THE GIRL FROM THE RUINS®
"The hardest thing is to look back.
You always find a person, dear to your heart that is missing beyond recall or irrevocably missed opportunities there, between the scattered pieces of time."
I STAND ON THIS PEAK for the second time. I am staring at the white marble stained with blood and I cannot believe that the irreversible has happened. She has disappeared forever, leaving my heart overflowing with sorrow and the sweet memory that will visit me numerous times in the days I am destined to live.
I am sitting, dreaming away and my thoughts bring me back to the moment I saw her for the first time, here, at this lonely peak, studded with time-beaten ruins.
I can't remember any more what brought me to these places. Maybe it was human curiosity, intrigued by the local's stories. I was one of those tourists - hermits, which wandered through Rodophi Mountains, carried away by their natural beauty, seeking peace and solitude away from the crowds' vanity.
I left all my tourist gear below by the foamy torrent, and as I was feeling lighter, I went up the top. It was not very high, but there was a fine view from the vicinity. A green sea of trees' heads seized my eyes and a dark-blue colored infinity took my breath away.
And still that peak was somehow unusual. Carved stones covered with moss and grass formed a regular polygon. A smooth stumpy rock, flat at the top like a log of a big tree, showed out white, somewhere in the middle of the figure.
She appeared as if from under the ground. She was a beautiful vision, with long blond hair falling like waves on her shoulders. Her eyes like sapphires were looking at me with surprise. It was an affectionate and tender look that filled me with delight and fascination.
I was looking fascinated at her for few long minutes. She was visibly impressed, because she suddenly smiled. Her teeth glared like a glacier, lit up by the sun and her echoing laughs spread around in the silence as smooth waves.
Her sound got me out of the trance. There was something strange in that girl which confused me. Oh, dear! She was wearing my training suit! Where could she have taken it from? She was a funny sight with these loose male clothes.
- Where did you come from, dear? Who are you? - the words shred from my dry throat at last.
- Letia, Vologes's daughter!
- What a name is this? - I still couldn't gather my thoughts due to the surprise and the excitement.
- Well, Letia, do you often put on someone else's clothes?
- You are not my husband, are you? So you may not see me naked? - her words sounded reasonable, but...
- Where are your clothes? Do you have anything of yours to wear?
- Yes, I have!
- Well then?
- You do not have to see it! They are priestess's clothes!
I felt pity for the girl. She was out of her mind! But why…?
- Where did you take the training suit from? - I asked, and I had to touch it because she didn't understand what the question was about. She drew back with fear.
- Over there! - She pointed the torrent below, where my temporary camp was.
- Are you hungry?
- A little!
- Let's go down, I have some cans of food. We will have a snack.
- All right! If you want to!
We were slowly going down. I went first and she followed me. The day was at its end. The daylight slowly faded in a golden sunset. The dingles were sinking in dark-blue shadows. A cool mountain wind whiffed. In those August summer days the weather was not as hot as it was in the lowland. The temperature was lower by at least ten degrees. The nights got cool, even cold, so the warm clothes and blankets came in useful right away. We got to the tent. It was warm and stifling inside.
- Please, enter!
She timidly took a step, bent down and lightly slipped in. She sat at the most distant corner. The light was very dim. The girl was shivering. She had no shoes either.
- Put on these sneakers! This is my spare pair. - I began to light up the primus-stove to warm up the cans.
- I have sandals but I hid them with the other clothes too. You must look at nothing that is earth-born! I took off even my bracelets and earrings. It is written in the scripture. You must see me as I am! You are our god, the god of our tribe. We are fulfilling your wishes!
- What is this god you are speaking of? - I decided to interrupt her insane talk.
- You talk so strange! I am confused! When I saw you at the beginning I thought you were an ordinary man. Only your clothes are somewhat unusual. They don't resemble our men's clothes.
