ASTRA

ZJ Galos.

Zanec has lost his friend and his access to a city he loved. The magic of the place had shut down like a light, he had a shock realizing it and then there was hardly a connection left, without a continuation of the work, he had once enthusiastically begun and thrived-in its success. It is tragic, but who notices? Every time he arrives at the airport, he is still trying to contact her, but there is stillness on the other end of the line, it rings…it rings and there is no reply. This is a dead end. Nobody will come to see him, when he arrives. He is restless and needs to find another soul, someone who has equally lost connection to a life that offers the full way of experience, the sensual touch, and the key to an earthly happiness that has been lost.

Only poets have the key, poets, who are the sensors of a fine web of emotions that lies below the surface of a city’s skin, below the agglomeration of places filled with treasures, nobody can see. Hidden by layers and layers of lives of at least hundred generations and this is the richness of souls that have lived here and still are present to few genuine people, with the magical touch that speaks to them at an instant, unexpectedly and deep from its innermost core.

Zanec is moving across a new, unknown city. Its ancient places and walls of enclosure are magical and often appearing to be out of place. He has found, by sheer accident, a house of pleasures and in it a young woman, who’ll see him at once. He falls in love with her. She is not like any other woman in such places, not like any other woman he had ever met. Thrown by fate into a place of courtesans, she is entertaining the intellectuals and high-powered personalities. She has though taken an interest in Zanec. They are matching well and are happy together. This happiness grows on them. It becomes impossible for him to stay away from her. He has once only arrived to a late appointment; she did not want to put him off and Stella was worn-out that night in spirit, did not wish to continue with her lucrative but soul-erosive profession. She is despite all cheerful and he always evokes her nice nature immediately. He takes her home and cares for her, washing her gently, pampering her body, making her feel good. She falls asleep in his arms, never wishing to go anywhere else but be in this love, and not in the trickery of making strangers feel loved, which is a great illusion, she had sold successfully. Enough of all this sexual illusion, she exclaims, genuine love is all she needs. Indeed? He says, but we all have dreams and live a life filled with illusions at the side.

They have a disagreement and Zanec wishes to avoid a domestic life that will be hackneyed for love and sex and kill the magical way of a life they both enjoy. He arrives next morning at the Pleasure Palace and she is gone. Where to? He asks. Nobody seems to know. Not even her best friend Jenn. In a state of desperations he returns home, worrying all the way about his short temper and criticising her. He notices that he always takes the same route, across the square with the one uneven corner. The old palace that crumbles and then the boisterous new section of the city, where the haste and speed have outdone peace and tranquil life, leaving no space for an inner dialogue, but always the same wish for the goods to be placed that have no meaning, no relationship for happiness.

He seeks something that is powerful. He needs a tool that helps him to find Stella. Whatever that tool is, he has just to believe it strongly and it will turn-up as a key to his and her happiness. The next morning after a bad night, filled with an alp and bad dreams, all seems to him suddenly different, all’s turned upside down. He gets-up and as he comes across the square it appears to him different. Even the daylight now reflects from low clouds, as if the sun could only filter through the foggy atmosphere. All the souls that lived here once, are moaning and crying out to him. The voices are like murmuring prayers. He rushes to the Palace as usual, across the unequal square, where the patterns of the floor are lit-up like a magical board game in bright green and blue spots, ivory-white in between, he’s never seen it so clean. Is it all transported into other times, like a carnival happening? People are clad into strange costumes, long nosed and sombre, staring at him; his own disguise seems to be different. The colour changed to a charcoal rather than black, with the dark brown tint of sepia, the ink he likes to write with, the ink Stella had given him as a present and a pen with a golden nib and a delightful lightness when held. He recalls when they had met and she wished to be drawn by him, a portrait, he did in many wondrous ways that gave her pleasure and thrills, later as she dropped her clothes for him, to be depicted like a nude Maya. It was as if he had touched her all the time, pen stroke by pen stroke. In his face and being were all the faces that had touched her and in his loins were the desires from all the men she had once loved. Now all of that was his alone that touched her deeply. She said that he was her man.

He took his notebook to sit at a bench next to the city’s great park that stretched between the old and new and where the president’s home was close-by. He saw it only once, walking with her on a Sunday afternoon, her day free and enjoyable with art and the beauty that he would show her; she never realized around her in this abundance and like a wizard he’d show her all of it.

Then, as he had noted his thoughts down, he heard a clap of thunder and saw the arc of lightning highlighting the ancient buildings in front of him, he had never noticed, hurrying past them on his way to Stella’s Pleasure Palace that looked like an arcade of columns and a fountain placed in its courtyard with a rock face, where angels and nymphs played in its cascading waters.

Now here, here is the place that has opened-up to him and he must look at; though he is drawn to another small, but magical palazzo that draws him in. And the heavens opened up and he seeks refuge in the old courtyard, the place seems desolate and antiquated, untouched by human hands for a long time. In the walls though and the small internal square, an aura of energy and power is present. All of a sudden he can see Stella’s face. She beckons him, like a spook, to follow her. His heart races, he cries out: Stella! But no sound leaves his paralyzed lips. He rushes after her: Wait Stella! Wait! She does not hear him, nor would she stop. She gives off signs with her arms and hands, pointing fingers and he follows her in a blind rush, to reach her, but he cannot. He is desperate by now and yet filled with the thrill of adventure and exploration, the two elements that make his life worth living. But it is Stella who loves him, she is the motor that brings all to life, even old and ancient places like this palazzo. In the heat of his rush he had perhaps hurt her feelings. She is away and he panics. Then a hand touches his shoulder, it’s her, and she kisses him fleetingly. He has to follow her again, her finger closing her lips, signalling him to be quiet, just believe, her eyes indicate. He recalls her voice from before: Trust me! He does. But he is on a trip to nowhere.

