The city pulls me in as I flop around like a mudfish without my protective mucus in the growing sun. I lie flat on my stomach and am puzzled. The graffiti on the side of the transformer house puzzles me: “Jail.” Why am I even here?
I just came from the forest. I know that I never was doubtful, it taught me that. I know I remember the things I recognize, I know I dream my comparisons, I know life is not real. I know everything just happens. Yet here I am staring at this.
So I get up and cross the road. My bare feet on the black cold asphalt is a shrill contrast to the desert sand I left before I entered the forest. Before I entered the city. Yet it does not speak to me. It is as dead as the sky.
In the bus stop sits a young woman. Her white dreadlocks are tied in a bun on her head, a piece of metal through the top of her nose. She smokes a cigarette while her eyes dart over the concrete in front of her. In her frailty lies strength; she was broken before. She fixed it herself. She knows that my lingering stare is on her, yet she does not heed me. A tremor filled with noise and dark smoke propels a tin box alongside us. So much traffic at such an early hour. I shudder. I made the forest my own, the city will take me if I do not learn fast.
“What does that mean?”
The girl ignores my question.
“What does that mean?”
She looks up with a short glance. She squints against the bright light and follows my pointing finger. She shrugs.
“Why is that a Jail?”
She tilts her head now, hails the next bus while she gets up and flicks her cigarette in the street. When she passes me she whispers my first lesson.
“You know nothing of the wizards, go back from where you came.”
Before I can reply I am alone. At least in the forest I learned how to connect. Here is nothing to connect with. So I walk to the transformation house. It drew me in, it has to mean something. The large wooden box in front of it can open. I check its content and it is filled with tiny stones. Then I circle the building. Each side is marked with white words: Jail. Then I am back at the box. My corner of my eye catches movement. A man walks from some apartments to the bus stop through a small wooded area straight towards me. He is fox like, silent he moves.
“Hey, why is there no door in this building?” It really makes me wonder.
The man looks at me. My heart skips a beat as a deep vibration moves through my belly. Yellow are his eyes, his tongue forked, tattoos display his affiliations on his neck. He spits once in the sand. I expect a snake to sprout from the mixture, yet nothing happens. If he is a guard he is doing his job well.
“What do you think?”
“I do not know. That is why I am asking you.”
“Listen here old man, if you cannot figure out what this building is, then who would know?”
The way he says ‘you’ annoys me immensely.
“Hey, the way you…” Already gone. What kind of trickery is this? I decide to find out from where he came, so I walk through the bushes away from the transformation house to stumble on a school’s playground just next to the apartment blocks. Some kids are dancing in a circle and singing a song.
“Wizards with fame, fallen angels some man say.
Cloaked among people their works collide
with the resurrection of mystics in men.
“Ah”, would the philosopher say, 'is that not the burden of men',
but no one knows how the wizards play…”
A rather elaborate song for young kids I do think, so I move to the teacher to comment just that, when she herds the kids in quickly. I look behind me. Is the weather turning? Am I being chased by a lion? I press on.
“Please, we have been over this before, you frighten the children.” The young woman looks at me with concern and a bit of fright.
I am flabbergasted. I walk back slowly with my mouth open. A mudfish on land way too long. Why is the air thicker here than in the forest? Why does it feel hotter here than among the seas of sand, where even I could pet a lion’s mane?
I trod and trample a small plant in the bush. Trickles of tiny droplets fall of the leaves all around me. This Amputee part of the forest is trying to talk to me. Whispers of steel, fragments of stone, a hint of smoke and fire. Dreams of older days. I back up until I hit the transformer house. Out of breath I wait until the sun sinks lower. Then footsteps in the dirt. Soft, with trepidation they come up to me and softly pass me. Snake man is going home. How many lizards did he kill today? I really do not know.
Then a hand on my shoulder. The white witch returned, her eyes kind, her lips hard. Ice all the way through. She offers me water. That’s it! I forgot to drink.
“I am sorry I am a burden.” Why I mumble this I do not know. Yesterday I ran from the forest all the way to the city. With strong legs and hard muscles. How is today so long?
“Here take this, hold on to it! Now touch the walls old man, feel the hard stone. Think and then leave the city.”
So full of hate she is, yet there rings truth in her words. Magic trickles under this building. I feel it, there is an earthly glow impossible not to notice. I feel stupid. Now I see, why not earlier? Water flows from the forest to the desert, but it all starts here.
“Look old fool!” She is really going at it now, the ice-witch. Why have metal in her nose if she is not scared for flying objects?
Before me a door that was never there before. Heavy steel set in stone. I can almost imagine the smoke, the flames, but then I open it. I step inside. Or did she push me?
Inside one fluorescent light hums visibility. The ceiling is blackened. The floor is sand, nothing here but me. I look around the four walls. I count them over and over again. Four, four four four. On each wall one written word.
Then I remember I am the old fool, the druid who entered the city. Twenty-one wizards with fame played this trick. Now they are gone or old and demented. I will sit here long forgotten.
Wait! She gave me something. In my hand a spray can of ‘Redwood red’. The bitch. Here now I spray my story, fellow druids! Head my warning: “never visit the city!”
(c) Casteleijn MG. 2015-2017