COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES BY KSENIJA PREMUR
MOSAIC

CONTENTS

Points of View

Paradox

The River

Chinese Butterfly

Dreams from a Chinese Picture Book

A Boy and His Dream

A Boy and a Garden

A Boy and a Lion

 

POINTS OF VIEW

 

It all started on the 15th day of the month of May. The alarm clock, though duly wound the previous evening – just as always, anyway – to seven in the morning, did not go off.  It simply did not utter a single sound, there was no sharp, piercing, mind-blowing whistle which starts as a warning, rises to a threat and then pricks straight through the sinuses, all the way to medullae cerebralis, a sound nobody can stand up to, disregard or ignore, and keep oneself immersed in sweet, morning dreams. Or nightmares, for that matter. He was used to the sound of his old alarm clock, which had never failed him before and had been his faithful and devoted, reliable companion for many years. But that particular morning of 15 May, it simply did not go off. It failed to obey the winding of the previous evening, overlooked the red hand, clearly and undoubtedly pointing to a chosen hour, maybe even a few minutes earlier, it decided not to go off at the time its master and owner had marked, and it simply – did not go off. Its sound, so incredibly unpleasant at first, so sharp and piercing at an early hour, was, however, not so hateful to its master. He got used to it and he almost seemed to have taken it as the noon bells of the Upper Town churches, or mewing in his neighbour’s garden, or screeching of brakes, or that monotonous hum of the city after it wakes up early in the morning and gets going into its round-the-clock raid over the lives of the inhabitants. Anyway, the ringing sound of the clock a few minutes to seven, every morning, was an integral part of his quotidian life, something one gets used to and no longer notices, yet it remains immensely important. Because it is an unfailing part of life, because it is a sine qua non. Because something would remain empty and unfulfilled, the boredom of common days, of early morning and late evening hours would be broken to pieces, something would be missing, something would not be there, or rather, nothing would be where it is supposed to be, and consequently the world order would be disrupted in its tiny, hardly discernable fraction, yet incredibly influential for the integrity of the whole. It means absence, and any absence causes impairment in the worldly throbbing of all things, in the natural pulse of interchange of days and nights, of  long and short moments, of petty and insignificant, and important, essential and inevitable things, comprising the wholeness of everything, the existence of the existing, the calmness of the calm and the movements of the movable.

 But despite everything he later started sedately thinking about, the alarm clock simply did not go off, the way it had all those years before, and that was an irrefutably established fact. There was no point in doubting or questioning it. He did, however, despite the failure, wake up on time, and got up just as he did every morning a few minutes to seven. But this disturbance in the flow of things remained in his consciousness as a stumbling block, as a cramp in his stomach, a thorn in his side, a thought ceaselessly asserting itself, a thought which could not stop bugging him. Why, after all those years of keen, diligent ringing, did the alarm clock not go off, why today, why on this 15 May? Has it broken down? Something might have gone wrong in this delicate clockwork, a ratchet-wheel might have slipped out of its place, that short and fragile pendant hanging in the tear-shaped iron bell might have failed to react promptly when the crawling minute hand reached the marked place on the clock dial, and became one with the other red hand pointing to the hour when it should have gone off? A tiny particle of dust might have crawled right between the minute hand and the red hand and thus prevented it from nudging the fine clockwork alarm. It might have bent with age, which hindered the mechanism, and it did not send the impulse to the pendant in the tear-shaped iron cap. And therefore the mechanism itself did not wake up and there was no familiar, sharp sound... or, his faithful clock have been prevented from its usual ringing by Heaven or by God himself! The hell with this guessing game, the clock must be taken to the clock maker! He cannot part from it out of the blue, not without any advice from a clockwork expert on the condition of his loyal morning, or sometimes even afternoon, friend. To throw it thoughtlessly away, to deprive himself for good of the clock would be utterly cruel and he could never forgive himself the deed. Therefore, the first thing to do after he comes back from work is to have it mended. And that is final! There is nothing to argue about!

However, that was not the only extraordinary thing which occurred on the morning of 15 May. After waking up he found out it had happened as a result of pure habit, and not to the familiar sound, and after brooding over it a thousand times, he wanted to get out of bed, just as he did every other morning, put on his slippers and walk to the kitchen to prepare his well-balanced breakfast and have his two cups of coffee. Just as usual, just as any other morning. Selfasserting, well-trained movements he had never changed in many years were about to take him to his diet, low-cholesterol and sugar-free lean morning meal, followed by getting dressed, in a usual and never changed order. First he would put on his grey suit, adjust his dark tie and set down the street to the tram stop, where he would wait for a 14 tram, and, right on time, he would reach his office. Just as he had been doing for previous twenty years. Saturdays and Sundays, and particularly holidays, had a bit different routine, but they did not essentially differ form any other workday. Of course, he did not go to work on those days, but his routine was precisely outlined – staying in bed until a little later, then breakfast and two cups of coffee, no sugar but with sweetener, morning papers he would buy at a nearby news stand, going to the open market, preparing lunch and then his afternoon nap. And he would be awaken by the familiar sound of his alarm clock. Again that alarm clock! He thought of it again, as though haunted, and finally decided some strange winds were beginning to spring up in his life, defying his wishes and efforts. This utterly unpleasant thought, a funny presentiment, a twitch in his guts hinted the unpredicted course of acts about to unravel before his own eyes.

To his immense surprise, just after he managed to dismiss the chaos in his mind, he propped against the side of his bed, reached for his good, old slippers and failed to find them in their usual place! We must say here that he handled things absolutely carefully, as a precision mechanic does pieces of a complex mechanism, in need of regular dusting and oiling and lubricating and thousands of other things in order to keep it working accurately and effectively. Not knowing why, perhaps not even being aware of it at all, he arranged his life carefully and neatly and it seemed like some sort of rite he tirelessly and ceaselessly repeated day in, day out, month in, month out, year in, year out, as though the whole cosmic order depended on it, the whole human and world destiny, regular change of days and nights in regular cycles of our Mother Nature. Naturally he did not think of it in those terms, but everything indicated, pointed to and hinted in exactly that direction, directly to this rite that was not allowed to be disturbed, not in its tiniest detail, not in the slightest part, not for a single moment. And now, after the whole alarm clock situation, the trouble with his slippers! That was too much, all right!

For a moment he felt as though he had lost his footing, as though he had tripped and was now balancing on the edge of a deep abyss. For a second he was aghast and stared at an empty space where there should have been, just as always, just as it had been properly regulated, his slippers, the space he had been leaving them at for many years before. And then he, completely focused, carefully and very slowly slipped his hand to the empty space, as though he was trying to make sure his slippers had not magically turned up in their, and their own only, place. But, no, there were no slippers. He paused for a moment and thought. Then he reached under the bed. And indeed, he felt soft textile under the tip of his fingers, worn out with age, for he never changed things he was used to, nor did he indulge his whims or any fashion follies, and he felt very supple texture, and though frayed and ragged, it touched softer than a fluffy bunny tail. At first he thought Heaven and God’s providence saved him from imminent disaster, and he grabbed them firmly and pulled them hard from under the bed.

That was, however, a cursed day, that fifteenth day in May, and then everything conspired against him. Instead everything being over now, this most unfortunate business with his alarm clock not going off, his slipper tore lengthwise against the sharp edge of his bed, with a soft sound. Now he was holding two pieces of something which used to be his very own slipper, made of soft textile and of faded colours. Feeling as though the skies crumbled onto him, he sank feebly into his bed again. The strain he was to, throughout this fatal morning, was too much for him. His thoughts did not chaotically swirl in his mind, but quite the opposite. There was a complete void in his head.

He looked round, saw his pretty small room where everything reeked of utter tranquillity and perfect indifference of usual, quotidian monotony and greyness. Then he looked at the painting on the wall, a chipped cup, his neatly put away shoes… yes, his shoes! The shoes he was supposed to put on were lying near the wall, one next to the other, with their cut-off tips and wrinkled, worn out leather. They were shabby and broken in, but… WHO WOULD PUT THEM ON NOW?

What a silly question, he thought to himself, he himself, their owner and the cause of their shabbiness, would put them on as usual, as he did any other day, as he did every morning, just as he would take them off after he comes home after work. Yet, for some inexplicable reason there was no Himself to put on the shoes, as was the case any other day, as was his usual routine… There was no his Himself! Now he was certain he knew what was so wrong about this morning, as he felt coldness creeping up his spine, winding around his neck. Then the horror started rolling down to bottom of his stomach, like a heavy stone or indigestible tasteless dinner, then it shrivelled and tied in a knot, and then unstoppably went back to his throat. There it coiled up into clot of phlegm, at first only the size of a walnut, then it started to grow to the size of an apple and stopped, stuck in his throat. A walnut became an apple and the powerful, unexpected cold horror made its way to his head, to its very top, and his chaotic thoughts, undistinguishable and indiscernible, started their frenzied dance. He could not single out the thought that was pursuing his indifferent and completely numbed reconciliation with himself. His usual thoughts, timely coming one after another, just like trains that are never late, which can happen only in our own minds and nowhere else, were simply missing. There was no clear and orderly set of thoughts to come to life with the sound of his alarm clock when establishing the time on his ever slow clock, yet perfectly accurate for him, then no moving to the shoes expecting to be put on, and no going to a tram stop to catch a tram and maybe even find an empty seat, maybe avoid the crowd. None of that can happen anywhere else except in our hopes and minds, of course, but all orderly scheduled trains, running down his mental rails, along with familiar images alternating in the same, though ever shabbier frames – well, all that was gone! The emerging void, whose inner life of emptiness creeping round his head he could clearly and unmistakably sense, just as he felt its uniting with his neck and welding with the rest of his body, was absolutely deprived of any thoughts! Or, though not very different, however, immensely more terrifying, it was deprived of the THINKER! He simply sensed his own non-existence, his being evicted into the void, being immersed into nothingness, being united with emptiness.

“This is impossible” was not what he thought but sensed, almost as an instinctive defensive system of his body, almost like the original fear of falling, of vanishing  or dying, of the arrival of ticket inspector on the train of his own existence after finding out he did not have a valid ticket in the form of his clear and unstrained thoughts. Should he got caught, he would most likely be banished for life from the train, and that equals dying, or being killed at the very rails by lying his head against the rusty steel of  journeys he knew well, or dying a terrible death after the swelling void made him throw up his innards and smashing his frontal bone, breaking up his back. “This is impossible”, again there came a cry from the depths of his body, another cry not originating in his throat, but only stopping there and growing into an even more frightful cry, like an inextricable knot nestling in horrifying depths of his throat, and then suddenly exploding and roaring down his spine and then anchoring in his legs. He could not tell if they were capable of carrying his weight. “Paralysis”, his legs sent a message to his head. He managed to overhear this whirling whisper coming from his own immovable, panic-stricken legs, settled under the table. They were crossed but dull. “Impossible”, screamed back his head and to the swift movement of its baton, the legs moved. His legs did move as usual, with appropriate obedience and utter moderation, not touching the table and making an uneven arch, their movements resembling train wheels. First a short movement upwards, then a hard fall downwards. He made the same thing again, but backwards, and his leg dutifully made an elliptic movement, starting from the floor and ending at the level of his other leg’s knee. The other leg followed the suit, too, although the movement was awkward and ill-shaped, but it had always been the case with his left leg. Then he stretched his legs, bent and flexed and… everything was the same as usual except for the lack of thoughts.

“Good”, he heard a sigh of his own head, as though coming down a steep slope, from above his head where the utterance crouched and trembled, in its full absurdity, somewhere in a hidden corner and whose abode he could not figure out. He could not reach for it and become one with it again, could not catch his dusty thought in a safe net, pointlessly dipped in a sea as it only upset the fish that panic-stricken crashed into each other. And he certainly felt like that - as though his thoughts had been caught in the net and pulled aground and, left with no water, frantically kicked around. They could not fight choking which turned their bright bellies upwards, towards the sky, and then they suddenly hit the cold bottom of the rocking boat, the salty dampness, as it is also called, as it is the other face – actually, this is really his alter ego, HIS OTHER SELF!

The void at the bottom of his head suddenly stirred, like a huge cloud of dust, turned into a devouring beast or a huge splash of water, like ones caused by roaring lorries while hurrying down flooded streets. The void then extended and got calm again, as though certain nothing would expel it from the shelter in his emptied head where it had settled down comfortably. The void must have been dwelling in his own home for a long time, it must have been crouching somewhere, hiding behind the wardrobe, in the broken cup handle, between the clock hands, under the shoes, on the door mat, or anywhere else in his own place. And he, not even noticing it, passed it every day, brushed it with his net of thoughts, wiped his shoes on the mat, wound his alarm clock and then it suddenly came to life. It must have watched him secretly, stalked him and spied on him and examined and studied him closely, learned his habits, waited for him when he would return home from work, saw him off when he would leave for work the following morning, knew all his flaws, along with him tried to work out the secret blots of humidity on his neighbour’s house, in the mornings it had coffee with him, as well as dinners in the evenings. And there, that morning it decided to settle down in his head, to chase away his dear and constant thoughts and find a sanctuary in his skull. It must have been like that for it cannot have happened in any other way.

The void was his alter ego, his other self, he was certain of that now when he feebly tried to move his legs and arms and neck and his whole body once again. “Good”, he heard a whisper coming from an unknown spot in his innards, “it has not disabled the body, it seems to need the flesh.” The arm whispered to itself, the legs sighed with relief, the spine bent with a squeaky sound of an unknown wooden substance. His toes shuffled like a velvety echo of fake silk, a kind of hoarsely and tightly within the restricting space of his slipper. His shoes, his dear, shabby black shoes, seemed the only objects being independent of his body, with their own existence and being convincingly detached form his body, showed a kind of sympathy, as though trying to respond to the shuffling, squeaking, whispering and sighing of his own body. This cannot be real, this cannot be true, but what does a man deprived of his thoughts know? What can he believe after he had lost himself and sunk into his own self-deprivation? The most prudent thing to do, with this uninvited tenant in his head, was to comply with everything, to accept every form of reality emerging from the void or the form as seen by the void. Or perhaps this was not the void, his own things he had been cohabiting for as long as with the void may be trying to save him, release him from the void and give him back his thoughts? Should this be true, let us accept any unusual forms of this reality, unexpectedly opening up to him. He had no other choice, he had no other escape.

His shoes started winking, tapping their worn out heels, clapping against their distorted and frayed soles and slightly grin in half-ridiculing, half-decisive swaying of his shoestrings, to the left and to the right, and then again, to the left and to the right. They were pointing to the corner of the room, and then, with conspiring look, glanced at him, as though hoping he would get their hint. Something in his bowls, something sweet and warm, began to pour out and move him in the same direction his shoes were pointing to. His feet stepped into the darkness of the hidden corner. There lay a forgotten pedestal, with a head of a woman who looked at her best when turned sideways, and while he was watching into her empty, sculptured eyes, she was giving an impression of a person who had met death a long time before and cared for nothing anymore. The head was a cast in plaster, a copy of an ancient sculpture in stone, and he had been given it by a friend whose passion, vocation, entertainment and everything a person needs to survive, was ransacking graves. The head was positioned sideways, as this was the only way to keep it tolerable in its luscious attraction, which had no beauty left, only what a person, when pressured, could have imagined as beautiful. When looking at everything more carefully, there was only a non-existence, a waste, a kind of disorientation at sea of time, in storm of agitated oblivion. Dug out of a grave, she was supposed to embody the diseased, truthful reality, yet everything smelt of deadly emptiness and distant echo of living flesh. That was exactly what made this statue horrifying, the thought of flesh turned into dust, flesh in need of  a substitute made of stone to cherish the memory of beauty, grace and un-dead. “Un-dead, my other self, my other self”, echoed in his emptied head, like a found key he had forgotten to take with him, and, while reaching into his pockets and finding nothing, he remembered a copy he must have made and misplaced. “A copy, a copy”, he felt an echo in his innards, he felt his legs moving, his arms rising in some thorough key-hunt, a hunt for a forgotten copy, laid aside for rainy days. That salvaging effusion of his innards into itself, as though it had turned upside down and started penetrating into its own bottom. Everything turned upside down, stood on its head, twisted its bottom and reached the surface and stopped there as though looking for a new movement to find the missing copy. “The copy, the copy must be found”, echoed. His real Self was scattered all over the floor, resembling a pile of useless and thrown away things. He was peeling his way through the shell of his un-necessity and his own dispensability, just like peeling off onion shells, one by one, and then throwing them on the floor.  Everything stirred and moved in the cramping efforts of peeling off, rejecting, layer by layer, string by string, set by set, everything was being rejected as junk we eventually have to dispose of and pile it in front of our homes for dustmen to take it to the town rubbish heap. He must not forget anything, just take things easy and slowly, step by step, old habits, cigarette butts in an ashtray, old letters, his stamp book, dust on the furniture, blots on sloping roofs and walls of the house opposite he had been gazing at for years, like a part of a ritual, every morning, and then finding them unchanged every evening, there, a sleeper after sleeper, a bitten thumb nail, then a small finger, just a little bit more and there came dullness and uniformity, there came a day after another day, and every year looked just like the previous one, each indistinguishable from another, just a bit more, a layer after a layer, and the discovery of another self was about to be over.

The void in his head started grumbling, twisting, wiggling, protesting against this unfair act of self-eviction from the mind which righteously belonged to it, mind where it could settle down, with every and unquestionable right, as a sole owner, the mind not capable of  running off its rails, not even existing as an independent owner of itself, but it seemed it had always been waiting for the void to settle in there and take control. What an idea! To create own copy and evict the void, out of his own devoured self! The void resented, penetrated its fingers deeper and deeper, stuck its tongue into his innards, darted it like a real serpent, pierced through the last layers of the shell, wiggled as to a fakir’s call, whipped its devilish tail, turned into a dragon, and then fluttered aloft like a dove, transformed into most appealing plump Madonnas, and started transforming until they became housewives. The void bleated like a sheep, howled like a real coyote, put on its carnival gown, transformed into TV and public celebrities, emanated enchantingly from the catwalks and from tooth paste commercials with its pearl white teeth we shall never have, what a vain effort! Everything was vain. The copy broke its way through the pile of rubbish, lying around, while the void howled like a siren, called for an emergency, sighed like a broken tap and leaked in a monotonous noise of drops hitting the sink, smelt of seductive scent of aftershave, tied into a knot on a recently bought tie, brushed itself as though it had been the only evening dress, imitated the childhood sounds, stirred memories of those few important moments at the life crossroads, then threatened with nightmares and sweating forehead. It generally transformed into any living and dead forms, decayed like a corpse, gave a smell of the youth wandering through city parks, dripped on the autumn leaves in park after the last goodbye, cried for absolution, sighed between flows of tears, but – nothing helped. The other self crawled from all corners of the mind, in all empty spaces, in impersonality and amorphousness, gushed outwards and inwards, bent like a kite’s tail in spring flying above meadows, drawing a colourful circle with its elaborate design. The copy was there, born like the poor creature immortalized in stone, after she had become dust.

He comfortably stretched , looked through the window and at the gutters of the next house and noticed disarrayed, shapeless blots of humidity, dilapidated walls of block of flats, just like his own. He stretched his legs, rubbed his hands and for a while closed his eyes. Then he wound his alarm clock to the proper time, correcting its running behind and somehow he was certain from now on it was going to be punctual. Yes, he was certain about that.

The only thing that stirred quite a lot of  interest of by-passers and neighbours that morning was an amorphous heap of rubbish, of undistinguishable composition, colours and form that was, in all its monstrosity, scattered outside the front door of the building. They wondered who was the owner of that immensely obnoxious and reeking leftovers that were lying about, standing in everybody’s way.

 

PARADOX

 

Crawling hands of a big, ancient clock on the wall glided around the brass dial, as though making a vicious circle nobody can break through, nobody can escape from, always circling along the same orbit and ending where it had begun, doing that all over again, ceaselessly. There is no beginning and no ending to this zealous, yet regular and precise slow orbiting of the hands. Ana had a look at this fatal device, as though it had been invented only to spite her, as though it had been designed to take her to the same beginning and to slip into her life at the same ending of the story, wrapping and unwrapping around the same dial showing one to twelve, and then back to one, and then again round and round, with no beginning and no ending, yet with clearly indicating arrows, orbiting, crawling, though sometimes unstoppably rushing down the round path rimmed with a row of figures, one to twelve, and then again from one. And now, when Ana glanced at this fatal device showing the elapsing of seconds, minutes and hours, it was already past two in the morning. Regardless the fact Ana was not asleep like the rest of town outside her closed windows and pulled-down blinds, regardless a petty, insignificant fact that Ana had been awake and counting seconds, and minutes, and hours for already two weeks, every single night while the hands, completely oblivious and indifferent to the time of a day, crawled and crept and toiled round their usual way and would not change it even if Ana begged, not even she knelt right now at the foot of her bed and prayed for hands to stop for a while, or to reject their routine and change their direction, to the left or right, forwards or backwards, never mind how, but just to prevent it from incessantly repeating the same route all over again, just to make it stop circling and crawling along the same path. But no good would come of it. The mechanism of the big wooden clock hanging above Ana’s bed, which she had inherited from her grandma, was incredibly accurate, even more surprisingly for such an old clock. It had never been slow or fast, it was zealously and reliably, just as it had when it belonged to her grandma and mum, so for the whole three generations, showing time precisely with resounding tick-tacking and low-pitched chiming, once at half past, and as many times as every hour requires.

