Hades toward the light, but Orpheus turns his head and looks at her, although he had been forbidden to do that. The revoking of light is painful: a minuscule irreversible moment of mortal time.
She realizes that she cannot change the story she has written. She no longer controls it. And she rips the manuscript to pieces. Later, she takes the pieces and throws them into the water of the spring. That is the memory she desires now: the memory of water.
9. The Water of the Spring Commits Suicide
“and the soul springs from water…
Adriani sees the workers who are going toward the spring with a gigantic rotary drill. Soon a moaning sound shakes the place. The ancient stones of the spring crumble. The workers are trying in vain to sink a huge bit into her bosom. The workers leave, to return tomorrow with better equipment. But tomorrow is too late.
The water has disappeared. The spring is totally dry.
Police, crowds, angry words. The inhabitants of Krypte again talk of the legend. Fear comes to life. The experts return. There are more analyses and meetings.
During the night, Adriani takes a lamp and again goes down to the crypt. She searches frantically for the book that will give her the answers, the lost code, the code- word that will open the door to the mystery for her.
The heat and dust make her sleepy and she falls asleep on a bench that is nearby. The dream she sees again appears to be conveying some message to her. It is a fleeing woman wearing a tattered garment that resembled the clothing of a wandering nun or an indigent saint. Her one shoulder was leaning with the weight of the sack she was holding, and there was a trauma on her breast, from which hung a broken child’s arm.
As Adriani tries to touch her, her own hand is filled with blood, an angry blood that immediately forms streams and flows onto her clothing, onto the earth, disappears with unbelievable speed and moans like a wild animal.
Her own cry wakes her. It was a dark cry that rent her body. She leaps up. Her body is convulsed with pain, as if it was being torn apart by machines.
She looks out the window: the site was being destroyed. Within a few hours, the work of destruction was complete.
Tonight the moon is full. Lefkios tries to keep her from going out. She goes out. She wants to hear the moaning of the stones, the groan of the myth that is dying. She has still not approached the Stone Woman. She is afraid of seeing her crushed. She looks at her and confirms that she is crushed.
She stretches out her hand to touch her and her hand fills with blood, just as in her dream, fresh blood. She begins to run. It appears to her that drops of blood are coming out of the freshly dug earth, as if, somewhere, a murder is taking place. She runs to Pavlos’s hotel to tell him about the blood, to convince him.
When she arrives, she finds Pavlos lying on the bed, stabbed to death. Jason is sitting on the floor with a lost look in his eyes, gazing at the knife in his hands, as if he wanted to convince himself that the act had been his.
10. “And the Full Moon Was as Blood…”
Adriani knows that the place participated in the murder.
When she reaches the monastery, Lefkios shows her a trickle of blood that was running down the grimy wall from the roof of the reception hall. At the same moment, a stirring in her womb transfixes her. She is with child.
She runs to find Jason, and sees Marmi, who is leading the police to the scene. She realizes that Marmi’s full name is Eimarmeni, Destiny, the recurrence of the legend in her own life.
11. The Wasted Angel
She gathers her things to leave. She wonders if she wants the child – she who longed for a child her whole life. Why? To become a witness to the wasted place?
She does not leave in time. A ten-year old boy suddenly dies in the middle of the site. It was as if the child was burned by an invisible fire. It remains there, its arms spread. Black charred matter.
Panic once again. No one will approach the child. They are all afraid, and the inhabitants of Krypte once again talk about the legend, about the experts who are coming, about the deadly virus. They are preparing someone with a special protective suit to approach and take a specimen from the burned child, for analysis. What is that radiance that is emerging from the earth at that point?
The man does not dare to touch the child. He turns back, and the crowd is paralyzed with fear. Adriani is not afraid. She understands, and, as she is, with travel-bag in hand, she approaches. When she is close to the child she sees that one of its arms is broken, hanging. She knows now that her life is a confirmation of the unexplainable. She kneels and embraces the child.
She feels the need to offer a libation, to mollify the place. She cuts her hair and lays it at the child’s feet and on his little hands. Then she takes a bottle of old wine given to her by Eudoxia, and empties it over the burned body, to trickle down to the earth, to appease it.
It was her libation to the mystery of the site that was dying.
12. Virus mortis
The experts have become permanent denizens of the town of Krypte. They are now searching for the “virus,” and they are afraid to touch anything. The place is considered polluted. No grass is growing on the earth and the trees are bearing bitter fruit. The small town had dreamed of becoming a global city, and it did – not with the international construction project that would have brought wealth, but because of the burned child, because whatever occurs in some small corner of the earth is relevant to the entire planet. The inhabitants of Krypte have learned that now.
