The first drops fall one hour before sunset. In the beginning, just a few. Then a hard downpour floods the deck. Every few seconds, electrical discharges cut deep irregular lines across the dark-crimson sky. Thunders follow immediately after the flashes, loud like cannon shots. The ocean has turned nasty. It appears set to bury our ship in its liquid hell. The wind gradually transforms into a gale. Many crewmen are working in a hurry to finish stowing the higher sails and stroking the lower ones. At the same time, a dozen hands are unfurling a single storm fore-topsail to maintain the ship’s direction under the strong wind.

Despite doing my best to make myself useful wherever I can, I’m barely moving back and forth along the deck. My legs are wading through a continuous stream of water, sometimes ankle-deep. My boots are slipping on the wet planks every few steps. I have to hold tightly onto backstays, shrouds, hawsers, gunwale, or anything else with some local stability that I can reach with my tired hands. Everyone else exposed to the elements is in the same situation.

While gazing up for a moment, I find out that the fore topmast and fore topgallant sails haven’t been fully stowed. This is obviously the work of less experienced hands. The crewmen are still up there, trembling shadows moving against intermittent flashes of light. Balancing on the wet footropes, the poor lads try to fix their mistakes as fast as possible. However, the wind is getting harsher by the minute, and they are having difficulties finishing their job.

With my vision blurred by gale and rain, I continue to supervise the sailors’ work from the deck. Soon, I notice two young crewmen near the main topgallant platform, working alone and having a lot of trouble untying the gaskets from the jackstay before stowing the topgallant sail. They are almost done with the starboard and are pushing hard to get quickly to the port side. Suddenly, the sailors stop and look upwards, visibly frightened. Above them, a diffuse green light surrounds the top of the mast and the edges of the royal’s yard.

This is a most unusual phenomenon. I want to examine it at a closer distance. Directed by the first lieutenant, all hands around me are busy with other urgent issues. Finishing unfurling the storm fore-topsail is one of them. The canvas hasn’t expanded in the wind. The sailors involved in the operation are moving frantically to fix its orientation. That’s why the captain wanted to test the new hands. This storm is the best exam he could find for them. The crew doesn’t need me on the deck anymore, so I decide to climb up the mainmast to investigate the unusual light. I’ll also use this opportunity to double-check how the upper sails are stowed.

Reaching the topgallant platform in this weather is a real challenge. I’m tossed back and forth like a rag doll by the powerful shakes of the ship. The high-amplitude rolling makes me hold the rigging tightly to prevent being thrown overboard. My boots are not so great for a good foothold on the ratlines, but they’ll have to do. I feel as if I were tied to a giant metronome. A metronome moving in fierce harmony with this deafening symphony of wind and water.

Soon, I arrive near the top, grab the futtock shrouds, and climb onto the narrow platform. I can see the scared faces of the crewmen within an arm’s length of me. They are just getting done stowing the sail. All the ship parts I can glimpse around dance chaotically under flashes of lightning. I take hold of the yard and step onto the footrope, double-checking the hands’ work and ignoring the glow from above.

“Looks fine! You may go back on the deck now!” I shout as loud as I can.

The youngsters seem to understand my words and slide down along the rigging. The rain continues to pour from above like a waterfall. I feel already giddy from the slow but ample rolling motion of Excelsior dancing on top of the waves. Yet, I manage to control my nausea without having to throw up. Anyway, my location is too high, too precarious to allow myself such weaknesses. I suppose “throw down” would be more appropriate, given the circumstances. Although, given the wind’s intensity, this wouldn’t be entirely true, either.

I’m doing a final check of the knots. They look tight enough. The light surrounding the top of the mast generates a tingling sensation on the crown of my head. I have climbed all the way here to investigate it, so I step higher on the ratlines, closer to the mysterious glow.

Down on the deck and close to the prow, five crewmen have just finished stowing other sails and got a few moments to breathe. They are looking in my direction, gesticulating and shouting something. With the ubiquitous roar of the storm, I can’t make out their words. I assume what they mean is something like: “St. Elmo’s fire!”

However, from what I have read in books or heard from the stories of a few sailors, I don’t remember St. Elmo’s fire appearing above a ship while it’s raining so heavily. In addition to this, people who saw it described its color as blue or violet, not green. And why is it not pushed away by wind and rain? Something is different here. As I continue to climb closer to it, the tingling sensation on the crown of my head intensifies.

