The Marble Castle – Part III

The Marble Castle Part II here

I wake up to the bright sun rays and catch the chill of the wind that creeped in through the doorway. I must have dropped onto my bed after the vassals’ visit. I get a happy rush streaming down my throat after recalling early morning’s visit and spring up from the bed to put on my robes. I look at the window and extend my hand towards the sun to see how much time I have left till the sundown. It seems to be the midday – good time to visit Frank once again before I hear what the king has to say. I sense an adventure down the road but peril crippling alongside it and I cannot put it together to understand which thrills me the most. On a bright side, the old man may shed a light on this sudden visit from the king’s servants as he tends to have ears on the back of everyone’s head. Although, I am not sure why he did not speak of this yesterday as he usually is the first one to know everything that happens within and outside of the kingdom.
Leaving the armour behind me, I pour myself a lukewarm water into the goblet and start hungrily sipping on it. I cannot gather my spirit not to rush to hear what Frank knows about tomorrow. It has been a long time since my last service done for the king and my muscles have been growing weary and strength leaving has slowly left from my body. No matter how much I train and how long I carry this armour for, I cannot summon the same courage and passion as I had before. Being a knight is not something that one is born with – you learn and practice to be one and once you have mastered that skill, it will scar you for the rest of your life. Some look at the scar as an old wound and some see it as a gift. The former turns into madmen while the other see their gift fade away over time. The saddest part is that neither of them can live the same way.
I put the goblet on the side of the table and look around just to see if I need to take anything else with me. I come up to get my pouch of silver coins (to re-pay for some of the Frank’s past rounds and also to soothe the old man down into giving me more details on the upcoming event) and fly out through the doorway and out into the forest. Frank’s establishment is not located far away from my house and it is on the way to the kingdom as well (which is why I anticipate for the old man to spill the truth and all the rumours he has collected from the visitors all the way from there).
The forest has been very quite and I have grown too comfortable with the calmness of it all – so calm, in fact, that it has dumbed my mind.
The sun’s rays were slowly being covered by the clouds – I could sense the rain brewing. The time has come for Autumn to colour the trees and soak the ground. Most beautiful time of the year before the cold malice of winter. I can cherish those winter days spent in the kingdom – so warm and hospital it was. The huts, the houses were lit and the fire was constantly dancing outside of everyone’s place. All the kingdom folk made winter the most anticipated and jolliest seasons of all. The streets were always swarming with people, songs, celebrations, festivals and hot wine that could boil the coldest soul of any human. It was mesmerising to live there. My hut, though, cast me into a cold oblivion and made me urge for spring to return. Luckily, Frank always had a brew to warm me up and he would sometimes invite me to stay in the brewery, which was always glowing with warmth and hospitality.
I approach Frank’s brewery and, to my surprise, I do not hear the crowded noise and goblets smashing against one another in cheering. Only the dimmed lights and the same familiar warmth, crawling from under the door crack, and the smell of glazed chestnuts. I walk up the stairs to open the door and see that the place has only a few people and Frank stand behind the bar stand, preparing another brew. I nod at the visitors and come up to the old man.
“Top of the day, Frank,” I said. “Surprisingly quite today, is it not?”
“Yes, it is,” he responded quickly. “I can imagine most of my clients enjoying today without my usual sarcasm and old stories. I bet that they are only waiting for my brew to get stronger to hit their heads quicker and make them drunk. Judging by the amount of brew I have sold over the couple of years, my visitors can easily enter the ranks of Barbarians, I bet that. I certainly do not mind the quite days as I have longed for them already for quite some time. It looks like my brew has had an effect on you too now that you cannot fit into your armour now, haha!”
“Have you heard of anything that will happen tomorrow?” I interrupted Frank’s laughter.
Frank stopped rubbing the thick glass, looked at me and put his rug aside. He took a deep breath, as if we would not be able to take another one and put his hands onto the table. Frank stared at the floor for a few moments, lifted his head up and came up to one of the barrels and started pouring the drink. I gathered that the drink was meant to be for me, so I reached out for the silver pouch in my pocket and quietly placed it onto the bar stand. Frank could hear the coins touch his stand faster than they actually did. Once he had the goblet full, he placed it in front of me and pushed the bag of silver towards me.
“You may need this, boy,” he said in a deep voice.
“Pardon?” It came as a genuine surprise to me that Frank would not accept the money that I owed him. “This is the money for most of the rounds I had owed you. I am not certain of when I may be back here to drink your brew once again if the king orders us to go on a long journey. Take it now while you can.”
“You owe me nothing,” he continued. “And I sense nothing benign behind that gathering, in all honesty. The kingdom has been in peace for a long time now and it foresees no further clashes, skirmishes or wars in its path. It has made allies with everyone that it possibly could. If there is any blood to be spilled, that would be way up in the North of this world, which is of no concern to his highness and of no interest to the Barbarians that inhabit those regions.”
I was not sure what Frank had on his mind or what stories he had gathered from the others who passed by his brewery. He sounded alarmed and worried to me, and looked quite upset that I knew about tomorrow’s event.
“I gather that the vassals already paid you a visit earlier today. That is unfortunate. No matter how many times I had told them not to venture deeper into the forest, their noses appear to be longer than my stick, which I attempted to scare them off with. They should not have found you.”
“Why is that, Frank? What are you trying to say?” I took my first sip of his brew, which felt surprisingly more bitter than usual.
“You better stay where you are, boy, if you want to live.”
“I swore my life to the king. I owe him everything – what he has done for me, other knights and his people. How can you say that? If my life needs to be sacrificed for the greater good, then it shall be.”
“This won’t be a worthwhile sacrifice – that you can trust me,” Frank continued sounding unlike himself. “The king cannot continue supporting the lot of you. You are of no purpose to him any longer. He cannot disband you nor can he put you into a civil life any longer. The king once created the purpose of your existence and he is afraid of the consequences that may follow. Run while you can and hide in a new house, while you’re young and have a long life ahead. Your discipline is of my and many other people’s admiration and you have to place it elsewhere while there is time and while you are alive.”
The silence stood upon us and I tried deciphering Frank’s riddles one at a time as I could feel that he was hiding something from me or he did not know the whole story and what was about to happen. My hope was growing dim at the same time and I could feel the old man’s concern over my life.
“The king wishes you nothing good, any longer, my friend. I wish you could stay out of this trouble but I know that you shall not. This is not how you have been brought up and for that, I am glad. You are fearless and are ready to embrace the trouble and look into the mouth of the danger. But this is not the right time or occasion to do so. Stay out of this if you can. He shall set you on a mission that you shall not come back after alive.”
The sense of confusion started growing deeper inside of me and it kept me speechless. Frank could feel it as well but he knew that it would be dishonourable for me not to follow the king’s word and at the same time he had a hope that I would not go. I continued sipping on Frank’s brew and staring at him being puzzled. I was waiting for him to tell me more of what he knew.
“I am worried about it all, to say the least. Stay out of it if you want to live and if you have something to lose,” he concluded.
I remained in the brewery until late evening as Frank continued serving me the brew and tried reading one another in complete silence under the dimmed lights. I could sense that Frank knew nothing more of what were to follow tomorrow. He continued persuading me against going there but something kept on telling me that I had to. And, unfortunately, I had nothing else to lose but my word and life to my king

