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ATLANTIS: ACTS

(fragment)

Hristo Karastoyanov

web

All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas in all legends from all lands were from fair Atlantis.

Donovan Philips Leitch, Atlantis

Turnkey! See that this man doesn't go to bed.

J. D. Salinger, Seymour: An Introduction

 

I. BOOK OF FRAGMENTS

1.

... but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.

Plato, Critias

[...] ...and they never dreamt. They were peaceful, beautiful, very rich, of course, (so rich that they didn't even pay attention to the envy flaring up in the eyes of the sailors and merchants arriving from all lands from the very moment they set their foot on the Island), but they did not dream.

That moment short as distant lightning, between the falling asleep in the evenings and the waking up in the silver morning of the next day was melting before they could step onto the warmed up floor and mumble hurry-scurry the first malediction against the sunrise and the sunset: their life had turned into an endless day with no discouraging memories, nor confusing and disheartening misgivings coming from the dreams, and this is why the world seemed to them eternal and indestructible. Everything around was a firm proof, that the One <who descended from the sky> had created their land in a moment of generosity and best intentions and that what it was in the by-gone ages, this it would be forever.

[...] ...and they did not write anything down. It seemed to them a stupid and a useless effort. Besides from the peoples that lived beyond the sea at the East, or from those on the South in the lands of Libya and Egypt, they knew that "each time a nation succeeds to create a script, again and again at a time given by the Demiurge the skies pour down torrents of rain, which are like the plague, sparing the lives only of the ignorant and the illiterate. And then everything starts over from the beginning as if things have just been created, and no one knows a single thing from what had happened in the previous ages", though otherwise "...a lot of great things worthy of astonishment have been done in antiquity, that had later been forgotten due to the impetuous flight of the time and the death of people..."

And for the sake of what would they write things down if after them there would be no-one to read the written papers?

And if yet there were things to be written down for to be quickly and immediately taken to the other side of the Island, there were clerks, kept up and supported by the king and his noble brothers, to whom you could dictate what you had to say, and readers - to read him the important news.

But other than that they did not read: it was not at all interesting to them. Once a delegate from Ashur came to the King and amongst other things he told him:

"Terrible times have come, radiant master, just terrible, I'm telling you!"

"Why do you think so, my friend?" asked Atlant.

And the other one replied with conviction:

"Why, why... Because," he said, "everyone writes, no-one reads, and the children don't listen to the elderly!..."

"You are right too" laughed Atlant and tapped him in a friendly manner on the back. "Enough blether!"

Three times thirty years later some unknown Priscian the Grammarian from Egypt came to the next Atlant. This Priscian told him the same.

"Unfortunately," he said, "the world is no longer as it used to be."

"Why do you think so, my friend?" the next Atlant asked him in astonishment.

"Well, everyone wants to write books!" said Priscian the Grammarian disgustedly.

He didn't even know that earlier it was the same.

[...]

They were relentless enemies of any kind of entertainment in science and philosophy, so on the one hand they listened amicably to the stories of the foreigners about gods and capricious goddesses (jealous like wasps and terribly vindictive), but on the other they immediately forgot them. They were only curious about the valkyrur from the heavy oak forests and the dark arrays of alder and pine in the North: they were servants of some Woden, they were going up and down the battle-fields, choosing the bravest champions and taking them on their horses to Valhalla - heaven of the heroes fallen in battles.

The story of these fiery girls was interesting to them but for a long time they could not find any use for it.

Or the garamantes... They had heard people talking about their mighty empire beyond the terrible Libyan Desert. They were noble men with bronze faces and they had no enemies because their country was so powerful that there was not a chieftain, a strategist or a general who would dare to attack it.

If he had any brains of course.

They did not know if Garamantis existed or not. Anyhow, according to the people's words those garamantes and they themselves were too much alike for it to be true that they existed...

[...]

They couldn't stand the fortune-tellers and the augurs, all those magi, oracles and astrologers, and the tales about omens and predictions only made them smile faintly.

In those times the Achaens from the North adored their Cybils and they believed in every single word they said, blabbered or shouted out loud among the languorous smoke in their personal temples and in the amber smoking-places, "...where they threw a pinch of amber powder in embarked fire and inebriated everybody in the room..."

For Delphic Pythia they said that "she stood on a tripod, she chewed leaves of bay-tree and she breathed vapor, coming from under the ground, and from it she was falling into ecstasies". Sometimes there came yellow eyed Aramaic witch doctors and herbalists from the mountains beyond Attica.

At the Italic coasts hundreds of augurs were predicting the future by the bird flight and by how birds sang, while the Egyptian priests - just the opposite - were thought to be keepers of ancient secrets. And in Assyria the magi were downright crooks: they were dressed in ladies' clothes, because that way they could acquire Ishtar's magical powers, they were cutting their men's organs for to look like some God Atis, and their helpers were getting themselves into dirty sodomy games with all men who had come to the temple.