I began to feel bored by the words of the crazy girl. I was making efforts to light a fire but it wasn't going well. Maybe the matches were damp. At last I found a dry match and after a successful try I carried the flame to the primus-stove. The alcohol burned with a blue radiance. The girl suddenly screamed.
- O - o, Dionis, don't' kill Letia! - this time I was surprised. She looked as if she hadn't seen fire before!
- I don't intend to kill you! I just want to heat up the cans. - I said that softly, with understanding. What else I could think of to calm her down?
- Now I know that you are Dionis! You are the master of fire! Only the gods can create fire! O, Dionis, have mercy on Letia!
I was listening to her with surprise. She was obviously taking me for a god named Dionis. That was strange, very strange! May be she was an archaeologist? Archaeologists were seeking all the time for that legendary sanctuary of Dionis. I knew that Herodothus had mentioned it for the first time in the ancient history. Or may be there was something else?
- Listen Letia, will you tell me how you got here?
- But you know, don't you!
I was expecting that answer. I was a god. I had to know everything!
- Yes, I know! But I want you to tell me everything. And with more details, please.
- Well, if this is your wish!
I prepared to listen. The bluish flame from the primus flickered. Its dim light was hardly dispersing the dark. The two human shadows were magnified and distorted. They played a strange dance on the canvas of the tent. The heated cans were sizzling pleasantly and scattered an appetizing smell of pork and beans.
- It was a long time ago before I, the daughter of Vologes was born. The soldiers of Rome conquered our neighbor tribes. We Besses are the only tribe that is still free. Romans used to trade with us but they still didn't wish to conquer our lands. Our fortresses are firm, and the mountains protect us. The sanctuary of God Dionis is also on our land. Who would be the mortal man that would raise a hand against its custodians? Who would dare to desecrate the holy temple with a blood shed with violence? Even the Great Rome does not venture to do that...
Rome is notorious for its slyness and villainy. In the time I was a little child Rome proxy Mark Lukrecius Crass treacherously declared the sanctuary for Odrisses' property. That outrageous misdeed had to be eradicated... Our tribe rose in arms to defend our rights. My father, Vologes, the High priest led it. Other tribes joined us too. Our men won a victory and killed Razkipor, the son of Kotis. Vologes is fearful in his anger. With the power of prophecy he took away the army of Remetalk and forced him to run away. The High priest pursued him as far as Hersones. He rushed into his lands and didn't leave a single stone standing from the strong forests there. But the legions of Lucius Pizzon, Pamphilia governor came and our soldiers had to withdraw back to the home mountains. They met with Pizzon there and defeated him. After a year he came back again, with more legions and devastated our lands and the lands of our allies. O, Dionis, hard days came for your children! Help us! Save us from death! The wise Vologes send me to you with this request. Only you have the power to do this!
I felt as if I was listening to a historical legend, striking with its reality. Where had she read the details about these events, connected with our ancient history of these lands? She talked and used such facts, as only a specialist - archeologist could do it. Probably that had been her profession.
The following words scattered my thoughts in most unexpected way.
- Vologes, the High Priest and my father gave me your powder. And now, you see, I am here with you!
- What powder?
- Your powder, the powder of god Dionis! You left it when you were on the peak Zelmisos. You gave it to the people from our tribe. You told them that the one who swallowed a part of it would then be able to speak with you.
I didn't believe my ears! The historical story took rather strange turn.
- The white powder is kept in the round temple. It is inside an urn and only the High priest is allowed to touch it. When you were at that place you spoke with the heaven and it sent us abundance of wealth. You taught us how to till the ground and to receive a bounteous crop from it, didn't you? You gave us the fire and the fearful thunder, to use them against our enemies, didn't you?
O, Dionis, the previous priest Nokesos was negligent He didn't keep well the white powder and we almost lost it. Nokesos was lax and paid for his negligence with his life. There was a little left from the powder. Vologes said it would be enough to bring me to you. Now I am submissively waiting for your will.