Ana listened to the resounding tick-tacking in the dark night and it seemed that ticking, and then deep chime every half an hour echoes throughout her flat, throughout the whole sleeping building with its dreamers, the whole town sunken into a deep and peaceful sleep, and then even further and higher, into the skies, into faraway places. The whole universe seemed to have filled with an echo of the chime and relentless tick-tacking of  time flying, of the time elapsed and days gone by, turning into weeks and months and years, and they had all been captured in the crawling circling of the hands on her clock.

Ana has been having problems sleeping for almost a fortnight. Nights have been really long! It is unthinkable, at least for those whose dreams are filled with ephemeral, dreadful creatures and images, emerging from the depths of subconsciousness and then fading away and completely vanishing at awakening. Thus the night seems just a brief moment, often insufficient to the sleepers, so short and unreal that the morning feels like a punishment, and the dreamers would beg for mercy and to have a few more hours of sleep. Ana is, however, no dreamer, she is a waker, a night-watcher, she cannot sleep a wink until dawn. And she checks the time every now and then, as though she might see that particular hour and minute when she would finally fall asleep, or at least doze off, at least for a brief moment of that unreal whirl of dreams and dreadful images. And from the moment she checks the time to the next when she looks again at the clock merely five minutes elapse, in her vain hope to finally reach that right point when she would finally plunge into dreams. Those mere five minutes seem like an eternity, like infinity with no beginning and no ending, never elapsing. It buried into her bed and into her grandma’s ancient clock, which seems to have been designed and made only to show imperishable eternity of her wake. The night is long, oblivious dreamers cannot even fathom it, only expert, experienced, proficient and already numbed night-watchers are capable of conceiving it, just like Ana herself. And this sleepless night will be followed by another grey, cloudy day, nothing will change, she will wake up after a couple of hours, hardly aware of becoming awake again, and then she will only feel drowsy. For the past two weeks, Ana has been feeling how the line between being awake and asleep can be incredibly thin. Then she will get up, painfully get ready in the grey mist of the day at its very beginning, and yet she will feel as though it has just come to an end, then she will leave and walk to the bus stop, then switch to a tram, and after a good hour’s journey through the town, each morning showing every sign of a pre-coronary condition, she will finally reach her office, where she will meet her two colleagues. She knows their faces, their motions, their usual observations about bosses – she has learned them by heart - she already knows everything. And nothing changes, everything gets immersed into the infinite cloudiness of never-changing days and, as of lately, never-changing sleepless nights. Next she will face her piles of papers, data waiting to be recorded, updated, checked or corrected, after futile telephone conversations where you cannot discern who is crazy and who is about to get crazy, then a half-hour break which she will spend in the nearby café, and then toil through the end of the work day. To tell the truth, nothing remarkable will happen then, either, Ana is completely aware of it, because everything is permanent and unchangeable, repetitive like the circling movements on the darn clock hanging above her bed and waiting for the night and thus enable it to brand  its resonant sighs over the passing time into every corner of her mind, permeating and saturating everything around it, in front of  it and behind it, to the left and to the right, and all around Ana. Ana is already dreading the encounter with her grandma’s clock, her only companion until she is still awake at dawn, probably as the only person in this town,  and listening to the time elapsing, time drowning and disappearing into the eternity, which can be felt only by a night watcher.

Something must be done. Ana is exhausted for the lack of sleep and crankiness, her world has turned into a frantic factory of greyness and dullness and emptiness, and which keeps on releasing sense of futility, waste and nihility of life in such huge waves that Ana is sure she will most certainly drown while they raze everything before them, unless she does something about it very soon. That is to be her fate and her clock has been announcing with its sharp chiming. The very thought of it appals Ana and makes her shudder, the thought of an endless darkness of a night and bleakness of a following day creates an absolute horror and makes her feel suffocating and hopelessly drowning in the waves of dreadfulness, pulling her ever more powerfully and overwhelmingly. Something must be done about it, otherwise she would drown and vanish leaving no trace, while her clock will continue ticking, as though nothing happened at all, striking right on time, just as it always has, as though her gone missing is merely a trifle that cannot disturb even a clockwork. Something must be done, and it must be done today. Right after work she will come up with something salvational, something redeeming, preventing her to hear every tick of the clock and she will fall asleep, just as any other common sleeper and dreamer in the town. That is what Ana was thinking about while automatically, almost unconsciously shuffling her papers and answering the phone. This very afternoon, as soon as this insane data check-up and frenzied game of asking and answering questions, a game where endless eternity, in the form of repetitive movements of updating, is only a product of the same factory of greyness which continuously creates new lines of  staleness and low-spirits and slight shivering, creeping up the neck to the top of the head and then making itself comfortable, making a warm abode and ruling as a self-proclaimed lord of days and nights. Ana is thinking and chanting this magical thought ‘Something must be done’, which brings her relief, silences and ejects the eternal tick-tacking of the clock on the wall, deeply rooted in her conscious and subconscious, in every idea and feeling, in her whole being quivering with every movement of the hands on her wrist-watch and table clock and on the wall clock, any device showing time, any flow of destiny, any flow of time towards infinity and eternity and backwards, round and round, never ceasing. That factory never stops working, never stops releasing new products of despair and hopelessness, and Ana cannot cope with it anymore, she is only aware of the wall clock expecting her at home, the clock chiming every half an hour and it will be just like any other day! And it should not, something must be done about it, Ana is musing over it while finishing her work for the day and putting her things into her handbag and putting on her coat and getting into the street.

 There she is suddenly overwhelmed by the same dullness her whole being has been saturated with. Ana wonders whether the factory of darkness and bleakness has somehow expanded over the whole town, over the whole world, and is now producing the same gloomy faces, the same grey and dusty shop windows, the same grey trams whose blue paint has come off and turned into a dirty bluish grey, the colour of  the sky before the storm. Hasn’t that gloomy world in some inexplicable way gushed out of herself so the dullness does not only crouch only inside her but in every swarming and crawling and wiggling being under those sliding clock hands she keeps gazing at every single night? Hasn’t the clockwork of ephemerality stretching into endlessness and eternity taken control not only over her sleepless nights but over the whole world?

Ana is brooding over it while dragging down the street. At a junction she stops in front of a colourful newsstand, filled with variety of magazines and newspapers. The newsstand has settled swaggeringly at the very corner of the junction and she cannot avoid it, she has to walk past it to cross to the other side of the street where the tram stop is. She could not say why but she pauses in front of the stand and stares at colourful front pages, randomly picks up the most colourful among them, alluring with its intricate interweaving of faces, colours and pictures. It is a magazine for women, promising the world through wise and verified advice for women of all ages, profiles and careers. Ana decides to buy it as it is so temptingly promising a new life to any woman after no more than leafing through it. The saleswoman gives her the magazine with a frowning face and tells her the price through her clenched teeth. Ana gives her the money and without waiting for the change  goes off with her precious prey and walks into a nearby café. She sits down, orders a cup of coffee and becomes absorbed in turning over the pages of the magazine.

And there she finds loads of all kinds of most incredible miracles and marvels, advice in abundance and proven recipes how to look younger and more beautiful, how to live better, lose twenty pounds in one week, what make-up to use in the morning, afternoon or evening, how to find and retain Mr Right, how to prepare healthy and tasty dishes, not counting calories, yet losing weight, and many more innumerable verified and wise advice for any occasion. There is a whole sea of instructions and its waves splash Ana with its magical, refreshing scent of a new life spreading all over the pages of the magazine. Ana turns over the colourful pages and thinks she would need another two lifetimes to try them all out. She is not interested in new make-up for it does not have the power to erase dullness gushing out through her nose, cheeks and neck, she is not interested in changing her hair colour with any of the hair-dyes offered as her hair seemed to have turned from her natural brown into dirty grey and melted with the surrounding world. Something though does draw her attention. Two pages are devoted to advertisements for various healing methods, promising mental and physical transformation, promise-land of peace of mind, balance and serenity, bliss achievable in merely three days through proven methods of healers, pamphlet on resurrection of soul and spirit through yoga and meditation, and the whole bunch of promises luring and tempting drained-out women to finally find their moment of happiness and bliss and completely transform their lives. Bliss within three days, immortality of soul in only one afternoon, healing of all mental and physical maladies during a weekend course. They all promise heaven on earth, paradise in body and soul, ecstasy of unprecedented scope, eternal bliss and everyone’s dream come true.

Ana does not believe in yoga, transcendental meditation or tai chi. Therefore her eye catches a glimpse of a framed advert at the bottom of the page where a doctor Anton Cvijic, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, promises full restoration from depression, especially for women, relieving anxiety and sorting out personal problems to all frustrated, strained, nervous and slightly bewildered women of all ages. The advert settled at the bottom of the page does not sparkle with colours. It is simple and seems to be whispering about the silliness of previous lively adverts. It seems the right thing to try out. Ana chooses that particular, modest advert, not promising the moon but an expert help and understanding she needs most at the time. Well, science is scientific after all, whereas transcendental meditation and yoga seem like dubious preachers of happiness and repose, which elapse at the same speed as any other thing being used until it is beyond usefulness. Ana is being invariably reminded of it by her clock counting every moment when she has hoped to finally fall asleep, but has been faced with the eternity of insomnia. Ana looks for the phone number of doctor Anton Cvijic’s office and walks out towards the phone booth. She dials the number, waits for a while, though it seems like ages to her, before a tenor answers the phone. The voice speaks with a brisk busyness and Ana feels a kind of tension, along with the swift, irregular flow of words, forming barely intelligible utterance: “Doctor Cvijic office. Can I help you?” Ana keeps silent for a moment, hesitating whether to respond to that hurried voice or to simply give it up. But something urges her to pursue with the thought that brought her peace of mind earlier that day, the thought that something must be done. So she clenches the receiver and says in a trembling voice: “My name is Ana Sidoni. May I speak to doctor Cvijic?”. “Doctor Cvijic speaking” says the high-pitched voice, almost threateningly, or at least so it seems to Ana while anxiety crawls into her heart and a new wave of hesitation and reluctance overwhelms her. What if she is going to face a new hell of inquisition and rigid interrogation, maybe even a reproach, for insomnia must be her own fault, and her only? Which is of course true, but she cannot deal with that burden of guilt, along with all the suffering she has been going through. But something must be done, fleshes again in her mind and goes through it like a wild fire. Thus she decides to say what she intended. “I would like to make an appointment with you. You see, I’m having trouble sleeping…” She is just about to state the reason for calling, to explain what made her call this particular doctor Cvijic, for this seems a proper thing to do, if not even necessary in such cases. For she is talking to a doctor, and doctors should be told everything about what troubles you, or at least this is what Ana thought, but the voice dissuades her instantly. “Of course, I am free to see you today at six. Does it suit you?” The voice roars like a panting train when it starts breaking and making unbearable noise of screeching and rattling. Ana was startled. Perhaps this was not such a good idea as it seemed at first. To do something does not necessarily mean to do the best and to do the most reasonable thing a person is capable of. But perhaps all psychiatrist are alike, perhaps this is only a standard procedure. Well, science is scientific, where everything is reasonable and figured out and where there is cure for everything. This is what Ana was thinking so she says quickly: “Fine, it suits me perfectly.” The voice roars the address and the line goes dead.

Ana is taken aback. She wonders what she should do, suddenly aware of herself and the world around her, the roaring of the traffic, people hurrying along the streets, the frowning woman in the newsstand, who is now smiling, the tram driver who brakes abruptly at the junction with the sound of sharp screeching of iron against the steel rails, a sound which sends horror and needles and pins through a body. Ana feels as though she has woken up from a deep sleep and as though she has become suddenly aware of her own aroused and stirred up senses, the life inside her and the crowds around her. What is that man like, the man she has decided to talk to and to bare her soul to in order to drown into a peaceful dream and prevent her from hearing the resonant chiming of her wall clock? Was he short or tall, among other things, without even starting to wonder about the inner landscape of the mental outline of that unknown man who seems absent-minded, thrown off balance of his body and soul, so worn out by all the stories he, most likely, has to listen to every single day. Is he balding, is he fat or thin, is his hair turning grey, does he wear a beard or is he clean shaven, as would be appropriate for a doctor treating something so elusive and sand-like as mental states of women suffering from insomnia and bleakness of quotidian life? Ana’s brain is swarming with questions, like a bee-hive after being visited by an uninvited wasp, stirring up dissention and chaos everywhere around. She walks briskly and stops thinking about herself, she pushes herself away from the centre of her own attention so that chaotic jumble and cacophony of sounds of the town, along with the grid of streets, forcefully rumbles through her consciousness and bursts out. 6 Hebrang Street, a part of the grid, behind its façade hides a bit disturbed, or so it seems to Ana, a connoisseur of female souls, an expert on hidden corners of female psyche, a magus and a witch-doctor of psychotherapy, though it does take a less important position in the colourful magazine than for example tai chi, yet it is like a mystical magic to the knowledgeable of the alchemy of soul, the place where the bliss and immortal and undisturbed serenity, deep and peaceful dreams Ana so desperately longed for, melt in boiling elixir of eternal youth and immortality of the soul. That immensely wide, vast meadow, that green, dewy lawn of deep, refreshing and soothing sleep emanates promises from behind the doors and walls and roofs of the building where the alchemist of her mental peace has been preparing potion of eternal life, melting a philosophers’ stone in it and preparing the magical potion which will, after she has gulped it down, restore fine weaving of illusion, gossamer cobweb hinting that the world might be coloured instead of being grey after all, that the dream is just a regular exchange of days and nights, swapping states of being wide awake and fast asleep, indicating that the life is filled with small, tiny, hardly discernable joys and that the endless struggle with updating contains some human elements and it is not as faceless as Ana thinks, and which fills her with true horror every time the phone rings. Ana secretly yearns for that and weaves a deception of thoughts and hopes regarding the appointment with this unknown medicine-man, this magician who knows, Ana is absolutely positive of it although he has never seen her before, but despite that he knows every detail of her malady and valid and efficient cure for it. Not hurrying, taking her time, Ana is walking down the street and suddenly notices the architecture and landscapes of mood showing on people’s faces, and swarming and hustle and chaos and horror of a busy town. There, the building has an interesting gable, and the one over there boasts an unusual blue colour sticking out from everything surrounding the bluish building, framed with greyness. And this woman, coming towards her, looks like her secondary school friend. Ten years older, of course. Oh, really, what does Marijana look like today? Has she become wrinkled? Is she still ready to embrace any adventure that opens up before her?

Ana is walking down the street, which melts and disappears into the busy town. Her watch tells her it is already half past five, time to hurry up and finally find out who is hiding behind the façade of 6 Hebrang Street? A magician, a medicine-man, a miracle-worker or somebody completely different? Ana is amused with this quiz show, with questions flooding all around her and therefore she starts walking more hastily and soon she comes in front of the right address.

The house is settled proudly between the neighbouring ones and erected skywards with its grey façade, crumbling window frames and large, unusually wide doorway. Ana pauses for a while. She feels uneasy, silent horror creeping up her back again at the very thought of what might be expecting her in this ancient and proudly erected house, hiding behind its crumbling, narrow but tall doors at the back of the doorway passage, of that soul magician, healer of women’s hearts, night-watcher and spiritual guide she is expecting to restore her dreams and turn her bleakness factory into at least slightly coloured world, if not even a pink daydream. Anyway, the watch is saying five to six and she steps into the darkened doorway. There she sees that particular narrow and tall door, worn out and made of wood, and she proceeds into the darkened hallway. She barely manages to find a switch and weak, misty light poured over the flight of steep stairs running upwards. Ana does not know on which floor her magician’s abode is, as she, in her mind, calls this mysterious and obviously brusque, yet a bit nervous doctor. Thus she has to stop at every floor and catch her breath after the steep climb. The stairs are incredibly steep and lead, with the exceptions of landings between the floors, into heights beyond her own comprehension. At least this is how Ana feels while stopping and checking the name plates next to the door bells in the darkness. There is no doctor for female souls! And then finally, on the incredibly high third floor, Ana sees a very carefully engraved golden plate with the name of the doctor Anton Cvijic. Ana decides not to waste any more time but to courageously face the uncertainty waiting for her behind the door. The gate leading into the unknown world of mysteries of human soul, with an unknown man to take her down this new path.

And she rings the bell. The bell jingles a with high-pitched tone. There is silence behind the door, and then she hears steps. Hasty steps, without pausing, then somebody opening and closing a door somewhere in the mysterious depths of the flat, and then suddenly the front door flung open, the very door where frightened Ana is standing, expecting the worst. There is a tall, thin man at the door, a little stooped, wearing dark trousers and an olive-green cardigan, and Ana immediately notices cramping hand keeping the door open. Without a word, the man is standing at the door, and in her way, and staring at her. The moment seems to last forever and the man, rather advanced in years, grey-haired and with piercing blue eyes, seems he would never let her into his mysterious rooms, his alchemy workshop where he converts the darkness of soul into the gold of tranquillity and cheerfulness. The man keeps staring at her as though the game of looking and prevailing tension of the body has been concealing the key to this alchemical magic Ana could not figure out. Perhaps this is a game where trembling of  nerves, strung up like chords, speechlessly tells everything about her? Perhaps this is a test trying out her mental strength, without needing any words, without not even uttering a greeting, but silently assessing her common sense and the quality of her heels that are beginning to prick into her feet, after a long walk round the town and climbing up the stairs in the dilapidated building, causing this terrible pang and inducing her to yearn for soft, comfortable armchairs in this old flat reeking of dampness and staleness, but incredibly enough also very tempting shelter for her aching feet and soul agonized by sleep deprivation. Ana decides to break this speechless game she does not know the rules of, so she addresses doctor Cvijic in insecure, timid, yet resolute voice, “My name is Ana Sidoni. I have an appointment at six…”

The tall, grey-haired man, advanced in years proving his wisdom and rich life experience, Ana is thinking to herself, looks as though woken up by Ana’s words from hypnotising, stiffly positioned body and turns his gaze from her, the gaze that was looking at her as fakir looks at his serpent while trying to lure her, with magical sounds of his flute, into wriggling and dancing to his wishes and commands. Cramping of his hand, still holding the door, becomes now more obvious and it seems like a tic doctor Cvijic cannot control. The cramp twitches his face and then hardens into an ironic grim floating around corners of his mouth and eyes. “Yes, of course. Please, do come in.” The man opens the door, not more than was necessary for Ana to get past him into the office.

But to Ana’s surprise there is no office, at least not the one Ana was expecting – a big,  painted in white and sterile room smelling of medicine and magical healing potions. It is a simple, though very smartly furnished old flat, as much as Ana can figure out in the pretty dark hall where there are two chest of drawers and two slender legged recession chairs, and as much as she manages to see through the ajar door, leading into a room opposite the front door. Soft yellowish light coming from a table lamp palled the room and Ana sees a huge, intricately engraved desk, a sofa and two comfortable armchairs. On a side of the hall there is a slightly opened door through which she catches a glimpse of the kitchen, and on the other side there is a wide open door leading into, as Ana is guessing, into a drawing room as she sees fanciful and ornate furniture.

“This way, please.” Doctor’s voice wakes Ana up from the dozing she has slipped into while staring impolitely over the old flat she has just entered. His voice is a pleasant, velvety tenor and Ana feels tension and the first unpleasant impression wearing off, impression she had after an unpleasantly disappointing meeting with a man who is supposedly to unravel entangled threads of her sleep-deprived being. She goes towards the first room, opposite the front door, the one the doctor has waved to. And she finds herself in a nice, comfortable room where she senses patina and staleness, pleasantly tucked in the yellowish light softening sharp edges and wrapping everything into a comfortable shadow. The tall and thin man, with his hand still crooked, silently shows Ana towards one of the soft armchairs. Ana sighs and sinks into an armchair feeling her feet itching and a pang in her heel. For a moment she makes herself comfortable in a blissful peace of dimmed light and comfort of a soft armchair in which she has sunk and almost completely disappeared, vanished from the tangible and awake world, as well as for undreamt dreams constantly eluding from her while trying, but always failing to fall asleep and dream them through and bring out to the daylight. But now the solution is emerging along with the cure for her malady. Ana is sure of that while staring at doctor Cvijic who sits down at the desk, opposite her, clasps his hands and intertwines his fingers as though he is about to face a big-time legal case, with him as both judge and a jury, all at the same time, and as though he is obliged to, though unwillingly, listen to the superfluous defence exposition of the defendant, already convicted in advance with no possibility of appeal or mercy. The whole thing seems to have only caused him unnecessary torment of interrogating, examining, suing, defending and ruling, all at the same time, and everything makes him ill and his stomach cramps and his vision blurs, and he desperately wants to run away from this chaos. However he cannot as his duty calls. He can only cramp his hands, twitch his face in misery of pain and loathing.

That moment of awkward silence, overwhelming the room palled over with yellowish gloom, seems as though pouring into the eternity, into an endless, abysmal and unfathomable eternity. Ana stars squirming in the armchair and wondering what she should say, what magical word to utter to break that awkward silence filling the room, crawling into corners from where it is slyly, deceptively and perfidiously stalking Ana. Ana sinks deeper and deeper into her armchair as though wishing to hide herself, disappear and perhaps, only perhaps, finally fall asleep. Doctor Cvijic does not show even the slightest sign of making an effort to interrupt the battle silently fought between the two of them, a battle with no words, no sounds, no movements and Ana is thinking what would happen if she broke it and say all about her torment and at that very moment, after saying the word aloud, the word she had been pursued by for days and nights, the word ‘insomnia’, the magical word, she might finally feel relieved and the torment might spontaneously dissipate. No other explanations, interpretations, dragging out hidden and blurred, foggy memories of her childhood or dullness of her everyday life needed. Who can tell which of those is more important for her torment, who can tell what is more important, more difficult, more toilsome and more ominous on the delicate and whimsical scales of our mental peace and, especially, of the balance of dreams and reality? So Ana ventures, bends a little forward in her armchair and utters that magical, liberating word, that very word torturing her through her nights and cloaking her days in grey, the word she believes once spoken, the mere act of saying it will liberate her, spare her of torture and forcefully throw her back into peaceful equilibrium of moderate and regular change of days and nights. Therefore she says: “Insomnia. This is what has been tormenting me. I can’t fall asleep till dawn. Insomnia is the reason why I have some here.”

