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Friday, December 8, 2023

[Music] A Star to Guide You Home

Cover by: Marissa Nadler

[Music] Lighthouse

High On A Rocky Ledge (Featuring: Marissa Nadler)
Cover by: Ghost Train Orchestra & Kronos Quartet

[Text][Fiction][GR&SB][Book II] Antje & The Gentleman Below

(C) 2023 Kyrinn S. Eis  All Rights Reserved

Antje, little girl that she was, fallen down that icy hole, was sad more than scared.  She had already half-resigned to die here in the night.  She hoped her pony, Leijona, had the sense to make it home, to survive the frigid cold that would take her.  Her cries rang like a bell but she wasn't sure that they ever left for the surface, and if they did, the pile of snow all about the entrance would further muffle them.  No, Antje knew she was already dead.  She looked about with the strange light which the ice seemed to channel -- it already dim for winter -- there was a sort of sunset pink-lilac, magenta-steel half-light around her.  As Antje's fatigue increased, she slid down within her columnar jail, but found that beneath it, the ice didn't reach the floor.  It was instead glistered with cinnamon-tangerine melt-water over rust-red rock.  Antje had to combine crawling and chipping-away at the ice with her belt-knife.  Once able, Antje found enough space to again stand.  She was in a cave which looked to continue horizontally for some distance; however, almost immediately away from the cylinder of ice, there was no light at all; rust darkness and then pitch black.  Antje looked and found only very small debris, but threw them singly to sound out the distance.  Only one clattered.  She moved, crouched low, and with her left hand reach out, while her right moved ahead of her feet; she shuffled this way until her left hand touched more rock, her right proved the ground's presence.  Antje stood, almost hugged the wall as if it were a rescuer.  She then probed ahead with her feet as she used both hands to grip the wall.  Off into the darkness, with the daylit world behind her, Antje entered the unknown.

She moved on like this, and felt not colder air, but warmer.  She pressed on in her slow exploration.  He r mind's eye conjured the strangest images, not her imagination so much as her mind's attempt to make sense of the little flashes of light from her brain she 'saw' with that same brain.  She was as detached from herself as always, and this isolation, this opportunity to be both absolutely focused and devoid of stimulation, save that of touch, and the hearing of her own breath and the shuffle of her dragged feet; that was so incredibly calming...  Her mind seemed to function better down here, away from distractions of light and colour and voices, music, wood being chopped, fire consuming in crackles that wood, scents of foods being cooked in her parent's cabin...  Here was a simplicity which permitted her space to think her own thoughts.

Under pressure, which felt like a lover's embrace; the fire of her body metabolising itself as she held her breath; as she sank further and further beneath the waves.  The surface was a dim memory, an image of a dancing mirror where a distorted Antje fled from the light and noise of the surface world into her abyssal sanctuary; her chapel of blessed isolation.  The lead sled pulled her deeper, past her first-best depth, past the second, past her most recent...  The sounds she heard here, clicks and thin tinny whooshing chirps, sounds like ceramic in controlled cracking break...  Her lover's embrace became almost a crush, her head ached, but that drove her out of it, into the darkest teal-steel towards holy blackness below.

She smelled marmalade and barely burnt toast, the heady richness of freshly brewed black chai; she heard the crackle of wood on fire, smelled faint wafts of it in the damp cave air, but all was still dark.  Antje hugged the wall and drove each of her feet in a slow drag forward, ever forward.  Then she caught it: a broad crescent of palest saffron-kissed tangerine light off in the distance, opposite her wall-friend.  Antje wanted to call out, but she didn't want to disturb a cave troll or other denizen of the Underworld in which she now moved.
"You can show yourself, Antje Aino-Airi Miesaarni; I know you are there; don't be afraid... you aren't intruding."
Antje crept round the wall and saw a fireplace and a chair before it, upholstered in a sort of paisley pattern which looked like peacocks on antique gold.  The left arm of a smoking jacket was visible, and held a snifter with a multihued liquor within; the glass and contents captured the firelight in a magnificently wondrous fashion.
"come, girl, warm yourself by my fire and dine -- i know you have gone without for so long... so very very long."
Antje came round, still touched her wall and saw in larger and larger slices of angle the man who sat in the jacket in the peacock chair.  He looked Turkish, or Afghani, or was it Akkadian?  His large nose ruled out the former, his hair made him look more Moghul, but his eyes made him look more ancient, his brow strong, his dark locks thick and curly also danced with firelight.  His thick lips were sensuous and curved into a smile which Antje knew held something more than mischievous, but he hadn't yet lunged for her.
"I know, I know, I look the I┼íkur.  Can't help how one is made, now can we?"
She shook her head, gulped, and found her eyes drawn to a plate with a slice of cake -- the slice of cake she had once seen in a photograph -- of a white cake, with vanilla frosting and strawberries in and atop it. Beside it was a large mug of steaming chai, with a cinnamon stick and an orange slice on the rim -- just as she had seen in another photo.  Her stomach grumbled...
"Eat, drink, warm yourself by my fire, Hannah."
Antje looked at him; only her Grandmother had ever called her Hannah:

    "This is your secret name, your mother knew it and you now know it too, but forget all about it; your children will be protected by the Covenant -- unbreakable -- writ on the stone itself by His hand, Hannah.  Now, sleep my sweet girl... sleep..."

-- "If I'm seeing these, I must be dreaming.  These aren't real... are they?"
He smiled, leaned forward then back after he changed his position in the golden chair of peacocks.
"There is a thin line between real and unreal, characters and readers, you... and me, my darling.  I have waited a long time to have this very conversation with you, yes you.  My love for you is the strongest bond you will ever know, but it is very pain itself, and all pain is mine to bestow.  You will better understand as you grow older.  Pain is the cosmos' way of letting you know you are alive; that you are present; that in the moment, you are real.  I don't expect you to understand this now, or even to remember it, but it happened; trust in that -- on this very page in the book you are reading my dear one; this very page you are reading now."
Antje felt stunned, confused she wondered how any of this could be real; she barely felt real to herself; she felt cold and numb.
"Eat and drink, my love.  It will sustain you until your return when next the green is seen to cover the land; my realm is your birthright, your very human birthright."
Antje knew she didn't understand, and that it was alright.  She didn't know which to take first, so she grabbed both.  She shoved the cake in her mouth -- it was not as sweet as she had thought it would had been; even a little bitter, sour.  She held the very hot mug, it almost burned her hand; she drank it -- the spice so strong it almost overpowered her, the heat warmed and continued to build as the spices flowed through her veins.  Pomegranate tea, cassia and cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, black pepper, allspice, anise, licorice... she ate more of the cake and curled up on the floor by his feet.

When she revived, Antje heard the adults from the nearby village comment on how Leijona had been so brave, such a good pony; his sacrifice to cover the hole had saved her alive.  Antje tried to speak of the cave, of the man and his peacock throne, of the fire and the food, but they would have none of it, and said she was addled by the cold.  The snow had melted away and a few trees looked like the tiniest buds had begun to form.  The warm blanket and the fireplace of the old woman's hut.  The Coltsfoot flower in the one little glass vase the woman owned caught the dawn's early light, and Antje remembered for a moment, and then she felt slumber upon her like the night.