Why are we born on this planet which is, at its core, just a speck in the universe? Why do we suffer so much during an existence whose rules we only find along the way? Why do we love? Why do we inevitably grow old and die, possibly before finding answers to the questions that bother us?
I often asked myself, at the same time being perfectly aware that I am at the end of a long list of poets, thinkers, philosophers, each of them trying, at their time, to find an answer, without unravelling the enigma, without completing a puzzle which seems to have lethal rules for humans.
Still haunted by a recurring nightmare in which I was in an unknown temple, followed by demons and being in equal danger of losing both my freedom and my soul, I went out to the park to clear my thoughts. I absent-mindedly watched pigeons, lovers, children that were playing with their pets.
At some point, I thought I saw something resembling a lost medallion at the edge of the lake. I approached slowly, cautiously, as if I was afraid that I was going to unleash a force of scale unknown, whose effects I could not control. Which (fatidic premonition!), eventually happened.
There really stood a two-faced, silver medallion, one face being engraved with a few words, the other having a protective layer which seemed impossible to remove. I took it in my hands and observed it carefully. A shock travelled my entire body, making me wonder whether the strange object had magical powers. I passed my fingers over the engraved words, after which I read them, trembling: “Are you wondering who you are? Traveler through time.”
I quickly pocketed the medallion, so as to not be observed by the other passers-by, after which I sat down on a bench, short of breath. Of course, I hadn’t taken the medallion for its monetary value, but due to its bizarre inscription and because I thought it was destined to get to me, in one way or another. But the others couldn’t have understood these things and I would have risked being branded a common thief.
I watched the continuously moving surface of the lake with a certain emotional detachment, as boats moved past and wild ducks swam, trying to understand why all of this was happening to me.
When I woke up the following morning, in my apartment, I still felt shook. I put the coffee on and I had just started trying to plan my day when I spotted my grandfather in the doorway. He was wearing glasses and had a calm and serene expression with a vague smile.
I greeted him by nodding my head and I took a seat. At a first glance, nothing was out of the ordinary, except the fact that... my grandfather had passed away many years prior. Before I was even born, actually. I only knew how he looked from family photos.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and headed towards the silhouette in the doorway. When I got close, he gradually dematerialized, leaving me alone in the room.
“Who are you? Traveler through time”, I remembered the inscription on the medallion I had found in the park.
I read a lot that day, I listened to music. Recent events would not let me be.
I was trying to focus on what I had to do, but it proved to be nearly impossible. I felt sort of a calling to a strange, completely unknown territory, which could contain, although I wasn’t sure of it, the answers to the questions that I had.
I remembered a paragraph from a text that I had read somewhere: “Such as the butterfly is irresistibly attracted to the light of a lamp and will do anything to get to it, even though he will find death there, man, this contradictory and passing being, is confronted, from when he is born to when he dies, with an enigma, wanting to know, even though it is impossible to him, the answer to the simplest and, at the same time, the most complicated question of all: «Why?»”.
Yes. It can be said that I was no exception to this rule.
I quickly went to the nightstand and opened the drawer in which I had put the medallion. I was afraid that it had disappeared, even though I knew that I was the only person to enter my room.
It was, however, there.
Equally present as I was. As the inscription was. As the enigma was.
The day after, I went to borrow a book from the library. The girl who worked there knew me already, this wasn’t my first time going. She gave me the requested book, something by Pavese, then she recommended, with a mysterious vibe, that I read a German’s initiate work from the seventeenth century. I thanked her and grabbed it as well.
I passed through the park again and, as if I were following a ritual, I sat on the same bench, near the lake, on which I stood when I had seen the medallion.
I glanced over to the same spot and, although I did not see anything else, the spot seemed rather empty. As if though the medallion had been part of the picture and now, that it was absent, the edge of the lake seemed barren. I attentively watched the wild ducks’ graceful swimming and I wondered whether it’s true that there is life after death. If I was going to find all of these animals and plants (and even my grandfather, who I had not met) after my terrestrial existence would have ended.
After I finished my walk through the park, I went home. I was a little tired, but, more importantly, I was curious to read the book that the girl from the library recommended to me. It was as if an invisible link between me, the medallion and the library existed.
Having arrived, I opened a cold Coke from the fridge and started reading. I was going to get through Pavese later, right now I had to focus on the work of the German initiate.