Right at that moment, a flash of lightning strikes the top of the mast with an ear-shattering noise. I can feel its tremendous power through a wave of pain. The flame from above wraps tightly around me. Its surge of electricity passes through my skin, flesh, and bones. A taste of metal fills my mouth a moment later. My heart seems to stop for a moment, then resumes its hurried beating. My eardrums hurt from the violent bang. For a few long seconds, my muscles twitch in uncontrollable spasms. Then numbness fills up my body. I try to grab the cordage near me, but I’m not successful. My hands and feet are slipping off the ropes. I begin to fall towards the deck, slowly, like in a dream.

Sailing ships are rarely struck by lightning, yet this can still happen every once in a while. And this time, I happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. You can call it bad luck stretched to the extreme. Here it is, all mine to enjoy.

While sliding down, I notice how everything has become quiet all of a sudden. The wind’s whipping has ceased. Large, almost spherical beads of water dripping from the yards float around me, descending in slow motion towards the deck. The bolt that has just hit me still surrounds my body with a faint glimmer. The waves around the ship look like unfinished glass sculptures, reflecting the yellow-blue light of several frozen lightning flashes. Black clouds are hanging above, like a giant carpet spread all the way to the horizon. And the green light still surrounds the top of the mast, unchanged.

From up here, the ship’s frame looks like a leaf tossed into a fuzzy maze of foamy water crests. My field of vision narrows like a tunnel. It closes to a dot as colors turn grayscale. The seascape surrounding me disappears, with the flow of time slowing down even more. The green halo of light expands and swallows me. I’m floating now, weightless, in the air. Wrapped in silence, I find myself in the middle of another scenery, in a different space and time.

It’s dark. It’s quiet. It’s comfortable. The pain is gone.

Soft shadows shroud me like a silk robe. A night view is unfolding before my eyes. There is a man in front of me, watching the night lights of a city. Seconds later, he walks away from them, stepping onto a narrow path bordered by oaks and maples. At the same time, I’m him and I’m myself, observing the scene from a short distance. My senses have become distorted. Apparently, what I’m experiencing now was triggered by this flash of lightning.

Like a mirror reflecting itself… What would it show?

The White Tide

It rises
in spirals of grass
twice a day,
at the same hours.

The hoofed bells
from the mountains
shatter the night’s edge,
sending the milk flow
into circular songs.

When you look at
the rows of labeled boxes,
remember the stars
wrapped in prayers,
the dreams
wrapped in moonlight,
the cows,
and the tide.

The Ape Inside Me

Autumn is dripping
from the old tree
while I shake
the thick branches.

Every day
I slide
along the trunk
until my backpack
is heavy with apples.

When I eat them,
the ape inside me

we’re going to touch
the stars.

Its sparkling eyes
pierce the future,
planning new trips
on paths of bark,
higher and higher.

In the Footsteps of the Cyclopes

The sky is pale
at sunset.
The stone moon
haunts, mute,
above the hills.

I’m seeking,
without hesitation,
among white sands and shells,
cold tracks,
old tracks of cyclopes.

Silent thoughts
bury themselves
in my hair,
of dreams.

Zaskihi Warashi*

I’m leaning too much into the wind,
as if it were a carpet
meant to carry me over meadows.

Perhaps you’re right,
and it’s only my imagination
that flickered that day at Ryōan-ji**,
so long ago,
when I thought a spirit from the garden
joined me on the journey
to the other side of the Pacific,
next to the Rockies.

And when I thought you left,
perhaps you only went to sleep
while I returned to my ancestral home
from the Carpathian Mountains.

But now I’m all alone,
and yesterday
your name echoed
on the tv screen.

And then came the power cut
and the internet outage,
and next morning came the frog
jumping on the floor of the stable
and disappearing below through a crack,
and the stirring shadow
at the edge of the terrace,
and the cows that gave
more milk than usual,
and the rusty nails in musical dance
pushed by the broom,
and the candies
that shifted
on the plate
from the living room.

I’m leaning too much into the wind,
and it’s only my imagination
like a pair of butterfly wings
burdened by hope.

But I can’t help thinking
that you might be here.