Adriani realizes that the libations she has offered, her shorn hair and the small amount of wine, were not sufficient to mollify the place. She prepares her own catharsis.
Chapter 2: The Road of Ritual
(As Adriani comes into contact with the magic spirit of the place)
Bathed in the silver moonlight, everything appeared surreal and I was delirious now. This is my initiation, I told myself, my initiation to unbearable beauty. I kept walking to reach the end of the stone water-troughs; that was my goal. Suddenly I found myself in a strange place, where the signs of the ancient mysteries were disappearing. I was surrounded by sharp stones and thorns, and I was terrified.
I tried to turn back, but something attracted my attention. A formless piece of something was glowing in a stone cavity, something that resembled charred remains; it was glowing strangely, magnetically, and I approached to see what it was.
Its glow was dull now, dense, as if from burned crystal, and I was puzzled: a broken piece of unknown matter that glowed, a moonlike matter, and I stretched out my hand to pick it up.
–Don’t…don’t touch it… I heard the voice of the monk Lefkios, who was standing behind me.
I turned around, startled. It was too late. The strange broken object was in my hand and was melting, mournful, melting and becoming ash, and still glowing: ash and moist, glowing shade, like a dead piece of moon, and I shuddered.
–Throw it away…throw it away, quickly.
–Why? What is it?
His eyes were ashen with fear and there was anguish on his face as he tried, he said, to remember some words that were capable of negating the other power, which imbued this strange moonlike matter that I held in my hands.
I was puzzled.
–What words are those?
–Word-symbols…seven code words; one opens the other and all together they dissolve the ancient curse…They are written in the apocryphal book. Everything is written there.
His thin body was shaking as it hovered in pain, as if the words were in his body or as if he had to remember them with his body…to detach them from his blood.
–Speak to me…tell me, now, don’t stop…what curse?
–There is a legend about this place. On the night of the full moon with the white halo, they say that strange things happen, like tonight, strange phenomena…it looks like tonight…
He raised his eyes to heaven and saw the face of the moon, which hung from the fragile threads of cosmic indifference…
…As I took a few steps, attracted by a watery sound, I saw the spring, a little further away. The crystalline waters shone like silver. The moonbeams pierced them through to their other, invisible, side – where their mythical journeys lay hidden – to the aloof initiation that they carried within them.
Perhaps these are the same waters that were used for the rites of the mysteries and the cleansing, I thought, and I approached to wash my hands, to clean them of that unknown, thick, grease-like matter, which was still glowing and melting, and felt like ash.
Something else puzzled me now.
Although a few minutes ago the water was calm, welling up quietly from its source, suddenly it began to rise strangely, to rise higher and higher, in defiance of gravity, as if a force was pulling it upward, and I stepped backward, terrified.
–Look, the water is inflating, I said, isn’t it strange? It is rising…without being hindered by gravity.
Lefkios looked at me in terror, as I had already dipped my hands in the water and was washing them, satisfied. I watched as that strange matter, which was stuck to them like dry fire, slipped into the water, in tiny spheres that glowed.
What was it, anyway? I had never had such a sensation of touch – a moonlike sensation.
–You should not have touched the water…you should not have seen them, he said.
Again, I was puzzled.
–But why? Is everything forbidden here?
–At the hour when the water shifts, you must not see it…nor touch it. You must not participate in the anarchy.
It was the first time I heard the words: “the hour when the water shifts…” The word “anarchy,” as well, I was hearing for the first time that night from the monk Lefkios. It was as if he wanted to say: the unexplainable – or, the miracle.
I turned to look at the water, which had returned to its normal flow. It had returned to ground level and was flowing calmly into dark channels that disappeared in the night.
I did not want to think about anything. I let my body participate in that sublime thing that Lefkios called anarchy. The mystery fascinated me in a painful way; it was initiating me, perhaps. Soon I would be a charmed one, which means one marked by the unexplainable. I understood that beyond logic, beyond words.
As I was leaving, I turned around to look once more at the Site of the Ancient Mysteries. Bathed in the moonlight it appeared unapproachable, locked in its mysteries, a soul aloof, which had become one with the stones and the water.
Then I looked up at the moon. It was still hanging low in the sky, a cold spot of light that carried with it the memory of creation. Around the moon I thought I saw a circle that quivered faintly: the blond halo.