And while they were sleeping with men in their nasty lust, there were those that claimed that their lecherous bottoms and dirty mouths were divine monstrances, and as they fornicated, they collected in them the men's seeds for outpouring to Ishtar, whilst the whole thing was to bleed the temple for more silver. Any kinds of prophets were asking all kinds of divinities for fertility, wars, births, deaths, they were offering most shameless charms, scary spells, bringing evil to the enemies, finding treasures and coming into an inheritance. And across the lands of Anatolia, Levant and even further eastwards through the red bare hills and the sparse olive forests of Hanaan and Palestine, Babylonia, Isin, Elam and Uruk and the Kingdom of Mari the prophets were already swarming and they had become more multitudinous than the ordinary people. There were those that claimed that they could foresee the inmost not only in the future, but in the present, and that they were different from the others, because all the rest were telling fortunes in a frenzy so that the spirit eclipsed their human minds; and too frequently [their excessive zeal was winning through the clear mind]. "A prophet" they said - "who would dare to speak of himself or who would try to fall into a trance by opium infusions or fumes is a false prophet." Along the northern coasts of Libya they practiced the even falser geomancy, which meant that they were interpreting strewn soil, and far at the east other tribes - just the other way around - were peering up into the stars, expecting to find by their movement what was to come. They were calling it sabaism.

And the people visited the sanctuaries regularly, they wanted to know the future in advance, so they offered as a sacrifice hecatombs and granted golden bricks and they were always hoping to see "something incredible: either a flying man, or a petrified one". Pathetic, in general. Everything was for money. Atlant the Fifteenth laughed very much at the story of how insolently some Greek from the big port's neighborhood was offering his service. In front of his house there was a plaque saying: "It is me who lives here, Rhinos from Cyprus. By the mercy of the gods I have been granted the ability unerringly to interpret all dreams." "What dreams is this moron talking about?" he cried out. "Why is he lying to the people?!" And as he said this, he sent people to tear up the board and castigate the cheat.

Otherwise they were patient, they were listening politely to all those stories but they just didn't understand them. Who needed to know what would come the next day and of what importance could it be to the one who had foreseen it best? All this magic, those wonders and clairvoyance... Moreover, what for all the rest was hard and even impossible - so impossible that seeing it would seem as magic or as a miracle to them - for the people on the Island was just trivial. But they did not need it. And they did not try it. They knew that this world was fully dependent on the magnificent logic bequeathed to them by the One <who descended from the sky>, so if they wanted to know if a thing was true they could easily find out with his well-intentioned help - what more?

Only once the king, (it should have been Atlant the Thirteenth - he was generally the most curious among all the former and the later kings), asked kindly the One <who descended from the sky> to let him dip somewhere forward in time. The One <who descended from the sky> staying in his temple, smiled and agreed. "Go on!" he said. "But faster..."

The King shut his eyes and when he opened them in three moments short as lightning - he giggled in embarrassment for a long time. He seemed a little confused but later he shrugged his shoulders.

"Darn it," he said to his twin brother, the fifteenth Gadeiros . "If they think they know it all, those people who are supposed to be far in the ages are stupid. And I have to tell you straight, they have some gloomy statues with which they are propping up their balconies. And you know how they have called them? Atlanteans, if you please!"

"Really!" his brother cheered up. "Did they?"

"Man, why would I lie to you?!" Atlant replied. "Well," he said, "Atlanteans, let them be Atlanteans! But they are convinced that this "Atlanteans" is in our honor! Imagine, they are mistakening us with that wretch, the cousin Atlas, the Hellenic titan, the muff, who was supposed to hold the world at his shoulders. Atlas, Atlas, and from there "Atlanteans"...These have gone nuts from ignorance of their knowledge, or something like that...", he said. "At one and the same time they don't believe we existed, and they believe in their male caryatides - "Atlanteans"..."

"What, what?" Gadeiros exclaimed, "Say it again! They do not believe", he said, "that we existed, do they?!..."

"Right," Atlant assured him. "They don't believe, honestly! They think we were a legend, a myth, a dream... In return they believe in some Australia. A continent beyond Earth, where the antipodeans were supposed to have lived, but later it had sunk in the ocean of that place... They argue, you see, and they are looking for it with ships, sailing under the water... Australia, bosh!..."

He stayed silent for a moment and then he sighed.

"And they have ...", he said.

"?" Gadeiros asked in surprise.

"." Atlant nodded.

"And what are ?" Gadeiros asked.