*Zashiki-warashi (座敷童子, or 座敷童, “parlor child”), sometimes also called zashiki bokko (座敷ぼっこ, “parlor boyo”), are spirit-like beings told about mostly in the Iwate Prefecture. They are said to be yokai that live in parlors or storage rooms, and that perform pranks, and that people who see one would be visited with good fortune. (from Wikipedia)

**Ryōan-ji (Shinjitai: 竜安寺, Kyūjitai: 龍安寺, The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Zen temple located in northwest Kyoto, Japan. It belongs to the Myōshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism. The Ryōan-ji garden is considered one of the finest surviving examples of kare-sansui (“dry landscape”), a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations arranged amidst a sweep of smooth pebbles (small, carefully selected polished river rocks) raked into linear patterns that facilitate meditation. The temple and its gardens are listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (from Wikipedia)


The Supreme Master stepped close to the platform’s edge and took a peek down. The Sun was setting, and a pale halo of light flickered now underwater, marking the artifact’s location.
“Come here, kids,” Anh said, waving towards the teenagers. “I’m going to show you something interesting. But before I do that, perhaps we should introduce ourselves. I’m Anh, and this is Rongo. What are your names?”
“I’m Solis, this is Lila, and this is Kolin,” Solis replied.
“Now that we are all acquainted, let’s get ready to take this object out of the water,” the supreme master continued.
He stepped near the rope, turned towards Rongo, and said:
“This method would have never worked. Not even a master can pull out such an object by force, even with a sturdy and expensive carbon-fiber line like this. Before doing anything else, I think it’s not a bad idea to separate the hook from it.”
Anh grabbed the rope’s end with his right hand and positioned himself into a low stance, with his feet wide apart. He closed his eyes and took a few deep, even breaths. The skin of his hands turned immediately red as if the blood circulation through them had become way more vigorous.
The supreme master lifted the rope and jerked it downwards with lightning speed. The whip-like motion got carried downwards almost instantly until it reached the other end. A short, deep rumble erupted from the water, and the hook came out. Anh pulled the rope up and let it drop into a coil on the ground in the admiring game of the others.
After a short pause, the supreme master leaned onto his right knee and bent down his torso over the edge. With a loud shout, he hit the platform with his right palm, right above the artifact’s location. The ground shook as if jolted by an earthquake. A moment later, a column of water exploded upwards, like a geyser. A shiny box colored in light blue floated on its top, about two meters above the platform’s edge.
“Catch it!” Anh shouted.
Rongo reached out, grabbed the box tightly, and set it with care on the ground.
“Is it safe to touch it?” Solis asked.
“Yes, it’s fine now,” Anh replied. “The shock that pulled it out has deactivated its power source. Now, let’s get out of here. Rongo! Take the box to the local headquarters of Two Waves. I will come and take a more thorough look at it tomorrow. We need to be careful. I have a feeling the five thugs from earlier went for backups and might be soon waiting for us on the shore.”
They began crossing the platform, leaving the coiled rope with the hook behind. Rongo was walking in front, carrying the artifact under his right arm. Soon, they reached the opposite edge, where the steps cut in stone allowed anyone easy access to the rock. Two inflatable boats danced on the waves: one belonging to Rongo, the other to Anh. There was no trace of the goons.
“Humm,” Anh said. “I kind of expected to see them back by now. The thugs were leaving when I arrived on the beach. They glimpsed my badge and hasted away from the shore. No sign of them around. Yet, I think they can’t be far. We have to be prepared for an ambush. What do you think, Rongo?”
“I’m on the same wavelength,” the young master replied. Then, turning to Kolin, he added: “If we get involved in a fight, can you hold the artifact until it ends. Is that ok for you?”
“Yes, sir!” Kolin cried, surprised by the master’s trust.
They halted at the platform’s edge, ready to climb down the stone steps and get into the boats. The Sun had just set, and the night was slowly creeping in. Sen was going to appear in the sky soon, in her full phase, before it got completely dark.
“I’ll go first,” Anh said and set foot onto the narrow path. A fraction of a second before the final step, he stopped abruptly. Immediately, two arrows flew in front of him and bounced off the platform’s side.
“They’re here, all right,” the supreme master whispered. He turned towards the other man and continued in a low voice:
“Rongo, give the artifact to the kids and come here. I’ll take the right side. You take the left. Watch out for arrows.”
Without a word, Rongo passed the artifact into Kolin’s hands. It was cold and rather heavy for its size. The boy pulled the object close to his chest and took a deep breath. A vague scent of ozone filled his nostrils. Pushed by curiosity, Lila and Solis came closer, their fingers exploring the smooth surface.
