Under the Green Sun of Slormor
by Bertil Falk
part 3 of 3
The plants had thrust up between twigs and branches like cobwebs or knitting-patterns and stood out like filled sails against the consoling wind, which caressed life more and more warmly in this forest of Slormor. In the midst of this, a splendid man stood with both his feet in a big fork of the tree. His wild eyes glistened and he was smiling as if it hurt. In his right hand he held a hooded sparrow hawk. His black beard was cruel.
A falconer! Here? In this world? On Slormor! But maybe he was just an illusion, for his shape began to wobble and dissolved like a reflection on a stirred surface of water. I was hit by vertigo — perhaps it only was a drop in blood pressure — and fumbled in the air to get hold of a liana-like thing that with a hissing sound revealed itself as a snaky phenomenon.
Parvrin! Where are you, Parvrin? Ice cold, the sweaty liana slipped out of my hands.
The falconer came out of the reflection, released the hood from the shikrahn and, with a toss, let the bird fly. No, it is not a sparrow hawk! It is a goshawk!
And only then do I see the head of game. A dragon! A green dragon, like a gazelle spitting blue flames of fire, but the shabaz sweeps over its prey and pierces its green back, drawing big yellow streaks of blood. Then it sweeps down on its head from behind and buries its claws in the big eyes.
The fate of the blinded dragon is sealed. I shut my eyes but to no avail, for I see everything. How the dogs come rushing from one side and the mounted hunters of the Indus valley come galloping on the other side. And the dragon on its knees with the claws of the forelegs, clinging to the bare roots of a giant fern with the shabaz exultantly enthroned on its brow.
I opened my eyes and everything was as usual. The path meandered innocently between the mighty tree trunks and Parvrin was picking flowers by the wayside. A daydream in a world that is in itself a daydream! At any time an angel with wounded wingtips could come toward us on a motorcycle! Or whatever.
The death of the dragon was but a memory, a reflection of an incident that had happened about 150 years earlier in another epoch, on another planet: a gazelle sentenced to death in a withered existence that would never more return.
In a haze of memories, I walked sleeplessly behind Parvrin, who had not noticed my mental state, and I would not even have explained it to her. I knew that this was a memorable day, one I could never forget even if everything I had experienced since I blundered into Slormor were covered, concealed and washed away in the cerumen of forgetfulness that merciful time would have in readiness after death.
With a frantic yell, I shook off these somber thoughts, straightened my back and went striding with steps that were heavy at first but became lighter and lighter pari passu as I came to grips with my behavior.
A beautiful day in the spring, and a beautiful landscape! Over there is a little 13th-century church embedded between tall broad-leaf trees, as if were it situated in a sacrificial grove. The gray church walls probably know their Johan Sebastian Bach by heart by now. Fugues and chorales day in, day out, year in, year out, centuries in, centuries out, and, within some hundred years, millenium out, millenium in.
It definitely should. Know its Bach.
As it ought to be, the church is a placid place. Calm and quiet. At midday, only the sexton is nearby, and the church itself stands open. In it, sunbeams are refracted in a funny way through the old-fashioned, leaded windows. The walls are differently illuminated at different spots. The open door lets in fresh summer-mixed weather, which encounters the tense atmosphere that exists in old buildings, especially churches.
The walls are filled with ancient funeral crests, heavy escutcheons. Pillars support little arches in the ceiling. In a niche in a pillar is a wooden image representing Mary and the child of Jesus. An old reliquary!
At the very front on the left wall is an epitaph. On the opposite side is an old grave monument erected for a commander of the Thirty Years’ War and his wife. The church smells nicely of flowers on the altar and along the rows of pews.
The country road leading to the capital is quite close to the wall of the churchyard, and in front of the church on the other side of the road stands the old house of the parish clerk and organist. In a little while, the new, young clergyman will take on a new batch of young people for confirmation classes.
The clergyman is High Church. His sense of humor embraces the theological register only, and he can discuss for hours dogmas and the first Christians’ way of living. Sometimes he discusses eschatology and the stigmatization of some St. Francis. He refuses to marry divorced people. The batch he is now responsible for are his first candidates for confirmation. He smiles at the thought of all that will be converted.
When he looks out through the window of the house of the parish clerk, he discovers that two youngsters have arrived.