"I don't know", Atlant groaned. "But they have them... O yes, bicycles as well. And typewriters. Well", he said after that, "what can I say... Their time is a gloomy business. You just can't breath and they are doing it somehow. They are polluting the air and then thinking about how to clean it. They are nailing their dead in boxes decorated with gold and jewels and thus they are burying them in the ground. Don't laugh, mate, truly I say to you that. They have decided that they are made of dust, and for that sake dust they will become."

"Oh, come on!" Gadeiros arched his eyebrows, "How could that be? Don't they burn them?"

"They are burning the living," Atlant explained. "And the dead they are interring. They are burying them. And they are burying them one next to the other, one next to the other, one next to the other... They are doing this at places they call grave-yards. And the grave-yards are surrounded by strong walls."

"I see" Gadeiros nodded with understanding. "Probably in case their dear deceased people arrange an all-together breakaway... "

"That was my guess too", Atlant shrugged, "but it is worth the fear: however, the dead are more than the living...But something else amazed me. I was looking at their Atlanteans, I was looking at them very intensely...They all hold the earth at their shoulders - just like Atlas the cousin. And they see that thing there, and as if they see the earth that the Atlanteans hold up, is something round, but for ages and ages they were convinced that this same earth is flat...But again they are carving their Atlases with a globe on the shoulders. Not a baking dish, not a pancake, not, say, a shield for sword fight, but a ball, and what is one to do?!... They watch, but they don't see."

"They don't think, you mean..." Gadeiros said.

"I mean they do not see", Atlant stressed. "But you are right too: it is all the same, you are right. Ah, and while I remember!" he said, " they burn books!..."

"Good heavens!" Gadeiros gasped at last. "But what is going on with mankind?!...As you are describing the things, at the end they might start believing that man had descended from apes, and then where is the One <who descended from the sky> left?!..."

And Atlant just waved it away.

"I don't know about the apes", he said, "but in my opinion, half the humanity there has mice in its head."

...Ever since then, none of the kings dared to repeat the request of Atlant the Fifteenth, but anyhow the only thing that was left from that single look in was the mice thing. They didn't understand it but they were sure to repeat whenever they heart someone to talk tosh: "This guy has mice in his head!..."

They forgot what happened - the words remained.

[...]

They didn't have statues either, though in the foundries and in the quarries they could have contrived thousands. They only chiseled huge sculptures of the One <who descended from the sky>, stepped over his solemn triera and with the scepter with the three prongs of the three truths, (and these were: water, land and nothing else). The foreigners arriving from all lands couldn't figure out who he was and they were taking with them the thought and remembering just some regular god of the mighty water. The Hellenes called him after their ways Poseidon, the Egyptians - Hapi, god of the sea, the rivers and the fish, god of the humidity and the crops, and in Sumer, in the city of Eridu they raised a sanctuary to Enki, the ruler of the freshwater ocean Abzu, [Enki the Wise, the Provident, Enki the Creative, who, in deciding who will be the patron of what, entrusted the dikes and the channels to his son Enkimdu].

Et cetera.

[...]

They were not flesh-eating, they ate only what the Island earth yielded, and what did not thrive there - they brought on ships - but other than that they bred huge herds of all kinds of cattle and all kinds of brute: they traded with the meat, with the hides, with the horns and the hoofs, with everything...

And Gadeiros - Atlant's twin - had farms in the North, where his people had uprooted every single thorn, prickle or thorny bush. There they bred deer, whose skins were among the most perfect skins in the world. Not a single scratch, nor tear or any damage whatsoever was there on them: they were the most faultless skins in the whole known world. They were purchased mainly by the mincing Hellenes-Athenians - with the expensive leather they were upholstering the seats of their chariots and palanquins, because they were keen to show to everyone how rich they were and how nice their life was.

(The Athenians in general enjoyed when people liked them: for example they thought it was "decent and beautiful for the old people to have long hair, to plait with gold crickets".)

They themselves ate with modest dignity but they feasted their guests with tables, piled with so much [dried mackerel from Iberia, honey(...) collected without the honeycombs having been smoked, roast - also from all over the world - pigs, rabbits, different birds, ducks from Fasida, peacocks from India, Namibian roosters], fried tongues of Namibian crane and red-legged partridge, sprinkled discreetly with leaves of the king's herb, basil, and so many other things that they remained astounded by this view.

[...]

They were not strong with numbers but they did not need to be. The science of all those strokes, pothooks, with which the world and all ideas could be put into order and described came to them with no effort from an old nation, (even older than themselves), whose lands have stretched on the whole lowland coasts of the inner sea: from the end of the Pillars of Hercules in the West - to Anatolia and the land of Hanaan in the East.

