Brave, defiant Contristo walked under the sharp but harmless leaves of the gloomy jungle. The ceiling of the forest was completely covered with thick branches of trees and the dense population of their leaves. The tenebrous darkness made the journey the more frightening, the unknown waiting for him at every corner. A beam or two of light would pierce the great darkness with its blaze as the wind opened a tiny slit in the heights. These arrows of translucent light reminded Contristo of the world he left seven years ago. At the age of twelve he was forced to enter this labyrinth, to follow an aimless course, to hunt after an unrevealed destiny. But the world he had left so many years ago was still bright in his memory, those endless hours of play and spontaneous happiness. The intense winds of adolescence had thrust him into this dark adventure. The old world had come apart, his new life was nothing other than wandering through the inextricable dangers of the forest. It was a difficult journey as strange gruesome animals threatened his survival, challenged his sanity.
Contristo’s world is not an ordinary world. A human could never recognize this world, not even in his dreams. The creatures that constitute this world are beyond the imagination of the wildest fantasies of fiction. The corruption of their forms would be the most painful sight, a holocaust for our eyes. Their voices would enter our ears like molten rock down the auditory canal, their shrieks worst than a thousand cries of despair coming from Dante’s Inferno. The sting of their fangs more deadly than any earthly creature. Poor and lost Contristo had to face numberless dangers on his way, when forced to leave the joy of childhood to meet the dangers of advancing youth.
Towards the end of the seventh year Contristo started to notice a change in his environment. Patches of sky would appear more often and the nightmarish insects were fewer and fewer. Until finally, exactly on the last full moon of his seventh traveling year, he came upon a valley. The jungle was left behind and he could observe at the distance a huge ominous castle, majestically sitting at the center of the valley. Certainly, he thought, this is my unforeseen destination.
Contristo approached the monumental structure and at the foot of the tall gates there stood two gigantic trolls, weapon in hand, guarding the entrance from any intruder. As Contristo came closer to these beastly creatures, he became sick and repelled by the dripping pus of their bodies, the green drool from their mouths and their stink of decaying meat. “HALT, you shall not pass!” thundered the voice of both guards. Stupefied and trembling, Contristo spoke:
For seven years the winds of youth have blown
In maze and confusion I have not known
What distant goal was set for my life
Woe, my journey’s been nothing but strife.
In your castle some great good I must gain
Open your gates so all won’t be in vain!
The giant monsters gazed thoughtfully at this wretched creature. Then, in obedience to their duty, replied:
The gates of Veritas are out of reach
For those that cannot breach
The ancient riddle we now recite
‘This thing all things devours;
From the farthest suns to the nearest flowers;
The powerful king too must one day know
Defeat and loss against this invincible foe’
Answer correctly or retreat in fright.
Swiftly Contristo retorted:
Experience, mother of knowledge
To you I now pledge
If my answer be in the right
I will forever trust in your light
Guards, the riddle is sublime
My answer is: TIME.
The gates opened for Contristo, who was too well acquainted with the expanse of time. In the echoing solitude, his steps marked the ticking of the seconds as he gazed the high towers inside. At the heart of the castle a lofty dome shone with precious gold and crimson gems. Contristo gathered that under that huge vault his secret fate must lie.
He stepped into the glorious building and surveyed the ornamental complexity of the walls, patterns of exquisite beauty. Then, at last, his long journey reached its summit when he saw under the colossal dome a sight he will never forget. From the ceiling hanged an object he had never seen before, faintly glowing with a sort of musical flow. He approached it, but he was not alone. From the other end of the room he could now see another creature too was approaching the sacred object. He slowed his pace but continued to come nearer until he was face to face with his silent companion. Contristo then spoke to him but the other would only mimic his own speech. Then he moved to one side and the stranger did exactly like him. In an initiative to be kind he extended his arm to salute his companion. His partner was too quick and the tip of their hands would always collide, never allowing him to take the other’s hand. Contristo was paralyzed by a sort of fear and just gazed at the stranger. He looked into his eyes and he could see nothing but an abysmal sadness, a look of despair, a cry for help. He saw a fragile and feeble creature, lost and confused, joyless, utterly joyless…
It was then that he realized he was looking at a reflection of himself. And his thoughts began to weave the path of his future, treading the first steps in the unending journey of self-discovery.
‘Tis this sadness I saw reflected
And merciless was my despair
This brittle body so dejected
Home of the burden I will bear
In these eyes of crystal sorrow
Lies the grand secret of tomorrow
To understand the elusive mystery
The whole of my wretched history
Let today mark the beginning
The essential for all the living
To glimpse and savor the question
How to find one’s true expression
Finding myself always in travel
Among the marvels of existence
As the smoke of time will unravel
What is at an approaching distance.