It is obvious that we are coming together. I am madly in love for the first time in my life, and Lena has a slight crush on me as well. It is not yet very advanced. I have kissed her a few times, and once I felt her breasts through her jumper.
”Do you think it’ll be boring here?” she asks.
“What?” I say, for I am thinking of next time I’ll kiss her.
“I mean, do you think that to be confirmed is boring?”
“It’s probably not very funny.”
“But don’t you think that the priest is very charming?”
In silence, we walk up to the sextant’s house.
“You...” I say hesitatingly. “We’re early. Can’t we go somewhere before we go to the sextant’s house?”
I look round. “We can go behind the barn.”
She nods. Together we walk the short distance to the barn. I know what to do. I kiss her intensely and she willingly takes part in the preparatory play. Misled by the spring air, the wonderful heat and the kisses, she did perhaps not notice that my hands were fumbling under her jumper. A pair of rough hands grope for her breasts, but the feeling is nice and she thinks that it is okay and does not notice with her senses, just with her body.
She smiles at me and I feel encouraged. I kiss her hot lips and squeeze the solid breasts. And then I hear steps. The terror comes. I get scared. She has not heard anything. She smiles, her eyes shut and her breasts I am kissing were uncovered under the pulled up jumper. I get to my feet.
The priest is before us. He looks at us with the mildly flashing eyes of a fanatic. And he is thinking: Beautiful breasts! Hearing the words of God! Seducer! Nice girl! They must be transformed! Be converted, converted! I am their confirmation priest! I feel ashamed. And what can I say? The priest just looks at us. Lena turns red. How foolish of me, she thinks.
“You’re sinning, my children and you’re very young.”
I look at the ground. She discovers her situation and pulls down her jumper.
“How could you possibly celebrate the Holy Communion and receive the Eucharist and forgiveness for your sins if you don’t regret what you’ve done? You’ll soon be confirmed and I’m your teacher. Do you regret your evil venture?”
“Yes,” Lena says, but she does not think of what she is saying.
“Yes,” I say and I really regret what I have done. I will not be as imprudent next time. Then no damned priest will poke his nose into what is not his business. But there was no next time. Not with her!
I caught up with Parvrin, who handed me a bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers with smiling faces, just as if they were sketched by Elsa Beskow. I inhaled aromas reminding me of incense and charcoal stack, lilac-bushes and xenophobia, browned cabbage and pit coal, greediness and silence.
Glimmering black stones blinding me with their black shine gleamed between the pattern of branches and leaves like eyes of ebony, keys that let fingers run along in a polonaise, which leaps like gazelles and dragons across logs and stones and groaning roots.
I searched the depths of my memory, climbed these heights, looking for an answer to what existence is, life, unexplainable, space stations, surges of randiness, conditions, God, disconsolateness. This was the incessant, target-oriented spear head that never hits its goal, a kind of perpetuum mobile of the vital force that exists before all unborn ones and after all deaths, an eternal brake-block of existence, sometimes nailed to cross, sometimes sacrificed to itself, sometimes murdered by a ruffian.
You remember the long wait of your youth, you recollect the yearning of your youth, you recall your expectant middle age, you look back at the pining of your old age and everything dissolves in a haemorrhage of unfulfilled dreams. But this is only a display of soap bubbles of disputable value. Not because they burst but because their rainbow-shimmering surface tension reflects non-existing states.
Suddenly a downpour of pointless arrows hit us. We were surrounded by beings with bows in their hands, and their blunt, soft arrows were obviously not aimed at us, for they fell all around us.
The beings were dressed in tunics, adjusted to their slanting necks. Eyes of mother-of-pearl, bronze-colored skin, green hedgehog-like hair, straight, spread-out spines.
They carefully surrounded us, one step at a time, but Parvrin — I looked at her — could not care less. She walked straight ahead on the road, and I rushed after her.
When she breasted the circle by passing two bows aimed at her, it was as if a spell were broken, and the beings seemed to drain away like vivid red fruit cobblers in the green sunshine.
Panting, I reached her and asked who they were, and she replied that I had had visions, for they were typical optical illusions. Had she not seen them then? She sighed and did not answer my question, but continued straight ahead.
I was not feeling well. I vomited. Such was the malignant situation when the path ended in a clearing, and something that looked like eternity seemed to spread before us. In the shape of a fog colored with spots.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk