Chronicles from the future: 3-ΙΧ to 5-IX
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The odd change I’m going through all these days should be investigated, if anything, from the psychological point of view. My heart is calm and I’m becoming accustomed to all that I see around me. That has not been easy. I remember the first days when even the way people dressed seemed strange to me. I now find my life increasingly interesting. Every little thing intrigues me and I ask Stefan about so many things that it would take me ages to write it all down. But why do I not have the power to express all that I feel with precision? Wouldn’t it be more suitable for a craftsman of writing to be granted with this unique fate instead of someone like me, a poor and sickly teacher? So many new and different things and experiences! How wonderfully better a writer would transcribe them…
Every day I think of my mother, the only source of affection in my life, and I wonder how it would be if she could be next to me and see it all with me. Anna still pops into my mind from time to time, but I feel that my old wound has somehow started to heal in my heart and doesn’t hurt as much anymore. My mind then takes me elsewhere: Oh God, how light is the weight of my twenty-eight years! How light! From this perspective, it’s as if I’ve turned back time! Looking at myself in the mirror, something that terrified me and almost drove me insane in the beginning, now gives me untold pleasure!
Everyone treats me as if I were Andrew Northam. And I am sure that none of them—excluding Stefan—knows the truth. From what I’ve understood, the old Northam was a bit superior to the rest in his circle of friends. The same goes for Aria if I judge by the way they treat her. Aria is twenty-five years old but, when she speaks, the rest fall silent. And another thing I noticed: last night when she entered the drawing room of the villa where we were, the ladies of our group stood up, like we men used to do—something that in our time and our social circles the ladies would never have done.
In the meantime, I’ve learnt a great deal from Stefan regarding my new companions. Axel’s relationship with Juliet is only two months old. She is very young, nineteen or twenty years old, brunette, pretty and somewhat frivolous. She’s always a bit scruffy and enthusiastic about life and when she’s by herself, she often hums. Axel is her first love and their acquaintance began one day when they were in a garden and Juliet’s muslin dress was soiled and Axel hastened to hem it with pins in a makeshift way before it became dirtier. Axel plays the violin quite well, though if you ask Juliet, she’ll tell you that he’ll soon become a virtuoso! Nevertheless, they both have hearts of gold and the group can’t live without them.
As for Silvia, I learnt that Andrew Northam loved her very much for a period of two-three years, but she never felt anything for him beyond a simple friendship and appreciation for the man and his work. Her heart might belong to someone else, who knows? Stefan doesn’t know anything on the subject since nobody cares for gossip here. However, when I saw her for the first time I got the feeling that I had seen her before. Then, when I was alone, I realized: I remembered because of my blurred memories from the hospital. She was among the nurses and even in the midst of my feverish daze I had noticed her. There was something very gracious and noble about her figure and she stood out from the others.
Stefan told me again yesterday, “This love was very painful for Andrew. There were nights that his eyes constantly welled with tears.”
I replied that he should, however, appreciate the honesty and principles that characterized Silvia, who never even thought of reciprocating without having feelings for him. “Somebody else in her place,” I said, taking into account Northam’s reputation, “wouldn’t really mind feigning love and affection in order to be with him.”
Stefan, startled at first by my words, replied, “Why would you say that? That would be vulgar! No woman would do that!”
I should not have opened my mouth. I quickly changed the subject and asked him what the others had to say about the “new” Northam. He told me that Silvia had mentioned me several times over the past few days. In fact, this morning she had asked him if he had noticed my changed gaze and if he remembered Andrew having such an expression before the accident. She also told him that Andrew was acting very strange, that he seemed unusually quiet, hesitant and timid, that his accent had changed and that he even found difficulty articulating words.
I asked Stefan what to do since it was impossible for someone to make sense out of countless new things, obtain a new mentality, new manners and speak the language fluently, from one day to the next. He encouraged me with a smile and said that things would get better. An old friend of theirs happened to suffer a dreadful car accident and, after his recovery, he temporarily has to struggle to regain his mental capacities; that’s the impression they have. Would that ever be a reason for them to love you less? No. You can see for yourself that they’re always by your side showing you such affection.”
I’m sitting on the terrace and all these thoughts and discussions flash before my eyes like moving pictures. I can hear the girls talking and laughing below. They tease me and ask how on earth I can read and write in such a ruckus. The sun has almost set and soon it’ll be time for “The Prayer of the Dusk” they hear every afternoon . I hear them call out for Stefan before I sink into my thoughts again.
Here’s the peculiar thing about Stefan. It appears that we share a bond, a bond that he didn’t even share with his closest friend, Andrew Northam: the same love for history. His main occupation was the study of history in general and the art of the past millennia in particular. And so our friendship evolves effortlessly even if there’s nothing in me to remind him of Andrew—neither their shared memories nor their dreams…
As for Stefan’s bond with Hilda, it’s something that has stood the test of time. They’ve been happily together for over four years now and it looks like it’ll stay this way for the rest of their lives. Here is a truly happy couple! In fact, they have decided to have a baby and they have already handed in their legal statement to the Office Partners, the executives of the demographic services, to whom those wanting to have the one child they are permitted must submit their application. It’ll be their turn in roughly a year.
Hilda also helps Stefan with work sometimes, reading aloud or copying, although Stefan himself says that he’s not made for big things. All he wants is to learn and that’s all. He knows he’s not meant to make any great contributions to the world of research, the exact opposite of Aria who, at twenty-five, has already published papers that took five or six years to complete and made a name for herself.
As for the other three–Hilda, Silvia and Aria–they are bound together by a special friendship, different from their friendship with Juliet, which is a very recent one. The latter, of course, knows it, but she doesn’t mind in the slightest since she sees how much they care for her.
They met on Christmas Eve eight years ago, at the Valley of the Roses in one of the palaces of the Lorffes—another ruling class similar to the Ilectors—where they, according to Hilda, along with many other teenage girls, carefully hand-picked among thousands for their natural beauty, dressed in white and holding torches, were welcoming the Ilectors to the reception after the great evening mass. They describe it as their best childhood memory, like a dream that was later hard for them to believe came true.
Eric is finally coming! He’s holding some sort of racket and some other smaller paraphernalia needed for a game or sport I haven’t yet bothered to ask about. He’s wearing sandals and he is naked from the waist up. He looks fresh and excited. The acquaintance between Eric and Aria was a fateful one. They’ve been together for fourteen months and no one knows how long this relationship will last. This special girl, with her early inclination to study what she believed in since childhood, has managed, in her twenties, to be present at excavations in America together with great experts and who, based on a bold intuition—almost like an inspiration—argued for her own conclusions on the life of the Incas, findings that were later to be proven true! This inherently wise young woman, whose views were vindicated in so many aspects, who made her own statements before an audience of thousands in the megacity of Norfor two years ago, who lately had a whole crew of young people to help her with her research, had given up everything for this dark-haired young man, who might have an exquisite heart, but could not bear to hear a word about her job. A while back, Stefan heard him say, “Talk to me about sports, talk to me about travels, about swimming or whatever else you want, but don’t say a word to me about God and all these ancient treasures!”
They’re ready to go. It’s time for the prayer. I won’t be writing till tomorrow.
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Copyright Achilleas Syrigos. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be republished.