Archive for the ‘Jeremiah Tolbert’ Category
Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Remember, first of all, that this is no ordinary city. The wind has teeth and they bite exposed flesh — cover up, plan your route to minimise time spent outdoors, accept the inevitability that the clever wind will find its way to your wrists and cheeks.
The main attraction is the prison, a construction of stone and exquisitely painted wood that funnels the wind into a series of passageways. A century ago, prisoners were chained there, tormented for as long as their crime — or the need for information — dictated. Now, tourists gasp at the chain-stumps and shriek when the wind sneaks up their sleeves.
It is a unique experience. No visit is complete without at least an hour there.
Opinions are divided on whether you should do this first of all, or save it until last so that the rest of your stay is not as painful. However, this latter option means you might have accumulated too much pain from the preceding days and find the prison almost as torturous as its inmates did.
We recommend seeing it first. Overleaf, see a map showing the safest passageways, as agreed upon by our team of independent travellers.
Other major sights include the moaning bridge, the museum, the art gallery (the often surreal depictions of the wind on the second floor are excellent) and, of course, the palace.
Much of the former rulers’ home is in ruin, after the uprising of 1904 and the end of the city-state’s independence, but the preserved parts are worth viewing: throne hall, with spectacular granite thrones; various tiled floors; enough intact walls to give an impression of the shape; and, most eerie of all things in this city, fallen pieces of the wooden roof. Bite-grooves from centuries of wind flowing over the palace are boldly visible. No other buildings are made of wood in these times.
A favourite cultural experience is the basement club, where the city’s youth remove their armoured clothing and dance. Their pale skin, sluiced with the clever wind’s marks, is unsettlingly beautiful: their wrists, ankles and faces seem the epicentres of strange white and red jewellery. A few visitors consider the dancers’ ages, usually in the 20s, and wonder at the appearance of their grandparents.
It is a mostly cheap city, although we recommend paying extra for a thoroughly insulated hotel. Evzen Hotel is good. The following restaurants are especially fine: Damek’s, Vaclav Grillhouse, The Wind-Sliced Rabbit.
Some risk-takers skimp on clothing, to “experience the true city”. Do not copy them.
Susannah Mandel has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage and Peter Parasol. Her short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is forthcoming in Shimmer #11. All her columns for Strange Horizons on the fantastic in classic literature can be found here.
When his time as a student ended, they arrived at last at the night for the ceremony of the book of sand. They left at nightfall, making their way through the empty markets, past the street of leatherworkers, the street of brass-makers, out through the low, white-stucco houses of the suburbs, out into scrubland and further into desert.
In the blue hour before dawn, his teacher said they’d arrived, and had him set down the canteens and bag of bread. He sat at the foot of a dune and recited the incantations they’d practiced for weeks, and the blue hour stretched out past when the sun should have risen.
Moths came, as his teacher said they would, and skimmed over the face of the dune. In the shadows cast by the low, bright moon, the lines etched by the tips of their wings looked like words. He read there everything the moths had seen throughout the nighttime city.
He tried to remember everything so that he could turn it to his advantage — everything anyone in the city had hoped darkness would hide. The wind erased the words as he read them and more moths came with more stories.
As the hours stretched on, the cramps in the small of his back subsided. He continued reading — something in the incantation prevented him from stopping. His teacher forced water and an occasional bit of bread into his mouth. His schemes turned to compassion; he saw the struggles, behind the secrets, the troubles that unraveled in their wake. He stopped looking for ways to gain and looked for ways to help.
Still he read–it felt like days had passed, even though the blue-saturated sky hadn’t changed. His eyes crusted with sand which his teacher tried to dab away with a damp cloth, but every sentence gritted. The threads of story drew together. His schemes seemed more and more ridiculous against the enormity of its grand interweaving structure. In the life of the city, he was one more moth, observing, circling this or that moment of brightness before remembering the stars he meant to steer by. For all his knowledge, it couldn’ touch anything without ruining the whole design.
Humbled, he struggled up as dawn finally turned the sand back to mere sand and the moths fluttered off to sleep the day.
Regional Myths Surrounding the Giant Bellflower.
- The Sunken City: The people of Sesin Town, on Crescent Bay, speak wistfully of the music of lost Mirnaville. Here bellflowers adorned the city crest, and children played in the public gardens in their melodious shade. History verifies that on Saint Sembert’s day, a flood from the sea rose and engulfed the city; folklore alone claims that, in calm weather, the wind carries its chiming from under the waves, bearing it up to the sunlit gardens of Sesin Town, where no bellflowers grow.
- The Cruel Father: A tale local to the Abernath Forest tells of a man who, having allowed his children to starve, was condemned to serve consecutive seven-year terms as a robin, an ocean-going monster (variously described as a dragon, horse, or sea-goat: the Abernath Forest is landlocked), and the clapper-tongue of a bellflower. This, it is said, explains why the father’s voice may be heard mingling with those of his children in the Abernath’s lugubrious vespertine chorus. (While this account is usually considered folkloric, some historians of jurisprudence claim to be able to fit it into the Abernath’s ancestral systems of justice.)
- The Gardener’s Beautiful Daughter: On the Yayang Plateau, the heads of Cithera, a highly respected Botanical Clan, cherish an account of their ancestor the Cleya of Cithera, who was tasked by the Yayang Censorate with producing a bellflower purer
of tone than any yet bred. To protect her mother from the consequences of failure, the Cleya’s oldest daughter, after consulting with the Sepeng Oracle, mixed her own blood with the soil. Though debate surrounds the mechanism of the spell, the Yayang bellflower is an undeniably clear-voiced plant, whose ochre markings are (moreover, on occasion) reported to spell surprising words.
- The Three Sisters: In the Culleham Moors their house may still be seen. These women — variously described, according to the storyteller, as having been lovely or plain, reclusive or magnetic, and brilliant or cracked — were unable to get anyone to publish their books. Thus they practiced a form of wild moors magic that is said to have transformed them into either ravens, bellflowers, or men. According to the latter version, the sisters took new names, married, and lived acclaimed and productive lives. According to either of the first two variants, they still dwell on the Culleham Moors, abiding near their former home and confiding their stories to the wind.
Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Friday, May 2nd, 2014