They were not at all interested in that magic that other people were looking for beyond digits. They just didn't use digits. Otherwise they much enjoyed the entertainment that the problems were bringing to them: to make crazy cryptograms and rebuses - games that required strained attention, but otherwise the success in these games was bringing amicable rejoicing and funny pride to those who succeeded. They were foisting them in through the books of the prophets from the East on the obelisks of the Egyptians - as if they were prophecies... At the beginning they were doing it just by the strength of their minds, but later they invented those sophisticated counters, called reckoners by someone, and the invention of conundrums and puzzles became even easier and more entertaining. The reckoners were machines with tens of levers, buttons, secret wheels and chains, operated by pedals and pulleys in their boxes of mahogany, sandalwood and ebony. They were good for nothing else but they were fine for playing.

 

2.

When will you finally understand that there is a huge difference between a mirage and a hallucination, and as I say huge, that's what I mean - huge.

Heard words

Yet they worshipped their houses: that mighty rhythm of squares, cubes and circles in black, white and red, that was so different from the chaos of the impassable labyrinths in the towns of the Achaeans and the fetid adobe holes of Hanaan, immediately overwhelmed the newcomers with its permanence.

The kings encouraged that love - probably just for the awe and the jealousy which necessarily flared up in the eyes of every single newcomer, without exception. They always granted a team of masons and masters to everyone who decided to build a home in the town or a villa up on the green slopes from the side of the South wind under the Three-headed Mountain, (where along with the wild horses tarpans, the gloomy tragelaphuses with the terrible curved horns, the lions and the wisents, there still were snow white unicorns grazing with the smoked eyes of musicians and roamers, and with a little more luck one could see the last lovely griffins), or a palace in the silent suburbs - far from the ports at the first water ring of the South, East and the North.

At the foot of the Three-headed Mountain there were two springs - one with cold, and the other with warm water; they were surrounded by curved walls and yet in the ages of the ancestors the water was led down to city baths. They had bathing-pools and public baths with hot water, winter baths; separate for the Kings, separate for the regular people, separate for the women, and separate for the horses and the other animals; and every bath was arranged correspondingly to its purpose.

Thus their homes had become even cozier for living.

(And the waters from the two springs were medicinal, conducive to longevity and they said that there were people on the Island that made it to the unattainable for the mind sixty-three years! ...Just unbelievable!)

[...]

They were constructing higher and more solid walls in which they bricked copper, lead or iron images of their family symbols. They welded together blocks of crimson porphyry, black gabro and white marble from the italic lands with mortar, made by rice and buffalo-cow milk powdered with the most precise millstones, and in this strong mixture they had once added unicorn blood as well. It dried fast so they needed to build with the speed of lightning, yet it was the strongest thing on earth: with ages stone could turn into dust, the mortar - not. (The Kings, however, seeing how grievously the number of unicorns on the Island was decreasing prohibited their massacre. The masons attempted to replace the unicorn blood with the blood of the hippopotamus but it was not quite the same anymore.)

Thus the houses across the whole Island were getting bigger, only they should not vie with the palaces of Atlant and Gaderius, nor even with those of the other four sets of brilliant twins: the archons Evaemon the Ardent and Ampheres the Round, Mneseus the Thinker and Autochthon the Earth Born, Elasippus the Rider and Mestor the Fiance, Azaes the Sultry and Diaprepes the Magnificent and the Glorious. They were all descendents of the first twins born by Cleito the Mortal - five times two - whose children and the children of their children from many generations on end lived there and ruled over many other islands. And the palace of Atlant - the first among equals - was towering where once was the first habitation of the One <who descended from the sky>, and later coming into the inheritance of successive generations, each Atlant continued to ornament trying to surpass his predecessor, until at the end they made a structure, striking with its grandeur and beauty- the radiant heart of the ancient metropolis. Even the fabulously rich kings of Crete, descendants of Minos, or of the offish pharaohs of Egypt far away southward regularly turned grey with jealous envy listening to the stories of scouts, merchants or spies about the unusual palace of the Atlanteans.

And they on their side were telling them rapt about anything they had seen.

First, of course, they were telling about the canal! [It was] three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth. Thus it formed a passage fifty stadia long, through which even the largest ships could find ingress from the sea to the inmost water circle: this circle they had turned into a huge harbor. Each of the kings, during his reign, had raised whirling walls with round towers and heavy gates, everywhere on the earth rings and the bridges. The walls on the outermost swell were coated with copper, the innermost - with lead. Far away behind them were the flanks of the Three-headed Mountain, with the vineyards at its foot and the dark forests high up to the peaks. The middle peak was always cloud-capped because this was where the way to heaven started. (They used to say that once the One <who descended from the sky> had come by that peak, but who could know that for sure, when there was no-one who had seen it?)

And behind the walls, the eyes of the foreigner would meet the homes and the palaces in those sunny neighborhoods of the endless town. This triumphant landscape of white, black and red would overwhelm him and the windows undreamed of on other lands would dazzle him with their sparkling gleam. The cleanliness too. There wasn't such cleanliness anywhere else in the world...

