STORIES FROM THE COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES
"STRANGE STORIES"

 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.