In the next couple of months, I will be posting my novel called, you guessed it, ‘Lightlined’. It is still unfinished, which is one of the reasons I am making it public — I need the incentive to finish it. Also, I would like to hear your thoughts on it, especially on the language, since English is not my native tongue, and I love to learn. So feel free to comment and share this, also don’t forget to like. Thanks for reading and see you in two weeks with the second part.
By Bill Williams on Unsplash.
Minerals aren’t flammable. At least not like ordinary wax candles. But, if you use a bit of magic even a diamond can burn. Dante chose quartz because it burns bright. Besides, he needs a little bit of magic in his life. He also liked the names of things Gargon told him about — crystals, minerals, diamonds, gemstones. Shortly after, he gave him a book on mineralogy. They are used mostly for magic and mending, occasionally as a form of light, so not everybody needs them. Dante tried to memorize as much mineral names as he could and to attach them to the correct form and traits. He asked for more, but Gargon explained that they are hard to exchange; mages don’t like to share them, especially shamans; he could ask menders, but they are very secluded and anxious, and he is afraid he will hurt one if provoked.
He placed the candle in a hole between two stone blocks about twenty centimetres under the ceiling. And so, he could read anywhere in his dungeon, not just uncomfortably sitting, leaning against the cell wall above which is a small opening, catching, in weird angles, a small beam of late morning sunlight.
In a letter he got after he read the book on minerals, the author talked about life, death, but most of all of the time. He said that thanks to a candle he managed to calculate how long he spent reading. Dante can’t even do that. He asked Gargon to bring him a timekeeper, but Gargon said that he didn’t need it. He was born before they started keeping time. He doesn’t believe in it and is completely against that idea.
Dante doesn’t mind, and he doesn’t care much at all. He just wanted to see the device. That is the reason he wanted to read the letter in the first place so he could learn about a person who thought about it first. The author noticed that for work, followed by lunch, he needed one candle. Soon he realized that he needs about four candles for the whole day. In his letter, he doesn’t write so much about his idea as he writes about his feelings. Comparing the passage of time with how he feels at any given moment, he concluded that there is no need for a device that will keep time. The reason is this — no matter how much it melted, he sometimes felt time pass slower, and sometimes faster. He ponders, further, does that, then, make the candle burn at a different speed? Dante isn’t concerned with that, because to him, the answer is obvious, and also, because he is bothered with something much more important: is the keeping of time even necessary, considering the subjective experience?
Dante doesn’t have a time measuring device. He differentiates day from night only by a faint light coming from the window. If he wanted to know which part of the day it is, he would have to look through the window, which is something he really did not like to do, especially during the day — the rock on the other side sent his thoughts through a labyrinth.
It would start with one minuscule, illogical assumption: “What if out there is another dungeon?” And it never ended there. The mere fact that he could even think about it would cause a flood in his mind.
Perhaps there’s nothing out there. But no, he remembers; also, there is Gargon, that good, thoughtful man, really, short and funny-looking, with his greasy, stuck hair, which he always fixed so badly on top of his forehead that one lock jumped while he moved, even though it was full of grease… Funny little man, and his gentle eyes; yes, that one time he saw something else, the skin crumpled above his eyebrows, but why, what did Dante do, he doesn’t want to disappoint him, he tries, and studies, and controls these thoughts, but it is difficult and he can’t stop from time to time and what if Gargon is only a marionette in his father’s hands, so he jumps and dances on threads, like that wooden doll in blue pants and red shirt with which he played as a child, and which, he recalls, in a moment of weakness, he pulled and stretched with his frail hands, trying to free it of those tyrant bonds; but it didn’t break, no, it clapped and dully rattled, while the wooden parts collided, and he, helpless, could only cry.
That is when his eyes would water, hot tears would fall down, wetting his thick, curly beard, and he wouldn’t cease, just out of habit bite his inner cheek; he would bother himself with those thoughts until he falls into a whirlpool that originated from one spot and flowed into a picture of the dungeon in the middle of that same dungeon, only bigger, and that one was in the center of another, wider one, and so there were more and more dungeons until he jerked out of sheer inability to imagine that microcosm without an exit. Then, he would wipe his eyes, and dry his beard with an edge of the blanket, and shake his head, the way his friend advised, he would shake his arms and legs and start to do sit-ups, push-ups or any other exercise that could drive away those useless thoughts.
The only time he can know for sure if it is late night or late morning is when Gargon visits him because he always comes when changing of the guard occurs.
Even so, Dante can still feel what the author wrote about, that subjective passage of time. In a certain way, he does measures that passage, because he knows how long it takes for him to read a couple of pages. Often the reading is slower if the theme is dull, on the other hand, if the text is interesting he himself is bustling, and everything seems hasty and elusive. Nonetheless, first impressions pass. That is why he likes to go back to what interested him the most and read it anew so as to create that slow property of time flow which is needed for a deeper understanding of important information and ideas. And that exact quality of time is what the author wrote an entire treatise about; that work is on Timura. Gargon once told him that if he wanted to read it that is where he should go. His plan is to go there if he manages to escape.
He could picture himself over there in that unknown land. He imagined, incarnated numerous sentences from various books he read about Timura’s colourful meadows, animals and who knows what; perhaps they didn’t even look like what he thought, incapable to shape better something he only saw on pictures and read about. When he closed his eyes, took a more comfortable position, he could see himself there, on the outskirts of Timura’s capital, Dion. He would sit behind his house, on the riverside of Edna, fishing and listening to the gurgling of shiny, marigold droplets of light. And so, Dante was lulled to sleep.