I was listening shocked. Was I dreaming? It couldn't be real...! I had to be very tired! I involuntary gave in to the vain talk of the mad girl. Who was she? The girl probably didn't recognize even her relatives. That was schizophrenia in an advanced stage!... And she was beautiful, very beautiful! How could I help her? What a challenge - god Dionis! Some sleep would be good for both of us. I insisted on making her eat from the can. She frowned a little upon the tinned food but after that she obviously calmed down.
- It has got late, Letia. Now we must go to sleep and tomorrow we will see what we can do about your problem. - She didn't wait for another invitation and slipped under the blanket next to me. I switched off the primus-stove and the tent sank in darkness. Strong gusts of wind shook the tarpaulin of the tent. I heard her even breathing a little later. I couldn't fall asleep. My thoughts kept turning in my head like chaos of whirls. "Was she really insane?" I understood that I couldn't fall asleep. I lightly tossed the blanket aside and got up. I took the torch with batteries almost dead, and silently slipped out.
The wind had gotten stronger. The moon was hiding in the clouds. It was pitch dark. I switched on the torch and with its dim light I went for the ruins. Here they were! Hadn't she come out from behind that column? I reached it. I bent to the ground and ran my fingers around. There were slab stones and a hole. I stack my hand inside and took out... But what was that? It was a white, very tender cloth that pleasantly caressed my skin. I lit it with the torch. It was embroidered with some figures at regular spaces. Some small beautiful metal slabs were sewed in its bottom... I carefully folded up the clothes and inserted them into the hole... But there was something else in it!... I pulled out a dark object. It proved to be a small metal box. I opened it anxiously... But what was going on? What if she had told me the truth? Vologes had sent his daughter to Dionis but something had gone wrong and at that time she was with me. She had leapt through at least 2000 years in an unaccountable way. And she had done it with that powder? I pinched myself to be sure that I was not dreaming.
- And this powder inside the box has to be the magic powder! - I involuntary said that loud.
Incredible! My heart was beating wildly. It seems that she was really Letia the daughter of the High priest. The time had turned unexpectedly and two humans from different eras have met each other. She hasn't got the least idea what has happened to her. She was looking on the situation in the plainest way corresponding to her culture level. She wouldn't understand it even if I explained that to her. I was god Dionis for her and that was all! Who in fact had been that Dionis with his powder? Where had he come from? I didn't feel like thinking about that right now. I got up and went down. I entered the tent. The girl was sleeping soundly. May be she was dreaming about her time, her father and the Rome invaders... At this time nobody would believe her words. She would be sent to the psychiatry. It would be cruel and unjust. There was another way- to bring her down to Devin, to separate her temporarily from people and to introduce her bit by bit to the reality of my time. Everything was so confusing and unpredictable. And also that powder! How would it act again? Would it bring her back in time? It was not likely! However she must not know that I had discovered her clothes. What was that ban about? Should I bring her to my country house?
The girl's steady breathing gradually made me sleepy. I didn't feel when I was falling asleep. In the morning I folded the tent and we both went down along the rocky pathway to Devin. There was a thick, century-old spruce forest everywhere around us. The top "Batashki Snezhnik" remained at our left side. The alpine reservoirs "Shiroka poliana" and "Beglika" showed at our right side, blue like if they were eyes. Somewhere in the lowland Vucha river wound her body between the boulder gorges.