Coming from afar, the foreigner would pass by all this astounding magnificence - along the big canal and under the stone bridges mightily thrown across the three water rings; his ship would slip among the hundreds of boats, bypass the docks, the harbors and the shipyards, and everywhere it would be full of ships with sails painted in all known colors. These would be the ships of the thronging tradesmen, so many that day and night there would be polylingual clamor, noise and stamp of thousands of sandals on the magnificent cobbles of the streets going down to the harbors...

The rhythm of the squares and the rings of houses, walls, towers and circuses between the towers, the walls and the houses was thick notched with gardens and parks with trees situated far off in the blue sky above the Island, and with others grounded so wide that their shadows could easily shelter a whole phalanx of soldiers, and some trees grew so close to the houses that their branches were going in through the windows. (But there were fools who were cutting these branches down. There are fools everywhere.)

At the end, after sailing two days and two nights on the canal, the foreigner would slip with his ship through the lock of the inner wall, to finally on the third day reach the very centre of their land.

And from there he would see the palace.

Once he saw it - he would be struck dumb: its walls were ornamented with orichalk, radiating fiery glow...

[...]

They would never ever ask where the masons came from and where they lived while they weren't at the building sites. They did not understand their scanty language well, but there was no need to: these people knew what they were doing and there was no need to instruct them further. They would not ask for the origin of the many gardeners taking care of the courtyards as well... Or for the ones cleaning the pools and the baths with the wide tubs or scavenging the channels and the fast outfalls of the aqueducts by which the waters from the Three-headed Mountain were coming. They would never start talking about the wretched ones from the poisonous workshops where the Flame of the One <who descended from the sky> was prepared - an arm that could never be defeated which people would later on call Greek fire...(The secret of its preparation, along with the workmanship of the pipes and the skins by which the Flare of the One <who descended from the sky> was shot away in a mighty belch against ships and castles, would later be forgotten for a long time, just like the Greek fire would be forgotten, but even later on, at the end of the boundless future, it would appear again with a different name - napalm). They wouldn't understand a word from the gibberish of the craftsmen from the neighborhoods between the first and the second ring, nor those of the inn owners and their unctuous servants, still less would they understand the night washers of the market-places: it was just how the world was set up from ancient times by the One <who descended from the sky> - what more?...

But they could see that all those were terribly suspicious of each other and there was hate between them: their eyes were flashing angrily - sometimes even the city sentries had to come with cudgels and whips and even archers from the West-coast barracks.

The coachmen, the grooms and the internal servants were haughty and they used to watch the gardeners with contempt. The gardeners were insulting the masons for being nearly speechless, and they in their turn were deriding the woodchoppers who were hauling the huge timbers from the endless forests at the North slopes of the mountain to them. But the most arrogant of them all were the workers of the two shipyards at the East-coast. However, one could see them with eyes beaten black and blue and swollen noses from time to time, and at the markets and the pubs of the city word was spread that in the night the dark and heavy lancers of the King's personal army were brought out - the thugs of the acropolis itself - with the cudgels made in a way to break a rock in pieces.

But in fact they were not interested in that.

At night they just slept without dreaming.

 

3.

"And where is that derived from?" I said. I was not expecting an answer. I was convinced I was asleep.

"Sayings from the Upanishads", the voice replied readily.

"And what are the Upanishads?", I wasn't sure I was asleep anymore.

"I don't know," said the voice.

Arcady and Boris Strugatsky, Monday Begins on Saturday

[...] Blind singers squatted on the pavement in the squares, scraping on their rebecs and strumming on the cymbals. They wailed over endless poems about the fatal feats of bloody heroes whose acts of heroism were always about killing someone, about someone who had cut the throat of an evil hydra, or about someone else who choked a ferocious animal to death bare handed, or another one who did away with an ogre by hitting it with a sling shot, or a third who destroyed someone else with a bone, a fourth massacred a whole enemy army and after that he went and with pathos picked up a stone... - things like that.