To her surprise doctor Cvijic takes a deep breath, waves his hand, moves it upwards, then to the left and to the right, and finally shrinks. What is that suppose to mean, Ana wonders, but her thoughts have barely scratched the surface of the meaning of that unusual waving when she gets startled by doctor’s velvety tenor. It sounds like a viola tuning in the silenced orchestra at the beginning of a concert, or like a cello rumbling through a solo in a chamber suite. “Insomnia? What is insomnia? You can’t fall asleep? Try counting sheep, for Heaven’s sake!”

Ana is stupefied while listening to the imaginary viola echoing and humming at the end of the concert, ending before it even started. is her malady so petty and almost pointless and unnecessary so that there is nothing to say about it? Is there no explanation, no drilling and digging deeply into her subconsciousness, is there no evoking painful memories from her childhood, is there no analysing multi-layered structure of her personality, is there no remembering of summer holidays in the countryside at her grandparent’s, then the role of her father in her growing up, of her mother in approaching her adulthood, of her teachers at school, of her friends in her first life experiences, whatever they might have been? Is insomnia such an insignificant occurrence, not worth any interest, let alone sympathy, not even a medical, professional concern? What is this all about? Is this the beginning and ending of psychoanalysis, is that the end of enlightened time of explanations, interpretations, analysing and hidden assumptions on the psyche and soul, on the conscious and subconsciousness, is this really the end? Counting sheep? That is all there is to psychoanalysis? Ana is baffled and cannot figure out what to think of such casual ease and clarity of advice from an expert on her malady she has been convinced there is no cure for, or at least no simple or handy one. Her own grandmother would have given her the same advice should she confided in her: try counting sheep and the dreams will come, fall down like a heavy curtain over wide open eyes and pull down heavy eyelids. Right! Counting sheep is the answer. Perhaps this is a secret of transition of modern psychoanalysis from obscure and barely treadable paths of unconceivable interpretations into simple, easy, completely understandable and articulate remedies as coming directly from a grandma’s kitchen. Counting sheep! Why hasn’t it dawned at her earlier?

Ana suddenly feels relieved. Such a weight off her mind! However, she is wrong. Grandma’s advice and thyme are not all that is to psychoanalysis. She is yet to encounter real surprise.

Doctor Cvijic bends forward and swoops upon her like a hawk, points his finger upwards, then towards Ana as though he is going to pass, right at that moment, that final and irrevocable sentence he has been brooding over the whole time they have been trying out each other’s powers, and now, he, the judge and the jury at this final and supreme court, will pass the verdict and the sentence and throw Ana into the darkest dungeon once and for all. Just to make sure she would never drop by and pop at his doorstep of his self-proclaimed and self-styled office again. Doctor Cvijic says those words in a tone a judge passes a sentence for the most hideous crimes against humanity, sentence which cannot be taken back and once passed it becomes valid for ever and ever, amen. “Insomnia, you say? Can’t sleep? You toss and turn in your bed till the early morning and then fall asleep at dawn and have a short sleep plagued with nightmares? You listen to tick-tacking of your clock and count elapsing minutes, crying for the mist of dreams to embrace you and drag you to the bottom? Good. And I am going to tell you this is one more proof, you have no clue about, which is not surprising as this is natural to you, for doubts are the privilege of other world you do not and never will belong to – a thesis I support and for which I have been working hard to establish all my life. You see, before retirement I had a high position in a hospital, and I saw and heard similar female stories, I lost the track of those tedious, unbearable stories, I was a respectable psychiatrist and psychotherapist and my papers, the bunch of my theories on female psyche were welcome by other experts, not only in our country but worldwide, oh, yes, they were the talk of our circles, they were analysed and interpreted, many people wrote about them. But all that is not important now. What is important is what I want to tell you as a result of my, as I have already said, hard work and efforts to penetrate into the thick darkness, into the gloomy obscurity of female psyche. You might object - which I believe is highly unlikely based on your evasive and defensive attitude, which has brought all this trouble and will bring some more in the chaos and disorderly whirl we tend to call life – so you might oppose general statement that the female psyche is a dark pit which devours all reasonable world of common sense and male intelligence. But just turn around and have a look at the prevailing obsession that women are the source of all evil and all testing and temptation men have to go through during their lifetimes. There were reasons for burning witches, all right, as well as for men going off to monasteries, just to avoid the doom and the evil called a woman. Women and their psyche are only a reversed pole of human soul, the dark, gloomy, foggy pole filled with illusions and deceptions. Worldwide traditions testify to that. Therefore it is no wonder that in all scientific researches we find obvious, clear and undoubted supports for the theory that depressive deviations of female consciousness is far more explicit, more powerful and much deeper than in men. A woman, in her twisted nature, disfigures the world of  the conscious with such poignancy and strength that female hallucinations become absolutely perverse and distorted and no beam of reason can penetrate through the thick darkness. Any effort to bring them to clear consciousness and common sense inevitably fails. Anyway, how could that be if clear consciousness and common sense, by the will of nature and God, are prerogative of men? Therefore we find female insanity to be so perverse that it is no wonder they died at stakes in the main squares, until not so long ago, and that women were relegated to the furthest possible marginal social status. The kitchen and the garden – the only places women are entitled to. And to establish the utter truthfulness of the aforementioned, just have a look at this modern world of emancipated women, the world that gave them the right to vote, now deranged by a complete chaos. Just look at the disorder in politics! How can women, in the darkness of their minds, such as given to them, innate as by the wish of the Nature and God, how can they make important decisions, as required in country leadership! And it has spread all over the world! Just visit the asylum and watch carefully at female nature showing in all its authenticity and you will see what I am talking about. Since the original sin in Eden till the present days, a woman has been the source of all evil leading men into a sin and wickedness. As for you, just count your sheep and your disturbed and whirling psyche will calm down for at least a while. I have run out if time, and patience for that matter, to explain and interpret the details of my life work, the theory of female psyche, to a person like you, but I suppose you have captured the gist. Being a woman means being a offspring of a dark pole of the consciousness, and you can’t escape it, regardless your education, your habits or your viewpoints. Being a woman means to be naturally cursed to insanity and death, and there is nothing one can do about it. Three hundred kunas, please.”

Doctor Cvijic stands up and, holding his hand out, steps closer to Ana. Undoubtedly, there is nothing more to say so Ana grabs her handbag, pulls out her wallet and counts the notes. Doctor Cvijic makes a slight bow and, with his hand, starts nudging her out of the room and further, out of the flat. He almost pushes her out. He slams the door behind her back and Ana finds herself alone in the dark corridor. She goes downstairs hardly believing what she has just heard. Doctor Cvijic, a retired expert on female psyche, spends his retirement advertising his services in magazines for women and looking for audience for his theory.

The night has fallen over the town roofs. Ana is walking down the silent street into the darkness and laughing to herself. Incredible! The old times of witches being burnt at stakes may be coming back, or old doctor Cvijic may be obsessing about women. Who knows. Anyway, suddenly she starts yawning and the whole world starts shaking and dancing before her eyes and under her feet. She hurries, catches the tram and soon reaches her warm and comfortable flat on the outskirts. She takes off her day things, puts on the nightdress and crashes onto her bed. She counts ten sheep and dozes off into a peaceful and deep sleep. If there is any truth in doctor’s theory, then is incontestably established on the paradox – the more you oppress it, the stronger it gets. Doctor Cvijic seems to have left this detail out of his theory. Or the paradox principle of female theory was his secret weapon which helped Ana find her dreams again. Who knows?

 

THE RIVER

 

The morning has broken in all its ripeness, in full blossom, bathed in the sunshine, in a dewy sparkle of midsummer. It has broken and the world is bathed in crimson shades of dawn, slowly shifting form darkness into light, from dreams into reality. The sun is thrusting its severe claws into my drowsy eyelids and relentlessly piercing and cutting my whirling dreams with its sharp beams. I am dreaming. I do not feel like waking up and the images of my dream are waving in flickering and heaving light. Along the thin line between dreams and reality, dreams are resisting and will not be parted with their apparitions, resisting the wakening and squirming, weaving its yarn while the world is waking up behind half open panes and propping like a black horse finally released into the vast meadow of succulent grass. But my dreams will not be disturbed and are weaving into finest and supple yarn of soft velvet or waving silk.

I am dreaming. I am dreaming of a large block of flats with huge gables imposing over the muddy path I am walking along to climb up the hill. The building is made of white stone and it is really huge as though the giants and titans from the legends from the prehistoric times of the world abode there. The gables are thrusting and pushing forward and topping over the wide muddy path bending round the building and going all the way around it. I am walking along the path, up a slight slope. My mother, my best childhood friend, is accompanying me. She is now a grey-haired elderly lady and, just as in the real life, sharp-tongued and pouring out complaints and grumbling. We are talking about the dog gone astray. A friend of mine had a dog, and I was deprived of that pleasure. But the small dachshund went missing and I have been accused of most unfortunate combination of  circumstances and dismal fate of poor Piki by Tamara’s mother. I vigorously defend myself, explain and give details of the whole unfortunate business of his gone missing and ardently assure the old lady the dog would most certainly be saved and find a new owner. I am really not to blame in this dreadful incident, but the blame has been put on me, though I am completely blameless, and all because I have never been allowed to keep a pet, and now my best friend’s dog has gone missing. I cannot get rid of the thought I have been charged merely on the grounds of suspicion I have always nourished immense jealousy in that respect and that painstaking truth has led me into devising the disappearance of her pet, or at least this is what her mother thought. Just for the record, that dog would invariably bark like crazy and he was a real prankster, always disturbing the peace and quiet in their block of flats. This was however really no reason to make him disappear. Failing to defend myself from unfounded accusations, and completely aware of the fact Tamara’s mother was a public prosecutor, which is indeed true in real life, and knowing that thousands of both substantiated and circumstantial evidence and legal interpretations to the aforementioned crime would most certainly emerge, I suddenly find myself at the jeweller’s in the very gigantic block of flats with enormous gables. Gold is very cheap at the shop, and glittering pieces of jewellery made of this precious metal, transformed by skilful and experienced hands of a goldsmith, shine and glimmer under the sturdy glass pane. Anything can be bought for just a few coins, and as my pockets are filled with them all I have to do is to pick the most beautiful, the most lustrous and the most delicately manufactured piece, while on the second floor of the gigantic building my cousin I have come to visit is already expecting me. I hesitate, I cannot make up my mind which piece to buy, even though I am aware she has been waiting for me for a while and the lunch is already on the table. So I can only stare, stare at the golden pieces at the shop in the gable over the muddy path…

A sharp ringing sound slashes through the deceptive image and for a moment I cannot tell if the hateful device is calling out from the dark and hidden corners of a goldsmith’s tiny shop, or if the sound is coming from the threshold of a new morning of reality, I do not know if I have bought a ring for a few coins or I still have a few small notes just enough for a cup of coffee in the nearby café, in the building opposite mine, with perfectly normal gables, easily accessible by only crossing the road, not a muddy road going round giants’ abode. The phone is relentlessly ringing and my dream, though resisting and fighting back, comes to an end at the moment when a decision was about to be made. The phone has put a stop to it, just as it invariably happens, before it has come to its natural end, like when you are trying with all your power to escape and you cannot even move your legs, let alone lift your feet off the ground, and they are already at your heels, those invisible and unknown pursuers, and you keep on struggling in vain, but nothing, absolutely nothing happens as you are paralysed and stuck. And you should really run away, as fast as you can, and find your safe haven. And this is the place where dreams are usually interrupted, and you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling, dripping with sweat while your heart is thumping like crazy. This is exactly how my dream has been interrupted at an early hour of a summer morning and now I do not  know what decision I made, where I went and if I was acquitted of all charges and if the dog was rescued and if it found a new owner…

I am staggering towards the phone persistently ringing. I have barely managed to pick up the receiver when I hear a familiar and excited voice calling out: “I have found it!”, the voice is jingling and I know immediately that big, long awaited for discovery is about to be revealed, it has ripened at this early hour and only pressing and urgent haste has driven my friend Vanja to thrill me with the unspeakably and ineffably important piece of news, right in the middle of my dream always broken before the moment a crucial decision is about to be made, right before the successful escape, a dream that never ends but pursues me every night and dissipates with the first rays of sunshine.

Vanja is a psychiatrist, and for quite some time he has been a rebellious psychiatrist. He has been rebelling against hidebound, unrelenting and thoroughly crippled ‘official’ psychiatry and, after being agitated for a while which resulted in his gastric ulcer perforating, he left his well-paid job and his well-established position as an official and scientific spiritual guide in a highly respected clinic. He left the pattern of prescribing drugs for feeling better and socially acceptable manners as required by huge crater of a device grinding everything that comes into its way, something we popularly like to call ‘working lifetime’ and small-town values. And so my friend Vanja deflected and opened his own private practice, after going through innumerate arguments and after searching for new ways of guiding people and reaching the point where he chose to take new challenging and untrodden paths of roaming through the maze of a human soul. Vanja returned for America where he had enjoyed fabulous time and relished in all pleasures of a free world, the world that has pulled down all the obstacles and opened up to boundless freedom, where new hamburger and fast food flavours keep emerging, along with new Stetson designs and new craze as it has been well illustrated in horrors and cheap crime stories. Well, in this world of freedom, where almost anything is available for a dollar, with courses how to reach immortality in three days only, provided you blindly follow the instructions and advice of sacrosanct guru, Vanja managed to fight his own way through all this kitsch and trash and find authenticity of the modern world. Therefore his return to still narrow-minded old dame Europe, rustling with silk evening dresses, gracefully puffing on pipes and having five o’clock tea, seemed like the end of the world in which he had to reconcile with stale underground flows of gossiping and public lynch of anything opposing what is considered proper and traditional. The return to this insipidness was something Vanja saw as his own curse and failure, or maybe as a strike by an ill-fate and he could not reconcile, he failed to come to peace with it because he became dizzy with the breeze of manufactured freedom, haunted by the feeling that has been dragging him from one argument to another. However, beneath all his rebelliousness, there is a much deeper interest in finding subconscious flow making the world go round, where people are trying to find their own ways and resourcefully coping with the reality according their own personality, discovering themselves in the ever-ruling chaos and eventually creating some more. For Vanja is an excellent psychiatrist, there is no doubt about it, and he is bugged by, even more than by Europe and America together, theoretical questions, digging into dark boxes of subconsciousness, digging ditches through the remote corners of our consciousness, mining for gold in search the truthful essence of human spirit, and seeking how to enlighten all that treasure, turn it into golden stream that would bring a person to the state of bliss, peace, balance and clarity of mind. And above all, how to live his own life wherever he might find himself – eating hamburger in busy and overcrowded New York, or caught in the middle of the latest gossiping about his neighbour Franjo’s mistress. For this is of no importance whatsoever, and as long as you are true to yourself, meridians mean nothing, you only need to find that golden flow pouring with authenticity and originality, wherever you may happen to be, whatever may come your way. That was Vanja’s teaching which has not been able to find its way into official psychiatry.

But Vanja is a relentless guy and would not be distracted by the fact. And this early morning call and his jingling, excited voice coming out of my receiver, are telling he is on the verge of a solution and ultimate discovery. Thus I forgive him for interrupting my dream which I could not, just as I have never before, dream through. I am wondering what is all this about and whether America has found a way  how to break rigid prejudice of Europe and traditions of Asia, or whether there has been an unexpected twist in the rift between the worlds. For Vanja’s discovery is about to pull down the worlds and cut new ways for the humanity. This is what his voice is telling me so I have pretty much guessed the course of this conversation.

But I have been wrong. Vanja is short this time in his communication and he has only required, as though of an obedient schoolgirl, to come and visit him in the evening and then he will tell me everything. This is so much unlike him, but the haste must be implying the issue of his researching sources of human being and soul has reached a critical stage, enlightened with a bright light of revelation. At any other time we would be talking in great detail about all the particularities of painstaking stops on his riotous way through the world in which we live as though blind and deaf, crippled and deprived of really living it, in well-known patterns and tin cans of the modern world, the world in which the original matter of deterministic chaos crashes against the never-changing rails of never-changing, completely predictable and deeply rooted patterns we live in. This is Vanja’s guiding principle which he has named ‘life in a tin can’. And tonight  I am going to find out and, as Vanja has put it, meet his new and ultimate inspiration in person, and hear the naked truth about human psyche with my own ears. All right, I tell him, and he hangs up.

The day has been dragging on into infinity as it has no intention of ever coming to an end. With steady, a kind of slow and idle pace, as though in the mists of an American blues of muffled beating of long forgotten African drums, in slow, intoxicating and hypnotising rhythm, the day has been elapsing and I have spent it in my usual tracks of well known stops, tracks my train of usual life has been running along for quite some time, from the morning coffee in the neighbouring block of flats, just opposite mine, with completely simple and humble gables, and, by the way, not even remotely resembling those from my dream, then after my usual telephone calls back to loads of pages waiting to be translated, then a break, and then all over again. There is no hesitation, no stumbling or staggering along those straight rails I could be ride along from here to eternity, and during the ride nothing would change, apart from the weather as this summer is quite wet with unusually a lot of rainfall and pretty sweltering, and everybody is leaving the town as though end of the world is pending and everybody is running away like crazy, and so it seems I am about to turn into the last Mohican in this sultry, abandoned town. If it had not been for Vanja and his early morning call and the promise of new Messiah, I would have believed in me living a life in a tin can, ever failing to find the tin opener that would bring salvation from the tinned quotidian life. And I already feel a bitter ball of rebellion rolling up, towards my throat, a rebellion Vanja has grafted and imbued as a tissue transplant in a hidden place onto my body so I cannot cough the ball out, nor swallow the ball of sticky saliva running towards my throat and threatening to suffocate me. The relief is even bigger when the old clock strikes seven and I leave behind flickering and shimmering of greenish light on the screen, save, duly as I do any other day, the typed pages and close the book I have been working on with a deep sigh of relief and set out on a tempting road to the unknown in the form of Vanja’s mysterious visitor. The embodiment of the ultimate solution of all Vanja’s endeavours and hard work, the cry of freedom in the numbed ‘tinned world’ about to finally open Vanja’s and my eyes, as well as the eyes of others of the chosen bunch that must already be gathering at his place and settling on soft and comfortable cushions. The cry about to help us cure all our maladies of contemporary hell machines producing happiness on an assembly line and dubious antidepressants tranquillising our nerves and numbing our senses.

The closer I am getting to his home, the curiosity is pricking me more zealously with its stings of innumerate questions and doubts. What is that and who has Vanja found, met and discovered in this general madhouse in which deterministic chaos of gigantic factories of world are kept together only by the courts and the police and the relentless necessity of survival, available for a dollar only? Or should you want more, more notes will you have to wave with. As integral parts of the chaotic and frenzied machine of everyday life, we exist only like sardines in an enormous tin, or so Vanja says. And now these neatly placed sardines in chaotic mixture of stuffing and sauce will come to the surface, to the boundless, vast sea of freedom and authenticity – that I am really interested in. How will these poor tinned sardines now find their way at open sea and under the sky, released so suddenly and let into life so unprepared? Whether the fish can swim is also a part of my interest, too. And the answers are only a few paces away, decreasing as I am getting closer to Vanja’s home.

The house is settled in the northern part of town, on a slope, and it seems to be watching the whole town from the above and towering it like a warning and a threat, a caution to the world to look around and think about the mess prevailing in it. And inside Vanja’s house ruled real deterministic chaos! His living room is a cultic gathering point of town artists, writers and painters Vanja has been  carefully choosing among those who defy order and rules, dare them with their ideas and innovations in form of new styles that would never really become that. However there is an idea, there is rebelliousness, as well as the spite that has become effective, and it is enough for Vanja to gather the chosen bunch and weave a new world with their help. The bunch flocked into his living room and settled on thick, soft cushions around a tall, finely built man with dark complexion. For a moment I am taken aback! The Indian is as beautiful as a god! He is in his thirties, his black hair reaches his shoulders, his bearing reveals utter peace of mind and being completely focused, smart in every sense of the word though he is wearing a pair of old jeans and a simple T-shirt. The very look at him stirs up true ecstasy for you cannot see such beauty every day, while barely visible swaying of his body reveals exotic, luxuriant places where tropical plants grow exuberantly, just like the imagination of the indigenous population whose gods and forefathers of widely extended mythological tree, feeding its thick, glorious crown on its deep roots, quite alike this earthly-divine beauty of the tall Indian. He introduces himself as Sarvepali Bhat, after the assembled bunch flocked around him and piously stopped all discussions on contemporary art, politics and neighbour Franjo’s new lover. The Indian called Sarvepali has an absent-minded smile on his face and he nods his head in a kind of divine rapture and then, after a holy moment of peace, silence and blissfulness have finally come, he speaks:

“I come form India, the land of gods who have come down to earth to teach my people about ancient, sacred crafts bringing beings into light, while pushing the demons into the eternal darkness. This is where I come from, where I, at the very sources of holy wisdom, quenched my thirst with true knowledge of the knowledgeable. I do not preach yoga or transcendental meditation, if you are expecting this as is expected from many of my country fellowmen who set out into the world to bring the ignorant and the astray ones into the true path of fathoming the wisdom and living in harmony with the nature and universe. I am not a preacher, nor am I attempting to become one. I only wish to teach, to point to the right path and thus bring light into the thick darkness of ignorance the world has slipped into and not comprehending the truth. I am a humble man, though born into the highest caste in my country, the caste of Brahmins and priests, and I preach simple truth that anyone can understand and accept. I do not advocate toilsome methods of self-restraint or ascetic, I do not teach doctrines nor religious truths, but simple essence of beings and universe. I travel round the world and teach, and if I contribute to the well-being of a single creature and it may be saved of thick and opaque darkness of ignorance, my mission has been accomplished and my life has become purposeful.”