The Marble Castle – Part II

The Marble Castle – Part I: here

The Marble Castle – Part III: here

One of the few other things I enjoy the most is heading back home from Frank’s late in the evening. The air has never been this fresh for that long this season. Walking feels like flying and it almost feels as if the head separates from your body and makes you feel as light as a feather. The trees are covered with the carpet of friendly gloom and dusted off with a sprinkle of fading sun rays that lamp the way towards my house. I always take the same way back home but during this season, it always feels different and special and I take my time to become closer to nature, inhale as much of the “freshly baked” Spring leaves as I can and gather some berries on the way. The forest is vast, breathing with happiness of being finally awake after a long winter that sucked the life out of the plants. I could not help but feel the same joy.
I open the door wide and invite the house to take in the fresh forest air inside. I proceed with taking off my thin-light armour and putting it peace by peace on a thick wooden table. That pretty much concludes my day as everyday has been a routine for me.
All the knights had been placed off their duties every since the battle of crusaders came to an end and our services were put on indefinite hold. The high king found new servants to himself and since the kingdom had not been endangered for almost a year, some of us travelled into far kingdoms in search of new kings to serve for while others remained closed off from the society or blending in the local life in kingdom. Those who decided to remain isolated continued receiving their stack of gold from the king as a life-bound agreement for protecting their king and people. I can only imagine what they could be doing now but from what I gathered from others, their lives are of mere “live from one day to another”. Those are the ones that lost their “knight discipline” and are simply feeding off their livelihood deposits. The latter do the same jobs as the civilians and live peaceful lives. I, however, decided to live a disciplined life. Although I live in a place a bit afar from the kingdom, I still visit friendly town folk and interact with the newcomers (mainly those who visit Frank’s popular establishment).
I still have faith in knights and believe that there once again will be a need for us in the kingdom. This is something that only time will show but for now, I am remain confident in my past trainings and my strength routine keeps me in good spirit. Although, I do notice that my muscles crumble under the weight of the armour – Frank’s generous brew does come with side effects after all.
It had not been particularly quite during the past year, I ought to be honest. Some of the knights felt the bloodlust spirit chasing them, not mentioning the ones who could not live in peaceful times. I’d heard from Frank multiple times that some of the us (although, only rumours are being spread at Frank’s, who catches them like fat mosquitoes) attempted to start riots within the kingdom for the quench of blood and in order to resume their service to their king. Luckily, the king was smart enough to foresee that and put those riots down fairly easily – the town folk had too much passion for his deeds and they trusted him too.
Other knights attempted to “spread the fake fire” within other kingdoms in order to put our king under a threat. I am not particularly familiar as to how they tried that but their attempts were certainly in vain and kings from fellow kingdoms were able to put down the riots in the same fashion. Word of a single knight to another king bears no authority and so any threats were rapidly squished. It is unfortunate that those granted with power of a knight became reckless, bloodlusted shamans only to seek battles and death of others. The ones who could not bear the freedom that they fought for their people turned to the very East to become “death-seekers” – those are the ones who sell themselves to fight in wars that are bound to be lost.
I am still a believer that faith in the knights is yet to be restored but I have to admit it – we’re on the verge of becoming a myth and characters of fantasy books, such as the kids are so used to reading nowadays. You can see a spark in their eyes when the knights march – they want to aspire to be one one day. To be the man with principles, honour, glory and capable of protecting its people and the king. Our reputation does not allow me to come back to the kingdom and make it feel like in the old days – some either despise us (because of the reckless behaviour of my fellow knights) or see no more purpose in our existence since it’s been almost a year without a war. There still remain (quite a few) folks who remember us for our bravery and passion to do good and protect from the bad. May be, one day…
I wake up to a loud knock on my window – I must have fallen asleep while writing my diary notes. I try to make out a person out of the dark figure standing by window but cannot seem too – it feels quite early for my eyes to open wide. I stand up, tilting from side to side (with my stomach still catching up with the brew) and slowly pace towards the door. I don’t recall anyone knocking on my door for quite sometime. This can only mean that there must be someone from the kingdom with either good or bad news. I open the door wide and cover my face with the hand – the sun’s rays almost blind me. There, by the trees, I see two horses – a vassal sitting on one and a young man, looking as if he were a jester (judging by his outfit), standing by his.
“Good morning, noble one”, said the youngling, piercing my ears with his high-pitched voice. “An order from the king has come. His majesty is summoning all knights, who once swore to protect his kingdom until their final day. You’re invited to the kingdom tomorrow afternoon to reclaim your fine reputation, good deeds and pure intentions for the people of our kingdom. The task that awaits you and the rest of the knights is under no disclosure until the king speaks the word. Should you decide to decide not to visit the kingdom to hear the king’s words, your land possessions may be revoked”.
The young lad folded the scroll back and stood silently for a few moments, looking away from me and to the vassal.
“What say you, knight?” he said, his voice sounding a pitch louder now.
“It shall be my honour,” I concluded, smiling brightly at them both.

The Circle

I wake up from the bed, which appears to be made of sand. My eyes start hunting for the light – first rays of the sun are beginning to creep out off the bald hill. I then look around, surrounded by the yellow – I don’t recognise this place. Where am I?

My lips are dry and it feels as if my tongue was bitten by a snake. How long has it been since I’ve woken up? I am in the desert and I cannot see anything but sand, on which I stand barefoot. The air feels heavy – it’s almost as if I have been inhaling the air out of the plastic bag throughout the night. One breath after another and I am feeling more awake. Where do I go? 

The sun comes out and I immediately sense its rays clenching onto my back with claws. It now feels heavier to walk. I don’t remember how I even got here in the first place – I don’t know what day it is and where my home is. I feel like a blank sheet of paper, thrown into the bin full of dust. I am afraid and the scream is pushing its way towards my dry throat.

The further I walk, the more I want to turn around and walk back to the bed – I don’t know where I am going. May be I reach the edge of the earth and will have nowhere else to turn. Nothing feels real here. And this strange feeling, this stinging in the back of the neck, telling me something in a tongue I don’t comprehend. This whole picture is out of the frame.

I have been walking for days and the sun is still angrily feasting on my back. I look behind me to see whether the sun has its eyes on me and for a second I saw it blink. I swear. Like a huge lamp it is following me and the moment I turn my back on it, it swings towards my neck and almost burns it – when I face it, it rolls back to where it was. What is this place?

The sand is growing warmer and softer – I hope not to sink in it. I can see hills down my path – one after another and not a single body of water – I sense my blood turn crusty.

Having walked this long here, I have not reached anything – the lamp’s blinding and burning rays are vile and merciless. Only water here is the sand I walk on. I see myself going towards to are the hills, masking the horizon. The night never comes here – not a single star, not a single blanket of endless darkness. I am alone.

I have lost the count of everything – my head is boiling and feeling heftier. My lips are broken into pieces, back is sinking deeper into my legs, the prism of spiteful light is looking down at me with its malicious eyes. The hills are growing taller and wider, building a circle around me. This is hopeless and I cannot run away from this void…the only void I am in.

And then I stop. I stand still, slowly looking around in hope of the change of the scene.