Chapter 4: The Signs of the Burned Moon
(Adriani, wild with passionate desire for Jason, goes to the Site of the Ancient Mysteries and summons him with the power of the earth.)
It is already afternoon. The wild pomegranate bushes bend, shivering, over the old Byzantine wall and sheaves of hovering blue pierce the few wisps of a moving fog that envelops trees and rocks and lends the site a dream-like appearance of a floating place, traveling motionless in the sway of time. Here and there the light appears from invisible sources and the winter sun appears to be rolling on the earth, so strangely is the place glowing.
I button up my raincoat, wrap a shawl around my neck and go out. Before leaving, I turn around – I felt the attraction of a gaze – and see Lefkios standing at the window, looking at me. His gaze is piercing. I feel it without seeing it. Nothing will stop me, I tell him with my thought, and he nods his head, as if to say, I know… what will happen has already come to pass in that other, invisible, reality. There is a barely discernible smile on his serene countenance. You are the charmed one, he says now, touched by the mystery, and I hear him with my body and shudder.
I take deep breaths and set out. I hear the sound of my footsteps, of the footsteps of the goddess Artemis, the goddess Demeter, of Persephone. I look around. The Site of the Mysteries is deserted. The entire Site of the Ancient Mysteries is deserted. Where is the echo coming from? An echo of raw metal and of water flowing and of cracking crystal – the entire place appears crystalline, surreal, laden with its ancient spirit. Already, the night is falling, slowly, exuding the odor of the first night of creation, an odor of extinguished burn, and I am beside myself. I, too, am made of burned, extinguished material, I reflect, I am the slowly shifting sand at the moment when it is transformed into tender crystals deep in the fire of the earth. You will come, tonight you will come. The moon will come down low, as in the legend, and I will cut it to pieces, which I will throw down, to show you the way. Perhaps you, too, are coming from far away… from mythic argonautic voyages… perhaps, perhaps, you, too, carry a mythical Jason within you, who is seeking the divine moment.
Was it the words or the echo of the voice, a voice with the sound of rock and water and night. It was the wild ecstasy that slowly overpowered his spirit. It was the frenzied moonlight that bathed the place. It was the smell of the earth, of Gaia, that emerged from the depths of time, leaving pieces of abyss in its passing. It was his name spoken by my lips – the lips of a frenzied bacchant – a name that danced in his flesh and elicited the saltiness of the mythical sea and the sway of the gods. It was all these things together that drove him mad.
We did not need to say anything. We rolled into the stone trough of purification, where the moonlight was foaming. The night filled with moans and cries and sighing, filled with incomprehensible words, syllables from the lips of the first humans that experienced passion – perhaps seeking union with the same frenzy of the flesh, and, perhaps, beneath a similar full moon — in the same vision of the world.
Chapter 5: The Stone Woman — or a Journey to the Abyss
My hand is a trembling arc, half-raised before the door of his house. I hear the beating of my heart. It will burst, I tell myself; it will fall away. I am living a madness… what I am doing is madness, but there is no turning back. From this point on, other powers are driving me…and I try to close the umbrella, which is being buffeted by the wind.
He runs to meet me. He is agitated. The waiting has made him nervous and his words are inept, “it is still raining…you see, here it is windy… oh, you came…,” words that hide the agitation.
I cast a rapid glance around me. The house is an old aristocratic one, which exudes an odor of people long gone. The thought excites me. It seems that what is lost has become an odor inside me. The house smells of family gatherings and tears and promises whispered in the dark. I liked it. It smelled of a grandmother, of pale-skinned aunts wearing expensive rings on their fingers, and of cellars full of old wines.
He relaxes, “I was in agony, waiting for you,” he says. He cannot hide his feelings… weak, I think fleetingly. I did not realize then, yet, that this was his strength, an irresistible strength, which took the form of the most innocent childlike weakness.
His hands are shaking slightly as he holds me against his body. He smells the rain on my hair, and I try to understand. My body is trembling; my body is shivering in its solitude, a demystification of the moment I am living – and I am terrified. Why did I come? Here I am, Adriani Kyda Kalia, the proud and aloof one. What am I doing in the house of a conceited aristocrat who may be ten years my junior? I must leave, I must leave, I think quickly, and I am frightened. I remember the night when I waited for him at the site of the ancient mysteries. There, I was the anonymous woman, the primeval woman, the woman-goddess, the woman-mother, identifying with all the female powers of Gaia, the Earth.
I push him away, shaken.