Then after a few corners, a labyrinth and in which he is completely lost. Then silence, darkness and a flash of lightning that reveals her slender hand. It’s a right hand and it is Stella’s, but she whispers that she is named Astra now, but he may call her AyAy. Touch me, she says. As he touches her hand, it turns to stone, he can feel the cold of it, still with a tinge of warmth, the sign that she has been here just now and he had missed her. He can sense the imprint of her and he can feel the surges of his emotional being that recalls the ancient rhymes: Touch the Blarney Stone, but like this? He presses his hand into the mould and it is exactly his hand, fitting accurately and the way his palm could be the mould. His whole body starts shaking loaded with electric currents. Like lightning strikes racing through his veins, he thinks he has to die, burn to ashes, he cries out her changed name: A, Ay, AyAy and this three times. Sounds of thunder reverberate through walls and all tumbles, falls and turns to dust. He stands alone in the midst of the square with one unequal corner and the fountain in the centre holds his naked body. He started shivering, yet nobody seems to have noticed him there, except for one white dove that has flown to him and it sits like a toy on his shoulder. She coos. What? He can hear AyAy’s voice: Just point to yourself, wishing clothes and you will be clothed. He points his finger to his body and he wishes for himself some Italian designer clothes. But he is clothed into something like feathered pieces, looking like a giant bird from paradise. He sings and whistles and in his hand he finds a beautiful mouth organ. He starts playing a tune: La Paloma, and the white dove starts to sing and people start gathering and throw coins to this unusual pair of artists, bird-man and delicate bird. He is the bird-man from now on, wherever he goes, money flows. He calls-out for AyAy, but she is away, nowhere to be found. Is she embodied in the white dove? He will save all he gets to give her and she can buy herself a home, her own palazzo, if that’ll bring relief: That palazzo that disappeared and has fallen to dust. She can rebuild that one that gave him his magical life, turning into a bird-man. Yet he travels, enjoying cities.

One night AyAy appears in his dreams, telling him about his powers to fly. The white dove talks to him in the morning: Just point your index finger at a distance and wish you were there, and you will be. I’ll come with you. And as he points his finger to the top of the dome, he flies and he can land with his white dove there, using his index finger to navigate. The people are everywhere, amassing, spending their coins on them as soon as they sing and entertain them with their great happiness, fully expressed. This is after all a wonderful life, he tells Paloma, but I need to find AyAy, don’t you agree? She nods her head: You just have to believe in it. He flies about the whole town, to all places of great interest, squares and monuments. Everywhere he attracts crowds and then makes them merry, but he himself has no happiness with AyAy, as she is gone. Although Paloma radiates some of the happiness into him, when they sing together. But where is AyAy gone to? He has, since the touch of the magical stone, not seen her face, except in his numerous dreams. Now he has been living a life of luxury and every thinkable way of gaining riches, he does not want, but only her. AyAy is what he wants in life, but life has taken her at the peak of her prime. Now whatever he does, nobody is interesting for him and nobody can help him. He is the clown with tears in his eyes. He comes across Mount Ida and an old wise man that lives in a hut nearby. He usually leads tourists to the birth place of Zeus. That’s where he will go and see if he’ll offer him some clues. The old man just shakes his head. He cannot talk, he is death and dumb and he points to a picture that had been taken at his place. That one he knows, he has taken one with his magical lens, a mere pointing of his finger: It is showing AyAy and this time she is sitting on a tripod above the slot in the ground, with steam vapours rising. Delphi: The oracle? He has not been there and the old man smiles. He offers him a slide-show and they are all of AyAy. It shows her and him and AyAy as a child and he realizes that it is his child. AyAy is his child! Paloma tells him it is his daughter that came forward from the temples of his head. It is like a tale in mythology, but not everything is a tale.

He rushes off with Paloma flying to Delphi. He finds the sacred place and the sanctuary of ancient times. For a split moment his mind recreates the temple of Apollo and all the statues of worriers and the sacred domain of antiquity bustles with people. He seeks out Pythia’s help. She is in trance but she greets him: Welcome Zanec. Thanks and my respects, he returns the greeting. He can see AyAy in her face, but her eyes are closed. You must touch me, she says to him. He approaches her closely, his fingers touching her face carefully and he strokes her cheeks. The vapours carry him away with her and he sees himself lying with AyAy making love. It feels real.

The mountain grumbles, and then moves. The gods are angry, rocks would loosen and fall. She covers his body with hers and they escape unscathed. All around them is laid to ruins and the dust clouds still rise. As soon as the smoke has lifted, he is alone. He has lost his magical powers. An old woman dressed in black, cowers on the remaining steps of the fallen temple. He addresses her in his shock. Where would I find AyAy? Well, she says, you must firstly access the caverns below the temple. But don’t forget to take your white dove with you. But she is gone, he says. No, the woman says, she is not. Just wish for her to come back. As he thinks of the white dove, Paloma settles on his shoulder. See? She hollers, that is the only magic that is still left. Use it wisely and you’ll find AyAy. Then he turns to look at the entrance to the caverns. As his gaze returns to the steps, the old woman is gone. He recalls that she was all the time knitting, holding a thread, she used to cut at intervals.

He prepares to descend to the caverns. Stay with me my love-bird, he talks sweetly to Paloma. I will guide you my friend now, she tweets back, filling his heart with renewed hope. Will he find AyAy? Yes, he recalls the old woman’s voice: If you believe strongly, you will.

Fin.

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