The Mesa

It was in the other land on another planet. A land washed by green oceans, with rusted mountains of snowy peaks, ash-gray fields of volcanic stones and great mesas of red sand. A traveler wandered in the copper wastes until he came upon a blind man with cream-thick cataracts. The man had a striped blanket covered with ornate instruments of colored blown glass. What is wrong with your eyes? the traveler asked. They are mine, the glassblower replied.

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The Girl Who Whispered

Once upon a time, there was a quiet girl. Her heart was filled with good and beautiful things. She was not mute, but she was always afraid to talk. She would want to whisper words about white birds, sweet rabbits, cotton candy clouds, byzantiums, the pegasus, and the migrant butterflies who clothe the naked saints. Instead of birds and byzantiums, however, her words only slithered forth in a wet tar of centipedes, caterpillars, cockroaches, black snakes, blue bottles and silverfish pouring from her mouth. The locals ran from her screaming. I am a curse, she thought, and all whom I speak to are damned. Some locals threatened to sew her mouth shut and banished her to the marsh–the only suitable place for filth. One day, as she was wading in the thick water of the mists over the marsh, she spied a youth with a boat full of glass amphorae. Please, she said to the youth, help me. You must drain my body of its filth. I will speak into your amphorae. Perhaps they will be enough to contain the curse and the filth of my insides. The youth was suspicious but kind, and as the amphorae were empty anyway, he allowed her to place her lips to each opening and speak into them. She would not be watched, so he wandered off to see if he could find something interesting in the reeds. One by one, she filled them, shuddering as the legions of eels, snakes, silverfish, blue bottles and centipedes streamed from her mouth like a dark diarrhea. When she had nearly finished filling the last amphora, the boat began to sink under the weight of her insides which she had vomitted out. Returning empty-handed, the youth was shocked to see the boat sinking under the weight of the glowing amphorae. Who on earth would drown a pegasus or a byzantium? the youth wailed. The girl was holding onto the last bit of boat that had not yet sunk. Only now, she too could see the gold and silver sparkle of all the beautiful things sinking into the blackwater of the marsh. Without thinking twice, the youth grabbed her and hauled her up onto a sandbar. The boat and the glass amphorae full of wonders had vanished below. You have been bewitched, the youth sighed. I will take you away from here, and we shall never return. Because she was too weak from speech, from emptiness, from treading water, he carried her on his back, making his way towards the sandy shores of the sea. Perhaps there he would find some driftwood to build a raft for their escape.

The Night

The darkness was in the glass jars. The strapling was in the chair by the road. They waited with their jars in a ditch, hiding among cattails and silver grass. When the jars had filled, they climbed the embankment and shuffled towards the chair. Clouds of breath mingled with the mist. Their boots crunched gravel and dead leaves. Now, said one to the strapling, let us see how much night you can swallow. Nobody ever makes it through the first jar. Someone forced the pale head back while another tilted the first jar and poured it into the strapling’s mouth. The strapling swallowed and swallowed with flashing eyes and jerking limbs. There was a long gasp when the jar was emptied. They gave him eight more jars. Once it had consumed the ninth jar, they unstrapped it and set it loose. Anything could happen. A white rope hung from one tree; a knife lay on a roadside stump. There were other temptations placed in concentric circles, the farthest at a radius of a mile from the chair. The strapling was oblivious to all of them. It whispered to itself and walked slowly into the middle of the road. Then it looked into the galaxy above. There was a sound of distant thunder, a shockwave, and then an atomic silence as one third of the stars above rained down. A rainfall of sparks, cold water and dark ash fell around them. They started to run, screaming into the electric air as stars continued to fall. The strapling sparkled with burnt stardust, its cold, pale hands reaching into the broken sky.

The Gate

Do not go through the gate, she warned, but he suspected that she really wanted him to make the journey. For some years, the spirits of their jewelry boxes, wooden chests, porcelain bowls, hanging scrolls, mortars and pestles, brushes and inkwells, whisk brooms, rakes, sandbags and melons had twisted around him, turning him into a sleepless albino. And yet, he loved these things–some reminded him of her; some reminded him of himself. With sorrow and suffering, he departed and made his way to the edge of the land where the gate towered. It was a gate of light and shadow, of wind and earth, of ash and salt. It burned its travelers with silence and lightning. Once he had crossed through it, he returned without the spirits and without himself. She was happy to see him and even happier that life could resume. And yet, he was even leaner and paler. Most days he had little to say, and what he did say were non sequiturs trailing off into whispers at the empty space. He would go into the countryside to find discarded things, which he dragged home to burn in their abandoned courtyard. After each bonfire, he collected the ashes and placed them into clean glass jars to store in the denuded closets. When she asked him what he was doing, he said he was waiting for his friends to return. In the meantime, he would gather some gifts. One by one, the glass jars multiplied. She was not happy. And there was no gate to cure these new spirits.