On a road to nowhere
Copyright © 2010 Howlyn KEFTS
It was one of those broiling hot afternoon where the heat haze floats and shapes deceptive puddles on the silver-blue horizon. That kind of weird afternoon where everything sparkles in the sunshine, as if unreal. The temperature, which was even worse in my car, conveyed a drowsy atmosphere to my travel. I sighed : it would be a long and uncomfortable way to my next stop : Delphi.
After some times, it seemed to me that something was moving in the distance or maybe it was the heat that played a trick on me because, usually, it is not the kind of road where you can expect to meet someone, especially with that heatwave. And yet, there was definitely someone walking along the dried roadside grass but from where I was I could only see a tiny silhouette. As I got closer, the silhouette turned into a clean-cut girl burdened with an over-sized bag which seemed too heavy for her frail shoulders. She looked like crushed, forced to bow down under its weight.
“Poor girl !”, I thought getting a glimpse at her in the wing mirror.
I had overtaken her then but I felt an irrepressible desire to stop. And anyway, before I could make up my mind and without any order of mine, my body acted. Perhaps I had been lost in thought for a moment. Well, I backtracked to offer to drive her somewhere. She turned to me. What I saw utterly stunned me : she had these broad eyes … those features ... that secretive face... I knew it very well for it was mine ! Incredible !
“Oh no !,” she said, “A car would be useless to go where I want to. But thanks.”
Her lack of reaction puzzled me ! She didn't seem to notice the striking resemblance between us. In fact, it was much more than a mere resemblance. We were simply identical. Despite the shock, I managed to speak :
“Really ? I mean you won't go very far with that scorching heat. Not to mention that charge on your back! It sounds like suicide !”
Of course, I expected her to answer but instead she started walking again, without even a word.
Odd, isn't it? But the oddest was probably that, once again, my body acted alone. Without my being aware of it, I took my bag and went out of the car to catch her up. What was happening to me ? Was I getting mad ? But it was not the proper time for introspection. She was already far off. How could she walk that fast with that bag on her back ?
“Hey ! Wait me !”, I cried.
The words had gushed out of my mouth. They floated in the air before fading away. But she kept moving forward, without even a glance behind. I was running when she was just walking and yet, I felt as if I could never reach her. I don't know why but this thought deeply moved me. I wholeheartedly wanted to get to her. How came that I didn't manage to catch her up ? As I sped up, the landscape passed by faster. The road became steeper and steeper, and the bushes turned into a dense forest. Soon after, we were surrounded by impressive mountains.
I can't say if it was due to the heat or to the speed at which the scenery was flashing past, but, I began to feel giddy. And after some time, I came to think that I probably suffered sunstroke since things seemed distorted around me. The view was breathtaking but also altered : the ground, the hills, the emerald green pine trees contrasting with the light-green foliage of olive and plane trees, the white puffy clouds, even the invisible air looked like rippling around me. There was obviously something wrong and almost awe inspiring. I wanted to stop and go back to my car but I couldn't. My body refused to obey me. Panic took hold of me as I was trying to recover some control, without success, and breathing became hard. My body was moving on its own.
Then, as suddenly as she had started walking, the girl broke off to stare at something, apparently located at the top of the hill which stood before her. It gave me some time to reduce the distance between us but before I could join her, she rushed into the forest. I had lost all notion of time, so I had absolutely no idea of how long I had been running after that girl. When I reached the shadows of the woods, my clammy skin shuddered to the contact of fresh air, creating a sensation like that of a cold sweat. The atmosphere was cooler but everything around me still seemed distorted, as in a heat haze. Not so long after that, I realised that even my own body was blurred, or at least, the part of it I could see.
It seemed to me that I was kind of … floating.
“What happens to me ?”, thought I,“Am I dead or am I actually getting mad ?”
I felt scared and shuddered at the idea of having lost my way as well as my head. Until then, I hadn't noticed that I stood still. I looked around me, hoping to find which way the girl had gone. Everything was over-sized : the trees were incredibly huge and their weird buttress roots were about my size ; there were also bushes with enormous flowers, almost as big as my head. The colours were luminous : orange red, misty rose, yellow ochre flowers, copper and golden foliages … the light dust and silent insects were dancing in the few sunbeams that filtered through the branches, adding something fantastic to the hazy scene. I had never seen anything like that in my life. The beauty of the area was so powerful, so fabulous that it was almost frightening too.