* * *
He was awakened because of the heat in the dungeon. The clothes bothered him, so he removed them. Under faint sunlight, a silhouette of his long narrow body could be seen. Thin beams fell on his chest which moved in the rhythm of breathing, revealing occasionally his pale skin, stretched across the muscles and ribs, splashed with dark hairs. He began — as he did every morning — to work out.
Later, Gargon came by and brought him breakfast. He had something else to give. A new book. That made him happy.
“They renovated the library. I had to wait.”
Dante only nodded.
“How are you?” his friend asked.
“Not bad,” said Dante, plainly. He took a plate filled with a brownish concoction on top of which lay a thin piece of bread.
„Have a nice meal, then. See you later.“
When he ate, Dante started reading the book. It was a play about a prisoner, much like himself, whose father, after hearing a prophecy which affected him badly, locked him in a secluded tower. Very nice, Gargon, he thought. But, he read the book twice and realized that that Digismond is nothing like him. Besides, what does that Larka even mean with ‘Everything is a dream’? Dante understood very well how all of that fits in the book’s reality, but in his own it made no sense.
He agreed with another writer, an ancient philosopher, to be exact, named Ariplat. His life mainly consisted of meditations and thought about unusual phenomena, for instance, a yet unexplained universe, the secret of The Giants and the structure of Zeal itself, the core of this planet. Very last paragraph of a chapter called ‘On life and how to live it’ is still very clear in his mind:
“And all I have said up until now may be wrong. Because, I am a person for myself, my thoughts are my own, my actions depend on them and are ruled by them. I write to awake those thoughts and discern which are worthy and as such by which is reasonable to act. Only those I keep and spread further with words. And so, I become a person I am, and perhaps enable others to do so as well, to create by themselves their own worthy and genuine thoughts.”
* * *
Lately, he daydreams more and more of a heavy, balmy air, the smell of milk and vine which surrounded him while he was a child, of birds’ chirp coming from treetops in the yard, the touch of his mother’s hand. Those memories, although hazy and more an outline of a warm feeling, cause in him an unpleasant tingling, which at the same time makes him smile.
From time to time a picture comes forth from the cavern of his childhood, and even though he mostly dismisses them, one, in particular, kept coming back. He closed his eyes to see it better.
He was nine at the time. Already he was a third-degree pupil, mastering basic linguistics, algebra, zoology, biology and botany. His teacher Soliph — whose thick brows he remembered clearly, and so what he saw now was a murky mass of a human and two fat, grey brows that jumped on a faceless head — especially commended him on an honourable final gathering of pupils from SOBS, aka School of Basics.
In uncomfortable suit pants — that were too tight and that he had to wear because the seamstress said so, he, out of spite, before the ceremony began, removed from his neck and decisively threw on the floor a large bowtie, which, despite his height, nearly reached his bellybutton — he barely smiled and took a step towards the audience disturbing one of many rows of pupils on a platform of a spacious amphitheater, at the bottom of East Tower, where they always had lectures. Among the spectators, at the front, beside an empty seat, was his mother. Her thin lips distorted into a smile, eyes large and wet; she was holding in her hands, so tightly that her knuckles turned white, her son’s scarlet bowtie. Looking at her, Dante held in tears. With his lips pressed together hard, he bit into his inner cheek, as his mother advised. After that, it was easier to enjoy the morning. Especially when his buddies congratulated him and praised him, and girls shyly smiled in his presence.
He was glad he allowed himself to venture into this memory. Feeling that there is more to it, he relaxed, letting the reminiscences he never knew he had take him over.
Mother’s smile followed him all the way to his room, hopping and changing while she excitedly talked about something. She was boring him, talking about preparations for the big celebration in the Castle planned for that night, so he told her that he didn’t want to wear those new pants because they were too tight and ugly. She stopped, took a breath and calmly said that she already let the seamstress go for the day, that there are no other pants because they just got those, and that he will have to be patient at least for a time being, because ‘you know how your father is, we don’t want to worry him’, and that is when her voice broke. He winced, he didn’t mean to frighten her, to hurt her — he remembers now — he told her, not knowing why that she needn’t tell father anything, she can just go to the Tailor’s place and exchange his new pants for another, more comfortable ones. He had taken them off already and offered them to his mother, who looked at him gently, waited a second and then took the pants and promised to summon the carriage immediately after lunch, and told him not to worry, everything will be according to plan, because it is a custom and it is expected of him to enjoy such an important day.
Not even noticing how or when, Dante was lying on his side, crumpled, frowning and sweating. He had to tell Gargon to bring him a cooling device, someone must have thought of it, and if not, he himself will, because he can’t go on like this any longer! He punched the bed with his open fist so hard that a cloud of dust flew with glistered in a thin clear beam of sunlight.
Dante realized he was tired. With his thoughts stirred like those ants he forced out of the anthill, his hands all numb and tingling, he fell asleep.
* * *
When he opened his eyes, he saw filthy walls and hefty wooden doors.
The air is moist. It smells of humour and mildew. In the distance one can hear voices of the guards and prisoners suppressed by the stone; if he pricks up his ears he can sense waves splashing onto the rocky mountainsides; he can imagine white, foamy tongues of the ocean voraciously licking dry, dusty stone. If he touches the walls of his dungeon he feels closer to those waves. He wished they took him far, far away…
They may have taken his freedom, but they will never take his will to live. He will not let them. He will strive as long as there are thoughts in his mind, up until his body turns into the dust, washed away by the white tongues of the ocean.