The Indian paused. With a graceful, yet restrained movement he took a cup of tea and took a sip. His words have left a profound effect on everybody present. Many of the things he has said sounded so very familiar and the fish seemed not to break free from their tins as simply as I thought before, but only a glance at the exotic beauty of the man and his sensual lips was enough to chase away any doubt and suspicions from my reactionary western mind, filled with scepticism and criticism, I thought, readily and contemptuously rejecting all known Hegelian structures of the history of the world and bourgeois society, in which I live my comfortable life, like a fish in a tin. Just one look at those features revealing excellence and gentleness at the same time, holy grace and compassionate pity for anything crawling and creeping under the sun, just one look was enough to forget everything and with no doubts or restraints to absorb the wisdom the Indian has promised. Having put down the cup, cautiously and precisely back onto the saucer, he continued speaking in pleasant and hypnotising tenor:

“My truth is simple and susceptible to anyone. It has grown on the deeply rooted ancient wisdom and teachings,  watered by ample wells and currents of scientific cognitions. Thus I stand at the boundary between the East and the West and I unite them in my teachings. And it is the Teaching of a River. That is correct, I call it the teaching of the River, for the River is everything, both the beginning and the ending of the eternal circle of birth and death. The River is eternal, just like the life of the saved and the liberated who do not come back into this circle of torment. Thus speaks the wisdom of my land - the rebirth is essential to it - and though you may not believe in it, it is the absolute law of everything existing. This, however, is not the essence of everything. Being reborn or not is a matter of cosmic cycle of ever-circling life, but not the essence itself. The essence is the River. Think of a river for a moment. Think of a clear spring of whirling water coming out of a rock or a cliff. Isn’t that the beginning of a life, the birth of a child, its childhood and playfulness? The source of the River is the primeval matter, the beginning of all creatures and the whole universe. And then frolicsome and playful drops of clear and fresh spring water pour into a gap in the ground and become a stream. Isn’t the stream the whole course of a childhood, a flow of merrily bouncing over the stones and gravel in its shifting and fickle bed? The stream bends and curbs, then flows as straight as an arrow, joyfully bends again, just like a children’s play with ever emerging and changing rules. And then the stream widens and becomes a river. The river flows calmly, steadily, composedly, resembling an adult life, cautiously running along its bed and flooding its shores when rising or shrinking back into its hidden depths in dry seasons. Doesn’t it remind you of wise and reasonable decisions of an adult, mature person able to discern when to work and create, and when to retire and indulge in solitary meditation that would provide them with new insights and restore ripe manly strength? The river can get all frothy and foamy with its rapids, or it can swoop down the waterfalls in all its glory and power, or it can flow slowly and lazily in severe drought. Such is the righteous wrath of a man, such is the human nature when faced with injustice and lies. Then the river flows into a sea and reaches its fulfilment, uniting with the wide expense and breaking out of its narrow bed, finally free and eternal in the uniting, breaking the chains of its own current and sinking into eternity and endlessness. Isn’t this like the calm of an old-age and eternity of the death liberating from the chains of ephemeral and deteriorating world and its challenges, agonies and joys? That final peace of mind is pouring of the river into its origin and tranquillity  without shores and boundaries forever.”

The Indian paused, pointedly glanced over the assembled group as though checking the effect his words made on them. I finally turned my eyes from Sarvepali and looked at the bunch. Ljerka, a painter, got absorbed over her sketch pad, alternately looking at the Indian and bending over the pad and sketching. I looked over her shoulder and saw a portrait of the young Indian emerging from under her pencil. Jerko, a poet, was looking through the window, with an exalted gaze, and I could almost feel the frothing river flowing through his mind and turning into verses. Vanja was staring at the Indian and absorbing his every word. The fellow seemed quite satisfied with the impression he had made on the gathered, and rather exquisite, company, and then he casually ran his fingers through his thick, black hair and continued in low, confidential voice. The scene was turning into a real drama, and the Indian, having assumed a very theatrical posture, recommenced his River teaching:

“The River is a symbol, an eternal symbol of flowing. Both macro- and microcosms flow perpetually. The streaming of cosmic energy runs cyclically along eternal courses of stars, planets and galaxies. In a man it is the consciousness which flows in the whirl of thoughts, desires, endeavours, hopes and fears. And just like lively universe never stops emanating and again absorbing the flow of energy, the eternal flow of the river of life happens within a person’s consciousness and subconsciousness. Those defying the current are utterly unhappy. Such persons contradict both themselves and the law of the universe and their destiny is cursed for defying  the river. But those who have fathomed the laws of the River and its current, those who allow the River flow smoothly throughout their whole beings, those achieve eternal bliss and they break the chains of the death.  Having achieved immortality, they become liberated during their lifetime. Have a good look into yourselves. The thoughts come and go, some do not last long, the others mark our lives with their persistence. If the River of thoughts flows smoothly, a person achieves genuine freedom and immortality. If the current conceals many obstacles, the River froths and dives down waterfalls, into gorges and ravines, a person has to put up with tormenting and the life is filled with agonies. A single positive thought is capable of forcing that raging flow into a calm riverbed, with firm and reliable shores. And just like a single drop does not make much, yet contributes to the shining of clear water shimmering under the sun in a quiet summer afternoon, thus a single positive thought  forces the stream of life into new directions. Therefore it is necessary to pull out all the weed and clear up the dirt and mud that had been accumulating for years, clear up the grasses and chase away dirty animals and the river will flow with restored power and self-confidence. The subconsciousness is the dark drags of a soul, polluting the bottom of the River, stirring its water and making it wander through unknown places. Clearing up the bottom of the River, digging out the bed and removing the drags means to enlighten the mind, get a grip and become focused, and this brings new tributaries to the flooding River. Therefore I say – clear up your consciousness and let loose your inner River. Thus you will achieve freedom and balance with the universe, and this is the foundation of blissful life and undisturbed, smooth flow of the River of your own immortality and eternal delight.”

The night was falling over the town, gushing down from the incomprehensible heights and pouring over the house tops drowned in the evening mist resembling an old, full bodied and supple Mediterranean wine. Everything was wrapped up in the darkness and settled in corners filled with soft yellow light from table lamps, and Vanja’s room was additionally filled with fragrance of dazing incense sticks and essential oils Vanja had put into oil lamps. The whole world seemed to be drowning into a foggy illusion and everything which, that very morning, seemed important, urgent and essential, vanished in the evening peace, pushed aside into the dusty oblivion and lost its importance, urgency and essentiality for everything was caught by the eternal current of ephemerality and eternity of a single moment. And indeed, in the dark night, hugging Zagreb and covering it with soft, velvety blanket of blur, misty and soft line between dreams and reality, everything seemed to be streaming, for ever and ever, a current that turns nights into days, eternity into single moments and vice versa. That was a thought we all, I was quite positive about it, shared at that particular moment. We wanted to let loose our eternal inner River and go with the flow of macrocosm which was to take us to freedom and unite us with the skies.

As the night was approaching the Indian looked even more like a god who finally decided to step into this world and our enjoyment of his words turned into real delight and thrill. We were all radiating everlasting truth and a rapid flowed throughout our bodies with every word of this God from the South Seas, and we were finally overwhelmed with something much greater, more powerful and durable than ourselves, something permeating and inspiring us, something lifting us into unbelievable heights. The evening we spent with the Indian in Vanja’s holy place in search of eternal truths, was a real success in every sense of the word. The Indian went on with his eloquence on his River Teaching and we all felt united in that privileged moment of melting with the rapids, meanders and pouring of rivers into the warm Indian Ocean and calm, vast seas. Vanja may have not been wrong, he may have found true inspiration that would take to the right path in search of truth about our miserable, faded and withered souls, drowned into the dullness of quotidian life. This was what I thought while saying goodbye to everyone, sharing feelings of love, loyalty and devotion Which suddenly overwhelmed me. That particular evening we all felt close like brothers under the stars we managed to touch even for a shortest moment.

And now, the only thing I can say is that eternal truths are those most easily and quickly forgotten, which happens regularly. The very next morning I woke up dead tired and felt as though I had been badly beaten the previous night. And prospects lying before me for the that and next few days were not brilliant at all. Translating, translating and some more translating, pages and pages and more piles of pages, gushing out of nowhere and forever as it seemed that morning. Just as I expected Vanja did not waste his time and called me the very next morning and started enthusiastically and with undiminished delight gabbing into the phone, not giving me a chance to utter a single word. Obviously, he did not really need a collocutor that time.

“Listen, that Indian guy is absolutely brilliant! The idea that the River symbolizes well-balanced flow of consciousness and subconsciousness, not colliding and dark bickering of subconsciousness not disturbing the conscious flow, well, that is some revelation! I’ve been thinking how to use that with my patients and it simply dawned at me! You know how I’ve been developing that theory of mine, the theory of images as I like to call it. The basic hypothesis of the theory implies that traumas we usually drag all the way from our childhood or simply from the past, to make things more general, are nothing else but images imprinted into our subconsciousness through the strength of experience. Those images – nothing more than images resulting from shattering and deep experiences, almost always followed by a sense of fear – those images and deeply rooted and hidden in dark drawers of our subconsciousness and at the slightest sign of any resemblance they fiercely break free and overwhelmingly engage our consciousness at the moment, which is as different from the first unpleasant, traumatic experience inasmuch it is more distant in time. This is, in short, my image theory. And there came the Indian with his Teaching of the River. Just think what might happen if I manage to reverse my patients’ flow, from their consciousness toward subconsciousness  with this new intricate image of the River. You know what I am trying to say, don’t you? It is very simple. With an impressive and convincing, very powerful image in the present I overcome the painful, unpleasant and traumatic image from the past. And there is more to it! With an image, picture, symbol or whatever you call it, image or the River if you like, the River freely running and turning drops into rapids and waterfalls, joining warm and calm waters of seas, and I induce my patients into integrating their images from the past with the new ones and thus I stimulate the whole process of harmonic streaming of the conscious and the subconscious, I release energy beyond comprehension, and merge images from the past with a deeply moving image from the present. And what do I accomplish? Recovery, my darling, stimulation of free flow of the conscious which does not radiate with old, obsolete and unnecessary, superfluous images, we can reject, forget, leave them behind and let us be taken by free streaming of consciousness anywhere. And the ultimate goal is freedom , freedom my dear, as well as authenticity of our own lives! That’s it! Listen, that Indian is a genuine revelation, I was right about him. And he was the icing of my theory. Listen, we’ll talk later, I must be off and elaborate this thought and find tangible and efficient ways of application. See you soon, bye!”

And he hung up. For a moment, still feeling his own thrill and enthusiasm, I felt again the streaming, the river I experienced the previous day, and for a short while everything seemed harmonious, settled and predestined to flow, to run deep, to turn drops of water into rapids and pour into eternity and immortality. But, as I have already mentioned, a pile of papers was lying on my desk and expecting me to sort it out, neatly arrange, translate and file it, so how could I spare any more time to think of the river and the sea! There was so much to do by the time my summer holidays start, and then I was to face packing up and going to the coast!

A whole month went by. Time passes by and everything remains the same and unchanged. Yet something was changing in somebody’s life, without anybody knowing it. And the news struck like a lightning! One of Vanja’s patients, with officially acknowledged diagnosis of  paranoia, drowned in the Sava. The news flashed among Vanja’s patients and acquaintances, it was even published in the newspapers, though , fortunately for Vanja, the details were withheld. And the story goes like this: Vanja was eagerly and zealously developing his theory whose culmination was an image and experience of the streaming of the Eternal River. He managed to develop a method how to make his patients see the image and how to stimulate the experience of the flow. However the fate brought Vanja a paranoiac who had seen a friend drowning in his childhood so the image of the River, which Vanja forced upon the poor creature, caused him to merge the image, in his subconsciousness, with the conviction that he was capable of saving and reviving his drowning friend. He convinced himself he was Jesus walking over the water and coming to his friend’s rescue. The ending of the event hit the papers.

***

I am dreaming. The morning is thrusting its sharp nails through my windows and wandering throughout my dreams. I am dreaming about walking down the muddy path around the gigantic building with huge gables. The path is rising up a slight slope. Suddenly, Piki is running towards me and waving its tail and barking happily. Piki, the lost dog of my best childhood friend, is back! And now I can take him back and make my friend happy. I will get my absolution and can defend myself of Tamara’s mother’s accusations, the prosecutor mother. What a joy!

Then I enter the jewellery shop in the building with huge gables. I lean on the glass pane above the shiny pieces of jewellery and I pick up a lovely chain with a raindrop shaped pendant. I put only three coins on the counter for it and happily leave the shop. A raindrop is glimmering around my neck.

The sun is cutting fiercely through my dreams and has startled me. I wake up with incredible sense of joy and fulfilment. I can feel streaming and flowing within my body and joy pouring out. The day has broken, sunny, clear and bright. Everything is streaming, and the river, along with all its tributaries, is running towards the sea of joy.

I do not know whether everything is a river and eternal streaming, but I managed to dream my dreams through and the beginning is connected with the beginning. Could this be the essence of the River and eternal streaming?

 

CHINESE BUTTERFLY

 

A pleasant September afternoon, a cup of tea, now empty, but previously filled with quite strong and fragrant black tea. Late afternoon left traces of heavy sun rays, like nail scratches on the desk, a little pushed aside, near the window where there was the cup, made of very thin china, slightly transparent, decorated with thin bluish lines of a Chinese drawing. This was doctor Fran Visnjevic’s room. The drawing represented a turtle and a serpent, intertwined in a tight, firm embrace. They were completely merged, the turtle at the bottom, while the serpent was emerging from its body and curving towards the rim. Round bodies filled the whole inner side of this fragile porcelain cup. The rays came sideways towards it and revealed thin walls and refined lines of the drawing, while the cup oval was covered with bluish paint, marking the roundness and plumpness of the wriggling creatures. Turtle’s body had amazingly well-painted head of a tiger whose thick mane rested on turtle’s chest, while serpent’s body was topped with dragon’s head, widely and wildly gaping. Dragon-headed serpent was embracing tiger-headed turtle in a lethal, deadly clinch. Tightly clutching at each other, the beasts seemed terrifyingly, yet piteously inseparable. The symbolism of the Chinese cup implied ancient Daoist wisdom of interweaving and permeating opposite principles, where one features the flourishing of creative, lively, spring energy, while the other features passive, subordinate principle of dying, pictured as an autumn symbol. The symbol suggests inner unification and balance of both principles whose merging and embracement suggests wholesome, perfect circle of birth and death.

Doctor Fran Visnjevic was a respectable psychiatrist and psychotherapist. His own office was frequented by many people, and his method of curing a whole variety of different problems and disorders differed greatly from common methods. Doctor Visnjevic fostered a particular mixture of ancient Chinese philosophy of balancing opposite principles, which create a game of the subconscious and which he skilfully inoculated into his patients’ consciousness through talking to them, and then with particular subtlety and carefully listening to their subconscious confessions, he tried to balance the disturbed energies of the animus and the anima into a harmonious whole. He was tremendously skilled and successful at this. He has been developing his method of discreet and refined listening to the whirling subconsciousness, and then penetrating into the knot of unbalanced and disturbed flows and it has taken years of researching ancient Chinese teachings,  Jung’s psychoanalysis and his own experience he gained during his postgraduate studies in both Europe and America. A patient would not normally even notice anything, everything would seem just like a relaxed and most casual conversation. Nothing extraordinary about it, nothing outstanding, nothing remarkable. However, during such relaxed and idle conversation Fran Visnjevic would drop a casual joke. The joke would at first startle his patients and baffle their narrative, but then they would, completely unaware of it, accept it and follow the course doctor Visnjevic has set, quite deftly, inventively, soaked with understanding and readiness to absorb his patients’ problems and simply jump into their shoes, as he puts it, uniting and growing closer to them and thus examining the world from their perspective, figuring out how they see and experience it. Then his would use his expert method to bring into harmony what was off balance, fill in the gaps, answer his patients’ questions with paradoxes and guide them into finding the answer themselves. And he was successful indeed.

This afternoon he was expecting an unknown person who only shortly introduced himself over the phone, but doctor Visnjevic could not understand nor remember his name. They exchanged only a few words and arranged an appointment. Now doctor Visnjevic was sipping his black tea from his Chinese cup while the afternoon was drowning into soft dusk and everything was palled with gentle, subdued colours of a September sunset.

At exactly six o’clock, as previously arranged, the bell rang at doctor’s office door. The ringing started as a low-pitched tone and the rose to a merry, high-pitched jingle as though calling to Fran another challenge in the form of a visitor burdened with difficulties he was about to bring to equilibrium of consciousness, with all of his skill and loads of smugness. Doctor Visnjevic readily jumped up from his comfortable armchair and headed towards the door. When he opened them he saw a tall and very thin man with a gaunt face and sunken cheeks. The man was staring at doctor Visnjevic with a piercing look of his incredibly bright blue eyes. They seemed to be emanating fluorescent light and glowing on his gaunt face. The man was wearing blue shirt and dark blue trousers, with his clothes even more intensifying the impression of his unusually bright blue eyes. A light, grey coat was flapping around his legs, making an illusion of roundness of this skinny strange visitor.

Fran Visnjevic was taken aback and all of his usual self-confidence and eagerness to face a challenge seemed to have disappeared. Suddenly he was not capable of even uttering a single word, and he only kept staring at the unknown visitor, whose name he neither understood nor remembered, just as this stranger kept staring at him. That short moment while they were facing each other seemed to have turned into ages and lasted for millennia. As though everything stopped, as though all the noise from the streets hushed, just as did loud voices coming from his neighbour’s flat across the hall and noisy music coming from the upstairs where teenagers were going into trans listening to the latest hits of their favourite singers. As though everything died at that moment of persistent gazing and still, numbed standing at the door, while they were facing each other, not moving and not speaking.

The thin cortex of rational mind, otherwise ceaselessly watching over our every movement and word, over everything happening within and around us, with forces swelling and boiling beneath - exactly those forces Visnjevic was suppressing and balancing and which occupied far more of imaginary three-dimensional space of a mind - well, that thin cortex of the rational mind called out to Visnjevic and woke him up from temporary numbness and a kind of spell, so he managed to utter: “Good afternoon. Please, come in.”

After hearing those words, the stranger almost floated in, in a surreal fashion slipped past the astounded doctor Visnjevic and, as though he knew every corner of his office well, he headed straight towards the room where the doctor brought his patients to reason and senses. Doctor Visnjevic could not explain it to himself why a stranger went straight towards that particular room, not hesitating a wink, not even asking where to go. He could have easily gone through the open door of the waiting lounge, a comfortable room whose walls were decorated with Chinese drawings, and on the small table next to soft armchairs there were magazines and a small statue Fran Visnjevic had brought from America; or he could have headed towards a small kitchen, just opposite the waiting lounge. But neither happened, the stranger whose name the doctor did not know went straight into the therapy room and there he heavily, though this was not a word one would normally use for such a skinny and sunken creature, drooped into an armchair, just across the desk where doctor Visnjevic usually sat. Doctor Visnjevic, surprised and almost spellbound, followed his visitor and, carefully going round him, he sat down into his chair opposite the visitor.

The two men, sitting opposite each other, separated by the surface of a massive mahogany desk, kept sitting in silence. Utter silence. Or rather, the silence echoed. Exactly, the silence echoed. It was humming, whirling, roaring, and then again, amazingly, it got low and kept silent. The silence kept silent. It did not respond. It did not utter a sound, yet it echoed. Thunderously, loudly, noisily, as only silence is capable of. Or rather, dead calm. Deafening calmness. Overall deadness. The silence was silent.

Doctor Visnjevic shook his head. The silence was too loud, unbearable for his ears. It lasted for a moment, then two, extended to three and then in some terrifying progression, it devoured all time. Overwhelming silence. A kind of silence where everything is drowned, gone, flooded, dragged into the depths of the unspeakable. Fran Visnjevic felt quite clearly he could drown himself, as though a gaping void was opening beneath him. A precipice, an abyss, a ravine, a pitch-dark gap – waves of whirling thoughts emerged in Fran’s mind, one racing after another, obsessing and depriving each other of their anyway short existence. A moment, two, three, smooth silence.