Everything is still and suspended and my knees are anchoring me to the scratchy floor. I refuse to walk – I have given up. Nothing is holding me anymore and I give in. I give myself in to the floor, burning my feet. Slowly and steadily I start drowning. The hills are building themselves taller and greater as I am falling in. The sand is remorseless and is consuming every inch of my body – peace by peace. I can feel it sting my skin. But then I see something else emerge from the sand in front of me. A head protruding out of the thin layer of the dust – who is it? The lower I sink, the more I can see of the figure, emerging from the crust of the sweat I have left behind. Every inch of me sinking is coming out of the sand on the other side. Slowly but surely I can recognise the hair, shoulders, back… My lungs are being pressed against the sucking void and I am loosing my senses. If only I could see who this is, if only I could let out one last scream for help – may be I would be rescued. May be, if I have not given up, I would have been saved by this figure. My throat is touching the burning lips of the sand and my eyes are being buried next to the emerged body…the body I can never see again. Who is it?

I wake up from the bed, which appears to be made of sand. My eyes start hunting for the light – first rays of the sun are beginning to creep out off the bald hill. I then look around, surrounded by the yellow – I don’t recognise this place. Where am I?

Box of Heart

What is dire and crucial in this life…can this something be beyond what we fostered ourselves to believe in? The modern clock seems to have been invented only for one to end up wishing for it to become dormant.
I wake up to a scream, which seems to be coming from within myself. I attempt to recollect shattered images from my dream – I distantly remember being embraced in someone’s arms and lying gently on a side of a bed. There was crying, although I do not seem to have been upset by anything. And there was lust – horrifyingly impure. I was in the midst of something blissful and affectionate, although disturbing at the same time. But that seems to be so distant yet more real than this cup of yesterday’s moulded and cold tea, standing on the edge of the table. I always finish my tea but not this time. Something worried me so much yesterday that I forced myself to cover with blankets and fall asleep. Unfortunately, me going to bed did not follow up with a good culmination of being able to put bad thoughts at the ocean’s bed… I need to make another cuppa.
My socks touch the nailed and cold floor, shivering from the dust, and I slither towards a familiar view of the kitchen. Did I not see it in my dream? Did I worry about the over-boiling water or that I need to…yes, the fridge is empty. Probably even emptier than other things I direly care of. Oftentimes, I wish I could squeeze my head into a mash to prevent the thoughts from spinning in an endless whirlwind, keeping me distracted from everything that is around me. Oh…the water is already boiling…
Same rusty, satisfyingly bitter taste enters my throat, transporting hot liquid from one kettle to another one inside of me. Have I mentioned the occasional burn of my lower lip? My tongue gets so irritated by this. But the pride of being able to drink my tea hot overshadows these irrelevant and short bursts of stings against my body. I should stop drinking my tea on a naked stomach though – I might end up giving it for a repair and then wait days until it’s been fixed. Walking about with the temporary bag and needing to fill it with the acid can ruin your best meal, you know. It’s time-consuming and I want to enjoy my meal. Speaking of food – my fridge is not going to grow any food on its own. And so, fixing my eyes mindlessly onto the edge of the missing piece of marble in the wall, which went missing ages ago, I get to the last, most bitter sip of the tea. It tastes like heaven. I need to think of my stomach. Where did I leave it?
I sprint towards the door and then carefully open it, with the sound of cracks sliding gently into the edges of my ears. I look around to make sure no one is here and squeeze the set of keys in the fist. I go towards the box. How well preserved and unspoiled it is. The almighty metal shackles sancturing the bubble of life. So sacred to me it is. Looking around once again, I slide my keys into the box and carefully open it, not to damage the frames of the small door. The heart, everlasting and untiring muscle, is beating along with the rhythm of the clock, hanging from a cracking wall, and I see it still blush with scarlet tones and radiate the warmth. My heart.
I dare not touch this fragile sculpture of existence but I cannot avoid thinking and worrying about it being behind this frail door. What an interesting thought – we protect most sacred things to us behind thin walls. Are we careless or awaiting to let regret into our lives when we realise we’d broken it? All these thoughts aside, I am glad that our boxes are inside a big house but one never knows for sure who can enter this house and break get hold of your box to steal your heart. But my neighbours seem to be careful about this, so I can trust them, should anything happen. After all, you do not want your heart stolen either – you will be running out of breath, trying to get it back and you will sell them everything that you own to get it back. Those Trickers, who steal hearts, might end up puncturing it and leaving you heartless. You can’t even trust Pickers nowadays either, like we once did. I miss that genuine feeling of agitation to have your heart being picked up by one of them and being taken care of – this is how we used to fall in love with one another back then. Nowadays, it boils down to them Pickers owning others’ hearts as a token of superiority – something they would rather own as a thing than treasure. They mistreat it, feed upon their malevolent desire to prove they deserve attention to themselves. Everyone is afraid now. Everyone is shutting their doors, locking themselves in, hiding their hearts away only to open that huge and consuming void inside of themselves and realise that they cannot run farther four walls. I close my chest.
I cherish those moments when I could keep my heard inside of my human shell. Fear took over people’s minds and made them put something this precious outside of themselves like a jewellery, only to not feel it rot within themselves. Fear drew them out of the brutal and shortish reality into a tedious and emotionless eternity. And I am only a victim of this imprisonment.
After a while, I disassemble onto the dark prints of my floor, leaving my stare fixed at the ceiling – I am hopeless, I am careless. All the hatred put under my lip is clenching my teeth, leaving my mouth at an uncomfortable rest. I have not spoken in days and cannot think of anything to say out loud. No one else to tell anything to either – I am eagerly awaiting for the Picker to come in and take my heart; play with it, deconstruct, learn it and share the joy of its existence. All the days of wait turn into a nightmare – it feels as if I were sleepwalking. I want to feel awake. I want to be accepted, I want to end this struggle. Curtains cover me with their crimson-thick weight and I lose it all to the night.