In the pubs, of course, one could try wine from Peloponnesus, anisette from Cyprus or apple brandy from Gaul, date arrack from Mesopotamia and rice arrack from the other end of the world, inebriating mead from Thrace, as well as beer from Egypt, (that outrageous combination of barley, water, hops and balm, having the power to take away the morning headaches). And if someone wanted to get drunk not wasting time in talks, he ordered an earth jar with that fierce drink that the sea tradesmen were bringing from the islands of the druids far away in the North, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, from the lake lands of the Catuvellauni and the Scots - way out there, where the other sanctuary of the One <who descended from the sky> was. (Millennia later they would call it Stonehenge.) That drink was called whisky because, as they said, the women in these parts were often getting furious, they were making cocktails from it and then hungrily whisking past the [beaten hills] to rape the kind-hearted stout men, and they called that cockyearning - this was how their hellish moans sounded and floated above the lawns while they rode the caught up wretch. The disastrous moon dew falling in the courtyard of a bleeding woman was driving them mad. (In these parts, during the time of her bleeding such a woman could bring down a vine, an ivy, clematis and a ruta with only a touch She could bleach a crimson cloth, turn the black into white in the wash-tub, she could make the honey perish, make bees to fly out of the hive and a mare to slip her foal. But she could also chase away the field's pest by going round it before sunrise, calm down a gale by only uncovering her woman's bosom on the coast and by the falling of the moon dew trickles from among her blond fleece; she could immediately cure a boil, erysipelas, fear of water and barrenness.) And after they raped the man and drained him - they were leaving him there to lie, exhausted and rapt, with the streamlets of woman's blood flowing down his abdomen and thighs. They were going from there fertilized and sobered down and they were leaving next to his head as a gift some [brightly colored eggs - the eggs of Eostre].

Anyway, but with that whisky mutinous thoughts of street feats were bursting in everybody's heads and filling a man with braveness as much as for a nice cudgel fight. The whisky didn't agree with some so much that in the end they shouted that the One <who descended from the sky> did not exist and they pissed on the streets. But the sentries were coming - they were striking their drunken heads with cudgels, they were dragging them by the necks and confining them in the nearest police station. And there they were vindictively cutting off their hair. That's how it was.

[...]

And the houses of joy never closed their doors. Women from all over the known world offered endearments there. There were Thracian woman slaves from the lands near Istor, graceful like statues, and frightened white-teethed Nubian women from Upper Kush, having swan necks and slaves with eyes always heavy with sadness There were girls from the North with hair like pale flame, quasi wandering, always quasi pensive and absent minded. These looked as if any moment they would break, but it was not like that at all: in the beddings they were a real whirlwind. Or those madly lustful priestesses from Athena whose breasts swayed even when they were sitting meekly on their sofas in the coziness in front of the burning hearths... - any kinds of women, indeed. And not only in the neighborhoods near the harbors but also inland in the city, but there, of course, an hour of pleasure was charged more. It was fair because in those houses they served excellent aphion of the finest poppy fields in Front Asia, and tutstan and mandragora teas(grown under a gallows and planted by the seeds of a hung rascal) and they had the best woman guitarists to play. The boys there were also real [good-lookers, besides they were free-minded, witty and proficient with words, they smelled of pallaestra and it would not be a shame even to cry in front of them]. Generally it was far more tasteful and one did not risk catching some of the city diseases, and in front of the colorful gates there were always huge Ethiopians, who didn't let drunkards and tatterdemalions in, so no-one would get disturbed by noise or wrangles...

[...]

As however they were in the middle of that emerald sea, at the Island they had to deal constantly with all kinds of adventurers, bandits, pirates, crooked businessmen of all kinds and famous international scoundrels. Thus, once on the main harbor, just next to the Acropolis, arrived some miserable ship. "Argo" was its name and it looked in such a way that it was hard to believe that it could hold above the water at all. It intruded directly among the king's barges with the holiday sails and the team of a score or so wastrels loafing about came out of the pitiful tub. They were such a funny rabble, such radiant rascals, that the king even cheered up and ordered keeping an eye on them. They had gone about throughout the Aegean but they said they came from Iolcus - in pretence - to everyone they met, and that, you see, they were going to Colchis to seek some Golden Fleece. But upon arriving one of them went into the first pub he saw - "Isida and the Six Cats" and there he got so drunk that he took down the bar with his head shouting infuriatedly not to make him angry because he was Hercules and he was undefeatable. The cats of the proprietress Isida scampered away with a rabid mew, everyone around burst into shouts and started cursing him but he was on the rampage and he was ruining everything. He was caught, of course, and his hair cut off. In the meantime his mates immediately broke off their free-thinking, got away from the Island and dishonestly went northward. At the end Kar-raphar the Ivy Man - the leader of the King's closest entourage and head of his internal chambers - personally ordered Hercules to be brought to him and ask him why in particular he thought he was undefeatable.

"How come you ask why!" Hercules said flying into a passion and flapping in the iron hands of the guards. "How come you ask why!" he yelled. "Because I am big!..."

"I can see that" Kar-raphar the Ivy Man told him. "However the big trees are fruitless. Have you ever heard of baobab? Or of sequoia? So," he sighed, "the big trees are fruitless. And they are being cut down."

He said that and he beckoned the guards.

The guards penned Hercules in the harbor station, where he quickly came to his senses: he sat on the plank-bed, he caught his head in his hands, and he said: ["Colchis may not exist but hush - to keep the crew from hearing!..."] - and he started crying.

[...]