A blinding shimmer of light woke me from my contemplation. What was that ?My legs carried me to that sparkling thing, through the amazing serpentine roots. As I got closer I tried to guess what it was. A puddle ? Or maybe a stream ? No. No, there was no water flowing I would have heard it otherwise. Its size made me think it could be a puddle but its outline appeared to be too regular. Actually, it turned out to be a gigantic mirror with a queer wooden frame. I recognized the circular forms at the top as the moon's phases. On the sides, there were two horses : a black one on the left and a white one on the right.
I had never seen a frame like that in my life ! Then, I took a look at the surface … My blood ran cold.
I let out a cry of terror : “Impossible ! What happens ?” It was too much for me then.
I let my tears flow until I dropped off. Or so I thought … The darkness spread around me and eased my distress. There was nothing then ; no light, no colour, nothing. I floated. When my sobs ceased, I realised that a voice, a male voice was whispering something I couldn't understand. And suddenly, I could feel the ground under me again, the soft moss, the smell of the grass, the subtle rustle of the wind through the leaves, a charming melody, the voice … - wait a minute - … the voice ? It couldn't be ! The voice belonged to my dream, it couldn't be real !
I sat up and opened my eyes : the light was back. It always comes back. The air was not so hot there but it was still blurred. I turned my head in the direction of the spellbinding and melancholic melody. A very beautiful man was there, sat on a root, playing a string instrument I had never heard before. In fact, he was too perfect to be real. I was certainly dreaming. The breeze made his fair curly-hair and the light cloth he was wrapped in moved in harmony with the melody. Something told me that he was not dangerous so I stood up and made my way to him. After all, it was a just dream …
His mysterious eyes fell on me
“So, you feel better now, young girl,” he said with a warming and unctuous voice.
“I'm not sure. I'm probably still asleep.” I peeped at his instrument and added, “I heard it in my dream, just like now”
“Absolutely not. You are truly awake for the first time in your life. By the way, I hope my mirror didn't scare you too much.”
“Your mirror ! Do you mean that this evil thing really exists ?”, I cried out. He answered, still with a sweet voice :
“Evil ? No I can assure you it is not evil.”
“I'm not crazy ! That mirror is too weird !,” I shrieked, unable to lower the pitch of my voice.
“I've never said you were crazy. And just because you think the mirror is weird, doesn't mean that it is evil either.”
I opened my mouth to say something but no sound came out. He was careful in the way he expressed himself, exactly the way wise men speak. Then he stood up and came to me :
“Who are you ?”
“My name's Diane”
He rose his eyebrows and looked me right in the eye before he asked in a low voice :
“Are you sure ?” All this disconcerted me but I did my best to conceal my trouble :
“Of course I am ! It is my name !”
He leaned towards me and inquired in a whisper : “I rather mean, are you sure of who you are ?”
His attitude and his question were was so weird that it took me a moment before I could think of an answer.
“I know I am my-self, isn't that enough ?”
“That's very true but I'm afraid it is not enough. Can I ask you what you saw in the mirror ?” He straightened up but kept his piercing eyes on me.
Again, I remained silent a moment. Before I replied, he asked again :
“ So, what did you see ?”
“Well I … I … I had … no face,” I stammered, looking away from him.
As he said this, I realized that he probably thought I was crazy so I hastened to add :
“You know, just before, I have been walking in full sun so I guess I must have suffered sunstroke. Besides, I think I have not recovered yet, or maybe I'm turning mad, because my vision is fuzzy.”
“I don't think you are turning mad. And I don't think you suffer sunstroke either. As for the mirror, it means you have some problems to solve and things to learn about yourself.”
My heart started beating fast : “I can't believe it is true ! ”.
“Check by yourself if you don't trust me”, he said pointing at something on the moss.
I rushed near the looking-glass, followed by the nameless musician. I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I moved near the smooth and cold surface. I looked at me ... that was true ! Instead of my face, a light shadow appeared, hardly visible.
I cried : “What happens to me ?”
The man put his hand on my shoulder and said :
“Don't worry Diane. You're not disappearing. The mirror reflects your mind.”