Doctor Visnjevic, surprisingly not paying any attention to his visitor, who had comfortably settled in the armchair, seemed to be thinking everything was proper and just as it should be, and he turned around and looked through the window. He had met many silences and stillnesses in his lifetime. Each of them wearing its own disguise, he thought. This silence was, however, smoother than any other he had encountered, as smooth as an eggshell. Besides it is opaque, completely lacking transparency. There was not even a hint of a word, not a tiniest kernel of a thought is able to penetrate it, not a single feeling can be discerned. Amazement, astonishment, disapproval, resistance, disgust, or Fran Visnjevic might have been breathless and was simply not capable of uttering a word? Anything was possible. A promising silence, to put it simply. Promising as the roundness, curves, impenetrability, perfect smoothness of the perfectly polished surfaces, impeccable impermeability of the darkest densities, passionless roundness of the roundest, vast surfaces of round spheres. The silence resembling a perfection of a silent sphere, taciturn prisms turned inwards, flat pyramids, crooked Sphinxes’ noses, lifted eyebrows of desert prophets, misty blueness of blind Borghes’s sleepless nights, swollen corpses not being burned on the shores of the holy Ganges and pink roundness of Venetian Madonnas’ cheeks. Cupid, kairos, perfect, untroubled and untouchable equilibrium of arrows pointing into eternity and being discharged from the bows of those little intruders obsessing human souls. Obsession with the silence, hauntingness with the quietness. Utter void.

Fran Visnjevic scraped through the tip of his scattered thoughts and remembered many silences he had faced before, but none of them were so untouchably smooth or stentorian yet voiceless like this one. Silences are usually depressions in speech, predictable or unpredictable, intentional or unintentional halts in eloquence, noble or vile pauses in narratives, hints of futility of gabbing or intentional directing towards sensibility of sensible speech.  Noble silences, he thought, were really scarce. The time cannot remember the noble silence of the Noble Buddha. To the questions about life he replied with silence. To the questions about death he replied with silence, but with a different charge, different emptiness, different hollowness. To the questions about death the reply is a hollow silence. To the questions about life – a harsh silence. Other silences are easy to distinguish. Some give, others take away; some are sudden like untimely death, a word falters in the throat, others require outstanding eloquence; some silences coil around themselves for they have no other support, others are too quiet to be heard; some silences cause awkward jumps within words, like staggering, some  liberate while the others incarcerate; some are rational because they are silences, after all, others are irrational for the lack of quietness. This one, however was Silence of all Silences, Stillness of all Stillnesses, Void of all Voids. It should be touched and tasted, as you would do with vintage wine from the southern Italian slopes, rivers of ripe grapes rise against the sparkling waves of the sea. Round silence, curved stillness. Not rejecting nor wooing, not denying nor confirming, somewhere in the gap among all things, such a silence presides. Somewhere between yes and no there is a round, wholesome, intact, self-sufficient, full, compact, condensed silence.

The silence should be brought back to life, thought Fran, resurrected and revealed to everybody, it should be vivisected and put on display for everybody to see, and then buried alive so it could give birth to sparkling grape juice, in drifts of time coming down before our slightly bent knees. I bow to thee, gracious silence, I prostrate myself before thee, overwhelming silence, in a goblet filled with juices of grapey bunch of my buzzing thoughts, added Fran to himself. “Let’s, therefore, induce the overall silence to start talking.” This must have been the last crude thought which hit Fran in his short brooding and meditating over this stranger’s silence. A link in the word chain must have cracked inside him, completely spontaneously, opposing the almighty silence. Necessity of words, necessity of speech. Imperfection of the world.

“Sir?” There was a curious silence. First confirming, and then exclamatory silence must have followed. “Every meaning of silences should be extracted, threaded one next to another, arranged into a regular hexagram and figure out its primordial sense, its eternal power of earliest origin, primeval beginning of all creation, undulating movements through eons of creating before the beginning of the world, before the Noble One, before the prophet, before the chaos and fall, before the flood and gardens of Eden”, thought Fran. Silence is the infallible prophecy, prophecy of all prophecies, primal and unique. Hexagram of silence, an ideal shape of the Primal hexagram, the origin of prophesying, the first form of geometrical contemplation, first and unique insight into overall laws of worldly order, first and only connection of microcosmic atomic movements in the spiral towards elliptical cosmos which would then create, through undulation of mutual commotion, new worlds, the kernel of silence, the silence of ripening grapes, the silence of bunches of sunflowers against the scorching sun of Brittany and under Van Gogh’s brushes, swaying and waving bright yellow wheat in dandelion-yellow hot sunny morning. The kind of silence which tears up brain membrane and stares at turbulent power plant of a cerebellum. A hormonal disorder caused by silence. A depression of river flows in an interrupted fall towards inevitable splashing, crashing against rocks, tearing up corpses, annulling every sense, terminating any movement, twelve-day standing with raised arms on the slopes of dizzying mountains outside caves of Christian hermits in their religious ecstasy, stiffness of limbs after persistent lotus position of halted breathing through nostrils and mouths, collapsing of central system breath pipes, suffocation, disappearance, termination, death.

“Sir?”, started Fran Visnjevic again. His voice sounded like a sharpened pencil, a sudden sting, a sound of tearing a sheet of paper into irregular square-like bits, crushing down of tree heads, cut off by a chainsaw in vast woods, accompanied by innumerate perfectly sharpened echoes, a ringing sound in somebody’s ears, staring at the ceiling of a tiny room. His own voice seemed to be multiplying and concatenating through all forms of being spiked, pointed, whetted, sharpened and poignant; it seemed like slashing sound of a knife, flashing of a blade or of an arrow swooshing through the air – lightfast, swift, precise, right into the bull’s eye.

“You have known me for a long time”, stranger’s voice sounded as if coming from a great distance.

The sound of the voice spread unnaturally all over the room, into every corner, into every hole, under the armchairs, all over the desk, coiling around the windows already palled with the dusk, over the fortune telling table set in the middle of the geometrical balance, or actually, a bit off towards poorly lighted corner on the left of the window. A rush-mat was lying on the floor and creating a diagonal frontline against the straightforward pacing. The mat and the bookcase, the Book of Changes on a sacred but discreet place, and the box with incense sticks, decorated with refined a carving depicting Phoenix rising from the ashes. It had barely burnt up and gone through its lifetime of ashes, when it rose from the dust, widely spreading its wings, forcefully wrenching free its own dead being from ashes and dust and, still touching the red clay, already swooping skywards, into a free flight, towards the blue sky giving hints of neither dawn nor dusk. Misty outlines indicated all changes of the atmosphere distinguishable in the dim light in the room, and the discreet image could have been depicting weariness of the bird stuck for a century in the ash, and the sorrow of rebirth into another era of condemnation to flying and gloomy age of separating from the deadlock in the dust and joyful cry of the liberated bird in the crimson dawn of anticipation and the destiny of disproportionally big wings cursed to flying into the unfathomable heights every hundred years. Anything could have been depicted in the wood, any explanation was its true reflection. Like the holy Book of Changes, just like the hexagrams of happiness and sorrow, rise and fall, progress and death – vast, immeasurable ocean of changes, eternal flow, continuous commotion, unsteadiness of declining world with inevitable laws of creating and ceasing, birth and death of any trembling occurrence, restless soul, a body given to decaying and death, a jungle grown into lianas and huge bushes, where wild monkeys leap from one tree to another, crying madly. The Noble One has immersed into the silence, the images change, the world grows and drowns. The impassable transience, unsurpassable destiny grins grotesquely from every corner of the Book of Laws, roaring in a fierce invasion of wild, raging, screaming, growling laughter, jingling “You can’t escape it! You can’t escape it! You looked for it yourself and now it is yours and yours only. You have been drawing all your wisdom from it and now it is yours and follows you like a shadow. You can’t escape it! You can’t escape it!”

“Answer it! Answer it!”, a demon of laughter pestered Fran somewhere deep in his innards, cramping his stomach muscles and extending them as though his stomach was a disharmonious pipe. “Don’t give in, don’t give in, keep steady!”, another voice entwined with the cries of jungle monkeys, right in the middle of his room.

“The realm of monkeys, that’s what this world really is”, thought Fran and sighed. “The world of apparitions, illusions, deceptions, fancy, monkeys’ reflecting. The hypocrisy of monkey joy deceiving the serenity of the soul.”

The last thought sounded in Fran’s head like a hexagram from the Book of Changes, as though he had been repeating it to himself for a long time, harmoniously in the tension of his vocal chords and in accent, properly stressed in every syllable. The holy syllable, the mantra of uniting with inaudible cosmic and omnipresent primordial vibrations. The beginning of creation, termination of non-existence. Emerging to the surface of the ocean of sounds from the dreary rainforest, the realm of monkeys hanging from the branches entangled with vast expenses of thickets below huge mystical tree crowns whose trunks are inhabited by forest genii, good-natured dwarfs and elves. Everybody is awaiting; silence spread throughout the jungle, the monkeys halted as though they were interrupted by boiling lava which petrified them at the very place and at the very moment. The cries ceased, silence fell. Anticipation.

And the anticipation suddenly and unexpectedly came to its realisation, emerged to the surface and when Fran Visnjevic least expected it, stranger’s voice rang and echoed through the room. The voice was unusual, as the owner himself, and he seemed not to be addressing Fran in intelligible language, but as though his words flashed before Fran’s eyes in the form of hexagrams from the Book of Prophecy, as though before his eyes, on an imaginary screen, Chinese signs came to life, while a voice from the background spoke a word after another. But it was only an illusion, Fran Visnjevic must have imagined everything. Or at least that was what he was trying to convince himself.

The stranger spoke in a low voice which seemed to be coming from the bottom of a phantom well. And words welled forth like water: “Regarding obstacles to the principles to be removed, there is yet another obstacle whose roots lie in the scripts. The obstacle from the script is actually the obstacle of mind. Mystical sayings of Dao De Jing result from the deep enlightenment; if you take them literally and fail to see their inner meaning, if you fail to comprehend and falter at this obstacle, all kinds of false inferences, farfetched teachings and concoction of lies would penetrate your mind causing major damages both to your nature and your body.

Therefore ancient wise men spoke the truths in the form of indirect hints. Subsequently, for example, notions like water and fire, kindling and a copper, a boy and a girl, a tiger and a dragon, yin and yang and mystical female principle, they are all hints referring to something else. Those who are limited with words often exercise without even knowing that the Great Path is a life force, energy and spirit. Cherishing these three values means cherishing the germ; the germ is the root of the exalted. What all notions refer to is energy; the foundation of energy is the germ. The moment you become aware of the germ, all kinds of explanations lose their meaning. Why should one bother with meaningless things?

Therefore the scripts are not truthful explanations of the Path. When you conceive the Path yourself, you can forget about any scripts.”

Having said this, the stranger shut like a clam, as though he had not spoken at all. And doctor Fran Visnjevic was expecting anything but such an unfathomable penetration into the very essence of his psychotherapeutical method he had figured out himself and through a serious research into ancient Chinese scripts he had grasped, intensified and carried out into practice. Is the man joking, has his method been made public somewhere and now this weirdo is making fun of him, ridiculing him and laughing at years of his hard labour of studying and toilsome experience with disturbed minds? Has doctor Visnjevic, through practising his method, gained a reputation of being a mere quack, a cheat and a liar, a kind of doctor who lures ignorant and troubled souls to his office for a high price, extracting money from them for nothing more than pure illusion, fooling the poor creatures? Is that true? Could that be true? Is he really this kind of a practical joker and ignorant quack who has not fathomed a single word, let alone the point of what he has been instructing all poor creatures coming to his office? Has he even understood what the scripts say, the scripts he had been studying, or has he simply worked out a cute little puzzle comprising of sayings and methods of meditation and he got lucky after managing to make a concoction with everything he had learned during his studies at university, added some relaxed atmosphere and wit and in that way got hold of the troubled ones and played a funny game with them as his toys and led them to believe they have been healed and cured, they have become sane and coherent again and that their distress and misery are nothing but shadows from their past?

Doctor Visnjevic found himself in a most unpleasant state of doubting his own sanity. Hardly anything more unpleasant could happen to a person so self-confident pushing to the verge of vanity and arrogance, snobbery he was able to afford by making money from his circus fair of his self-admiring wisdom. He was all sweat and his hands suddenly started shaking. He was overwhelmed by strange feelings – fear, doubt, anguish, something resembling solid ground slipping beneath your own feet, as though are about to slip on thin ice he was forced onto by this strange man. He did not know what to do, what to say, what to reply, if there were any point in replying to a man who happened to burst into his consecrated space and recited a quote from a Chinese script? Shall he throw him out? Or shall he kindly ask him to clarify those incoherent rambling, pretending he has no clue whatsoever about what the man was talking about. Or shall he ask him what his troubles are, why he is talking incoherently and, generally, what he is talking about? Or shall he pretend to have understood everything clearly and completely and that he agrees with everything he has just said? He was torn by contradictory feelings of fear and hope, anxiety and reluctance, embarrassment and weird inclination towards this stranger who spoke of the very essence of his method. He went even further and questioned, tested and tormented Fran, putting him into an awkward situation and dilemma and thus causing his mind to turn into a chaos of bewildering thoughts.

However, doctor Visnjevic decided, having pulled himself together and turning to the thin cortex of rational mind, to start manoeuvring, to put off the solution to this mystery, to pretend to be oblivious as though he could not understand, yet guessed what this was actually all about. Therefore he said: “Yes, indeed, sir. Wisdom is acquired through experience. Studying something like that, which I, to be frank, do not fully understand, but it is certainly to your credit and worth attention.”

Doctor Visnjevic was using his favourite method of approving his patients’ observations, almost flattering them, in order to bring to the surface what was hiding in their subconsciousness. And then he would start his own game and, to the surface of turbid water and mud and slough of his patients’ subconscious, drag out their troubles and suppressed fears. However, the response to his manoeuvring and opening up the game was completely unexpected. The stranger shook his head and spoke again: “How is creation used? To study its usage, an independent mind should be consulted. An independent mind is permeated with understanding; it watches the changes in movements and the balance between yin and yang, takes an example by absolute yang and unites with its firm and steadfast activities, takes an example by absolute yin and unites with its flows. An independent mind gives itself to studying four seasons and is moulded by an environment they provide. Slowly fathoming the supreme, it immerses into the primal source.

A thorough study into the flows of creation and evolution and sitting with a calm and concentrated mind shows there is only energy of the concentration, only a silenced sitting. There is nothing in an independent mind that had been nurtured and crystallized by an alchemical potion, uniting the skies and the earth.

What is a hindrance in doubting? The Great Path is easy to understand, simple to realize; a sign of a enlightened teacher is a lamp in a dark room, clear and bright like a crystal ball. However, hindrance in doubting strikes its deep roots. When somebody speaks of the Path, many contribute their observations and thoughts until the influence of all that noise becomes deafening, and people turn from the right to the wrong and distorted, mistaking truths for lies. It resembles falling of a high cliff into a deep abyss.

The words of the wise men are certainly exalted: “An open mind does not die; it is a passage pervaded by all kinds of wonders.” The Path of the wise men is certainly exalted – open and free, in harmony with causes, pure and bright. What is the use of various teachings? Temporarily letting oneself to chaos and crowds creates the hindrance in doubting, and people tend to fall into its trap. What a pity they cannot understand and leave the subject of their contemplation at the mercy to hurtful influences.

The followers ought to learn from true teachers. Do not let yourself be distracted by false teachings and do not tread one way roads. Clear openness, calm harmony, nurturing life force, cherishing spirit, penetrating into hidden secrets and into tendency towards them, same and focused attention, true enlightenment, yin and yang, true insight and creative awareness, overcoming obstacles, enlightenment, creative force and contagious calmness – they are all hiding in one’s mind. What is the use of a name? Forms do not survive. Everything is so simple and easy. What other doubts might arise? If you do not overcome the obstacle of doubt, you will incessantly live in chaos and confusion.”

“This can’t be happening!” Doctor Visnjevic thought this, but he did not say it aloud. “This man can read my mind! And he does it completely articulate and clear, like when my patients open up their souls before me.”

And indeed, the stranger could read doctor Visnjevic’s mind, or at least is seemed so. He seemed to be aware of what kind of anxiety seized his heart, he seemed to be aware what kind of fear and ambivalence overwhelmed him and above all started giving him advice and even more rousing his state of utter unwillingness. He spoke of creating, and that must have referred to him psychoanalytic method. He spoke of a doubt which deeply and bitterly overwhelmed his heart he could hardly breathe while his hands trembled. He spoke of names and words, and those were his own major tools he used in his game with the subconscious. However, doctor Visnjevic was incapable of predicting what was just about to happen, not even in his wildest dreams. And ominous words uttered by the stranger followed: “in the skies, the energy is the essence and the shape, yin and yang, movements of the sun, moon and stars, the flows of tide and ebb; it is the cloudiness, mist, fog and humidity; it is the heart of living beings, evolution and development. On the earth, it is the power, fuel, driving force of myriads of beings, the source of mountain torrents, it brings life and takes it away, it stimulates and maintains, it is the flow of time, blooming and perishing, increasing and decreasing, sprouting, blossoming and fading away. In people you can recognize it as their energy, their body movement, activities, speech and resentments, it is their body activity, the frame of life and death.”

What followed these words seemed as though the earth moved beneath doctor Visnjevic’s feet, as though he suddenly fell down a precipice. Everything shook before his eyes and moved in a frenzied spin, things started flying around the room, a bookcase was now firmly adhering to the ceiling, while the mat was floating above the desk which was moving towards the window. Everything was chaotically flying all over the place, nothing was in its proper place, everything went wild and crazy. In this chaos Fran Visnjevic felt his body was losing weight, he was getting unnaturally light and waves of transformation were rushing through his body and overwhelming him completely. He was losing it, fading away. In vain he tried to reach out his arm and touch something tangible and heavy, make a final effort in preventing himself from rushing and darting aloft and completely disappearing. However everything was futile. Fran Visnjevic was slowly, but steadily, vanishing. A beautiful butterfly was emerging in his place. The butterfly had wings comprising of two round surfaces blazing with pattern of incredibly beautiful colours. Its tail was long and resembling kite’s tail that children like to play with and let it fly freely high in the air. The butterfly was flying all over the room, circling around, and then it rushed into a wild and free flight. It rushed out through the window and disappeared beyond the roofs. It was flying freely and doing stunts like a most skilful acrobat on a circus trapeze, with no safety net beneath to protect him from a sudden slip and fall. It was flying above roof tops, over the shops and streets of the town, then it turned and rushed skywards. It was playing with dusk, floating under the rays of the dying sun and feeling the utter freedom.

There are no real measurements of time to measure that wild, joyful, delighted flight of a free-flying butterfly. It might have lasted a nanosecond, it might have lasted for eons, who could fathom the answer? Yet, as suddenly as it had commenced its flight, the flight of the butterfly disappeared into the invisible horizon. And all peaces of furniture - the bookcase, the mat, the desk, the armchairs – were in their proper places again in Fran Visnjevic’s room, having regained their weight and ability to accommodate people for endless talks. And doctor Visnjevic was sitting in his armchair and looking around his room. He touched his face, his knees, bent backward, bent forward, stretched out his arms, and all of his limbs regained their shape and weight. He touched the desk. It was his mahogany, smooth desk. He looked round. Through the window he could see the sun setting down, disappearing beyond the horizon. He looked under the desk; there was the mat with the colourful pattern. The clock hands were pointing to exactly six o’clock, the time a stranger had made his appointment for. Not a single second, not even a nanosecond, has elapsed since the moment he was sipping his black tea out of his Chinese cup and waiting for a visitor, whose name he neither understood nor remembered. There was no gap in the time or space, there was nothing at all, and nothing has happened.

Doctor Visnjevic was wondering in bewilderment. He had a blurred memory of a moment he felt drowsiness while sipping his strong, bitter black tea. He may have dozed off for a short while, he may have been stunned by the tea and got lost in his dreams? Indeed, he had this strange feeling of waking up from a deep sleep in which he was a butterfly, flying freely, delightfully and happily around the world. Yes, that’s it, he dreamt he was a butterfly. And then he woke up and he was again Fran Visnjevic, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who invented a method of healing human soul, just like acupuncture heals human body.

And then everything became crystal clear. He remembered a famous saying by Zhuang Zi he had often thought about. It goes like this:

 

Once upon a time, says Zhuang Zi, I was

a butterfly for a night and flew contentedly

with my destiny. Then I woke up

and I was Zhuang Zi. Who am I really?

A butterfly dreaming of being Zhuang Zi,

or Zhuang Zi imagining he was a butterfly?

 

And then he remembered a comment accompanying a puzzle-story “A butterfly-philosopher”:

Metaphysical meaning of the fable has been summed up in the question ‘who am I?’, as Zhuang Zi is asking himself, ‘are there two true individualities in my case? Has there been a real transformation of one individuality into another?’ The moral is: ‘Neither. There have been two unreal transformations of a single and unique being within the worldly law which says all being are one in all their forms.’

 

DREAMS FROM A CHINESE PICTURE BOOK

 

She is trudging down the street with heavy steps. She is listening, but can’t hear; she is watching, but can’t see; she is reaching out, but can’t grasp. Closely attached buildings line up, one coming right after the other and they seem to have no ending for the street is so incredibly long and her clumping along echoes loudly. It is a mild September evening, the dusk appearing in the skies where the sun is setting down beyond horizon like a heavy red-and-orange orb, and nothing seems real, tangible, here and now, but somewhere else, outside, far away and nowhere, which is basically the same. While sinking into the far away arched sky, the sunset at the end of the street is creating an impression as though the whole town is a big stage and walkers-by are not merely people having a walk or striding along, but actors on a huge stage, framed with the setting sun disappearing beneath the town and it seems as though the sun will glow from inside out, from the depth of the earth, and then, on that enormous, gigantic stage, the spotlights will illuminate all faces whose masks will fall off, all streets and squares, all passages and shop-windows, and the entire world will turn into a puppet theatre where unknown forces are to pull puppet strings.