Shortly after, a more degraded Achaean dragged himself there and proclaimed he was Odysseus and the King of Ithaca. He pushed aside the guards haughtily, he fell on Atlant's neck and then he told him such fables that Atlant laughed in all those three days in which Odysseus didn't stop eating, drinking and blabbing.

He told him of some Circe, a quasi-sorcerer or something like that, who turned his mates into pigs, but Odysseus, after seeing that thing happen, became really angry. He went and he shouted: "Now what?!" He slapped her twice, he threw her on the table and he [compelled] her in such a way that at the end she burst into exhausted and happy tears and she shouted out loud he was her god and she would do anything that Odysseus wanted of her. Here he recalled and added that before this whole thing had happened he had met some god Hermes, and this same Hermes had given him a miraculous root that would make the magics of the bitch absolutely harmless to Odysseus. And as he said that he winked shamelessly.

So, then Circe asked him what could she do for him and he told her, "Ooo, enough blether, sister, and you better fix that mischief you have done to my people right away - don't say I didn't warn you..." Circe, of course, did that, but later his friends got so drunk that one of them - a certain Elpenor - climbed on the root and fell asleep there, and then he fell and bruised himself, whilst below Odysseus kept on [compelling] the moaning and shrieking Circe. (And he showed what exactly he was doing then with the gestures of a scamp and a ribald). After finding out what had happened to Elpenor, he hastened to fall upon his drunk mates, to round them up with kicks and have them all to go away from there, but when they did that - they landed where the Cyclops were. The Cyclops were titans - giant one-eyed monsters and as they saw them they said: "That's it! We will right away roast and eat you up, you dud bastards!!!" only but Odysseus made them drunk, then he found a beam in some thorns, as big as a keel of a triera; he whittled it a bit, he sharpened one end of it, he scorched its edge and then he went and speared the eye of the main Cyclops, a certain Polyphemus.

Thus they got out of the Cyclops haunt, but it is said that what starts bad - it turns when you least expect. The same with Odysseus: they had just got rid of the Cyclops - hither, thither - they benighted with the Laestrygonians. More titans! Their King was called Antiphatus and the daughter of this Antiphatus was as big as a hill, and his wife - as a mountain.

"Hey, listen!" Atlant laughed. "These islands will turn out to be crowded with titans..."

"That's what I say too!" Odysseus goggled. "Just crowded..."

So, then the wife of that Antiphatus called her man. He came running, caught one of Odysseus' mates, tore him up and - bang! - into the cauldron. They took to their heels, they jumped onto the ships. However, the Laestrygonians started to knock off entire rocks and hurl them from the coast. They broke eleven ships, so they remained with only one in which they escaped. But they immediately fell upon the nymph Calypso.

"Who was", Atlant asked, "that Calypso? Wasn't she a nymph?!"

"What nymph, buddy!" hypocritically groaned Odysseus and nudged him. "I don't know what you understand when you say nymph but this woman was a true nymphomaniac, I'm telling you!"

He now had to [compel] her too...He [compelled her], of course, but Calypso liked that so much that for eight years she didn't let him crawl out of her bed...

"Better not tell you what it was!" he complained on in pretence. "Because when a woman feels like fucking, it does not matter about the man that she will catch-an Aramaean, a Nubian Negro or an Achaean. And then there is no way out..."

Odysseus seemed willing to continue but for Atlant that was too much. He did laugh to the fullest at his cock-and-bull stories, but he laughed only as the people laugh at tame monkeys at fairs or at the words of parrots that the sailors train to curse in their loud languages from all over the world.

"You are ace, mate", he said, "You are a dangerous cabbage head, you know...", and then he stood up and told the insolent Achaean to get out of there as soon as possible because his wife Penelope was waiting for him at home and she would show him who is Calypso... Penelope was a distant cousin of Atlant so he perfectly knew her brawling nature of a peasant woman from the islands and he recalled how many times she had trashed him with her grandmother's distaff.

So then, anyway he had enjoyed the cock-and-bull stories of Odysseus, or maybe because of Penelope, he granted him a brand new ship with fifty-two oarsmen. He ordered two oxen, twelve sheep and eight pigs to be slaughtered, to salt them down and load them on the ship.

He saw them off and then he found out that the man had stolen three golden bracelets from him and five very expensive orichalk cups. On top of everything, three days later a certain Aeneas passed by the Island, carrying an infant child. It was exactly he who told Atlant that Odysseus was an International scoundrel and a Greek villain!... He had built a colossal horse of wood with which he got about twenty thugs into the yard of Priam, the King of Troy, as if it were a present, and later they got out of the horse, slaughtered those credulous wretches - the Trojans - and at the end they set their nice city on fire. "The Danaans", he said, "are vile bastards. Most vile and wicked bastards." Atlant knew Priam. He clicked his tongue with pity, he said: "A fine thing, a fine thing, indeed!...", and he swore that if he caught sight of that freak Odysseus again he was bound to snatch the lying tongue of this dirty coward...