The masters rushed down the steps and disappeared into the water. The actual fight took place beyond the platform’s edge, hidden from the teenager’s view. Several loud splashes echoed, some groans followed, then everything calmed down. They never saw the bodies of the attackers. A few seconds later, water dripping from his wet shirt and pants, Anh showed up at the base of the stone stairs and motioned them to join him. The night was falling, and the cold air made the almost-naked teenagers shiver.
“Only two,” Anh said. “Sentinels armed with crossbows. The main force hasn’t arrived yet. Let’s go!”
Rongo was already waiting in his boat. Kolin stepped in and handled the artifact back to him. Anh’s boat was larger. Lila and Solis scrambled in it, opposite the supreme master.
Almost without noise, Rongo began rowing towards the coast. Anh was following him closely. Both masters cautioned the teenagers to lie down inside the boats. More gangsters armed with crossbows could be waiting near the shore. There was no need to give them more targets to shoot at.
They soon touched the soft sand of the beach. The whole area looked deserted, and an eerie silence was reigning in the air.
“It looks a bit too easy,” Rongo said.
“It certainly does,” Anh replied. “Yet, I don’t feel any human presence nearby. Let’s keep the boats close to the water until we know for sure they won’t attack us here.”
“They must be waiting somewhere along the way to Lavand. Perhaps I shouldn’t go directly to the Two Waves headquarters.”
“I bet they also guard the main road that leads to Aquatika’s building from Akonit.”
“This looks quite bad. Some big criminal syndicates must be hunting for this object. Do you have any idea who would be so interested in the artifact?”
“I’m clueless. Those thugs certainly didn’t look like people related to our government. Or, as a matter of fact, to any other government. Any official would have presented an identification badge before requesting access to the object.”
“There is a payphone near the road. Should we call the police?”
“And let the politicians get the artifact? The Blue Federation certainly is a functional democracy, but every democracy has vulnerable spots. Sooner or later, someone is going to find a way to steal the artifact from a government building and abuse its powers.”
“Would the artifact be safe if it stayed in Aquatika’s building?”
“As safe as inside the Two Waves’ headquarters.”
In the meantime, the teenagers went to the spot they had left their clothes and backpacks and got dressed. They picked up their bicycles and came back to where the masters were talking.
“I suppose that green car over there is yours,” Anh said, pointing at the near side of the road.
“That’s right. It was the fastest way to travel along the coast the twelve kilometers to this location,” the Two Waves master replied. “And the blue car behind it has to be yours.”
“Of course. My place is fifteen kilometers away, beyond Akonit.”
“This is the only road passing by the coast, mostly surrounded by forest. Few cars use it at night. They must have prepared ambushes on each side.”
“It’s the most likely scenario.”
“Who knows, perhaps our cars have already been tampered with and won’t even start.”
“Should we check them now?”
“Let’s decide first if we’re going to use them.”
Both Rongo and Anh went silent, thinking of a way out.
To his surprise, Kolin heard himself breaking in:
“I live about five kilometers away, in Akonit’s suburbs. Perhaps I could hide the artifact inside my backpack and take it to my home for the night? I doubt the thugs would recognize me.”
The masters turned their heads and stared at him for several long seconds. Then they looked at each other and smiled.
“I don’t think this is going to work,” Rongo said. “They would be watching the road and anyone who leaves this place.”
“Let’s think from the thugs’ perspective,” Anh added. “They know who we are, they know we’re here, and they know we have the artifact. Those who tried to kill us on the Iron Rock were just overzealous fellows who hoped for an easy gain and a promotion. No one expected them to succeed. The gang didn’t have enough men and weapons on such short notice to stop us here, so they moved away from the beach for the time being. Or maybe they didn’t want to start a fight here for fear of leaving too many tracks.
“These men would likely ambush us on our way out, somewhere farther along the road. It would be easy to make it look like an accident. For the same reason, it’s quite likely they didn’t tamper with the cars. I think it’s a good idea to call our headquarters. Even so, the help must be discreet, or the police will soon find out what’s going on, and they will let the government know about the artifact.”
“I’ll go to the payphone,” Rongo said and strode through the grove towards the road.
It was getting dark, but Sen was going to appear in the sky at any moment. The waiting became tense. Four or five minutes later, Rongo came back. His face, reflecting the pale light radiated by the large moon rising from the sea, said everything.
“The payphone doesn’t work,” Anh said.
“As expected, they’ve made it inoperative,” Rongo confirmed. “I think the thugs have surrounded us and are slowly closing in.”