I feel my chest burst with aroma of anxiety – I am awake. I find the same cup of tea, standing on the edge of the table. I rush towards it from the floor and stare into brown spots, left on its walls. I forgot to buy more tea. I am still hungry. Where is my stomach? I believe I checked it yesterday – it must have been empty for days now. I am not so sure it is in good of a condition, lying next to my other organs in that box. By Jove, it will be an adventure when first piece of foods hits the rock bottom of my human bag of concentrated hunger. Where are my keys?
I am looking out of the window in the search of a ray of the light but an angry cloud seems to have imprisoned the sun behind itself. It’s been like this for months and I lost the count of days, since each one of them is equivalent to this everlasting gloom. Lanterns’ lights are slowly fading out and people walking down the street begin to disappear behind the sinister fog. I lose the sight of the buildings and over time their outlines…then the horizon vanishes and the outside of the window turns pitch black. I stand alone, hearing only my own breath echoing within my mouth. It has never felt as hollow as this.
I cannot recall the last time that I spoke with my neighbours. I remember that one of them got desperate to an extent that he had his private parts sent to another town in search of love. His heart went entirely missing and he succumbed to lust without turning back and was left corrupted. Year by year, he lost all of his organs and became a broken man, only having heavy air withheld inside of him. His memory blanked, his muscles weakened, his perception became dull. Before he had lost his last human cell, he was stranded as an empty shell in humid deserts.
My stomach, my heart – I need to check back on them before they get worse by any chance. I find my keys, lying by the door and having opened the door, I rush my eyes around the corridor and find something odd – something out of place. Oh no…Oh no! No! How…how could have this happened? No!!! Leaving the door to my flat open, I run towards the boxes and see my box wide open. They took it! They have it! I flash my eyes onto the door and see it closing slowly, someone’s leg protruding from the open space between the door and the wall. The lock clicks, along with my distantly beating heart. This is it. There is no turning back. I am lost without it, I am condemned to forever living as a thoughtless vacuum of meaningless breath…no, no! I must run, I must hide, I must hold onto hope!
I storm back into the flat and shut the door behind myself. What have I done… What have I done! Now it’s forever lost and I cannot fight back – I am the glass, I am the crack. So many things to see and tell about, so much behind me and to live for. All of it has come to an end. I dive into my memories to bring them all back before I lose everything that is human of me. I can feel my body shake but I refuse to give in. I want to bring the past days back, I need my light back. So comforting and inviting. Full of warmth and bliss. The cold shakes my bones. Concentrate, focus on the thoughts – it is the last thing that I can do!
And all of a sudden the silence is broken by a loud and frightening knock on the door. Knock, knock and another knock. The louder it grows, the heavier I breathe. I hide behind the sofa, covering my head with arms. I don’t want to open the door. I know how this ends. I want to spend the last moments with myself. Knock. Knock. Knock. One after another, filling in every inch of the room with vibration. I want more time to recollect all the beauty and picture it in front of myself. Knock. Knock. Knock. I want to cleanse all the regrets and welcome the dark-blue sky and its stardust curtains once again. I seek forgiveness in this terror. Knock. Knock. Knock. I want out of the hole I trapped myself in. I have never managed to get out of it and now it’s too late to climb my way up the rope. No second chance. Knock.

The Marble Castle – Part I

The Marble Castle – Part II: here

 

So here I am again, sitting at an old, cracking table (as ancient as my hopes) in anticipation of getting yet another drink.

“Sir, another round, please!”

“Who is going to pay for it this time, my liege?”

“I shall figure something out. In the meantime, do me a favour and keep the brew tight in your wooden glasses, old Frank! You spill half of the brew on your way to my table.”

“If you kept your promises and paid on time, I would be more careful, Sir.”