–I want to leave…, I say, and he is puzzled.
–A drink will relax us both, he says awkwardly, and fills the glasses.
. . . …….
After that first rainy night when our bodies moaned on the velvet sofa, I went to his house almost every day. We spoke less and less. Passion has no words. And after I left him, everything else existed only in relation to those hours. A mist covered everything and brought it all to the same point, to the same, slightly altered moment. It seemed as if only the moaning was audible, soft inarticulate cries that followed me in the rain, on the streets, in the faces I saw.
I had my own key now. Many times I would go there and wait for him. I liked the smell of the furnishings, the sheets, the antique picture-frames. I liked waiting for him. I had forgotten the anguish of waiting for the next moment, the impatience of waiting for the hands of the clock to move to the next minute. I was living a madness, and I found it both sublime and terrifying. The road I followed to go there, the people I encountered on the way, the stores where I once liked to buy expensive things, all existed in a transparency behind his body, beneath his languid motions, within my desire to be there again, to experience the passion one more time. One more time, I said, and I will leave, forever. And then, I would go again. I wondered how the people I knew could concern themselves with politics, with the color of their new car, with fashion. I was living inside that mist of madness, and only the site of the ancient mysteries was clear in my mind, as if it was asserting its hold on me. I had the feeling that I was betraying the site, rather than Pavlos. I will go one more time, one last time, I said to it…and then I will come, I will struggle on your behalf, I still have the strength for you…that resolve no Jason can change… Madness, yes. My body and my mind were in pain. I was in pain, and the pain engendered a perverse pleasure. How many faces were hidden within me? How many faces do we hide?
. . . ………
The door is locked again. I have three hours before I go to Jason’s house. I have no way to combat the agony of waiting. I had forgotten, yes, totally forgotten what it means to await the passing of one minute. I could wait for a century or a year, but a few hours, no, I could not.
And I open the manuscripts.
There must have been a child.
Miracles occur only in the interest of nature.
Miracles grow angry when you do not believe in them.
Or, perhaps, it is not a matter of miracles. Things – natural elements, the dead – participate in events. I can see so little, so little of what is happening. The chaos drives me to distraction — the thought that the order of the world hangs on a primordial chaos, on raw chaos that has not been ordered by the mind of Anaxagoras. The thought that my personal history is creeping blindly over this raw chaos, where my cells will deposit their biological transience, to deliver it, enriched by my pain, to another creeping life, that thought drives me to distraction.
Chapter 6: Truth Lies in the Invisible World
(The Stone Woman has given her a sign, and Adriani goes to dig at the spot where she is buried, to look for her.
I look around for the sign, shuddering as I advance. Here, I tell myself, it was here, beside the Sanctuary, at the corner formed…and I find the same stones as in my dream, the stones placed there by unknown hands, touched by them three thousand years ago, hands now annulled. My fingers are shuddering — here, here… — shuddering and shaking, and I begin to dig with unbelievable force, removing the soil and advancing to the depths, I, the fragile, delicate one whose tender hands have not known manual labor. Then I begin to talk to her, you are buried here, here, you gave me a sign, you came into my sleep and gave me a sign. Who are you? From what depths of the soul do you emerge? And what do you want? What do you want from me?… What do you want?
The perspiration is rolling down my face and my hands are covered with blood, but I continue to dig, crazed, frenzied, I will find you, I must find you, and I collapse onto the pile of excavated earth, crawl, slide toward the pit I have opened and stretch out my hand to touch its bottom, because there is something hard there. The shovel had struck stone, and I grope. The soil is moist, dark, and soft at that point, exudes an odor of essence of metal and of roots, of a vein of water, and of silence. A bit more, my hand touches something smooth, a smooth circular shape about the size of a head with thin furrows on the edge, and a shudder runs through my blood. I have found you, am touching you, it is you, you…
I rise up to breathe, my fingernails are broken, my fingers covered with blood, but I take no note of them, I only weep. I am weeping, the sobs arise from the depths of my being, from my centuries, revoking my ephemerality.
I clear the soil around it, throw off shoes and coat and climb into the pit I had excavated, to dig with my hands now, with my fingers, so as not to wound the woman with my shovel.
Chryseis, perhaps, or Markiane?
Or, simply, Woman?
The warm earth envelops me with moist breaths, moist odors, and I want to shout. I feel the cry rising from deep inside me, rising from the darkness of my existence, a cry that contains all other cries, from the first night of the world, that contains pain and ecstasy and the terror of the unexplainable, and I know that I am the witness of the unexplainable, which I have carried in my womb from the first night of the world, to give birth to it again and again…
The cry. It was my own cry.