[...]

And the ones with the ship "Argo" all of a sudden came back. They frequented the jerry-shops and they were telling about the vicissitudes they had: how at several times their masts broke, how in Vitinia they got into a fight with the Bebrykians, how somewhere around Thrace they were chased by some nasty harpies and how two-three times they got amidst terrible sea monsters with sharp fins, with evil faces of roadside robbers and hands long like tentacles which (as if) clutched at the masts, so that the Argonauts had to slash them down, squeamishly cursing at mother.

Anyway, [by the seventh day they got to cape Acatamus, then suddenly the zephyr came up against them and carried them off to Sidon, and from there a terrible storm ran after them so they barely got by the tenth day to (...) the Cyclad Islands.] And there the scary things happened. Those who had sailed in these places knew [how rough the sea was] there, [especially when the West wind blew and found the Souther there], so they clicked their tongues and consoled them that at least they got off with whole skins.

Their smack was more broken-up than before they had sailed away from the Island Now the water was just gushing in from everywhere, but the thing was that these stubborn troublemakers had crossed three seas in deed - first to the North by the ruined and razed Troy, and then East through Scillus and Haribda where [the rocks were steep and sharp as if they were ground by the storms, there was surge and huge surf, (...) and the waves were often as high as the cliffs on the two sides]. There exactly some peppery sirens with drooped titties came down upon them; these dirty bitches were bawling something inapprehensible and caustic behind their ship, and their voices were croaking and vicious... Somehow they ran away from them, they crossed that sea, [they fought the year's winds], and later they took through the strait, where in those ages there was still no Bisantion, the city of Bisas <The Big Sly>, who would later block the way to Pontus Euxinus that was being conquered by someone every other century or two.

North of there and at the end again eastwards - and there, at the end of the road, in the dark beauty of a distant mountain they found at last their Colchis!

And they really did wear some scanty golden fleece!

They attempted to sell it to the Lombards near the harbor but they wanted so little for it that the most naïve person would right away figure it out: it was stolen. And on the Island even the greediest tradesman wouldn't think of buying a stolen thing. The law was clear: for a thing like that you would have your hands cut off!

(In the meantime Hercules had already gone off to some chance fair together with a three-legged dwarf-antipodean, two emaciated naiads that smelled terribly and whose scales on the fish's tails had fallen off, a nagger witch from Scythia who was all the time making complaints about her broom, that it was rotten and it didn't fly, an always ragged chimera with a woven apron of Corfu , who was sweeping to them but she was always fighting with Hercules for not wiping his feet before coming in the tent - he had fear of her for this wiping at the door-sill - the talking cow Yo and a mangy, completely blind Cerberus, reacting only on his name. They used to call him Argus. These all couldn't do without each other. The only thing that he heard of Hercules ever again was that he helped some Prometheus out of some trouble but no one on the Island knew who that Prometheus was, nor anyone ever found out what trouble he was in that needed rescuing.)

[...]

And they worshipped the reliable and great in all respects- way of thinking bequeathed to them by the One <who descended from the sky>, and they were patient and judicious to the inevitable predestinations of fate [and to each other]. Growing old was not a tragedy here, but an order, set by the One <who descended from the sky>, for the generations to change and life on the Island to continue to good.

They bypassed the raptures and the jealousy of others, all those exclamations of the foreigners, because with their whole hearts they despised anything but virtue.

And for this they didn't lay up riches: the One <who descended from the sky> had made sure that the riches were multiplying by themselves and they considered the mountains of gold, all those treasures, as well as the envious clack of their overseas guests, all but a boring tie. They were not elated with riches, because, keeping their minds sober, they could see that the riches grew when there was mutual consent and the virtues were alive, but if it turned into a concern and became a matter of honor, it would turn into ashes and at the same time virtues would die too.

Thus the spirit of the freedom and the calm wise order of the remote past hovered over everything.

* * *

And so, thus it was until the day of the destined time of Atlant the Nineteenth, in which the star of the One <who descended from the sky> that the Egyptians used to call Sothis, and to which they had assigned a goddess (the always impregnate with the rays on the tall crown), and the Achaeans knew as the Dog star Sirius, came up the horizon in the moment of the Sunrise - which is to say in the very beginning of the month Mesore where somewhere there on the South in Egypt the sacred Nile was swelling and overflowed its banks widely and mightily - the day in which Atlant woke up startled, drowned in sweat, and a tart whiff was melting under his armpits, and yet he didn't know that this was the smell of fear...

He took a puzzled look around and vomited.

He had been dreaming.

 

 

© Hristo Karastoyanov
© Miryana Minkova, translated
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© E-magazine LiterNet, 16.06.2007, № 6 (91)