by Ares Demertzis (Aug. 2007)
At daybreak on my twenty second birthday, gripped by severe anxiety, I crossed the deep, cerulean bay separating two diverse settlements, each unique unto itself; from the verdant pastures of Staten Island to the stone monument grid of Manhattan. I boarded a ferry at sunrise to reach that other shore, as one more of that numerous and diverse collection of somnolent passengers lost in silent, lethargic reverie. The morning sun sparkled cheerfully on the surface of the calm water resembling bright, prancing golden coins. I closed my eyes and dreamt once again of Leila.
We are in
Oh, how I miss you, my darling Leila! Silent tears blur my vision. You laugh. You dance. The soft material of your ample skirt immodestly swells and spins in sensual rhythms that are probed obscenely by the hungry eyes of envious men.
No. Leila. Stop. Wait for the wave. Wait for the wave!
Walking north along the concrete sidewalk bordering the
I sat to wait on a small Biedermeier chair below a picture frame that held captive a hand embroidered aphorism “Time waits for no one; everyone waits for time.”
She returned shortly, beckoning me to follow; opening a narrow wooden door, she indicated I was to proceed down a flight of precipitous, mysterious stairs into obscurity.
It took me quite some time to get to the bottom, the stairs being not only steep, which prohibited a quickness of step, but also circular, therefore plunging an unexpected distance into the earth. As my descent continued, the coarse wall of this subterranean shaft against which I was supporting myself with the open palm of my hand became soft, moist and slippery, which I imagined to be a consequence of its proximity to the river; a pungent, swampy odor drifted upward and surrounded me. Finally reaching the foot of the stairs, I discovered a narrow, damp passageway through which I slipped; it led to that place I was seeking: the athenaeum, where the annals of all understanding are stored.
I squatted on the floor, drawing my knees up under my chin, in the exact center of this shadowy, cavernous, spherical, and perpetually aqueous room, surrounded by intimidating floor to ceiling bookcases filled with soggy, deteriorating manuscripts. The sudden appearance of a young individual with a remarkably large, shaved head startled me from my wonderment; wearing a thin white tunic, incipient, unfettered breasts were thrust against the diaphanous material, revealing petite nipples similar to those of an adolescent boy. I glanced below the waist of this androgynous creature to determine its gender, but the deep folds of the fabric discouraged my curiosity.
“How may I help you?” Although no sound was uttered, I understood the words perfectly.
“I have sought answers, but have lost hope,” I replied.
“Yes. How may I help you?” the unspoken words insisted.
“I am seeking any information you may have available regarding genesis, the origin of life, and of course, the natural consequence, its conclusion. What I’m specifically interested in is to understand the essence of being, in other words if a banana were to taste like a peach, should it be considered a banana, and if the flavor of a peach is that of a bitter olive, then is it still a peach?”
An enigmatic smile crossed the full, sensual lips. I glimpsed there Leila’s mocking face and once again uncontrolled rage welled up within me.
It is past midnight.
Wait for the wave, Leila. Wait for the wave!
A silent question entered my consciousness: “Are you acquainted with the flavor of death?”
“I think so.”
“What is it?”
The genderless apparition embraced me, pressing against my mouth a suffocating kiss that left me breathless; then vanished. I looked down at my hand where two wrinkled, oval almonds had unexpectedly appeared. Reaching up to insert the kernels into my mouth, an impulsive, unreasonable fear gripped me. I surprised myself by hesitating.
The insistent ringing of a telephone roused me from my slumber. Eyes still full of sleep, I glanced at the clock next to my bed before answering.
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Registered Writer’s Guild.
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If you enjoyed this story by Ares Demertzis and want to read more of his work, please click here.