found myself in a wet, dark, chill, lonely street. The clouds above growled in anger dropping cold perspiration down on us.
“That was a narrow one, isn’t it?” a heard a familiar voice. I turned around and saw the little murmuring man that I had seen earlier. He now had a pleasant face and his hair was groomed well backwards.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“My name is Seer,” he replied. “They also call me Prophet. I’ve stayed behind to only let you know that it will not be long any hence. Your liberation draws closer. I’ve only come to prepare the way. When the One is come, then you shall see the light.”
“What shall I do now?” I asked.
“Keep walking. Keep moving until the coming of the One and the Great Battle of the Day!” he said.
“How long… how long shall I have to wait?” I asked, but at that moment he zoomed out of sight like a TV tube switching off, without waiting to hear, leaving behind a deep and hollow darkness.
I looked right and saw a dim light at a distance. I began walking in its direction. Now, as I walked I felt that I was being followed by someone behind. So, I turned back, but I found no one. So, I strolled on. But, the sense of being followed grew greater; so, I stopped again and turned behind staring into the dark, hoping to catch some form. But, I found none.
“What’s wrong?” Inno gently asked.
“Nothing,” I replied.
“Then why do you stop?”
“I thought there might be something behind us.”
“I can hear some sound… tap.. tap.”
“Yes, let’s go,” I replied and walked hurriedly towards the dim light ahead. But, the faster I moved, the faster did the sounds of the tapping and the footsteps increase from behind. We reached the end of the alley, crossed the road and stood there waiting for the next.
A decent looking man wearing dark glasses emerged out of the darkness. He looked harmless, yet aggressive at the same time. He walked with a lifted head, his chest thrust forward, and held a walking stick in his hand, which I surmised to be the source of the tapping sound. He walked groping for the ground; by which I discerned that he must be blind. He held an umbrella open in his other hand, which did slow his motion.
He crossed the road and came to where we were.
“Who is he?” Inno asked.
“Oh, so there’s really someone there?” he remarked. “A sweet little one, I presume. And who is your friend there?”
“I’m her uncle, Sir… just two of us here. It does seem to be a rather very lonely road,” I answered.
“Yes, it is. All the citizens were summoned to the Gula’s Banquet, you know. She has arranged a magnificent treat for her subjects; so, they have all herded to stomach as much as they can… By the way, if you haven’t got an umbrella, please do come under mine.”
“Thanks,” I replied as we slipped under it, “Are you on way to there?”
“Yes. I just stayed back because I didn’t want anybody to feel I was dependent. Once I knew they were all gone, I started on.”
“Do you think you’d find the way?”
“No problem. My brother, Sensus will soon be here to pick me in his car. We have a program there together anyway.” He smiled. Then, turning half-way towards me, he continued, “I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Imagination or Imagino in short, and I’m a magician by profession here. The people of this district are horribly given to surfeiting; so, I recently came up with a magical invention that would cure their surfeiting by means of magical surfing. A pouch of this powder added to any dainty brings all the power of it to sublime effect; for, what kind of experience is there more magical than that of devouring, for certainly in it is the entirety of experience realized…. Ah! A man would give up any pleasure for the pleasure of the perfect bite…., the smell of sourness that makes your tongue run its water down; the sight of the hot sweet that makes you forgetful of all promises ever; the touch of delicacy with the finger, the lips, the tongue; the insatiable taste of every serve; the sound of the gulp, bite, and the crunch… Truly, eating makes the perfect man! ” I wondered that a blind man could speak like that. But, then I remembered that in the world where I had come there were some blind men who had been the best poets indeed.
As he was speaking, a car arrived and the driver, whom I instantly could recognize as his brother, called out with a large brimming smile, “Bellies for berries and berries for bellies, Imagino… Is there anything else worthwhile?”
“Chilies for cherries and cherries for chilies, Sensus… That will make it quite worthwhile,” Imagino shouted back and they laughed together. Then, Imagino turned to me, “My brother Sensus prepares a special drink which he calls Black Berry Beer.When I add my magical powder called Chilled Chilly Cheer to it, it suddenly bursts into colors, which though I can’t see, I quite visibly know, for my vision has greater power than those who aren’t blind. You should see it when it happens. Drink that and the rest is ecstasy.”
“What kind of ecstasy? Do you know that?”
“Well,” Sensus interrupted, “It helps one see things with closed eyes, you know.”
“You mean just like in a dream?” I asked.
“What is that?” Sensus asked back, a bit puzzled.
“I mean they can see, eat, drink and enjoy things that aren’t really out there,” I mumbled.
“Well, how do you know they aren’t really out there when you really enjoy them,” Imagino countered.
“And, how do you know what you’re enjoying now is more real than what you enjoy then,” Sensus asked.
“You spend money for what you eat now; but, you perhaps don’t for the other,” I answered.
“That’s it! That’s it!” Sensus burst into laughter, growing red and pointing his finger at me. Then, he chuckled and added, “So, that’s what you call a dream, ha! But, well you do have to spend you know, for they get to eat all those things in their “dream” because they pay us for having it earlier, you see,” he raised his brow in a you-see-how-intelligent-I-am way, “It’s like pay before you eat; and we profit thereby!” He laughed again. He certainly seemed to have a remarkable sense of fun. I wondered what it meant to have a dream within a dream. So, they sell dreams, I thought.
“Are you coming with us?” Sensus asked.
“Yes, aren’t you coming with us?” Imagino joined in.
“No,” I replied, “We are in a hurry to meet someone.” I certainly wished to stay away from any more dreamy entanglements.