I tried to joke but my voice, trembling from fear, betrayed me :
“And what does that mean ? Does that mean I have no mind or that I sold my soul to the Devil ?”
He raised his eyebrows and simply said : “I see you have not a single idea of what a mind is. Moreover, I told you there was nothing evil in it, Diane. Your questions are thus irrelevant.”
His remark both irritated and scared me even more :
“So, what is a mind ?,” I asked.
“Excellent question !,” he said, quite mocking me. “Everything that make you be what you are is inside your mind : your memory, your will, your perception, your imagination, your thoughts and so on . ” His tone was much more serious that time.
“But it is impossible !,” I exclaimed, “Everyone has a mind.”
He smiled gently : “Very true but I've never said you had NO mind.”
“I don't understand. Why don't you simply tell me ?” I could hardly conceal the hint of impatience in my voice.
“I can't know who you are. You are in the best position to know that. Now I think I have helped you enough, I must leave.”
“No, not already !”, I thought. There were so many things that I wanted to know :
“Before you leave can I ask you something ?”
“You can always try,” he answered smiling.
“First, who are you ?” The man avoided my eyes and told me :
“I have several names. You can call me Loxias.”
At that moment, the idea of playing his game came to me:
“I didn't ask you your name. So, who are you ?”
He frowned at me : “I can't answer to that question.”
As his tone was harsher, I didn't dare to insist :
“ Okay Loxias, do you know where I can find something about my “mind”?”
“I can't answer to that either,” he said, more friendly.
“But you said ...”
“No,” he interrupted me, “I said you could ask anything you wanted, I've never said I could give an answer to everything.”
“A last one now. I was following a girl when I entered the forest. Do you know where she is?”
“I don't know who you are talking about” he said. “Now, good luck Diane”
I was trying to evaluate the distance to the top and when I turned my head to thank him he had already vanished, leaving me lost and doubtful. I sighed resigned to finding that girl.
As I wasn't the sole master of my own movements, I let myself go with the flow until I reached the top. There again, the sun shone bright through the fluffy clouds and the heat was oppressive. I overhung a both desolate and astounding panorama : the gigantic ruins of an ancient temple stood alone, among the mountains, into the wild. The area was rocky where I was and few bushes were scattered on the dried ground. Everything was dead just there. But just below, and almost everywhere around me, the slopes were covered with trees, their green leaves bringing some colour to the scene. It was as if I was in the middle of the only lifeless place around. I couldn't even explain how it made me feel but, it was fascinating. Everything still appeared to undulate under the burning sun, as if intangible. I stayed a moment there, contemplative, before taking the way down to explore the ruins. It was so steep that the way was hardly passable and yet, it seemed so easy to me.
The easiness with which my body proceeded gave me the impression that I was very light. I was getting into the remains of an ancient semicircular auditorium. Its stone steps led to the centre of a stage from where you could see the temple below. Completely surrounded by a majestic ring of mountains, quiet and still, I had the feeling that I was definitely alone, that time had stopped. Only the slight bustling of the wind through the leaves was audible.
I continued to climb down the slope, making my way towards the temple : huge columns made of porous stone stood at the left of massive stones, the layout of which made me think of a labyrinth stretched further down below by means of limestone stairs which seemed to belong to the mountain. All of a sudden, I noticed someone sat down at the foot of the columns. The girl ! In the end, I had found her back ! Apparently, she had not noticed my presence yet or so I thought because without even looking at me, she said :
“I like these ruins”
I moved forward and finally sat by her. She turned her head towards me and gave me a sad smile : it was as if I was looking in a mirror. I shuddered, and finally, asked the question I was dying to ask :
“ We are identical, didn't you notice ? It's so obvious ! You can't have failed to see it.
“Of course I did ! And I can assure you that I know much more than that !”
She simply turned her head to stare at the remains around us, ignoring my reaction. After a while, she asked :
“Do you know where we are ?”
“No, I really have no idea,” I admitted.
“Well, this I know. Ages ago, it was the temple of Apollo, the temple of self knowledge and absolute truth.”
“So we're in Delphi …” I was almost relieved but I could hardly believe that I had covered such a distance. And yet, she was certainly right.
After another long silence, she added :
“I am like these ruins.” She turned to me and said : “You are very much like them too.”