She is walking, deep in her thoughts erratically swarming in her head and only occasionally a clear idea or a guess emerges to the surface, flashes suddenly and then drowns again into her dark consciousness. The street is long; its beginning is at the square with the army facilities and its ending at the junction opening up onto a another square and a park nearby, where flowers are already withering away in their final blossoms and soon to be nothing but dry grass and dried, yellow leaves. She is not looking back, she is not looking at anything, she is past noticing anything. She is walking along not sensing her own body, as though she has become disembodied, as though she is no longer present, as though she has turned into nothing and vanished. Suddenly she quickens her pace, as though she has eventually become aware where she is actually going, what her goal is, where she is heading. And the closer she is getting to the doorway in the long line of crowded buildings, the more nauseous she is feeling, and she is overwhelmed by sickness and she can hardly swallow her saliva accumulating in her mouth and she is licking her dry lips. She is feeling her nausea in her heavy and swollen feet, and then it climbs up to her thighs, and then crawls into her lower innards where it settles and presses against her breast. Her breath is short and feet are heavy and she does not feel like going into that tall and towering building, right next to the junction and the square. She wants to run away, escape and disappear down the street and flee towards the park with withered roses and fallen off dry, yellow leaves; she wants to go round that haunted building and continue walking further and further away, away from that haunted, ominous building where her agony languishes. But she cannot get rid of a thought that the encounter about to happen as soon as she enters the doorway into the building and climbs up the steep stairs to the third floor, that the encounter is in some inexplicable way of crucial importance to her, that no matter how hard she tries she cannot put it off, let alone avoid despite most appropriate excuse. Something hard to explain is drawing her to the very place, to the very person she is going to see as soon as the door opens, to the wrinkled old man’s hand streaked with veins and sprinkled with brownish, old-age freckles. Something, maybe a destiny, is pushing her towards the that old man. She cannot explain it to herself for there is not a logical and comprehensive reason why she does not simply walk on along the street, all the way to the park and sit on the nearest bench, stretch out her legs, rest her hands in her lap and watch the sun going down into a soft September mist. Without thinking about anything, but only watching around and looking at the yellow-orange plump orb of the sun disappearing behind the roofs, a ball just about to jump off the windows and dart upwards, high into the sky along with the kites children are to let fly and coil and whirl around, while they make invisible patterns against the blue warp of the sky with their long and playful tails. Why does she not do it, why does she not simply walk on and find a bench in the park, or continue walking even further, down the intricate net of old streets, or perhaps climb to the Old Town and watch myriad of houses, and buildings, and squares, and streets from up there and simply let the wind flow down her body while she is overwhelmed with a sensation the gentlest lover is caressing her, the minstrel wind that happens to be at the very spot from where she is looking at the endless world, the world whose end she cannot even catch a glimpse of despite the view from the heights of the Old Town. But she cannot do it no matter how hard she tries; she simply has to enter the building, climb up the steep stairs, along the walls blurred with patches of dampness creating images beyond recognition, along the dusty floor, past the floors with three flats each, with brass plates and engraved names of their owners next to each door, and with an ominous old man on the third floor she simply has to see, has to meet. She does not know why and cannot give any comprehensive explanation, but she feels the urge to enter his flat and settle in an old armchair smelling of dampness and staleness, she has to listen, yet not hear, watch, yet not see. Fatal encounter. Predestined encounter. Arranged encounter.

 

*

 

And she finds herself sitting in that old armchair smelling of dampness, and relentlessly watching the old man.

He is looking at her without uttering a single word, and a smile is lingering on his face.

HE: What are you going to talk to me today?

SHE: About dreams. I dream. I dream a different dream each night. And they come every night, they pile up and extend, and I can’t explain them. Are you a dream-interpreter?

HE: The most competent you have ever met or will ever meet. Tell me about your dreams.

SHE: Since I last came to see you, my nightmares have been pouring over into my reality. I wake up and I don’t know if I’m still dreaming, or if a new day has broken and reality has taken over. When I dream, I dream in stories and they seem so real, as a part of my life, whereas my life, occurring in reality, seems merely a copy of what happens in my dreams. In my dreams I feel things that happen in them are things that have already happened or are happening at that very moment, as though the dream denies reality, and I hesitate between the two worlds, not knowing which one of them is real.

HE: A dream is most knowledgeable of our subconsciousness, my dear. Whatever emerges within a dream, it tries to work out the deepest secrets of our souls in reality. Tell me, have you been dreaming about love and death?

SHE: Yes, love and death, verdict and punishment, crime and forgiveness. Why?

HE: Because a new bud of love rapture is growing inside you. Your soul born-to-love is being born through the agony of dreams. That wondrous realisation of your dreams will turn up somewhere, at a corner, in a square, in a tram or in a street. A prince on a white horse, while you are still a spellbound princess who had fallen into a deep sleep that would last for centuries. Isn’t it so?

SHE: It might be. I have dreamt of a saint wearing a white gown. He had a long beard and bright blue eyes with a piercing look. His gown went all the way to the floor, and then he opened his arms widely, looked carefully at me while I stood before him, and he uttered only a single word: love. And then he disappeared. And there was another scene. Soldiers with long, pointed spears encircled a group of Jews and asked them to pay a fare to pass, through their lines down the road hardly discernable in the distance. The Jews offered the soldiers golden sheets. Golden sheets glittered in the moonlight. But the soldiers would not accept the sheets. They threatened to kill the entire bunch unless they pay an appropriate price for their passage. And there appeared the same saint in a white gown again, approached the Jews who were trembling with fear and advised them to offer the soldiers rusty relics from the graves where the deceased had been buried with funeral gifts – spear blades, pottery and clay pots chips. From a hidden slits in their clothes the Jews pulled out funeral remnants and gave them to the soldiers to pay for their passing by. And the soldiers accepted their chipped-clay fare and they lined up in two rows, straight like their own spears thrusting upwards. They lined up like pearl beads on a thin thread, and they created a triumphal arch for the Jews. So the Jews passed by the soldiers and disappeared down the road.

When I wake up and open my eyes I feel as though the Jews re marching through my bedroom, then further through the living room, then they pass through the front door and vanish downstairs. When I get out in the street i feel like walking through the cordon of soldiers, standing straight and stiff, with their spears pointing upwards, and a road is stretching before me, a road I am about to tread and disappear in the distance.

HE: Your soul is looking for a way out, for ways how to climb up the abyss you had fallen into. The saint is a personification of light and hope, he promises and offers a salvaging word of a rescue: LOVE. The Jews are your friends, the good and the living elements within yourself looking for the salvation. The soldiers are your enemies, just as they are to the Jews whom they force to pay. And the road is your future a saint is helping you into. He is personification of hope and love. It is a simple and absolutely comprehensible dream, easy to discern.

SHE: And the other night I had a nightmare. A nightmare only while I sleep, while the story is complete and told from the beginning to the end. I am in an unknown town. I don’t recognize it, yet I know it is big, it is huge, even enormous, and it must be the capital of an unknown county. And in that city I find myself on a wide, muddy road running slightly upwards past a building with gigantic gables. The gables are so huge, and the building is gigantic and tall, and I feel completely small, and tiny, and insignificant. Here, in this building in an unknown city, lives my cousin. Although the building is enormous, her flat is really small, dark, with narrow halls and two tiny rooms. My late uncle opens the door for me, and in my dream he looks exactly as I remember him during his lifetime – quiet, calm, composed, as though nothing in this world is strange to him, or as though nothing can surprise him or bewilder him. My cousin comes out of a tiny room into a hall and shows her annoyance at my arrival. She tells me to go to the other end of the block of flat because there is a jewellery shop there. I turn round and I can’t see my uncle and my cousin anymore. I go down the gigantic staircase and go round the building along a winding corridor, stretching all around that stranded ship on a muddy path. At the other end of the building there is indeed a jewellery shop. I go inside, into a cramped space and I look at the golden jewellery below a glass pane. The jewellery is incredibly cheap and I can’t stop wondering at the fact that 24-carat gold can be as cheap as it is in this shop. I look at the jeweller in amazement and ask him whether the prices on the tags are correct. He confirms by nodding his head and points to necklaces and bracelets of incredible craftsmanship. I hesitate and keep staring at glittering gold shining under the sun whose rays manage to penetrate into the dark shop. Yet I don’t buy anything. I stand in the shop empty-handed while everything around me starts fading away and disappears; my dream is dissipating and I finally wake up in sweat and trembling.

HE: Do you believe in my interpretations?

SHE: No, no I don’t, they are too simple and not very plausible. My dreams pour over into reality and create a horrifying chaos of dreaming with my alert consciousness. After having dreamt of an unknown town and the jeweller’s and my cousin and my late uncle, I walked into the street and I didn’t seem to know where I was, if I was here or in that unfamiliar town, if the living were dead or the dead were treading the streets like the living. Everything was being flooded by huge waves, I and know I would drown in them. Your interpretations are completely vain. Shallow. Stale psychoanalysing in interpreting dreams. Nothing new, everything is merely a concoction of lies.

HE: Right, let it be your way. What else have you dreamt about? Though you don’t believe in my interpretations of illusions in your dreams and apparitions in reality, tell me anyway.

SHE: In my dream I am standing in the middle of an empty street, late at night, outside one of those buildings that all look the same. I recognize the street; it is in Zagreb and quite near the building where I used to live when I was a girl. Suddenly my incredibly heavy body starts floating upwards, rising towards a window with lights on, just underneath the roof. I take off, rise into the air, I fly, but I have to try hard and put tremendous effort in my movements which remain very slow. Finally I reach the lighted window and barely manage to cling to the window frame. The room is big, spacious, and there is nobody in there. Near the window, to the left, there is a desk with the lamp on, an ancient lamp throwing soft yellow light over the room. There isn’t anything else on the desk; it is empty. Apart from the lamp emanating light. The wall on the left the is covered with a huge bookcase. The books are very old, leather bound, and everything emanates tranquillity and repose, as though that single lighted room in the loft accumulates all the knowledge and all the wisdom, and provides peace, calm and bliss. I stare at the room and I am overwhelmed by tranquillity. And then suddenly I move away from the window and dart upwards, straight into the night sky sprinkled with glittering stars. Now I’m flying freely and lightly, refreshed by the peace I have been overwhelmed with by watching the temple of wisdom, hidden and languishing in bleak, grey building in this town, resembling any other and not differing from them in any detail. I’m flying easily and joyfully, and the town drowned into the night is spreading out beneath me. Streets are going by, buildings are going by, parks and squares are going by, and I suddenly find myself in my childhood friend’s place. His family is really poor and I put a pile of bills on a table in their living room. And I am pleased about it, really happy, and I feel as though I am a schoolgirl again, sharing the common school bench with this long forgotten friend.

HE: Do you want me to interpret your dream?

SHE: All right. Not that I believe you, but have a try.

HE: You are looking for answers to deeply suppressed questions about the purpose of life. And it is personified in your childhood friend and childhood games you used to be completely absorbed with, completely engrossed by, not noticing anything around. Nothing mattered except the pure joy of playing them; the world used to be a magical play where you had a leading role. And any question on purpose of life was met with an answer emerging from the game itself. Now you lack confidence in yourself and you find yourself in a terror of self-doubt. This is toilsome and painful. Therefore you keep coming back to the place where you grew up to find that same peace and happiness you experienced as a girl. Are you pleased with the interpretation?

SHE: Perhaps. But you haven’t explained how come I see long forgotten faces and how come all those people I meet seem familiar and close. My late uncle resurrects before my own eyes; buildings of unknown town and of my hometown line up in front of me; the Jews pass by me through the cordon of soldiers.

HE: Right, I know the answer to your questions. It is hidden in a Chinese picture book I’m going to give you. Read the stories and you’ll find the answers to your questions. You don’t believe me, but I know secret interpretations of dreams that go far beyond mere psychoanalysis. Read the stories and you’ll see for yourself.

 

*

 

That Chinese picture book was very thin. The pictures inside depicted people engrossed in various chores – carrying buckets with water, collecting kindling in the woods, talking, women in chaste poses of seduction, and everything was painted in blue and azure. There are only two stories in the book, both short and condensed. She wonders what secret could these stories be hiding as a remedy for her torment, as a relief from a heavy burden pressing and preventing her from breathing while the apparitions from her dreams swarm around her and would not stop pestering her? She decides to collect her thoughts and cope with the story. The first one read:

 

A Deer Dispute

A man from Zheng used to look for kindling in the woods. He came across a deer which immediately started running away. However he caught the animal, hit it and killed it. He did not want anybody to find it so he hid it in a hollowed tree and covered it with leaves and branches, incredibly happy for his unexpected gain.

However, he happened to forget the exact location of where he had hidden his catch. After a while he started to believe it had all been nothing but a dream. Walking down the path he told about his unfortunate event, so a passer-by, having heard the story and following the instructions the man had given, he went looking and eventually he found the deer.

Having returned home, the man told the story to his wife: “Before I went to the woods, a man had been collecting kindling, too.  The man had dreamt of catching a deer, but forgotten the exact location where he had hidden it. I managed to find it. His dream was thus reality.”

His wife spoke in disbelief: “Aren’t you the one who dreamt of a man collecting kindling and thus found the deer? Who can say how you suddenly remembered the collector? But in reality you found the deer, therefore your dream turned out to be true.” The man added: “I found the deer. I don’t care who had a dream, me or somebody else.”

The man who was collecting the wood came home very cross for losing his deer. That very night, in his dream he saw the place where he had hidden it, as well as the person who had found it. The next day, following the instructions from his dream, he went to other man’s home and claimed his right. They commenced an argument and the dispute was brought before a judge. The judge said: “Did you really catch the deer and then mistakenly believed it had only been a dream; or did you really dream you had found the deer and now you are mistaken by believing you had really found it? Did the other man really take the deer you are now claiming your ownership over? Collector’s wife went even further claiming her husband had seen both the deer and the man, thus nobody had found the animal. I demand you split the deer into two and consult the prince of Zheng on the whole matter.”

The prince of Zheng said: “I am afraid the judge himself had dreamt of sharing the deer between the two. I could not say. In order to distinguish between dreams and reality we need wisdom of Huangdi or Kong Zi. But they are not among us anymore. Do as the judge had said.”

 

And then, below the picture of an old man climbing up a huge mountain, there was another story:

 

RICH YIN AND HIS SERVANT

 

A man called Yin lived in the village of Zhi. He ran a substantially big estate. His servants and workers did not know any rest, neither by day nor at night. Among his other servants, there was an old servant whom he burdened with hard work despite his very old age. In the daytime this old servant worked hard breathing heavily and at night he slept tightly, completely worn out. Then, with his spirit finally liberated, he would dream about being a king and having innumerate servants. He ran all businesses in his kingdom. He would walk around his palace and his private rooms, thoroughly enjoying everything he liked and his bliss was complete. After waking up, he would become a slave again.

Once somebody, feeling sorry for him after seeing his hard work and misery, tried to comfort him, but the old servant replied: “A man’s life, even if it lasted for a hundred years, is divided regularly into days and nights. Thus at daytime I am a servant and my life is indeed hard. But at night I am a king and I couldn’t be happier. Therefore why should I complain about my position?”

Yin was on the other hand busy with his worldly affairs and his estate was troubling him. He was so tired out that after a while he got both physically and mentally ill. Every night he would dream he was a servant and had to set down to hard work to finish all his chores. He would be beaten, yelled at and cursed. He could not avoid being tortured. He was moaning and groaning and sighing in his sleep. His rest would come with the break of a dawn.

One day Yin asked his friend for advice and told him about his torment. This is what his friend told him: “Your position provides you with many honours. Your treasure is immense and your situation is much better than of others. And as to the dream in which you are a slave, this is only a natural course of things, for pain and joy must take turns. It is impossible to wish that reality and dreams become one and the same.”

On hearing his friends words, Yin decided to relieve his servants of toilsome work, reduce his own affairs, a source of so many worries and his disease affected him less.

And there was a miracle of transformation.

 

*

 

Early morning spilt over Zagreb. The dawn seemed to be resting on its roofs, streets and squares after a tiresome orbiting of September sun along round tracks of its journey in the sky. The sun is rising in its velvety and lazy way, going up in the arched sky, bending over completely still waters of the lake. Near its shores there is a tall building where She is sleeping peacefully. The lake looks like a pond of oil at this early hour, spilt by a relenting heavenly hard-worker, while diligently and fervently lubricating planetary axes, and taking great care so that the heavenly device runs smoothly as ever, just like it does every morning at sunrise and every evening at sunset. And after the sun has completed its journey from the dawn in the east to the dusk in the west, all stars that were invisible prior to that will sparkle in the sky, as well as the Milky Way and far-away galaxies, beyond our reach. And every evening, just before the sunset, every part of that incredible, magical heavenly device will be lubricated by inaudible, invisible and untouchable heavenly toilers that look after the delicate engine, taking care it does not break down or slips into the abyss of dark void, into the chaos before the creation of the world and disorder and riot of erratic flow of wild currents of the beginning. Every lever must be precisely adjusted, every string of the galactic harmony stars use to sing their tunes and hymns must be carefully attuned, while axes around which the whole world rotates must spin in never changing rhythm, precisely as a clockwork of Swiss watches, whose maker looked up to the very stars while creating them. How tiny, yet powerful we are when compared to the mighty skies! That hard-working master spilt this September morning a little of that magical grease so that the Lake of Jarun is still and glittering under the rays of the sun already coming up and it is only a while before it emerges from the ocean of heavenly waves stirring at the far end of the Milky Way. It will come out and shine, and the Moon will disappear like a milk-white sphere and cast its silver light over the skies and illuminate the road for the stars.

Everything is shimmering and glittering under the sky.

She is stirring in her bed and suddenly, at the border between her dreams and reality, pink morning light starts poking her eyelids. Her thoughts are unambiguous and distinctly clear. She can feel the, touch them, play with them. She has not been able to do this for a long time. Her memories leaked from some hidden corners, but their spring was mild and calm and it was murmuring surrounded by deposits of her dew soaked thoughts. She perked up. A new morning has been spreading before her, a new day has begun and a new tomorrow, and a new day after tomorrow seemed visible in the pink horizon, in the fresh morning dew watering today, yesterday and tomorrow. And everything seemed clear now as though she has finally woken from a nightmare, and only now she has become capable of discerning dreams from reality. A dawn is always a judge of a night, and a healer of all wounds. A new today has broken, fresh as only heavenly fields can be. And she knows yesterday has magically vanished and disappeared leaving no trace behind, and she feels only a new today, a new tomorrow and a new dawn are lying before her.

On her bedside table her magical Chinese picture book is gleaming with a strange light. Suddenly there is a breeze and the pages of the book start ruffling. The paper is rustling with velvety sound and a soft voice seemed to fill in the room saying: “Dreams and reality, reality and dreams, they both dwell in the secret corners of the sky, their axes spinning and making nights turn into days, and then back into night.” The whisper is fading away, and the book leaves start ruffling faster and faster and suddenly it flies high into the air and disappears into the morning light.

 

 

A BOY AND HIS DREAM

 

On a sunny, bright day a Boy stood in front of a Ducal Palace. He had come there before the dawn and now he was standing completely alone on a polished marble surface, smooth and slippery from the rain of the previous day, on a spacious square before the grand gate to the Ducal Palace. The guards, having dozed off outside the splendid gate were stirring in their sleep and slowly beginning to wake up. They were rubbing their eyes, stretching their stiffened legs, some of them yawning lazily, and some drowsily running their hands over their shiny weapons, and only then they noticed the Boy, alone and amazed, maybe a bit bewildered, who was hopping and shifting his weight from one leg to the other and then again to the first one because his feet were cold with morning chill. He was smiling timidly at the freshly awoken guards. He was undecided, as though he was trying to muster some courage and strength to meet the Doge himself, which he was looking forward to, and honestly hoping the Doge might understand his request, coiling around his heart like a wriggling snake of any Boy’s hope. He was clutching his frozen hands in small pockets of his short jacket, keeping his fingers crossed; he was reluctant and irresolute, he was dreading, yet truly and with all his heart he was hoping for positive outcome of his greatest wish. He looked at the guards who now seemed as towering and threatening giants, not even remotely like good-humoured giants, but the kind you need to gather a lot of boldness to approach to and speak to, you need to muster all the Boyish courage to talk them into letting you pass so that you can see the grand Doge. The guards, however, did not even have a good look at him before now, and then they gazed at him. Small and tiny as he was he did not seem like a serious threat; what could a small, skinny Boy with frozen hands and fingers crossed in his pockets do to them, the great giants of Law and Justice and Sacred Guarding, anyway?! They would not even have to pull out their weapons, it would suffice only to shout in a pretty loud voice at the Boy and he would be gone.