text & artwork by Marian C. Ghilea

The Black Butterfly

It came
surrounded by night.
My mother was asleep,
smiling serene
inside a lacquered box.
And it was quiet,
so quiet that
I wanted
to scream

The house was already
full of people.
We were stepping in circles,
boiling planets around a silent star,
candles and prayers
blending in a solemn symphony.

The butterfly stopped
on the northern wall,
directly under my room’s window,
black wings pierced by nails,
like the hands of a martyr
touching a cross.

The others left
before midnight.
Trying to take refuge in dreams,
my eyes,
wide shut by tears,
sank in beams of blue light
pouring out of the box
where mother was resting.

Don’t be afraid,
the butterfly said.
I’m your grief,
and I will help you get over this.
Of course, it will take time,
but I will be here,
my friend!
I will rise
and shine for you
until the end!

Was it yesterday?
Was it a lifetime ago?

when I lift my eyes,
it spreads soft wings
like a smile,
absorbing the light,
swallowing my inner darkness,
the black butterfly,
my new friend
of sorrow and pain.

text & artwork by Marian C. Ghilea

#poem #nature #butterfly #art #sorrow #death #pain #grief #black #funeral #mother #fantasyart #scifiart


A path is made by those walking on it.

Chuang Tzu (c. 369 — c. 286 BC)

Part 1:
Triangulum with Three Flashes of Lightning

The thoughts of Alberto Shimada, the second lieutenant of Excelsior

“If you could be someone else, who would you like to become?”

“I think I’d like to change back into myself. As of late, I often sense that my life is confined to the shadow of someone else’s dreams.”

“Yet, being yourself can often be a challenge. I don’t even understand well what this means. Can you define the idea of self? Can you explain what the self is?”

“You have just asked me about imagining being someone else, and now you’re saying you don’t fathom the idea of self? Why has everything to be so confusing? I, the person here, thinking and talking, the one who is within this body should be me, the ego, the self.”

“Then, if the one within your body, seeing, hearing, talking, thinking is you, how can you say you’re under the impression of being someone else?”

“I might have been myself in the past, but at night, soon after I go to bed and fall asleep, I dream of other worlds and people. And sometimes, more often than I wish, I dream of being a different person. Then, when I wake up from my dream the next morning, how can I trust I’m still the one who went to sleep? Furthermore, if I’ve got lost along the way and someone else is here in my stead, where am I now?”

“How can you know you’re not the same person? Anyone who has a mind and a heart, sees and hears, feels and talks within your body has to be you. It doesn’t matter whether you believe or not that you have a certain name and age and status. When you dream you are someone else, it is still you who sleeps and lives the other life in the realms of Morpheus. On those lands of phantasy, you can be more than a mere human. You can expand. Why should you limit your perception and existence to the willow shell that is your body?”

“Yet, is it really me the one who wakes up in the morning? How can I know? How can I be sure the life from my dream is not the real life? Maybe I’m dreaming now, and everything around me is only an illusion. Yet, I still feel that between dream and reality, between the one who dreams and the one who is dreamed of, there has to be a subtle difference. Nonetheless, dream and reality look now like two mirrors reflecting each other. Or, even better said: like a single mirror reflecting itself. How can I tell which one is the mirror and which one is the reflection?”

“You wish to find out which one is your true self? Then, in silence, you have to shut down the doors and windows connecting your mind and soul to the outside world. Light, sound, heat, or cold should not bother you. Then you can listen to what your heart is saying. When you can hear your heart, you are the mirror; when you can’t, you are the reflection. Yet, don’t forget: sometimes the mirrors can break! When this happens, you will see how the ego itself is an illusion, an illusion within an illusion. And when you reach this level of understanding, you can become anyone you like.”