I gathered, from the foreword, that he was part of a secret organization, preoccupied with the study of alchemy and esoteric practices. He was searching, naturally, for the answers to the same questions that were bothering me.
I gathered what I understood from the first chapters (a necessary detail, since I had no initiation in such disciplines and hadn’t even studied philosophy or history), after which I carefully went over some pages describing the interior of an old castle from Sinaia, which would contain objects and documents that could lead to unraveling the mystery.
My heart pounded when I saw an illustration of a medallion identical to the one found on the edge of the lake.
I was intrigued, by also weary of falling into a trap. The coincidences started to seem a little bit too perfect.
Although, it couldn’t have been possible for this to be a setup. Nobody could have known on what day I would visit the park and what bench I would sit on, and not even the girl from the library could have known that I was going to go there the next day.
Bizarre, really bizarre...
I carefully noted down the exact address of the castle, which I told myself that I had to visit starting from that exact moment.
After which I tried, at least for a while, to think of nothing.
...In the train that was taking me to Sinaia, I remembered several things in my life, the first books I read, the first times I loved, as well as the fact that, according to an old horoscope, in a previous life I had lived in India.
Odd! I didn’t have, as previously stated, occult knowledge or philosophy studies, but this lack in my knowledge seemed to have been compensated by where I was born in my previous life.
I carefully put my hand in my pocket. That’s where I was keeping the medallion, that I wanted to take with me one this journey at any cost.
After that I looked out the window, somewhat uncaring, at the forests and plains that I was leaving behind, at a dazzling speed. I loved the scenery, the nature, but know my mind was somewhere else.
Focused on decrypting the enigma, of the way that I came to possess that book...
I took accommodation somewhere, at locals, that I paid with a random sum of money. I had neither the funds nor the disposition for a hotel.
I slept restfully there, I ate plenty and drank much spring water. The rustic, fresh air was benefic to me, but it was completely opposed to the secret purpose of my trip.
After I relaxed for a few days, I set out toward the castle. I found out that it was fortunately still available to visitors, at a cost. One wasn’t allowed, however (due to reasons that I couldn’t decipher) to stay there after 8pm.
I paid the tax and went inside. The interior was fascinating and sumptuous. I wondered who had built the castle – even though it was stated in the book form the library, busy with my thoughts, I had forgotten. I saw many fascinating paintings, elegant pillars, antique chandeliers.
I entered a side hallway and passed several rooms which were evidently abandoned. I didn’t want to break any rules, but at the same time I had a vivid curiosity, as well as hoping that I would find something to match the things described in the book. When I passed by a room that had the number 27 on it, I heard a voice form inside.
I got frightened. It meant either that I was having auditory hallucinations, or that that castle was being populated by ghosts.
I quickly backed away, searching for the way to the main room. I almost bumped into a guide.
“Are you feeling alright, sir?”, he asked in a weird tone. I remarked, horrified, that he had a glass eye.
I was increasingly scared. Even though I hadn’t done anything, I felt as if I was caught red-handed.
“Yes, of course...” I mumbled. “I was just searching for the way out.”
“The exit is right this way”, he said, pointing his hand somewhere to the left.
“Yes, thank you a lot!”, I managed to say, increasingly unsure, then almost sprinted towards the exit.
When I got outside, I took a deep breath.
Things were beginning to get complicated. I didn’t understand where the voice came from in that room.
In the room that I rented, I read for a bit, then fell asleep. I dreamed of my grandfather, who was showing me the medallion, with the same glasses and the same smiling expression.
“This has a secret..”, he was saying. “Be careful of the rooms in the castle..”.
I wanted to ask him something, but he became translucent, then vanished, exactly how he did in the vision that I had of him, back in Bucharest.
After that, a stranger appeared before my eyes, a green-eyed girl.
When I woke up, it was past 9 in the morning and my hosts were waiting for me at breakfast.
I had it, being quiet, and the I savored the steaming coffee.
I cordially answered some questions, after which I went out to take in the surrounding area. The cold mountain air left me breathless. I was hearing the birds sing, the spring water flowing. A calling beyond my powers was drawing me to these places, I wanted to stay there forever.
In the afternoon I visited the castle again. I hoped that this wasn’t going to attract the attention of the cashier or the guide, making them wonder about my insistence.
I admired the pictures, as fascinated as the first time, after which I went down the same corridor. When I passed by the room with the number 27, I opened the door.