Yet, the Boy stood there, determined to ask the Doge for the audience, even for the shortest while, in his bright rooms and to listen to his greatest wish of his heart, and in his heart it turned from ice into flame, flickering and bright fire. And the guards seemed to have noticed the flickering of the fire in the Boy’s eyes, as though they suddenly did not dare not let him pass, as though they did not mind or care to warn him not to stand in the middle of Marco’s Square and not to attract attention of the people in the streets, for the Doge must not be disturbed, nobody is to stir his righteous rage, nobody is to untimely wake him up. The Boy was only a small, fragile Boy with frozen hands, yet the strength of his flame showing in his very blue eyes and flickering on his cold-reddened cheeks somehow caused certain respect adults occasionally tend to show for helpless and fragile children. Some children quickly grow into giants of their childish world, and that certainly attract at least some attention, if not even real esteem. Thus the guards unwillingly asked the Boy where he was headed and for what purpose, and when he replied he urgently needed to see the Doge and that his most ardent wish was to retrieve what had been stolen from him, the guards only shrugged, turned indifferently away from the Boy and let him walk into the Palace.

There the Boy found himself in a real maze of so many luxurious rooms, spacious and richly decorated halls where he could skate and glide forever, hop and run and roll all day long and he was almost overwhelmed by the desire to do so, to take a run down the polished floor of the dancing hall and let himself to gliding and curb around that particular corner leading towards the entrance into secret passages, then keep gliding from there into a secret room, hide and crouch there and commence watching what was about to happen in the hall without anybody seeing him. He might crouch there, hidden and unseen, and spend a whole day. Would it not be wonderful to see and hear everything without being seen by anybody? He would most certainly be able to see the whole, glamorous Doge, all respectable and important persons in Doge’s life as a ruler. He would watch their fine clothes, listen to their jingling voices, secret talks and whisperings and smiling at the honourable Doge, and everything would be incredibly funny so that he, the Boy himself, would not even notice the elapsing of time, coming off and disappearing like sugar coating on sweet and creamy cakes, masterpieces of broadly smiling red-faced chefs. Then he would hide in some other secret corner, find a secret passage to the very Ducal kitchen and there he would eat up everything his feeble hand would be able to grasp. Thus did the Boy daydream after reaching corridors in the Ducal Palace.

But he had no time for his fancy and daydreaming. He should prepare how to approach and speak to the Doge, how to find proper words that would soften him and make him listen and grant his request. He commenced looking for all gracious and fine words in his memory he had heard adults use when addressing the Doge, something like ‘your Ducal highness’, or ‘our righteous and wise ruler’, or even better, ‘most honoured sir’. This was how he was expected to address the grand Duke. He worked hard to produce a whole sentence. When he eventually succeeded, he started repeating and repeating it until he remembered it properly. But the more times he repeated the sentence, the quicker he forgot it, until he finally could not discern the beginning from the end of the sentence, let alone the whole, carefully devised sentence. He was now completely perplexed, bewildered, and the whole anguish of the situation made him shift his weight from one leg to the other, clutching his hands and nervously twist his fingers, spin around at the place he was standing, peering around, but not being able to discern things clearly or focus on anything. He was completely confused. Poor creature, the Boy managed to muster so much courage, pass the guards, reach the gate to the Palace he had longed to reach for a long time, and now he could not think of a single comprehensive sentence, he did not know how to bend before the Doge, nor how to present his honest and ardent wish to the Doge. What should he do, where should he go, how to come into the Doge’s good graces and how the tell him with his heart what was on his mind? Think, look into your heart and there you will find a bright key that might open any door. Any ear is capable of hearing what a heart has to say, even grown-ups’ ears, ever if that were the Grand Ruler and the only authority to such small, tiny Boys, as was our Boy, a giant of the children’s world. Calm down. He would speak with his heart, not his words, he would speak from hidden corners of his gentle heart, not from his mind unable to think of anything appropriate anyway, where everything was frantic and he could not remember or repeat anything. A speech from a heart cannot be forgotten, and it does not need any repetition. Then he knew, he was going to talk with his heart!

The Boy remained standing in front of the door to Doge’s rooms for a while when suddenly the door opened and the Doge himself appeared before his eyes. Everything happened so quickly that the Boy did not have time to get his breath back, and he stood stupefied by Doge’s sudden appearance at the door to his magnificent rooms. But what appalled the Boy even more was the fact the Doge was not wearing his grand gown; he was not wearing any jewellery or his glamorous clothes which made him look as though he had just stepped out of a painting, and not a real man of flesh and blood ruling and administering justice. The Doge was still sleepy, with a night cap on his head and wearing his night gown, blue-thread embroidered  white gown. The Doge was a drowsy, short man, just waken from his sleep, and he was yawning and stretching his arms, rubbing his eyes and touching for a robe with clumsy hands for he had carefully left it lying somewhere around. The Boy was surprised, completely taken aback by sudden and unexpected appearance of the sleepy Doge himself. The Boy was standing there, confused and befuddled, hesitating whether he should address the Doge properly as The Doge, pretending the was appropriately dressed in his clothes of a highly distinguished person, or should he address him as he is, a sleepy and dazed Doge who had just got out of his bed. While thinking thus, the Doge turned around in a manner of a drowsy Doge, in his Ducal daze, and he suddenly noticed the Boy. Looking at him, he yawned, rubbed his eyes and then spoke in a deep, sleepy voice: “You, Boy, what are you doing here, what matter has brought you to my place?”

Having heard Doge’s voice and considered carefully again the intensity of Doge’s yawning and the gap between his upper and lower jaws his yawning had formed, all his confusion disappeared and he thought to himself: “I can make an even wider gap while yawning, I make even bigger circumference, as big as a ball; this Doge can’t  yawn better than myself so why should I be intimidated by him?” And then he bravely stepped right in front of the Doge and said boldly: “I have come to you, great Doge, to ask something of you. Though I see you are still fresh from your dreams, and I know I don’t like been spoken to while I still feel drowsy. Therefore I’d rather wait until you have waken up completely, and if you want me to, I could help you find your Ducal robe you have misplaced somewhere.”

Thus spoke the Boy and already reached out to look for Doge’s robe, when the Doge, not perplexed a bit as sometimes adults tend to become when in the presence of children, addressed the Boy: “There’s no need, I’ll do it myself. Thank you, anyway. You spoke well when you said nobody should have a conversation while still half-asleep, it only makes you yawn even more, and then you just keep on yawning and can’t make it go away. Hold on a minute, I’ll be right back.” And the Doge went to freshen up with water from a jug standing there, rubbed his eyes with some water, wiped his hands with the towel and put everything in their proper place. Having finished everything, washing his face and wiping his hands, he rubbed his chin, cleaned his teeth, snapped his fingers and they cracked as if they were dry logs you threw into a gaping furnace, he found blue-embroidered white robe, put it around his shoulders and sat down to his breakfast. He dipped a piece of bread into milk, took a bite, and then he called to the Boy to join him at the table. The Boy got befuddled again. Should he sit down and join the Doge for breakfast or had he better remain only a Boy, and for a Boy it was improper to have breakfast with a Doge, for a Doge is a Doge, and Boy is only a Boy. But then he remembered how the Doge had spoken to him so nicely so there was a possibility the Doge was not a Doge but a Boy, though the Boy can never be anything else but a Boy. So the Boy sat down for breakfast. He did not eat much for his every bite lingered in his throat, so he did not exactly enjoy his breakfast. He thought over and over again to himself: “If the Doge is a Doge, he cannot possibly be a Boy for I am a Boy. Yet, if the Doge is a kind of a Boy, then I can talk to him with my heart for all Boys have same hearts and all Boys understand the talk of their hearts.” And then he thought: “If the Doge is only a Doge and nothing more, how can I talk to him in a language of a Boy’s heart? Yet, since he has been half-asleep and he has yawned and stretched and washed, there might be at least a little of a Boy’s heart in him. Then he would most certainly understand the language of the heart.”

Thus thought the Boy while he was carefully watching the Doge in order to figure out whether the Doge was only a Doge and nothing more, or whether there was a bit of a Boy in him, in which case he could communicate with him with heart. But let’s not stall. The Doge had a substantial breakfast, although he did share it with the Boy, sat back comfortably in his Ducal armchair, stretched his Ducal legs, yawned again in a very Ducal manner and then he spoke to the Boy: “My dear Boy, after bravely bursting into my quarters, I hope you speak bravely as well, otherwise I might throw you into the darkest dungeon of my Ducal world for disturbing me for no reason. Therefore, speak well because you don’t want me to be overwhelmed with righteous wrath for having wasted my valuable Ducal time. Speak. What do you want from me?”

The Boy was terrified. “The Doge is nothing but a Doge, he isn’t both a Doge and a Boy, but only a Doge. What am I to do now, how can I commence speaking with my heart? For, if the Doge is a Doge only and there is nothing more in him, how could he understand the language of a Boy’s heart?” But the Boy could offer nothing else but the words coming straight from his heart; others he did not know. He thought: “Even if they rip my heart out, the words will have poured out before they do it; thus it will be easier and it won’t hurt much. After a heart is relieved of a burden, it won’t hurt anymore. Therefore I will boldly and bravely speak in the language of my heart, and both my heart and my words will get relieved.”

And the Boy commenced his story: “My dream has been stolen, illustrious Doge. Somebody has stolen my dream.”

“What do you mean, you impertinent Boy? Are you trying to accuse somebody of stealing something that can’t be stolen in the first place? Uh-huh, let me think it over. Or can it be true? Anything might be happening in the Dogedom nowadays.”, thus spoke the Doge and he mumbled something in his beard. He rolled his eyes, then blinked his eyes as though he had been blinded by dazzling sunshine, then he raised, then again lowered his eyebrows, frowned, shuffled in his armchair; then he said aloud: “Well, tell me how somebody could have stolen your dream?”

The Doge seemed to have allowed, after a careful consideration, the possibility of such a theft existing in his Dogedom. Somebody might have stolen something from him, something valuable and precious to him, and he may have thought a Boy’s dream can be stolen too. Our Boy was now encouraged and he started explaining in great detail, as though the Doge were his peer: “Here is the story, illustrious Doge. The other night I had a nice dream. At first I dreamt of a big, colourful ball joyfully jumping in the yard, bouncing against the walls, hopping along a green fence, then again bouncing against the house walls and finally, all lively and cheerful, it got stuck in the bushes. I could not find it and I got very sad about it.”

The Doge scowled, raised his eyebrows, frowned his nose and stared at the Boy. “And what are you trying to say? I myself had a dream I had lost my Ducal robe, but I did not get sad over it. Why, let me see, was I or was I not sad? Well, it doesn’t matter, I can’t remember right now. I think I wasn’t unhappy at all, yes, it must have happened like that, I wasn’t sad. So what, you lose a robe and then you get yourself another one, why should one muse over it and feel unhappy? And you, why were you unhappy when the ball got stuck in the bushes? You get yourself a new ball and you are happy again. Uh-huh, let me see… or shall I simply throw you into the deepest dungeon for wasting my valuable Ducal time over a missing ball, and not even a real ball, but the one from a dream. Mmmm…..” The Doge was musing, and at that point the Boy bravely recommenced the story he was telling before being interrupted by the Doge as he did not want to waste time for his heart might die any moment and then he would not be able utter a word. Therefore he quickly continued: “At that very moment some good people appeared, all grown-up and very serious. They said the Boy should certainly get his big, colourful ball back so that he can play with other children, who also should have big, colourful balls. Having said that, the adults set out to look for my ball. They managed to find it, gave me the ball back and I was able again to play with my friends.”

The Doge stared with his eyes wide open, rubbed them once again, and then again, unable to believe what he had just heard. He looked at the Boy with piercing eyes and asked: “My Boy, you had a very beautiful dream, indeed! All beautiful dreams are impossible, and this is why they are dreams and that’s it. You see, people have dreams so that we can have more beautiful reality. How could anyone steal your dream? Nobody can steal other people’s dreams, and if it doesn’t match the reality, it’s the dream we should blame. Or thank to. Uh-huh, let’s see, is the dream right or wrong? If it is right, it can be stolen, if it is wrong, it can’t. Well, well… or is it vice versa? Reality is right, and dream is wrong. If this is the case, you yourself are to blame for having such a beautiful dream, and you should be thrown into the most fearsome and terrifying dungeon because it is your fault. If the reality is wrong, and dream is right, the thief should be properly punished. Uh-huh….or could it be the other way round? Why, that was a fine dream and who dared to steal it? Well, yes, who only dared to rob you of your dream? Such a fine dream! Well, well, well, somebody stole your dream, yes, indeed. And what do you suggest? How can we find the one guilty for your dream being stolen? And what happen later anyway?” Thus asked the Doge, a kind of perplexed. No matter how hard he tried, he could not figure out whether the dream was right or wrong, or whether the reality was right or wrong, or whether any of that made any sense at all. Or should he simply throw the Boy into an awful dungeon and that was all. The Doge did not know how to pass a fair judgement in this unusual case of a stolen dream. Should he blame the dream for being beautiful? Or should he punish the thief who had stolen the dream? Or perhaps he should punish the reality for not matching the dream? Or punish the dream for not matching the reality? Or should he simply rip out Boy’s heart and eat it up with relish? The Boy had such beautiful dreams and if he ate his heart he might start having nice dreams, too! But what if somebody stole it? How could he punish them? Or would he have to punish himself for eating Boy’s heart, or for having a nice dream, or for letting somebody steal it from him, of for reality not matching dreams? Indeed, what was he to do?

“We need to establish who is to blame for the stolen dream. There, this should be done, or I am going to eat up your heart for speaking such wise words”, the Doge said and sighed heavily. What should he do about a Boy who had complained about somebody stealing his dream?

The Boy was attentively looking at the Doge. Somehow the Doge seemed to be a Boy at the same time, but unwilling to show it. He was hesitating a bit, incessantly brooding and sighing, but this does look very much like the adults, this is what they always do – you tell them something so obvious and clear as a bright day, and then they start doubting, rubbing their eyes, sighing, and frowning and contemplating over something they had been told in such simple terms. “Oh, dear”, the Boy thought, “I am going to have to explain everything, in every detail and from the very beginning, otherwise he will keep on sighing and asking more new questions. It is incredibly difficult talking to adults! They need to be explained everything, no matter how things may be simple and obvious. Ah, what must be done, must be done. He should help the Doge to pass a righteous decision.”

And the Boy started explaining how things go with dreams. You have them every night, and one nicer and better than the other, and every night lasts for as long as a day. If reality lives at daytime, then dreams dwell at night, and nobody knows why a day is reality, and a night - a dream. But this does not matter right now. The only important fact we can establish is that nights and days are equally long. If you have a nice dream at night, you wake up in the morning and a dream disappears without any trace, and you would really like the reality to be as beautiful as your dreams were. Why does it not go like that? If in the daytime we consider various thoughts and make many plans so that out tomorrow might be better and nicer, why wouldn’t we turn our dreams into reality? Or is it possible we actually dream in reality? How many times a day does it strike us that things could be different than they are, but they are not. How often do people start imagining things although they are in reality? Why wouldn’t thoughts from our hearts be as important as those coming out of our minds! Anyway, thoughts from our minds are so very often a mere fancy, not more than a daydream. Furthermore, sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night, and at that very moment we are in reality although we are having a dream.

And thus the Boy was explaining and reasoning, while the Doge was nodding or shaking his head, as he found it appropriate. We sometimes have dreams in reality, agreed the Doge, and at night we sometimes wake up from our dreams and then we return to reality, thought the Doge, but a reality cannot be a dream; likewise, a dream cannot be reality, and he could not come to an agreement with the Boy on that. For, one thing is only that one particular thing, just like the other thing is exactly that other thing, and one cannot be the other, nor interchangeable, and then they are both irrelevant. When we dream, we dream; when we are awake, we are awake, and there is nothing more to it. We may dream in reality, but we are always aware it is only a dream, which means reality is nothing more than reality. Or perhaps it is not? Perhaps dream is reality, and reality is a dream. if nights and days last equally, it might as well be like that. “No, no and no”, said the Doge, “we need to focus only on the question who stole Boy’s dream and that’s it. Thus a righteous judgement will be passed, and all questions will get their answers. So tell me, my dear Boy, who stole your dream?”

The By was looking at the Doge. He did not care about his heart anymore – he spoke from his heart and now it felt relieved. Even if the Doge rip it out and eats it up with relish, it will not hurt him much. Therefore he boldly replied the Doge: “Reality! The reality stole my dream!”

“How come, my Boy? Are we back at the beginning again, asking all the questions about the dream and reality, when I said we are going to take care that the thief of your dream is found! Do not test my patience, dear Boy, and do nor try to perplex me with your questions about dreams and reality. You’d better tell me how reality could have stolen your dream and how shall I punish it, if you are positive the reality is to be blamed. Or could it have been a dream? uh-huh, a tough question, really this should be carefully and thoroughly considered, well,…”, the Doge was murmuring into his beard. He did not seemed cross. He might have been thinking about his own dreams the reality had stolen from him, he may have been sad for it, or he may even have been thinking about speaking from his heart and thus relieve the pain. If he had told the Boy, from his heart, how sad it was our dreams being stolen by reality, his heart certainly would not have ached so much. However, the Doge had forgotten the language of the heart and thus he was feeling ill, thus he had to think so much instead of simply saying with his heart what was on his heart. But the Doge had forgotten the language of the heart and thus he was feeling ill.

The Boy knew it all very well so he told the Doge: “Noble Doge, punish the reality by replacing it with dreams!”

The Doge looked at the Boy as seeing him for the first time in his life. “Well, well, what a piece of work this Boy of ours is! What has he thought of now?”, the Doge thought to himself, and suddenly he seemed to have heard a hidden, barely audible whisper of his own heart. Or so he thought – his heart seemed to have started talking to itself. And the Boy thought, looking at the Doge, “The Doge is not just a Doge, after all; he is also a Boy, haven’t been mistaken.”, and he smiled, quite pleased with himself. Now he was able to talk to the Doge in a wise and more comprehensive manner, from their hearts. For the Boy was now sure the Doge was not only a Doge, but also a Boy. Now he was talking to the Doge, who was a Boy at the same time, in language of the heart. They were now able to talk properly and sensibly for when talking with your heart you speak wisely and no explanations are required. And thus the Boy was able to make the Doge see that nobody would steal our dreams if we were able to have the same dreams in reality, and nobody would be able to steal reality in our dreams if were to dream in reality. For both dreams and reality last equally, and therefore it is possible to take out the best from the dreams and the best from our reality and then we can live in the best world possible. A little bit of reality, a little bit of dreams, and everything would turn out fine in the grand and brilliant Dogedom, both Doge’s and Boy’s, both Ducal and Boyish. For if the Boy and the Doge live in the same Dogedom, then there should be both Doge’s and Boy’s realities, as well as both Doge’s and Boy’s dreams. This is most appropriate and righteous, and nobody would be able to deprive the Doge or the Boy of either reality or dreams. Because if only reality ruled, dreams would be found guilty for merely being dreamed, and if there were only dreams, the reality might disappear, and that would not be good, either. There should be both dreams and reality, both the Doge and the Boy, and speak wisely from the heart, not only the brains. That would certainly be the best and most appropriate and absolutely justly. The thief of Boy’s dream would be rightly punished. As the Doge rediscovered his Boyish heart, he was able to grasp everything quickly and properly and no longer needed any explaining. When the Boy dreams about a colourful ball, there will be a colourful ball in reality, too. When the Doge passes a judgement to ball thieves, he will know the Boy dreamed thus, and his decision will be an easy one. And when the Doge doesn’t like the reality, he will be able to ask Boy’s opinion on reality being in dreams, or dreams turning into reality, and everything will be settled finely and in most justly manner. So the Doge decided to appoint the Boy as his Dogedom Counsellor, The First Counsellor of the Ducal Palace in order to make his Dogedom a good and righteous place to live in. For it is not good to let only dreams or only reality rule, but the Doge and the Boy together, the Doge not being only a Doge but also a Boy, and the Boy, being just a Boy, but who might become a Doge himself one day.

This is how the whole confusion about the reality and dreams was finely settled by a Doge with a Boy’s heart.

 

A BOY AND A GARDEN

 

A Boy was very sad. He was walking along the garden and looking around. In the corner there was a green garden dwarf, with a red cap with tassel joyfully falling down his back. He was a little bent forward and holding a cane. He used to like being in this dwarf’s company, it was a good friend he spent long summer days with during his summer holidays. He used to tell the dwarf his stories, both real and made up, his adventures and school pranks, he used to tell his friends all his secrets and talk for hours in confidentiality. The dwarf used to smile at him or roll his head in amazement, but never said a single word. The Boy did not abandon his faithful friend, however he could simply not talk to him any more about his most secret secrets he had buried deep in his heart. One of such secrets would not let him go, kept bugging him and cankering, and that was why the Boy was so sad. He had to tell his secret to somebody and ask for some advice, but he did not know who to turn to. The adults know but very little, they would only start explaining and interpreting, giving this or that piece of advice, and that was not what he wanted and needed to hear. Therefore he was walking along the garden, deep in his thoughts, and looking around in vain hope to find really a good person to talk to, to tell his secret and ask for some helpful advice. And then suddenly he heard a Rose speaking: “I know, darling Boy, your secret that you have buried deep in your heart. Don’t be ashamed to confide your secret to somebody; I have often asked myself the question tormenting you as well. Come along and sit by my side, tell me what is torturing your heart, I am sure I will be able to help you.

The Boy was amazed at first, but not for long. Deep in his heart he was sure there must be some kind of secret language plants, roses, grass and trees use in his garden, but until that moment he could not tell he would be able to communicate with them. And now, after hearing the Rose speaking so clearly, he realized he had always known that secret language; he had only never spoken it before. Thus he sat next to the Rose and started telling it his story.