(From the same chapter.
Adriani arouses the inhabitants of Krypte against the sale of the site.)
With black ribbons.
Today, we formed a human chain, holding pieces of black cloth. Some people were crying, calmly and silently, because their pain rose up from the depths, without words.
The human chain is mourning today; the faces are pale and defeated. We have lost the fight, we know it. Yet, Angelinos insisted that we should stand there. Silent. Unbending. Lefkios, too, had said to me: “Even if you are defeated, you must try, for the honor of the site…” We had tied our hands with black cloths.
We had four banners this time, carried by Zanis, Stella, Katerina Triandi and the old shepherd Tselios, who had volunteered to come.
Black, mournful, banners.
THE SITE WILL RESIST read the one carried by Zanis, which was the largest, and the others read:
MAY THE ANGER OF THE PLACE BE UPON YOU
THE DEAD WILL SEIZE POWER
THE PROPHECY IS ALIVE.
At the last moment I had added a fifth, which Hector is holding; it reads:
BEWARE THE MYSTERY OF THE SITE.
Chapter 7: The Site Shows its Tears
(The supernatural signs increase in number just before the destruction of the site. Adriani receives the messages as if she was Pythia.)
My fingers stop, trembling. In the bottom of the water-jar or lachrymatory, there are some round stones, like seeds of mythical plants or like tears. The seeds of the mother, I tell myself, there is the seed that the mother gave me to plant… or is it perhaps the tears of the place?
I take a stone in my hand and it seems to resemble the seed that the mother gave me, “for you to plant when the first rain falls…” or, again, it resembles the red ball from Cassandra’s plant, “when the stone speaks to you, only then will you conceive a child…,” and I laugh, I begin to laugh, the mystery is solved, I tell myself, however that may be, it is solved, the mystery is solved. I repeat it out loud, to hear my voice, a voice that arises from the grooves of the stone. We can interpret an oracle as we wish – it always has two sides, two meanings, it is the tears of the site, I cry out now, the site is showing me its tears, and I fall to the earth that is still moist from yesterday’s rain, I weep, from the strain and from the irrationality… I sob… The site is sending me a sign.
Chapter 8: The Descent to Hades
(On the eve of the destruction of the site, Adriani wanders about the ancient ruins and the spring.)
And in the emerald dawn light I see the inscription. So there is one here, too, here, too…
I bend over to see clearly. It is a huge stone, circular in shape, a marble slab different from that of the first inscription, and I reflect that it must be from another votive offering, perhaps from another time.
I run my hand over it, anguished, excited. I will find you, I will take you with me into my own cosmic memory, a thousand years from now I will carry you with me… And the tips of my fingers shudder again, because one word stands out among the half-erased lines that have been worn smooth by the water, one intact word stands out, and I am trembling with awe, as I read with my fingers the letters Chi, Rho, Ypsilon, Sigma, Eta, Iota, Sigma. I am breathless, the waters become one with the touch of my fingers, with the stone, with the emerald dawn, with the memory of the world; they become one with my charmed body and its mythical travels. From now on I will exist in this union, I reflect, inseparable from the elements that have touched me.
I try to form the word in my mind: CH-R-Y-S-E-I-S.
I toss aside the fluorescent lamp, to free my hands, throw off my coat and sandals and lean on the ancient stone; my body can no longer support me. I will collapse, I reflect, here in the midst of the waters, I will become like the waters, they will carry me away, as I am, to that other, invisible, world… and that no longer seems supernatural or irrational to me. It may be that the other, invisible, world is contained by this visible one, I reflect, it may be that it is here somewhere, somewhere close by, between the dead dimensions, those atrophied, aloof arcs. I touch the letters again, one by one, in case I am dreaming, in case I wake up laughable and sad. But no, I am not dreaming, the word wanders over my body, very much alive, a word in my flesh, in my distraught blood, CHRYSEIS.
I am running now, running to escape, because I can no longer endure what I am living, that which is being revealed to me and is beyond all logic. I cannot endure seeing the two huge stone words, DELPHI and CHRYSEIS, containing my body, or being contained by it, two words ancient, like my body – as if both the words and my body were separated from the same starting point, on some mythic dawn washed in running water, running water sanctified and sacrificed by the ancient rituals. I know now that if I see these stones bleeding, I will not be puzzled. It will be my body that is bleeding, my own sanctified and sacrificed body.
