Friday, 24 October 2008

To The Light House (And Back Again) [2nd Revision]

Image: Salvador Dali, Hermes, 1981

I wrote this story in an English lecture on Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. I wrote the story simply because I got a kick out of it, so don't expect anything epic :)

To the Light House (And Back Again)

Once upon a time, in a light house there lived a beautiful maiden. The house in which this maiden lived weighed only two kilograms and the curious fact that there were thousands of colourful balloons tied to the roof resulted in the house floating away on a gentle breeze. So for all intents and purposes our maiden was a damsel in distress (even if she would never admit to it if asked). The kingdom in which this story takes place was filled to the brim with brave knights in gleaming armour (there were so many of them in fact that the king hired them out to neighbouring kingdoms), but none of them could fly and they all feared shooting at the balloons with arrows in case any harm should come to the maiden. In a stable (a very heavy one I might add) a peasant boy had an epiphany. He would borrow the god, Hermes’ winged sandals and use them to rescue the maiden. He jumped on a donkey and set out (at a rather slow pace) to the Sometimes Holy Mountain, north of the kingdom of Ramsey. Hermes often visited the mountain to drink the wine he stored there in a cave. Most of the wine came from sacrifices, for in those days people were very fond of sacrificing things to the gods – things like useless pieces of string, flowers, virgins, cows, goats, wine and so on. The special thing about this mountain was that it was surrounded by ‘certain airs’ that were detached from the wind and these mysterious airs resulted in a curious property being added to the mountain; that property being that none of the gods, save for Hermes, could see the mountain – it was simply invisible to them. Hermes being quite an alcoholic (as history fails to mention) often retired to this mountain to enjoy a few drinks without being hassled by the rest of the gods on Mount Olympus. Since Hermes wasn’t there all the time the mountain was only holy at the times that he was there. Our peasant boy rode to the mountain in the hope that it was holy on that day. I’m told that he was smart as far as peasant boys go, but it was quite sad that his name was Rubbish. His father was a very busy man and had simply named the boy after the first thing that popped into his mind at the time, which happened to be a pile of rubbish which he remembered he must take out for the king if he wished not to be beheaded. Rubbish, being a vital young man, did not let this get him down for he believed that if people could be made from dust and some of them transcend their dusty state to become something like gods, so bright and radiant that looking at them is blinding, there was nothing stopping him from transcending his unfortunate name. Rubbish arrived at the foot of Mount Sometimes Holy as the sun was setting; he said a quick prayer (not knowing that the gods on Mount Olympus could not hear him) and started his search for Hermes’ cave. He found the cave just as the sun disappeared behind the mountains in the west and on that evening Lady Luck (because she is technically not a goddess and she had no other plans for the evening) was on his side, the god of the mountain was lying on a bed of straw (one would think a god would bother with his sleeping arrangements more) in a drunken stupor, his winged sandals floated around the room chasing each other in a playful manner. Rubbish thought he’d be polite and not wake Hermes up (no one knows what a drunk god would do after all); he quietly snatched the winged sandals out of the air and tiptoed out of the cave. At the mouth of the cave he slipped on the sandals and they rearranged themselves to fit snugly on his feet. He took off with a little jump and zoomed through the air. After a few hours of flying around he spotted the house floating gently on a light breeze. Candle light came from the windows. Rubbish flew right up to the door and like the good mannered boy he was he politely knocked on the door. It is a strange thing being in a house that is floating high up in the sky and hearing a knock at the door. The maiden peeped through the keyhole and was thoroughly surprised to find Rubbish at her doorstep. She opened the door and invited him inside. “O! Dear Rubbish,” the maiden cried when they were inside the house. “It’s so good to see you.”
“It’s good seeing you too, Irene.”
Rubbish and Irene were very good friends so it was really a pleasant surprise for her to find him at her doorstep. “How ever did you manage to get here?” Irene asked.
“I had some help from one of the gods.” Rubbish pointed to the winged sandals.
“Do you think they will be able to carry the both of us?”
“How will we know if we don’t try?”
Rubbish held Irene by the waist and she put her arm around his neck. “Ready?”
Irene nodded and they jumped out through the front door of the floating house. The sandals rapidly flapped their wings in order to adjust to Irene’s added weight and off to the Sometimes Holy Mountain they zoomed.
Rubbish’s plan was to return Hermes’ sandals before he woke up and then he and Irene would ride the donkey he left grazing at the side of the mountain back to Ramsey. But, as anyone with sense knows, something strange always arises to mess up good plans.
Hermes rose from his drunken stupor just as Rubbish and Irene landed at the mouth of the cave. He immediately noticed that his winged sandals were not floating around the cave playfully chasing each other. “Blasted sandals...” Hermes muttered, “Where’d they get off to?”
Then he spotted the couple at the opening of his cave.

