The Minervium

The physician was lost in the darkest woods, infected with phantoms, when he found the minervium. It was beautiful to look at, and it whispered sweetly like soft rain, codex paper, or scissors. It monologized in a strange fashion. It seemed so distant and far away at the same time. At times, he thought it whispered to the world; at other times, it seemed she only spoke for him and to him. For three nights, he stared into her and listened to it. Though deep crevasses of pain remained within his bones and sinews, the phantoms began to atomize and fade away. He left the minervium in a comfortable spot by a spring near a grove of wild olives. It seemed heartless and yet caring to abandon her, but he did not know why. In the city he worked once again, treating lepers, consumptives, and hysterics. They were deranged and abusive. In a short time, they had seized most of the villas and agoras, spreading like a cancer. They screamed out for healing. They tore off their bandages. They burned the scrolls of his prescriptions and his books of medicine. They sold his materia medica to the mariners who came and went like the wind in the striped sails of their long black boats. The physician tried to love them, but feared them. Some would even grab his aching body, by the throat or by the hand, and curse him for his lack of pain, his rotting backbone, his poor medicines that did nothing. Streets were cracking; columns were sinking into the rising sea. Resolute, he continued to treat them. One day, walking through the market, a young whore in a drenched chiton brushed past him. Within seconds, he felt the shivering phantoms return. Infected, he sold what was left of his books, herbarium, elixirs and surgical tools to the mariners who came and went like the wind in the striped sails of their black longboats. The phantoms sucked at him, nestled into him, stroked him with their greedy, bone-crushing effervescence. With the silver from his sales, he bought the wild olive grove on the cliffs. For several days, he watched the city crumble, a column here, a street there. Then he found the minervium, still sleeping by the spring where he had left her. She awoke and came into the small villa overlooking the plaintive wild olives, the wind and the sea. They stayed up late into the nights. She stared into his eyes and whispered. Sometimes she sang. She curled around his body like a smoke that went down his throat and backbone like soft rain and slept in his skull and stomach. The silence sparkled with the crunching of leaves, the crackle of flames, the rustling of codex pages, the blading of scissors. Nights like atropine fell upon them. She glowed silver and held his hands. It was hard to say where or who she was and how the minervium would work his brains, but the soft rain washed everything away. A distant star, a whispering lantern close at hand, the minervium bled her light into his emptiness. It would remain to be seen whether or not her light was also empty. It was a matter of deciding whose captive he would be.

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