I stop, out of breath, at the Byzantine wall of the monastery. I hope that I will not find the name of Markiane, too, carved on the Byzantine wall, I reflect, trying to laugh. But I am not laughing; I am shivering now.
I see some metallic masses beside me, which are shining in the dull morning light. My knees buckle, the feeling of crumbling again, and I drag my feet to the guesthouse. I must finish the story I have written, I tell myself.
As I was climbing the few worn steps to the right of the Byzantine chapel, I turned to look at the window of the sitting room.
Lefkios was there, waiting to make certain that I could reach my room. Then I saw him lower his head, as if he had sinned by seeing me thus half-naked and fairy-like.
He did sin. I was barefoot, water was dripping from me and my thin underclothes clung to my body. I may have looked like a bacchant, with my hair winding around my shoulders, hair like raw silk, and my legs bare.
When his gaze met mine I was ashamed.
Chapter 10: “And the Full Moon Was as Blood…”
(Adriani, prompted by the blood of the earth, goes to the hotel and finds
Pavlos stabbed by Jason.
Her shaken mind tries to comprehend what has happened.)
Again, it did not satisfy me. This explanation does not reflect reality, either, I tell myself.
There must have been something deeper — a savage need for cleansing of the soul, which arises out of the blood. Perhaps he planned to stab Pavlos and then himself, but balked. Conscience, diminished by the pitiless moonlight, was lost in the fissures of the mind.
And I go back again, to the beginning.
The moon made him insane. The site bathed in the silver light displaced its anarchy into his mind. Perhaps he remembered the night of our passionate embrace in the stone troughs of purification. I was the woman of the earth, the Niobe who became stone. I was the Persephone of Hades, the Eurydice whom the lyre of Orpheus brought up to the light. His song, his thirst, awoke the centuries:
I am parched with thirst and I am consumed.
The song of Orpheus transformed the night into a primeval cry, and our souls ooze the streams of Mnemosyne: “The thirst burns me and I am consumed. Give me to drink from the stream of Mnemosyne.”
He had betrayed everything, and he was ready to live the moment of chaos – a chaos that was one with his forbidden desire. Perhaps the centuries of the mother had awakened in his hand the dark recesses of madness.
Or, I reflect, perhaps he killed him out of pity.
I was at a total loss.
Chapter 11: The Wasted Angel
(Adriani approaches the burned child, in the midst of the ruined site)
I open my arms and embrace the charred body of the child, hold it to my bosom. Then I notice that one of his arms is broken; it is broken and dangling. Perhaps it was the child of the stone mother, I reflect quickly, the child whose little arm was dangling from her breast, like a painting by Picasso. That was how she came into my dream, with the severed child’s arm. Or perhaps it was the child of the dead soul, I conjecture, the child with the bloodstained shirt that the dead mother was washing in the waters of the spring on that April night. I saw the blood in the waters, I reflect. I touched the waters to my lips and know that they had the taste of ashes and metal from the darkness of the earth, the taste of dead stars.
I reflect that it may even be the anonymous child – Innocence – a message that this world is not for children.
Perhaps, perhaps… — the perspiration is rolling down my face. Perhaps it is my own child… the one which has not yet been born, the child who knows the fate of the burned site, the fate of the wasted angel.
Let me become ashes, then, too, the ashes and charred remains of the lightning bolt, like this hapless child. Let it happen now, before… before…
I am weeping. I am weeping now, and no one hears me – fortunately. The people in the crowd are far away, staring at me with bated breath. Nothing has happened to her, they say — nothing yet. Perhaps they are making the sign of the cross. The experts are waiting for me to bring them a piece of the burned child. But no, I will not do them that favor.
Nearby there remain a few stone troughs that the bulldozer had not reached.
I feel the need for cleansing, the need to offer libations to the site, to appease its wrath.
I could cut my hair, I reflect – offer my hair as a libation… If I had a bit of wine… and I remember that I do. Eudoxia had brought me a small bottle of a special, old wine – nectar and communion wine.
I take out the bottle from the travel-bag hanging on my shoulder and empty it over the burned body of the child, over its open arms, over the earth.
Let the earth drink the wine and be soothed.
Then, I cut my hair with a small pair of manicure scissors from the bag. I cut my hair almost to its roots and lay it at the child’s feet.
Silken locks of hair that ripple over my hands with a watery feel.
That was my libation to the mystery of the site that was dying.
A strong novel against the destruction