“Oh, you shouldn’t miss our first shot…” Imagino sighed; then, handing over the umbrella into my hands, he said, “Okay, keep this one. You’ll need this. May be, I’ll get it back from you later on…” he said, “if we meet!” He got into the car and they grunted off leaving a smoky trail behind.
The heavens above roared and burned aflame. I had forgotten that I once knew the starry sky. This City had none. There was a sparkling train of flashing lightning and a loud peal of crackling thunder. Inno clutched me hard, as I pinned myself against the wall. A blue-white spark of fire fell right in front of us, but was absorbed immediately by the lamp pole nearby. The lamp burst and fell to the ground. A dim light flickered from a cleaving between the stones in the lower side of the wall. I bent down and touched the part and was amazed to find that the whole block of stones felt as if it could be moved. I tapped the place with the umbrella and heard a hollow resound. I put Inno down and tried to remove the block. It shook a bit and then was off. A dim light lit the room inside. It seemed that this was a room without a door, walled over, with only the camouflage of a stone tiled plank as the way in and out.
Suddenly, from the other side of the road I heard the sound of someone running. There were some men shouting aloud, “That way! That way!” and I heard hasty footsteps rushing towards us. It suddenly hit me that I was probably spotted by them. Quickly, I placed Inno in and entered the room; then, turning over, I drew the tile and shut it hard. I didn’t want the light inside to spill of the gaps gathering suspicion in the dark; so, I turned off the lamp. Just then, in a thud, the tile pulled out and something crawled in pulling the tile on again in the swiftest agility. Hurried steps followed and stood out. “She was just here!” one man shouted. “Disappeared in the dark!” another cried. “Divide the search!” one called. They divided and we heard the footsteps fade away.
“Stay where you are and move not an inch!” the voice of a lady commanded us. I held Inno tightly. An orange rod glowed slowly in her hands softly lighting the room. “Don’t move,” she repeated as she crossed over and switched on the light. The room had one chair, one table, and one bed. The lady we had just now encountered looked young and strong. Her face bore the marks of intense thoughtfulness. She removed her coat and , as she hung it on the back of the chair, I noticed that she wore a blue checkered shirt and a pair of navy blue trousers. She gave a quick glance at us, then sat on the chair. The room evidently belonged to her.
“What are you both doing here?” she asked, with an air of indifference.
“We got caught in the rain and, seeing the tile pull off and the light burn, we crept in to save our heads.”
“I see,” she noted. There was disbelief and apathy in her tone. “That was quick,” she said, “and, you already even seemed to have found some friends here. Isn’t friendliness quite incredible when showed by the blind?”
I was shocked. How did she know that I had met Imagino? Did she also know anything more? She seemed to have noticed my consternation and answered it, “The umbrella… it is not something that is usually stolen; of course, it was lent and lent by the blind Imagino, for it belongs to him. Also, you haven’t been quite drenched; so, you’ve not been long in the rain. Apart from that, I am intrigued that had to turn the lamp off.” She looked piercingly in my eyes.
“It.. it,” I was trying to reply something yet unknown when Inno interrupted: “We’re looking for my Mommy and Daddy,” she said. Some people had been trying to hurt us, so we must hide. Do you know where they are? Can you help us?”
The lady’s eyes turned to her and now I saw her face grow soft. “Come here child,” she said in a gentle voice. Inno ran towards her. “So, you’re the two escapees,” she remarked at me, though looking at Inno and smoothing her hair.
“Yes,” I mumbled hesitatingly.
“I am Sophia, the sister of Imagino and Sensus,” she said, “and, I am an outcaste of this City. Hamartia tried to use me at first to develop schemes of words against the One. She even got Imagino and Sensus fully on her side. Imagino is now her Chief Magical Advisor and Sensus is the Palatial Pleasure Advisor of Sarx. However, when I found that what Hamartia required was something against my very self – I couldn’t do it without contradicting myself – I refused. So, she commissioned Adikia, the Commander of the Armies of Injustice, to imprison me in the Dark Island inside Superbia. Adikia was on way to arrest me, when I managed to get away from Superbia and hide here in Gula. I am one of the enemies of the State.”
“Her mother’s name is Piety, and her father’s name is Faith,” I explained about Inno.
Sophia gave a startled look. Then, looking again at Inno, she said, “I saw them when they were brought to trial. It was a mockery. There is nothing called a trial here; it is just a one-sided game. The aim is annihilation.” She knew that Inno wouldn’t understand the terms.
“Where do we find them now?” I asked.
But, she had stood up, and placing Inno down, rushed towards me, snatched the umbrella off my hands and opened it. It was quickly examined, then placed on the table. She pulled her coat on; then, motioning us to be silent made signs for us to move out. “You must be tired; take some rest!” she said. She killed the lamp and we were out on the pavement, right across the road, and dashing off. From a distance, we heard the grunts of vehicles. We stopped and looked. They were on the spot of the room we had just left. A little examination by the agents and soon the tile was ripped and officers were inside.
“Friendliness is not always the signature of a friend,” Sophia quipped as we rushed on and off the scene. The umbrella was a trap.
We hadn’t moved more than a few meters ahead when we realized that the trap was an insidiously well managed one. The headlights of two trucks and six motorbikes suddenly appeared from a turn ahead. They were closing in at a rapid pace. We looked back and saw that the road had been blocked by the officers. I was looking at the angry sky and wondering. Suddenly, there was a clanking sound and I was pulled down along with Inno.