In the doorway was a scared, anxious, green-eyed girl, the same as the one in the dream! She spoke to me:
“I’m in danger! They’re keeping us here as prisoners, they’re doing experiments on us!”
I was frightened, either I was having a hallucination, or before me stood a person in dire need of help.
“Who is it? Who is keeping you here? Who else are they keeping besides you?”
The girl put a finger up to her lips.
“I shouldn’t talk now, they could catch me. Stay here after 8 o’clock and I will try to tell you.”
I nodded affirmatively, closed the door and went away quickly.
Although I was shaking, I decided to honor her request. Besides the fact that there was a possibility to save the girl (as did the possibility that all of this was nothing but a hallucination), I was intrigued by the plethora of enigmas that took me up to this point.
I had started with existential questions, from the contents of an old book. Truthfully, I hadn’t deciphered anything up until now, but what if the girl could lead me straight to the answer?
I hid myself in a corner and waited for the closing hours. When I heard the guard lock the door, I nearly fainted. But I pulled through and didn’t reveal myself.
I cautiously watched an old grandfather clock which struck 8 o’clock.
I felt weak, then I had other visions, both of my grandfather and the girl, as well as the librarian from which I had borrowed the book (which I hadn’t gotten around to returning). I didn’t know anymore if the girl in the castle was alive or if she was an apparition from the other world.
My grandfather was appearing and disappearing, from the pages of the book, which was floating in mid-air (although I couldn’t remember taking it with me), blood was flowing, the girl was again trying to tell me something....
I took the medallion in my hands and watched it carefully.
On the side that had a layer which I couldn’t remove, was the face of the girl from room 27, under which it was written: “Princess Adelaide – year of 1850”.
So it was a ghost.
I trembled and started walking away slowly from the cursed room.
I started to realize that I wasn’t going to find any secrets, but, however much I wanted to, something else was the priority at the moment: getting out alive.
I sneaked over to the main room. There, I was at least apparently safe, but what was I going to do until 10 in the morning, when the castle gates opened? And even if I were to get there safely, what was I going to tell the guards or the guides, seeing as how the rules said that nobody was to be there after 8 in the evening?
I felt how the room got progressively colder, how a polar air was getting inside, and before I lost consciousness, I caught the weak sound of voices that were coming from another room in the castle.
The two initiates, who belonged to a superior, extraterrestrial race and were on Earth with a mission, and whose existence was known to few (including a German scholar from the seventeenth century), were having a dialog at that very moment.
“What is the new one doing?”, asked the first.
“He’s like all the others. He wants to have an answer to all the questions, he’s always afraid, he’s hallucinating, he can’t tell reality from fiction and he is convinced that he has to save a green-eyed girl from room 27… how did you think that he would handle it?”
“I don’t know...but this strengthens an older belief I had regarding the human race...”
“That humans struggle to overcome their condition and to understand the mystery of existence, even though it is structurally impossible to them… do you know what I wrote once?”
“Such as the butterfly is irresistibly attracted to the light of a lamp and will do anything to get to it, even though he will find death there, man, this contradictory and passing being, is confronted, from when he is born to when he dies, with an enigma, wanting to know, even though it is impossible to him, the answer to the simplest and, at the same time, the most complicated question of all: «Why?»”.
“Interesting”, said the other before hastily turning off the monitor that showed him, in great detail, the interior of every room in the castle.
I was alone in front of room 27. I slowly opened the door.
After a long screech, I could push it open and get in the old, dusty room. The blinds were almost all the way down, light only entered through a small slit at the bottom.
There, in a corner, I recognized her.
“Princess Adelaide- year of 1850”, I remembered the inscription saying on the medallion.
I started to feel chills.
She looked right at me. She seemed a bit scared.
“I died a long time ago...you weren’t supposed to see this, you shouldn’t have come in here”, she said, after which she started to get more and more unclear, ethereal. “It may be too late now”, she said while vanishing.
I looked at the clock. It was 10 in the evening.
“How did the medallion get to me?”, I tried asking, but I was already alone in the dark room.
“I hope I get to see the dawn”, I murmured, after which I lied down, tired, frightened, on the cold marble floor.
I thought I heard a noise in the room, after which I felt as if I was literally being swallowed by the floor, catching only a glimpse, maybe for the last time, of a room in which I came (like so many others) in search of my own destiny....
Author Notes: foto: By A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace) - Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64692691