Both Rubbish and Irene froze with fear when Hermes’ eyes fell upon them. The god was immediately on his feet and before they could even blink he held each of them by the scruff of the neck and dragged them inside the cave. I don’t know if you have ever been manhandled (or maidenhandled in Irene’s case) by an angry immortal who has just woken up from an alcohol-induced slumber, but I can tell you that it is a very frightening experience. “A pair of thieves, eh?” Hermes roared.
“Please don’t blame Rubbish, sir. The only reason he took your sandals was to rescue me from floating away with my house.”
I mentioned before that Rubbish was an intelligent boy as far as peasant boys are concerned and so before Hermes could reply he said, “Hermes of many shifts, blandly cunning, robber, cattle driver, bringer of dreams, watcher by night, thief at the gates, please do not let loose your wrath upon us for the theft of your sandals because you are a god who condones the practice of thievery after all.”
Hermes burst out in laughter that shook the cave. “Well spoken… very well spoken, dear boy. I do condone theft if the thief does not allow himself to be caught. Since you are caught you will have to perform a certain task for me if you wish for me to spare your lives.”
“Very well then, tell us what to do,” Irene said.
“By the manner of your speech, I take it that you are from the kingdom of Ramsey. I need you to deliver a little gift to a friend of mine, who currently resides in the dungeon of that wet blanket you call a king.”
King Ramsey was the most unpleasant ruler I can care to think of. He was as thin as a reed, possessed a hooked nose and he had the look of someone sucking on lemons on his face. Rubbish and Irene agreed to undertake the very dangerous mission of sneaking into King Ramsey’s dungeon.

The rest of the evening was spent drawing up plans and feasting on honey, cakes and roasted lamb, which Hermes produced from a hidden larder in the cave. Once the two children got past his alcoholism and their fear of him, Hermes proved to be a charming host. He told them of some of the adventurous errands he has undertaken for his father, the mighty Zeus and how on the day of his birth he stole oxen from his brother, Apollo. By midnight Rubbish and Irene were fast asleep with smiles of contentment on plastered onto their faces.

Hermes flew the two children to the kingdom of Ramsey at the crack of dawn the following day. He dropped them off at the city gates and before departing he presented them with a sealed package and the helmet of Aïdes as a gift to help them on their mission.

Sneaking into King Ramsey’s dungeons was no easy business, even with a helmet that renders the wearer invisible – especially since the helmet could only cover one head at a time. Rubbish and Irene managed to sneak into the castle undetected because everyone was too busy to bother with two children. Ramsey did not hesitate to behead those who did not attend to their duties and thus everyone in the castle minded their tasks and naught else. At the passage that leads to the dark and dingy dungeons Rubbish donned Aïdes’ helmet and immediately he became invisible. “Stay here, Irene,” he whispered, “I’ll be back in a flash.”
Irene hid in a dark corner whilst Rubbish trotted down the passage to find the prisoner Hermes had sent them to. It did not take Rubbish long to find the prisoner, she was hard to miss in the midst of all the ruthless looking men who inhabited the cells. The prisoner wore a long, white gown that was in total contrast with the squalor all around her and her light brown skin glowed as if some inner light was struggling to escape through it. Although there was not a trace of hair on her head, no one could mistake her for a man, so striking was her beauty. “Ah, there you are.” She said in a voice that was like the sweet music of Apollo’s lyre. Rubbish looked around to see who she was talking to. The prisoner laughed and said, “I’m talking to you, dear boy. The helm of Aïdes cannot hide you from me. Come closer.”
Rubbish stepped closer to the prisoner and fumbled with his cloak, trying to take out the package Hermes had given him. He finally managed to free the package from his cloak and he handed it over to the prisoner through the cell’s bars.
“Thank you.”
“It’s my pleasure, ma’am.” Rubbish said shyly.
“I suggest that you do not linger too much, but before you go I have a gift for you.” She touched the boy’s head and he felt a tingling sensation all over his body. When she was done she said, “Now no one who sees you shall ever call you Rubbish again. From this day you shall be known as Michael, a name that befits a brave, young man of your stature.”

Michael and Irene made their way home safely through the king’s dingy dungeons and to their merry surprise they found Irene’s house returned to its original spot. It also seemed that the house had acquired some weight along the way. Inside they found a note from Hermes demanding a month’s supply of good wine to be delivered to Mount Sometimes Holy for the favour and the swift return of the helm of Aïdes. In the days that followed Michael thought much about that strange lady in Ramsey’s dungeon and he hoped that all was well with her.

Alas, the story of Michael’s quest to the light house and back again must I end here for now. There were many adventures that followed and many of them included that strange lady Michael encountered in Ramsey’s dungeon. I am told by my sources that her name was Palesa, which means flower in one on the tongues of the South.

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