… Vésper saw himself in the middle of the sea, hovering a scant few centimetres from the water. He looked around and there was nothing, only the empty horizon, and everything seemed at peace. In his heart, however, he felt the anxiety that, arising from nothing, agitated and asserted itself. He looked down, in the direction of his feet, and something indistinct stood out undulating on the bottom. He bent over, bringing his face ever closer to the water in an attempt to understand what it was… when suddenly his head was grabbed by a pair of hands, which pulled him down submerging him. In panic, unable to breathe, he was able in the midst of his affliction to perceive that both the hands and the body to which they belonged were made of paper, as well as all the other bodies that, like medusae, rose to the surface of the water where they fell apart in tatters until they disappeared.
For Vésper it became clear that they represented in some way souls in suffering, that he felt in such an intense manner, leaving him to awaken drenched in sweat, pulling air into his lungs like an almost drowned person. Mentesúfis, who for some years had been sleeping soundly, woke upon hearing the youth. He calmed him, speaking to him softly so as not to awaken his daughter. He gave him a glass of cold water, sat next to him, and stayed there until he was sure that the boy went back to sleep in peace. That was when he noticed that, on the face of Vésper, glued with his sweat, were five long papers that called to mind the five fingers on a hand. Much intrigued, and carefully, he removed them one by one, and in the end felt a shiver at the base of the nape of his neck. He picked up the blanket, covered the boy better, and saw that his eyes were wide open, glassy, fixed on something invisible. Mentesúfis was startled, but immobile. He tried to speak to him, without obtaining a reply. So he decided to wait, and to his amazement, noticed that Vésper’s pupils were dilated, until they covered the entire iris, like two deep black wells, calling to mind the eyes of a cat when it wants to see in the darkness; his mouth opened as much as possible and, without the slightest movement, the voice of a child whimpering came out, ending in a litany. And suddenly everything ended as it had started. The young man closed his eyes and mouth, turned on his side, and soon after was snoring slightly.
Mentesúfis did not know what to make of all that; he did not go back to sleep. The aurora already announced the new day. He looked out the window, the blues and lilacs slowly moved to the oranges and yellows, until they reached the profuse light of morning — and as he always said ‘in the light of day all mysteries are undone’ —, however, and at that moment, he was not so sure of that. He felt anxious about the awakening of the others, especially of Vésper.
It was the sound of stirred water that first awakened him, simultaneously with the fragrance of pink roses, an aroma which was familiar to him. He opened his eyes and saw Mentesúfis with his back turned preparing something on the fire. He turned his head slightly in the direction of the sound, and could see on the wall the silhouette of Sara who was bathing in the old tub, intoning a melody in whispers; the image called to mind a shadow theatre. Motionless, he allowed himself to appreciate such a beautiful scenario — the naked contours of the young woman and the gracefulness with which she moistened her skin were in themselves a poem which, without a face, made Vésper’s excitement blameless. Suddenly, the figure projected on the wall disappears swallowed by the vessel with water. The boy gets up at a jump, startled; Mentesúfis turns towards him, and, at the same moment, at the front door appear Gui and Sara, transparent in her white dress and with hair fluttering, who, blushing, covers a naughty smile with her finger tips. The father makes a noise like someone clearing one’s throat, and the girl steps outside again. Gui, however, did not miss an opportunity to poke fun at his friend:
‘It is very windy, you had better lower the jib, lest the mast tear it!’ And he left, running and guffawing. Mentesúfis turned again to the stove, sniggering…
‘Good morning. You must be hungry. I am making us breakfast in the style of Pan.’ He glanced at him fleetingly. He could see the expression of the young man who, realising the protuberance as a result of what was, after all, nothing but a brief dream (so he thought), covered himself with the cushion, removing himself to the room with the speed of a cat, while holding with the other hand the strings from his cotton trousers, lest the cloth get away. Barefoot and bare-chested, still in shock, clinging to his trousers and the ‘fluffy protection’, he remained there in the middle of his room, where Sara had stayed overnight. He squatted to remove his sandals from under the bed and noticed that, on the other side, up against the wall next to the little window, was indeed the tub still with water and rose petals, and in the midst of them the little ribbon that previously held the key to the trunk.
Composed and already recovered from the peculiar dawn, Vésper returned to the room with the stove and began putting away the improvised beds. Mentesúfis, realising that the youth was still a bit embarrassed, naturally struck up a conversation as only he knew how to do, consigning the occurrence to oblivion. Now, more at ease, the two delighted in little honey and cinnamon cakes, fresh strawberries and cream, and a very strong infusion of green tea to help purify the system from the excesses of the previous night.
‘It even seems like I am at home’, said the young man with delight. Mentesúfis, satisfied at having pleased, got up and went to get bread from the wood stove, and fresh butter. He sat down, picked up a morsel of bread and, while buttering it, began in a casual tone:
‘So, boy? Did you sleep well?’ Vésper, as though realising something, hastened to say:
‘Where are my manners? Master Mentesúfis, I am the one who should ask you if the bed was not too hard. You could have kept the two mattresses. And Sara, why doesn’t she eat with us?’ The older man calmed him, saying that both he and his daughter stayed very well, and that the girl had eaten first, being in a hurry to go awaken Gui, and that she apologised for not having waited for them.
‘So, everyone is well. And you?’, he insisted.
‘Me?’ He remained thoughtful… ‘Actually, I have this rather disorienting feeling of having slept two nights in just one, an entire day having been withheld from me… as though someone else had lived it for me! Strange, don’t you think, Master?’
Mentesúfis, ever more intrigued, asked him if he remembered having dreamed, to which he responded unexpectedly that he did not. They changed the subject and spoke of Pan, of the culinary recipes that make one’s mouth water. The ones the Master knew had been brought by his parents. Vésper, filled with longing, remembered his house and the water garden… Mentesúfis listened to him attentively, the descriptions were so detailed that he confessed the desire to get to know such a beautiful place!
‘You are hereby invited, indeed you shall all be quite welcome!’, settled the youth, enthusiastic about the idea. Suddenly his complexion became discoloured; had the Master not held him up, and he would have fallen flat on his face on the flagstone floor, with his eyes shut and eyebrows contracted like someone feeling pain. He murmured: ‘Don’t cry. I will take you… Be not afraid of the cold darkness… Aquilone…’ Slowly his face relaxed and, still trembling, he opened his eyes.
‘Master Mentesúfis; I must go to the village. Something is going on.’
‘What did you see? Tell me…’, yearned the older man, recalling the occurrence from the night before.
‘Master, I do not want to make real, even by mere narrative, something which I hope is nothing more than traps of my mind, depriving me of true understanding…’
‘In that case I shall go with you, and to not unnecessarily alarm the others, we shall only say that we are going to my house to pick up the medicine bottles, which will not be a lie!’
Imminence of death, imminence of life. An ancient game.