Excuses, rubbish, rattling and noise is all that I hear today. Excuses upon excuses, as prudent and massive as the fletching of the winner’s arrow. I almost forget Frank’s barbaric behaviour while surrounded by itches of thick smell and presence of the others, familiar looking and behaving barbarians. The place tends to attract crowds specifically on the days when I feel like getting a fresh brew. Only I know when it is served fresh, as sneaky Frank cannot be bothered about the quality and freshness as who else would care? No one would dare even thinking of raising their voice as everyone knows that there is no better brewery in the town to find, so they simply stick with whatever Frank would put on their table. For those guests who would collect moderate amounts of “acidic liquid”, he would purposefully spill as much of it as possible before serving. They would not even notice or care and it was always a joy to the old man to see the drunks tripping over his brew once they leave the place. Some burst out laughing to the point that the walls start trembling and echoing their laughs, while the rest trip over for so long that they start believing they are cursed and come back to get some more brew from Frank to “get back to normal and be able to stand up”. Surely, Frank would glance over his brewery stand and tell the scared guests that he had just the right “potion to lift off the curse of the old witch from them”. The guests were shocked but thankful all the same. While they would sober up from the fear and gulp their “magic potion”, Frank would clean and dry the floor, so the guests would be able leave. While those tricked by him would be sobbing at their tables, the rest, tripping over and falling, would laugh to the point where they stomachs would start hurting and they would resort to crawling outside of the brewery. That made the old man laugh every single time – not that he was an evil, twisted and crooked man. He just had to entertain himself somehow as the old brewery was the only thing that was left to him from his wife. Ironically, she slipped on his brew a long while back and never stood up again, if you know what I mean. I guess that Frank also thinks back on his wife when the other barbarians fall over his alcohol and it makes his day.

“By God, Frank, I told you that I would pay!” I almost shouted when Frank approached me and spilt half of the brew onto my shiny armour. “I’ve just had it polished today – do you know how long it takes for me to take it off?”

“May be that would serve as an incentive for you to pay next time you come by.”

Frank knows how to convince people and make them pay their debts. He has all kinds of brew at his disposal and once you step into his old, spacious, dark-lit stone cave, you better know very well what alcohol to order.

Once upon a time there was a gentleman, who Frank knew owned the silver to one of his friends. The gentleman asked Frank to give him one of his best brews – this not only offended Frank (gentleman inclining that Frank mostly serves poorly made brew, which, frankly speaking, is true) but allowed him to give the gentleman anything that Frank would deem best fitting to the situation. Frank surprised him with dozens of chugs of a “special brew for special visitors”. The man was thrilled and paid Frank back well. Little did he realise what Frank put into that potion. After a couple of blissful brews and many minutes later, a thirsty guest started seeing illusions and later on, hallucinating. The only thing that was real to him was the old man, Frank. The stranger crawled to him, asking about what he put in his drink, to which Frank, proudly, said that it was the best of the brews and that the man was so weak that he could not handle it. The man, in panic, admitted that he was weak and asked for a drink that would bring him back to reality or else he would blame Frank for witchcraft. Frank opened the door of his welcoming brewery and asked him to go ahead and deliver justice upon him. What the gentleman saw behind an open door remained a mystery but Frank could see that whatever theme caught the eyes of the man, it was truly terrifying and made the guest turn pale beyond recognition. He begged the old man to shut the door and not speak ill of him to anyone. Frank obeyed and gave him a condition of paying off to one of his friends who the gentleman owed a few dozens of silver coins. The fear and desperation grew stronger within the visitor and without hesitation he threw a heavy pouch bag onto Frank’s stable. Of course, the old man took his time to close the door and tell the visitor all about how he opened the brewery with his wife that one time ago and how famous his brewery used to be and still is outside of the kingdom. The delusions grew stronger and bigger until the man curled and started foaming from his mouth, trying to bite off his tongue and pouch his eyes out. Frank was only half way through the story, collecting the remaining drinks from the table that he made for the visitor and started cleaning his place. By the time Frank had been done, the guest lay unconscious. Frank only laughed at him and spilt the remedy onto the poor man’s face that woke him up back to his senses. This is why you need to be careful with Frank and anyone who owes him or his friends. This story never left any spectators’ mouths and even the greedy gentleman himself. Since the man asked him for “any” drink, Frank could not be blamed for poisoning him. Even if the guest had brought this to Facalites, they would either not believe his story or be afraid themselves of daring to approach Frank’s brewery.

Although Frank had not tried poisoning me the same way for not being the most frequently obeying drinkers at his place, he would genuinely miss my presence at his place. There was some uncanny and special connection between the two of us. We were almost like grandson and grandfather. I also helped him out once too often that he offered me lifetime brew. However, I started having a bit too much for my own wellness and he started charging me again (hoping that I would eventually run out of bronze and stop drinking as often or may be even become a part of the brewery). The first prediction was on the verge of becoming a reality while the second is far from ever happening. I was well occupied with my sadness those days.

It was a busy night for Frank – the kingdom had celebrated its longest time of peace. It had been 25 years since the last crusade battle. Every man who wanted to celebrate and cheer Frank came to his brewery. Frank was joyful as he was finally able to empty out the old barrels of his elusive brew. He would not sell it on regular days but because every other brewery was packed to the roof, the guests had no choice. It took at least a whole keg to be able to taste the flavour of the brew but once you do, you knew that the old man was up to something and that flavour was one of a kind – you just need to be patient and prepared enough to drink that much. Once you do, you will never forget or find anything similar to that brew anywhere else in the kingdom. Frank felt very festive and cut the price per pint to half, so every kept on throwing coins at him. Literally. Frank was the happiest that I had seen him in a long time.

