Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Day in History

From the Journals of Friar Envictus, October 22, 1411

An epic journey awaits us. As we peer through the sightglass and regard the Obelisk, the temple priests construct a monument to our departure from discarded palletine. The astrolabe has been consulted, and the constellations yawn in indifference. Auspicious sign! Hooting from the ramparts, the Emperor's choicest courtesans sprinkle expensive oils onto the heads of our retainers and their pages, as a blessing. Fattened oxen are slain and choice barrels of ale are rolled forth from the storehouse. Tuns of the finest gelati and sorbetti are brought forth, spun from exotic ingredients donated by our most esteemed merchants and traders. Jugglers, bards, fools and kitten-headed children march through the crowds--amidst the chaos of a thousand revellers--singing merry songs and mewling ancient poems.

Who is that, there, sitting aloof on the bone pile? Is he a leper, or a criminal philosopher bent on denouncing our endeavor? Is he a sage or a mystic, drawing on the powers of death towards some vague prophecy? Nevermind: a large and ancient bird has just now swooped down and carried him off in its talons.

"When will the Unicorns return?" an idiot asks the sky, and those around him laugh while patting him roughly on the back. He looks confused at not being taken seriously, but does not continue his query. An old crone shambles around the periphery of the crowd, picking up chicken bones and sticking them in her hair. Occasionally, a cuckoo pops out of her empty eyesocket and pecks lice from her eyebrow. A group of children watch her, and begin to play a game based on aping her actions. Some drunken adults take notice and follow suit, becoming a bizzarre chain-dance of lurching revellers in hideous pantomime.

Camels and horses move into positions, with their monkey-grooms hurredly adjusting the animals face armor and checking that all the cargo straps are secure. Carts are attached to the leathery flanks of docile hippos. Winged waitresses fly by, breathing sugared fire in myriad colors to the delight of the assembled masses. Only one person, by some slim chance, sees the sinister rune carved in the the rump or the bluest waitress, and is transfixed. A figure in a dark cloak walks up behind him and gently places a hand on his shoulder. The man shudders briefly, but does not turn around, and is quietly led away.

The King's Vizier makes his way onto the bandstand and waves his hands in the air for the assembled throng to be quiet. After a long while, the yelps and shouts die down to a murmur and the Vizier speaks:

"People of Heyouse: listen to me! I have nothing to say, but you, and you, and you have--on your lips--the collected history of all the people who ever have lived. I won't ask you to recite it. But now, on the eve of this great adventure, I ask all of you to breathe in unison the dusty air of this hilltop and remember it forever. Breathe it into the mouths of your livestock and onto the plants in your fields. Make a pottery of it, and sell it overseas in the farthest-flung markets. Trample your gravel strewn pathways in search of a tiny speck of meaning, and let a beetle be a marvel unto you always. And now, with no commercial interruptions, is a message from our hero. Here he is."

A deafening applause roars up from the crowd and a man appears, materializing from thin air, onto the platform. He is magnificently attired in close-fitting breeches and a gaily colored blouse of fine cotton. Atop his head, like an acorn top, is a small-brimmed cap. Scanning the crowd for a moment, he chooses his words, and speaks.

"Hello. Well, thanks for coming out, and everything. I will let you know how it goes. Oh! check this out."

Suddenly, he is astride a two wheeled contraption. The crowd gasps as he momentarily loses his balance and only just manages to keep from falling. With supreme concentration, he remains upright and sits, perfectly still on his wheeled steed. For what seems an improbable amount of time he remains immobile; the only evidence of his labors the sweat beading on his forehead and his tensed muscles.

We stand, and watch, and are still watching.

1 comment:

  1. Chris, there's sincerely something wrong with you... and we love you for it! Thanks for the post. It's always... a journey. :)