It was a place very different and distant from any place I had ever known. The buildings were all gray and dark blue and a very faint green hue that almost looked like gray. They were all drawn in sharp narrow angles that made them seem both stretched and squashed down at the same time, like reflections in a fun house mirror. All the curtains were closed and the few lights that I could see were all a very pallid shade of yellow. The walls were all thick and heavy and old, structures meant to outlive their inhabitants by centuries, burdened by the years, laden with unspoken stories. The streets were quiet and made of little white stones, and there were long tall barriers that delineated where the city ended and the green country began.
I sat behind a tall window in a nearly empty room. My own curtains were only half open. Inside the room, there was only a narrow bed and an old desk marked by years of usage. I sat on a little chair staring at the strange world outside. It all smelled of cold moisture and crackling cold air. I could feel some of the cold air that made it through the slim gaps in the windowsill. A few people came and went, moving slowly with their eyes always fixed upon the ground. I wondered what they were hiding, but I didn’t know enough about them to even begin to ask what they would want to hide.
I looked up at the empty gray sky and I saw the vast green and blue mountains in the distance, crowned by solemn peaks of white ice. I took a deep breath when I gazed upon their magnificence, and soon I had to look towards the street again, where a man slowly pulled on a cart that made a recurring wooden rhythm on the clear white stones.
I knew I had something here, somewhere else within this place that was now our home, something that I valued intensely even if I couldn’t remember what it was. I felt that I was in great risk of losing it, I felt that it could disappear just like our old home had disappeared, just like the street I remembered and the people I had known, it had all vanished like the morning mist fading under the hot sun. We were in a strange land where we didn’t know the rules and we didn’t know the dangers. Whatever we had could be taken away and we would never know why it had happened, we would never even have a chance to ask.
“Back where we came from, there was much more danger than there could ever be here, there was violence and war and hatred…and yet I wasn’t afraid… I never spent a single afternoon, maybe not even a single hour, full of fear…why am I afraid now?”
I turned away from the window and I saw my two possessions on the surface of the dark brown desk: a bluish palm sized river stone and an old thick book that explained what to do with the stone that was laying next to it. As I looked at them, I remembered what the book said and I remembered why I felt that these things could be taken and I remembered why, once taken, they would never again be found.
The book explained what to do to the stone, it spoke in a language that I somehow found legible and yet utterly foreign at the same time. It spoke of strange purposes that made no sense to my everyday mind and yet they pulled at something deep within my chest that was eager to come out, eager to emerge into the daylight. The book explained that there were certain actions to be taken, certain things to be done to the stone. These things were strange and forbidden, they came from beyond the thick barriers of the known quiet world. Once these actions were taken, once these things were done, then the matter inside of the stone would change in some very intrinsic manner. That was all I knew at the moment. That was enough.
I looked at the stone which rested quietly on the brown surface of the old desk, and I looked at the thick book which was closed and locked and covered in ancient heaviness. I then lifted my head and looked at Mother who was sitting in the middle of the room looking back at me. She was silent and her face had a kind of gravity that I recognized as delicate but guarded. Still I felt an urge to speak and I did.
I pointed to the book that sat on the desk and I spoke of the things that were written within its pages. I tried to let her know what we had and what it was meant for, even if the purposes were hidden in a murky fog that my words could not penetrate. I spoke for a long time, making long circles of interlocking sentences. When I was finished, Mother shook her head. All my efforts had been useless. I couldn’t make her understand.
I reached under my bed and pulled out another rock from a hiding place I had not known about just a few moments before.
“Look Mother, this one has already been open, this will make it all clear, this will let you understand all that I have been trying to say.”
The new rock was like an open box with a tunnel inside, a tunnel that led into complete darkness deep within the tiny walls of stone. There were two small wheels on either side of the opening, keeping the jagged wound from healing and closing up. With my index finger, I pointed straight into the darkness, feeling the icy cold on my skin.
“Look Mother, that is where the matter is, that is where it has always been hiding…”
But Mother just shook her head and looked straight at me. She was as quiet as the streets outside, as the thick heavy walls, as the closed curtains, as the distant mountains crowned with white.