I, on the contrary, was far from feeling as festive as the rest of the folk. My head was occupied with nothingness and the deepest of the blues. It almost felt like I belonged to no king, no castle, no princess – nothing or anyone. It was a devastating feeling – the longer that I sat and drank brew there, the wider the hole was growing inside of me. As if I were digging my own hole and trying to get out of it at the same time. This is what it felt every time I would stop at Frank’s as I had nowhere else to go, no one to serve, no one to kneel to in my shining armour. However, the old man’s brewery was my only way to remain in touch with the world and besides all the sadness, that was touching the surface of my lonely spirit, I could feel warm and inviting atmosphere that was able to put little patches on the cracks of that lonely spirit of mine. It was one of a kind. Frank knew this and tried to cheer me up at all times. Even on my worst days, the man would always find a way to make me smile. Sometimes, I would not have a choice but to smile as he otherwise would not let me out of the brewery. That trick always worked.

The night was growing thicker and the curtains under my eyebrows were becoming heavier. The cheer within the brewery calmed down as well and I felt that it was a good time to part away from the brew and head out home. I picked my sword and looked around in search for Frank. He was chatting away to another group of newcomers and giving the good old pitch of his handcrafted brew. His introduction followed up with stories of the kingdom, the king, the crusaders, the golden age of the knights and stories of his life. It almost felt like the sun would not be willing to rise the next day just because it would rather stay down, enjoying Frank’s stories. The next day, I could tell, would be darker than any other.

Curse of the cockroach

Did you how badarse the cockroaches are? They are able to tolerate weight 900 times of their own. Their endurance to insecticide improves with every generation. They can survive for extended periods of time without their heads and can breathe through skin. Even females do not need males around in order to reproduce. May be that explains why I have been single this long.
Indestructible – very quaint and poetic way of putting it. The bloody cockroaches learn how to build immunity to poison – can you imagine that? Humans have also built immunity to a number of diseases over the course of their lifetime – but anything else? Not really. Am I saying that cockroaches are somewhere a few steps ahead of humans? You bet so. Because the cockroaches’ lifestyle is a tiny bit more complex than that of a fruit fly. There is not much for a cockroach to do anyway – eat, exist in groups of other cockroaches, sleep and not bother about mating – females can already do it on their own. But a human – way too many things to list but I’ll name a few – find a purpose in life and happiness, get friends, find a mate, settle down, pursue a career and a hobby. Add a bucket of emotions to all of that and that’s an intense mixture! So, for cockroaches getting an immunity to their already short lifestyle is enormous comparing to that of humans. Yet, everything else that humans had achieved is nothing but digital toys and gimmicks.
I love using some of those toys though – they help me lift the weight off my mind. Addicting – that is the only resembling quality of the modern gadgets and I can imagine one losing their control over them and being submitted into a box of untangled wires and suppressed emotions. Over time those boxes grow into the coffins that drag the best of our spirit into it. Flashing like a light in front of me is staircase towards the coffin – I have seen it before. I know it because I am already halfway there.
These species are granted with immortality and there can be nothing worse than realising that one is locked within that coffin. What is even worse is to be stuck with an unforgettable list of mistakes one has made in their lives.
Oftentimes humans have that nagging feeling in the back of their necks, almost stinging like a bee, of the unfortunates and they wish they could cut their heads off to live no longer but instead they find themselves being like cockroaches – living headless throughout their life, not seeking forgiveness or looking for a new head to grow.
Some get to dig deep beyond the hard carcass of their coffin in desperation of getting out from the wooden chuckles only to find themselves yet another six feet down under. Madness – this is what awaits everyone who dare to get out. But there is no way out.
I keep on scratching the hard wooden walls of my cell, hoping to scratch deep enough for the soil to bury me in…
To find peace with oneself in the solitude is a challenge. My mind is set on reflecting back on my past only (now that I am the prisoner of the past) and the chain of positive memories flashes so quickly, I only forget them, the more I try to bring them up. All of my mistakes, bad words and undelivered promises punch my head like nails.
On and on it grows like infestation and I have no more head to rip off to ignore the pain. I wish I could have done and said things differently and acted in another way but I cannot go back in time to make everything right. Showing and expressing remorse to the others is an unrecognised virtue and those you did not make it right for also wish for you to have done or said this or that differently. Even if they do not care of my past wrongdoings, I shall never know for sure. All I know is that I still care.
I cannot undo the damage I have done and knowing this, I am damaging myself and others around me even more. I cannot make new acquaintances because every time I start a conversation, my mind and words get filled with regret. Everything I say, feels like I am spitting fire out of my mouth. Anything I think of feels like it is being butchered into thousand pieces and I freeze thoughtless, staring into the emptiness, counting down the minutes till I can walk away and be with myself again. Be with my own little self encased in a giant room that exhales regret of my past.
A strange and new smell enters the place and my skin slowly soaks it in. Is that a new kind of a poison? My limbs start feeling numb and I start panicking. I do not believe that I will be able to live through that poison, so I quickly gather my notes, pencil and start looking around in hopes of a way out. I notice that the poison saturated one of the sides of the paper box and I start scratching my way through it. The number my limbs are feeling, the harder I am punching my way out. I do not know for sure where that will lead me but I am not ready to die not being able to summon the good moments of my life.
I get out and find myself in a huge open space – a human face is locked on me, frozen in fear. I do not believe that the human would like to keep a cockroach as a pet so I am waiting for a moment to run off as fast as I can and search for a new home. The stranger starts backing off, lowering the weapon. I shake the head, that I hold with my limbs, thanking him for letting me out of the box. I guess there is still so much more that I need to learn about humans after all. Thank you, stranger, for gifting me with a great memory – I shall see you soon.