And she was right … My mood could very much be compared to the spectacle of the ruins. The forlorn expression in her eyes deterred me from interrupting her. As my eyes filled with tears, I saw hers misting over too. With a quavering voice, she said :
“I also know these conflicting feelings which stir up trouble in your mind. The heart-warming sensation but also the loneliness that took hold of you, as well of me, when we entered that place … The puzzling impression of being completely lost but also very close to the truth …”
These words expressing the very same feelings as those I was unable to describe, overwhelmed me though I didn't really understand what all this meant. The clouds outcast the sky, plunging the mountains into pale darkness and made it all the more blurred. A deadly silence came over us. I was thinking about all this, trying to understand, when spontaneously, she revealed that my guesses proved true though I had not uttered a single word. It was as if she had read my mind. :
“Yes, I know your feelings. Yes, I know your thoughts.” She muffled her sobs before she said, “I also know your pain for it is mine.”
I couldn't trust her ! How could she pretend to know me better than myself ? My pain turned into anger :
“No you don't !”, I shouted desperate, “ You're making fun of me ! Even me, I can't understand myself sometimes so why would a stranger do ?”
“Stranger !?,” she cried outraged, “Don't you understand ? I'm not a stranger !” She looked away from me and asked : “How dare you, you, who surrenders so easily ?”
I was at a complete loss of word : it didn't make any sense. Many thoughts tormented my mind. She kept complaining, putting the blame on me in high-boiling anger :
“You're so selfish ! Since your birth I've been carrying that burden to make life easier for you,” she pointed at the enormous bag next to her, “I took care of everything you didn't want to hear about anymore, everything you repressed !” Then, she quieted down, staring at me with those eyes which were also mine, and went on in a sorrowful tone :
“I made several attempts to tell you but you've never listened to me. You've never even tried. That's why I brought you here. To make you see … And now you deny my being part of you !? I'm so much exhausted with all this … I don't feel up to continuing either …”, she sighed.
I demanded in a low voice : “Continuing what ?”
“I can't get on with carrying it if you give up. You've overloaded me to such a point that neither of us could bear it any longer. You collapsed under the weight of sorrow and anxieties that you, as well as others, imposed on you since your earliest years. I must admit that we had to overcome many more ordeals than one could endure but still, remember : light always comes back. You said it yourself !”, she said.
I wasn't sure I figured out everything but it seemed a lot clearer then :
“Well, if it is the problem, then let's get rid of it !”, I said, enthusiastic.
“No !,” she exclaimed, “I see you didn't wholly got it. That's exactly what “giving up” means ! You can't free yourself from something that is determining for being.”
I gave another try :
“Then what about making it lighter ?”
“Excellent !” A bright smile spread across her face and gave me a feeling of hope.
Moreover, the clouds were moving away, releasing the sun little by little.
“But I don't know how !”, I hastened to say quite excited.
“Well, think about your life !,” she shrieked, “You've no freedom ! You've always let people decide for you, you've never taken any decision and instead of fighting for yourself, you simply let them do. That's why you can't bear life ! Nobody can be happy with such an existence ! You've repressed too many of your dreams, too many of your desires and too many of your ambitions. You've just given up !”
And suddenly, it was obvious … everything could be explained … She was absolutely right. I've never really known myself, and I probably never will, but then, I was aware of it and it changed everything.
“Never forget that even if you feel completely crumbled inside, the basis of what you really are always remains. Light always comes back, so don't give up, be it only for the pleasure of seeing it again ! ” Again, again, again … the words echoed painfully in my head. It was unbearable !
I closed my eyes, hoping it would make it cease ! An incredible sensation of dizziness took hold of me, again. The darkness spread around me, again, swallowing every source of light, every colour … distress swept over me. “Fight ...” I perceived a male voice whispering something in the distance : “... fighting ...”. And suddenly, I could feel something under me again, the unbearable pain, the smell of blood, the fever, the sirens of an ambulance, the voice … - wait a minute - … the voice ?
“… had a car accident …” My whole body hurt . “Don't try … Don't … to move …”
Oh no ! What had I done ?
“ … fight ...”
I didn't want to die anymore !
I opened my eyes : the light was back again, blinding. It always comes back …
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