“You know, Rose, I am so small and so short, so weak and feeble and the whole world seems like a House of Giants and Titans, while I myself, being so tiny and faint, can barely find my place in it. Everything is huge, and I am small, everything is important, and I am weak and insignificant, everything is strong, and I am so short I can hardly reach the kitchen cupboard. I have to ask for help all the time, I can barely do anything without other people’s help, and I can never set out alone anywhere and I am really having some terrible times. I haven’t figured out a secret of growing up into a person as big and as strong as the rest of the World of Giants around  and of matching them. I haven’t figured out how to become an important hero and find my place in the world. Teach me, please, how you managed to grow into such a beautiful Rose spreading its scent all over the garden, and how come you are so resilient and not even cold air or string winds bother you, and you always come back in spring and blossom and smell even better. Please, tell me the secret of how you had grown into such a beautiful and tall rose, which not even an autumn can distract, let alone prevent, from being reborn in spring and growing into an attractive and lovely bush.” 

            The Rose rustled its green leaves, nodded its bud growing at the end of one of its twigs, drew closer to the Boy and thus spoke into his ear: “At first I was but a small seed, so tiny that I was barely visible. But seeds have secret magical power. At first they hit the fertile soil, the best kind is black earth because seeds do not thrive well in clay and red earth. Rock doesn’t suit them either for there is nowhere where they can strike their roots and it is difficult to find water anytime they need to quench their thirst. Yet, there are plants capable of growing anywhere, even in a desert. My cousin, a Dessert Rose, flourishes quite nicely in sand, even though everything is dry and sandy, but she manages to find sufficient water to stay alive and not fade away. I’m not as wise and clever like my desert cousin, the Desert Rose. I personally sprouted up from a seed that hit the ground in your garden with sufficient supplies of water, fresh air and sun, and I find it pretty easy growing here.”

The Boy was listening carefully to what the Rose was telling him, and his heart understood the words perfectly. Yet, there was another question that lay heavily on him, more important than anything else, the most important in the whole world. Having heard Rose’s words, he asked: “Dear Rose, I do understand you sprouted up from a seed a wind had brought here, and that you need to be taken good care of and watered so that you can grow forever. I know you are a beautiful, fragile plant requiring a lot of attention, which must never be neglected. But tell me, how did you manage to grow from a tiny seed into such a tough bush, yet a fragile flower many things can hurt and destroy? How come, though you are delicate and frail, you are resilient and tough at the same time and nothing can harm you eventually? How come you bend, yet never break, how come you are so fragile that anything can hurt you, yet you heal and grow again?”

The Rose shuffled its petals as if trying to smile or perhaps hide its tears, the Boy could not figure that out. Then the Rose spoke again: ”Darling Boy, there is a secret wisdom hidden in my frail stem. When the wind blows a tiny particle of dust into my petals, it is painful, or when a cold autumn wind whips my body, or when frost covers the ground, or when autumn paints my leaves yellow and they fall off in winter, my stem withdraws inside itself and keeps warm in there. There is a Green Marrow in the stem that never withers; it is deep and well-hidden in my resistant stem so nothing can ever find it. It is in the stem, and even if you cut the stem with a knife, you wouldn’t hurt the Marrow, not would you be able to extract it out. The marrow is always green, it never fades away nor withers, it is always fresh and young so nothing can hurt it, and it always makes new green twigs spring up. Harm can only affect the twigs and buds, the stem and the roots, but no harm can reach the Green Marrow. When I feel down, or when the great cold comes, I withdraw into the warmth of my Green Marrow and I feed on its wisdom. You might say my Green Marrow is a heart or soul, but for me, the Marrow is a source of my growth and I know I shall never die. There, I never fear the approaching of cold winter, nor I get blue when autumn begins to rule. There is an eternal spring in my Green Marrow.”

The Boy smiled at the Rose, touched its green twig and promised never to forget to water it, always to look after it and nurture it carefully. Thus its Green Marrow will always be ready to grow into an even more beautiful Rose in spring.

However, the By did not find an answer to his question. The Green Marrow, this was only one answer, and his mind was buzzing with questions, as innumerate as there are blades of grass. Then it dawned at him! Perhaps he should talk to blades of grass! The blades of grass may be hiding a wisdom that could help him find the answers to his most important questions. Therefore he knelt on the lawn bent to the ground and commenced talking to the grass, starting like this: “Dear grass, you are short and green and you grow closely to the ground. We ruthlessly walk all over your green carpet, and you only bend and then straighten up again and keep on growing. You grow in bunches, you rise upwards with your short and tall blades, and you seem not to mind in the least when you are being cut or pulled out, being trodden about with heavy steps. You always retain your fresh green colour and you always grow back as much as you want. Tell me your secret, I beg of you, dear Grass.”

The Grass rustled as though hit by a gust of a mysterious wind and began whispering to the Boy: “You know, darling Boy, don’t let yourself be tricked by what you see, don’t let yourself be deceived by the mere looks of things. I am green Grass that is being cut closely to the ground and my bunches are being pulled out and all other things that destiny may bring upon the Grass. But I do not ever die, and everything that cuts and bends my blades does not weaken, but on the contrary, it makes me stronger and tougher. Do not believe what you see. The more often I am being cut, the stronger and tougher I get, the thicker and lusher I become. The more the cold presses me against the ground, the warmer shelter my Green Thread provides for me. For my Green Thread is eternal greenery, it makes every single of my blades and their lines stronger, and my green juices start boiling in my ribs. The more often they cut me, the more my Green Thread fills up with greater power and juices start running through my ribs. If there hadn’t been cutting and pulling out my bunches, my Green Thread would merely vegetate and never grasp the full strength it potentially hides. The more they hurt its greenery, the faster its juices flow and make it even tougher. Thus I grow into thick grass covering your entire garden like a green carpet. You might call my Green Thread power or stability of spirit, but to me, my Green Thread poses a security and I know I will grow, all over again, into a beautiful green carpet you are about to walk over. This is a pleasant and comforting thought for I like it to have in my power to please you. Adhering to the ground, I always keep my roots inside so nothing can harm my Green Thread. Thus will you also grow. Sometimes it will be painful, but you’ll have to get it over, something may hurt you, but it’ll make you stronger. There is a wisdom of Green Thread lying inside you too, you only need to look for it and find it. Then you will grow and be safe in your Green Thread.”

Thus spoke the Grass to the Boy and bent under his feet as though trying to withdraw into its mysterious Green Thread. The Boy was grateful that the Grass revealed its secret and he promised he would always keep it neat and watered when hot summer came, look after it carefully and make a path so he did not have to walk over the green carpet and hurt it. But his heart was still filled with more questions and he was aware of the fact he had to proceed looking for an answer. He got answers to two immensely important questions, and now it was time to seek answers to other questions lurking in his heart.

And the Boy sat under an Oak Tree, crossed his arms on his chest and stretched out his tired legs. He was already feeling better for he had found out about Rose’s Green Marrow and Grass’s Green Thread. He loved them even more now that he knew their secret. How beautiful was the Rose! How soft was the Grass! Everything was pretty and nicely arranged and well-kept in his garden, yet one more important question was still tormenting him: how can he grow up and become as big as the adults? “If I had a marrow and a thread, why isn’t my body as tall as those of adults, why can’t I be their equal in everything so I wouldn’t have to ask for their help?” Thus was he thinking when he suddenly heard rustling of Oak leaves, the very Oak Tree he was sitting under. The Oak Tree had its secret language, too, and it can communicate! And the Boy started listening to what the Oak Tree had to tell him, and the Oak Tree commenced: “I know your anguish, my Boy. You are wondering what to do to grow as big as the adults. Listen, I’ll tell you my secret. Once, I was a very small plant myself, almost no different from the Rose. I sprouted from a seed, just like the Rose and the Grass. But my trunk conceals Green Juice, flowing from my deep roots all the way to the highest branches almost touching the sky. My Green Juice streams from the deepest depths in the ground and feeds every branch, every twig and every leaf, growing outwards and growing upwards. Thus I grow wide and I grow high, with every branch I master the space, both in width and height, and that’s why I am so big and powerful. The wind can only bend my branches but can’t harm them. The coldness sometimes pinches my cheeks but can’t diminish the glitter of my green leaves. My roots run deep, my branches wide and my top high – thus I grow every day, year in, year out, and I turn into a century old tree nothing can pull down. You May call my Green Juice knowledge, but to me it is the source of growth in all dimensions and therefore I never bend, I never break or collapse. I am always a stable and strong tree getting green and flourishing, growing and looking forward to its own growth. See, you will grow up in the same way provided you diligently collect knowledge from the height and depth and width, incessantly, every day. You will grow up and nobody will need to help any more nor will you have to ask for somebody else’s help. You will know everything and you will be able to do everything yourself so you won’t be feeling tiny and helpless. Now, that was a secret of my Green Juice.”

Now the Boy was pleased with the answers to his questions. He promised the Oak Tree he would not break its branches nor put a metal ring around its trunk and prevent it from growing wide, nor would he carve signs and messages into its bark with his switchblade. In his heart he had now mysteries of Green Marrow, Green Thread and Green Juice, and therefore he made a promise to himself he would nourish and take good care of his garden and enable his friends to grow airily and happily, whereas he would be able to learn an occasional new secret from such wise inhabitants in his garden.

 

 

A BOY AND A LION

 

One morning, a Boy realised he had become a terrifying Lion Tamer. How could have something like this happened, wondered the Boy. And as he was wondering about, memories of a past dream started gushing out. In his dreams he happened to be in a vast Desert, with no ending and no beginning. He was in the middle of the Desert, with desert sand everywhere around him, and not a single living creature within his sight. He was completely alone, only huge dunes and a scarce blade of desert plant growing in the porous soil; his feet were drowning into the sand and leaving only ephemeral, deceitful traces behind, vanishing with the granules of sand brought by a light breeze and shifting the shapes of the dunes. The Boy did not know had no way of knowing or figuring out where he was going. So he kept walking and toiling and no matter how hard he tried, he could not remember the way he had already passed. The Boy felt something strange wrapping around his heart and he started shivering as though he had been caught by severe coldness of worst kind imaginable in that vast and immense Desert. And the Boy sat down onto the sand and burst into bitter tears for he was alone and he did know the direction forward nor backward; he had no clue how to leave this strange dream and return to safe reality.

This was a very difficult time for the Boy and he was terrified of the thought he might never find the way from the Desert dream back into reality. Suddenly, an Ostrich appeared near the Boy. The Boy did not even notice how he happened to find himself in the company of this creature coming out of the blue. The Ostrich had a long, thin neck and shuffled feathers, making it look incredibly wide so that its body was barely visible. The Boy could not decide whether the Ostrich was fat or slim, fast or slow, boring and cynical, or might he turn out to be a favourable company, somebody to have a real talk to. While the Boy was musing over his new companion, the Ostrich spoke: “Dear Boy, this is a most unusual dream. Your dream results from a fear, and you have no idea how to get rid of this anxiety. You are being tortured by anxiety, my darling Boy, and this is why there is nothing but endless desert and sand in your dream. if you want me, I’d be glad to help you.”

Thus spoke the Ostrich, and for a short while it put its head into the sand, then pulled it out again and craned its neck, turning the head around. The Boy had a better look at the Ostrich. The Ostrich seemed to have some kind of a secret it may be willing to disclose, but did not know how to put it in words, at least not appropriate words. Therefore the Boy addressed the Ostrich and said: “Dear Ostrich, I can’t comprehend how you came up with the idea I dream Desert for fear, but you may be right. Sometimes I really feet timid and I shiver to the slightest sound. Sometimes, though, I am quite brave and tackle troubles with no problems whatsoever. Even if you were right and I am troubled with fear, perhaps you could teach me how to become and remain brave forever just like yourself when boldly and proudly walk all over the vast Desert and its sand. Tell me, how do you feel when overcome by fear and timidity?”

The ostrich seemed to have waited right for that particular question. He told the Boy the following: “Dearest Boy, as you happen to be in my desert anyway, I just might as well tell you about my boldness and how can it be mastered. I walk the Desert alone, and when strong winds arise, I put my head into the sand and then I can neither see not hear winds whistling and blowing sand around in huge waves all over the Desert. The stronger winds are and scatter more sand around, the deeper I shove my head into the sand and then I feel safe and I know nothing would harm me. When winds calm down and stop whistling with that terrifying sound, I pull out my head and then I can see and hear again, I go anywhere I want and whenever I want, and I don’t care for as long as new winds arise. Then I bury my head into the sand again until I am certain the Desert storm has subsided, for I need not fear anything I don’t know about nor I need to fret about anything I cannot hear or see. Thus disappears my fear for I need not fear what I do not know. I advise you to try out what and how I do it and stop being afraid. Bury your head into the sand and try not hearing nor seeing, you may take this after me, and this will make your life easier when you get frightened.”

The Boy tried as advised by the Ostrich. When the strong wind arose and blew sand into his eyes and down his neck, the Boy buried his head into the sand. However it did not diminish his troubles in the least. The sand got into his shirt, his pockets were full of sand, and his eyes dusted with tiny particles of sand so everything was tickling and irritating him. True, he did not see nor hear anything, but this made him feel even worse for he had no clue where the wind was blowing and scattering the sand, not when it would stop blowing and whistling. And the less he heard or saw, the more anguished he became. Therefore he pulled out his head from the sand and told the Ostrich: “Dear Ostrich, thank you for your willingness to help me learn how to stop being afraid of winds and sand. However, I cannot take your advice as I fear even more when I cannot see or hear anything. When I open my eyes and have a good look at the whirls of wind, I can guess for how long would the wind blow and whether it is strong enough to lift me from the ground and blow far away. Thus I can pace my steps and take care I do not get stuck in quick sand. As I stand with my head buried in the sand like yourself, I find it hard to simply endure the wind; I need to outsmart it, I’d rather master it than simply fret whether my head would completely drown into the sand.”

Thus spoke the Boy. He did not want to insult it, he simply wanted to point out the Ostrich was wise for itself, however he himself cannot accept his keeping-low wisdom. He needed a better counsellor than the Ostrich, a master of hiding before the desert winds.

So the Boy went on, looking for a better counsellor, the one who might teach him how to stop fearing the wind and how to outwit the sand and prevent it from getting into his shoes and pockets. He was walking through the Desert when he suddenly came across a Fox. The Dessert Fox was a really beautiful animal, with dark yellow to brownish fur, and it was so swift and skilful that the Boy almost missed it. The Boy sat down on a dune, and the Fox came closer, but kept a distance of about one step between the two of them, and then it simply started waiting and listening when the Boy should address it. As though it was ambivalent whether it should speak first, so the Boy summoned up his courage and spoke first.

“Dearest Fox”, said the Boy, “you are very beautiful, brisk and nimble. Your fur is of colour hard to notice against the Desert sand. As the environment changes, your fur turns into golden colours and you are difficult to discern. Tell me your secret, how come you are not in the least afraid and you always manage to find your way around and find a proper shelter before the Desert storm.”

The Fox had a look at the Boy, as though it was assessing whether it may speak freely before him and reveal its secret. After seeing Boy’s eyes shining with the eagerness of trying to find out solutions to his terrible anguish troubling him, the Fox thus spoke: “Dearest Boy, I have soft and smooth fur and brisk legs so I can crawl into any space and look for a shelter wherever I am. When the Desert storm sand blows into the air, I bend my knees and lie down on the ground, stretching my whole body. When the sand starts covering me, I only pull my legs and take up a new position on the ground. So I keep changing places until the storm is over, every time under disguise of my golden fur so that nobody can notice me anywhere. I move following the movements of the sand, both of us of golden colour. I transform along with the transformation of my surroundings, stretching out and pressing against ground. You might try the same thing I do and then you might not mind the Desert storm and its shifting sand so much.”

The Boy thanked the Fox and ran his hand down its golden fur. Then he sighed and said: “Oh, Fox, if I had such beautiful for as yourself, I would most certainly fight off the storm in the same way. But when I lie down on the sand, tiny grains of sand fill in my eyes and my ears and I must rub and dust sand from my clothes, and that is, I tell you, really tiring! No, my dear Fox, I’ll have to find a better solution to my troubles.”

And the Boy went on, walked through the Desert looking for a friend who might help him achieve proper courage and boldness to face the Desert storm. He was getting weary, almost on the verge of giving up. Exhausted from walking as he was, he sat down on a dune. There was nobody around, not a single living creature, and the Boy seriously considered giving up, abandoning his idea of finding a real and honest friend who might help him to boldly fight off Desert troubles. At that very moment, a Lion passed by him, a very real and  terrifying Lion, the master of woods and vast deserts and all animals that might happen to live there. The Lion had a huge, thick mane, strong and flexible body, huge paws and golden fur. And though he had golden fur, he did not hide like a Wise Fox, nor bury his head into the sand like a Timid Ostrich. No, the Lion walked proudly and boldly, lazily moving his soft paws over the sandy surface and it seemed not to be noticing neither the wind nor the sand. When it got tired, he would stop and lie on the ground; when it got bored with lying, it would recommence walking through the Desert, defying the wind and the coldness.

The first moment the Boy saw the Lion, he froze. The beast looked really powerful, yet elegant, and it might harm him, or it might refuse to talk to him. While the Boy was hesitating and thinking how to approach that fearsome Master of all Animals, the Lion stopped at an arm’s distance, turned round and spoke to the Boy: “Well, my Boy, it is good I have come across you. I got tired of walking across this vast Desert all by myself. Nothing compares to me, there is nothing that can match my strength or speed, this Desert is really a deserted place and I am incredibly bored. Anyway, would you like to wrestle with me to see which one is stronger and brisker?”

The Boy had a good look at the Lion and boldly he said:

“Dear Lion, Master of all Animals, both in woods and deserts, I don’t feel like wrestling right now, I have other problems on my mind I can’t cope with. Perhaps you, being the wisest of all, would be willing to give me some advice.”

The Lion really liked the part when the Boy called it ‘the wisest of all’, not only the strongest, but also the noblest, and the beast spoke to the Boy:

“Right, my Boy, I can see you are brave enough to talk to me, so tell me what problems burden your mind and let’s see if I can help. Not only am I strong and bold, but also wise and reasonable, so I’ll be glad to listen to you.”

“Dear Lion, I dreamed of the desert today, which is a result of my fears and they make me tremble. Sometimes I am brave and courageous and in my chest there may be ticking Lion’s heart, but sometimes I am awfully afraid and all the courage leaves me. I asked the Ostrich about what he does when he is overwhelmed with fear, but his advice did not please me. Burying one’s head in the sand is something I am sometimes capable of doing, but generally the less I can see and hear, the more frightened my heart is. I really like to see and hear things and I’d really want to do the right and clever thing and face all my troubles. After parting with the Ostrich, I asked the golden Fox what it does in times of trouble and fear. Its response was it transformed and shifted along its environment, stretching flat and adhering to the ground and so troubles never came its way. But I do not have golden fur and I prefer being myself and not like everybody else, so I was not able to take Fox’s advice. I’d rather be brave and bold than sticking to something which might come my way. But I can’t work out how can one be brave all the time. Therefore, my dear Lion, would you please teach me to be bold and proud. I will be grateful with all of my heart.”

The Lion was looking at the Boy and then it roared a laugh and said:

“Well, my brave Boy, how can you be any bolder than you already are?”

the Boy did not understand what the Lion was talking about. How could he be that brave and bold so that the Lion itself would admit it? No, that is not possible, he spent the whole afternoon asking both the Ostrich and the Fox how to be brave and get rid of his fears, and now the Lion was telling him something like that, the Lion who is the bravest and the boldest of all! He simply could not comprehend what the Lion had told him and thus he kindly asked him the following:

“Dear Lion, you are the bravest and the boldest and the wisest of all, but I don’t really think mocking at my questions is a very kind thing to do. And if you are serious, then I’d rather you explained what you meant when you said I was a brave Boy, and yet I have asked for advice how to stop fearing and ho to prevent my heart from shivering? I have asked both the Ostrich and the Fox, and they both talked very kindly to me, and you make fun of me and laugh at me, and I really can’t say why wouldn’t you talk to me like other animals?”

The Lion roared another laugh and said:

“You see, and again you are the bravest little Boy  have ever met. You dare talking to me and you dare ask questions about courage. And I shall not give you any advice on how you can become brave, but I am going to tell you the greatest courage is to look into your own Boyish heart and talk about it from your very heart and in the language of your heart. When I am not sure if I am brave myself, then I talk to my Lion’s heart and this is the question I ask from it: “My heart, tell me if I am brave?” And my heart roars in a lion’s manner and then I always know I am and that I will remain brave. When I don’t have courage to ask my own heart, then I know I am not brave enough, and if I don’t dare to put that question, I will never be brave. Therefore I find you the bravest little Boy I have ever met in my life. Just ask your heart, openly and honestly, and you will always find your answer. Now we are going to tell each other good-byes, like real friends, and then we will continue walking down our own Lion’s paths.”

The Lion reached out its big paw towards the Boy and they said each other good-bye. And then the Boy started thinking:

“Sometimes I did bury my head in the sand, just like the Ostrich, and waited hoping for trouble to go away. Thus have I never solved any problems. Troubles remained exactly as they were in the first place, with the exception of the moment I did not see or hear them. Sometimes I did just like the Fox – I changes with my environment and bent with the wind and blended with the mass. Yet, no problems were solved in that way. Every environment conceals some danger or the other and it always turned out troubles had to be bravely dealt with. Only when I asked my heart, I got the right answer. The Lion told the truth, all right, and this is what I am going to do from now on.”

And thus the Boy became the Lion Tamer. Whenever he doubted that in reality, he would only ask his heart and he immediately knew the answer.