The Space Visage

The ship is hovering helplessly over the string of light, being illuminated by the background of the carpet full of stars. The sun rays are innocently touching the edges of the vast sphere, melting the bright particles away – everything feels ablaze. The distance is devouring the unaging energy of the red giant’s palms – I am drifting away deeper and deeper into the singularity of darkness. The image is becoming yet more vivid as my eyes begin to widen in amazement – this may be last sunlight I am ever going to see over this melting sphere… of what once used to be the Earth from this viewpoint… from the viewpoint in the space.
I am millions of kilometers away from the Earth, or rather what I last remembered it to be – the everlasting marble, floating casually in one of the smallest pockets of the universe. The sight of it, out of the porthole, is still as breathtaking as it was when I first stepped on the shuttle and this sight never lost its grasp from the back of my head. Who knew that this view would become a legend. Something that took billions of years to evolve into what now can only be seen on pages of encyclopedia…
The planet is non-existent any longer – luckily or not, I was the only one, who survived on the ship (not counting the robots, some of which I had already assigned names to). When the news hit the radio stations a year ago, all members of the crew left back to the Earth to be next to their families and help others assemble pronto carriers. The situation was dire and soon turned into a catastrophe – way too abruptly…while I remained here, stuck between galactic dimensions – hopeless, helpless and desperate. Seeing something you know has existed for billions of years, being wiped off like cream from a cake, is beyond comprehension. In front of my eyes – it is terrifying. Ironically, it made me even feel less realistic about being here in the space as I was “detached” from the earth forever – the idea of a horror dream!
To add to the irony (I guess I am the only bearer of the irony now), I had nowhere else to go or hide – I felt truly naked, along with all the other stars around me. The perception of the reality and time, which I was so accustomed to, was no longer existent for me. Getting away from it [reality], was something I was striving for and battling in my mind with by creating my own little world inside of another. The reality then felt sometimes so alien to me. Now, after all this time spent here, lingering around the ship, I am not sure if I want to redeem the reality I was trying to escape from on Earth. Without a ground under my feet, I feel lost.
I can clearly recall faces I have not seen in years. I still remember their voices, smiles, aspirations and even the way they walked. I don’t remember a single picture I have taken with them but I can imagine them, standing right in front of me as I speak – who would have thought my eyes would be a better photographer than my camera? My lover, my friends, my parents – I shall hold onto the memory of you until my last breath and keep you inside of that reality I had left on the planet Earth.
It feels extremely bizarre to be the last human being in this endless universe – on a side note, I can now feel special, whether I truly am or not – I have no choice, ha! Lenny and Emma (the robots decided on their gender themselves – without my approval!) remind me of that every day. I am still in the progress of “humanizing” other wireless creatures on the ship. I have recently started teaching Lenny emotions and how to understand, when I feel like drinking tea (so he can start preparing it for me, without me asking). Emma, along with other robots, has learned how to say awesome and tells me that whenever I finish doing something, I have been working on. A pat on the shoulder in addition to that would be even more awesome.
I have already passed Mars and am heading towards Saturn – the planet most similar to my home – Earth. I cannot wait to see its rings for the first time. I have quite enough provisions and plenty of oxygen left. I am not even sure whether there is any point in leaving anything behind in the ship – I am the only man left in the universe after all. Another thing for sure – I won’t miss the Earth’s horizon. The universe’s stretching visage is overwhelmingly charming and its mystery is thrilling me to the bones… On a sad note, this is going to be my last recording. I have run out of digital memory and don’t even have a single pencil to note anything down. Nevertheless, there is no one, who can hear my voice out here, so what’s the point? Even if (and that’s a big “if”) someone manages to get hold of this recording – I won’t know it. I genuinely hope that I won’t lose my mind on this long journey though…
I keep on cruising through the eternal darkness inside this vast space coat. I will never see the light and feel the way it shone behind the creamy clouds, giving me that unconditional and pleasant warmth. Never will I hear the rain drops, humming gently onto my umbrella and exploding into the sonnet. Never will I hear the laughter of children, echoing in my ears. Not a single soul will ever hear my voice, disappearing into the distance. Although, I keep finding myself contemplating – which thought is more terrifying: the fact that I may be alone in this infinite universe or not?