- What are these lakes? The way to Pulpudeva must lead through here, mustn't it? I didn't answer. I was walking in silence and was keeping a sharp eye on her reactions. It was sure that the contemporary world would surprise her. That was the beginning of the odyssey for Letia and me. We spent a whole month in seclusion at my country house. It was a whole month of happiness and misunderstandings between people born in different eras. Everything looked surprising to Letia. She asked many questions, which were hard to answer. She was smart and clever and that made my task easier to some extent. I often left her alone - I had to work. My manners were also changing bit by bit. I didn't stay with friends for a long time. I hurried to go home. My life somehow went on to another track, brighter and more cheerful. That change, of course, was entirely due to Letia. I almost dropped from my mind the thoughts about the incredible circumstances of our meeting. In short my previous life lost color and turned pale. I got used to her presence. The relations between man and woman grew up before we realized it. I was realizing that I was not acting reasonably, but what could I do. It is hard for a man to keep his feelings in control with such a beautiful woman beside him. Nobody would resist her charm. Despite that I remained a god to her although I was a god from flesh and blood. I established, not without delight, that she liked me more in that way. There were still many things hard to understand for her and they still couldn't take down the invisible barrier between us. If I had told her the truth she would not understand me. It was a truth for the time and its occurrences that I couldn't explain even to myself. I spared her that...
The middle of September was coming. It was a nice and sunny day. I was on my way to go when Letia stopped me with a question.
- O, Dionis, your great day is coming. My tribe is waiting for your help. I must go back and convey your words.
I didn't pay attention to her words. I didn't realize their deep meaning. That was my fatal error.
- I will help your tribe, of course! - I kissed her for goodbye.
- Then you will have me forever! O-o, Dionis, I am so happy!
I accepted her words calmly, without anxiety. If I knew what would happen I would do anything to keep her. But in that moment I had not the least idea about that.
I came back late in the evening. There was no light in the house. Plunged in darkness it was standing out white and lonely at the forest background. - Maybe she was in bed? She always waited for me to come back. An anxious feeling filled me up. I quickened my pace. The dog barked with joy and rushed to greet me. But I did not feel like it then. I opened the street door and entered. It was quiet and empty! I called her name. There was no answer! Suddenly a foreboding seized me. - Where had she gone? I was about to faint. I sat on a chair. I was trembling and desperate. Then suddenly I remembered her last words. What did she mean? What she wanted to tell me? Maybe...!
Maybe she had used that powder again? I jumped to my feet. I had to hurry and to outrun her. I had to be on that peak before her. Obviously she knew another way to use that powder. It was already dark outside. The bus to "Beglika" reservoir had left long time ago. I ran to my neighbor and after an urgent request I took his old car and rushed recklessly along the mountain road by the Devinska River. I arrived at the reservoir about midnight. I used to go through those places many times and it wasn't hard to find the old road to the forestry. I parked the car by the sleeping building and took the walk to the top that I already knew.
The day was dawning. Suddenly the rocky peak proudly stood up before me. I was exhausted but I didn't stop even for a minute. The day broke and poured over everything in gold. The stone ruins showed red and I was possessed again by that mystery and emptiness.
I went around the ruins with feverish haste. I stopped by the column where I had found her clothes. The cache was empty. I was late! I reeled and tiredly rested on a big marble slab stone. My hand touched something. I looked startled. A big bloody stain was showing scarlet on the stone. An awful thought run through my mind. Letia had returned to the ancient times. Dionis celebration was known for the human oblations. She believed that by her death she would save her tribe from demise and she would fuse with me forever. She had voluntarily exposed herself under the sharp blade. She had herself killed! I hadn't even understood her; I hadn't understood her words and her intentions...
I had no power left to move! The picture of her death appeared in front of me as if I was watching a film. There, the High priest raised the sacrificial knife and harshly stabbed it in the white body. The heart was beating while the knife pierced it and the gaze in the blue eyes slowly died out, exalting for the fulfilled duty. The body was getting cold and the Priest opened the metal box and dusted the powder upon it. Then her soul fled to Dionis.
She lied lifeless on the white marble and only a part from her, the blood, flied through the time to come there and leave me evidence for what was done for good. I didn't want to believe! No - o ...!
I stand on this peak for the second time and it will be the last one. I am looking at the red moist stain and it seems to me that all was just a dream, a sweet and captivating dream. The blood is drying up and a teardrop falls upon it. It glares at the sunbeams in a thousand lights as if it is not my human teardrop but a small and sparkling gem.
Translated by Kalina Angelova
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