Saturday, December 11, 2010
Into the darkened sky we trolloped, until our party came upon a planet, resting quietly in that atmosphere of permanence that old places get, where they become like rocks or fossils or valleys. Not moving.
And through the door we wearied stomped our feet and shook our shoulders, trying to shake off the fear of a too quiet place, ah but we were desperate for shelter and cold, and strange symbols meant nothing to us.
Therein and there above and therewithall the people of this planet were trapped. A gallery of frozen heartbeats, but poised to tremble, as if the spell might be broken at any time by any small unknown action, and they would move like shadows, completely aware of the world, no lag at all. Just spring immediately into presence. No chance to surprise them. Artificially wary.
Oh said the princess, her voice low with disappointment, oh we can't stay here. We just can't.
But what choice had we, princess? To go back out into the dangerous night, with the freezing and the starving and the dying? Or to sleep here in warmth, back to back, the eyes of the past upon us. One night, I promised her, just one night.
Our dreams were intense that night, troubled and stuttered and full of victories, kings, tragedies and wars. The history of a glorious empire, of people tall and beautiful and most of all sure. Also short and ugly and unloved but powerful. We dreamed of the enemies at the gates, and of a queen trapped in her glittering castle with nothing to eat, living off flour and water in small doses, her women dying around her.
And there were poets and love songs and paintings, families and economic analysts and county festivals, but something sinister lurked above, crouching at the head of the empire a bloated worm with gaping maw, strong and hungry. We tossed and turned, and mumbled curses to that unborn thing.
We slept for days like that, unable to move. Caught like a rat in a snake's gaze.
When I finally woke, unable to handle that reality anymore, nothing had moved. Nothing had flickered. The statues were still. The empire was dead. But we gathered fast to leave, and did not look back, and no one spoke it but we knew of our dreams, and the thing that left its stain upon us, a dark wet spot, the thing that had killed them all.
More pictures from St. Stanislaus can be found here.