Seraphios — Dialogues at the Edge of Time

A wet wind is blowing onto my face, cool and refreshing. From the rhythmic splashing sounds of the foamy waves, echoes are sprouting, ethereal and impermanent. Their music is pouring inside my ears like a delicate whisper.

My lungs are slowly moving up and down like a pair of wings, breathing in and out the glorious dance of the atoms that make up the air of my world. At this moment, the whole Universe is breathing in and out with me. In and out, inside and outside. From the slow beats of my heart to the Moon, the Sun, and beyond, there is no real distance anymore.

Soon, the flow of time reveals itself to be as illusory as the manifestation of space. This inner mounting flame is pushing open my eyelids. The light from outside pours in, filling my soul with eternity. Each breath feels now like a new birth of myself, like a cyclic return into existence. Everything is one, and one is everything.

Too many ideas and concepts are already roaming wild through my mind. Too many thoughts are flooding my perception. Some are familiar, but other seem to come from far away, as if they belonged to total strangers, mirroring me and mirroring themselves. Something doesn’t seem quite right. Have I been somewhere else before? Or, perhaps, have I been someone else before?

In the beginning was the light. Can we go back to the beginning? Can we return to what we used to be and become as pure as the light again?

The sound of water.

Mother Nature has put on golden colors everywhere in and around the city. But the metropolis, as well as the continent, were left behind two days ago. Now only the ocean, an endless expanse of blue-green liquid with a faint salty odor, is stretching all the way to the horizon, wherever I look.

Standing on the deck of our fast brig, I can sense it’s autumn even here. Something hard to define makes me think of falling leaves. Is it the scent of the sea? Or could it be the fragrance of the wind? I turn my eyes up. A flock of fluffy clouds is towering high above the ship’s masts as if they were watching us. From the east, a pale, almost sick-looking Sun is shooting shy arrows of light.

The breeze blowing from the stern is pushing us with constant speed towards our destination. The tall prow cuts the waves with a slow rocking motion that generates a tender hissing sound. Here I am, on this beautiful morning of October 13, 1794. I’m in charge of the weather observations and the duty shifts of the crew.

Our vessel is sailing towards the Southern Islands, transporting weapons and ammunition. In addition, we’ve got a squadron of thirty soldiers as passengers. The soldiers will replace the current garrison in charge of the fort built there more than a century ago. These three tiny islands from the Tropics are locations of significant strategic importance for our navy. They oversee the main routes of an increasing number of ships that travel from our country towards exotic and commercially profitable shores from the Southern Hemisphere. My second mission in such far-away waters has just begun. A journey from autumn to summer and back.

The hours pass quietly. While I fill my logbook with notes, the wind is pushing our vessel with a speed of seven knots. If the weather stays the same, I should expect Excelsior to reach her destination in about eight days. But will it stay the same?

When I check the horizon with my handheld telescope in the early afternoon, I notice dark clouds gathering far away to the southeast. They’re spread over a large area and are set to cross our path. Changing the course to avoid bad weather could mean arriving at least one day late. We are most likely going to run into a storm during the first hours of the evening.

The captain is in his cabin, looking at the maps. I inform him immediately about the oncoming storm. We both return to the deck and begin the preparations for the soon-to-be unpleasant encounter. The captain wants to minimize any delay caused by the elements. He plans to take advantage of the cyclone, using it to shorten the journey to the Southern Islands by about one day. He also wants to test the efficiency of the crew. We have many new hands on board, and this storm is an excellent opportunity to check their skills.

The ship changes course to south-south-west. With no lee shore anywhere near our route, we plan to partially skirt the storm, using the strong winds that blow towards the south on the west side of the cyclone. Excelsior will keep sailing at full speed, gradually reefing her sails as the wind gets stronger. Hence, many sails will stay up and running almost until the storm is ready to strike. Our crew is large enough to take care of them in time.

Late in the afternoon, dark-gray clouds begin to fill the sky. The ocean becomes agitated and foamy. Legions of malefic spirits seem to be dancing on top of the ominous white waves. They are doing the final preparations to ram hard into our ship’s hull and do as much damage as they can. Some sails are still up, although many are reefed now. They’re pulling Excelsior southward with a speed of about eleven knots. The daylight is fading. The celestial tanks hanging above us are ready to explode and flood our vessel with a torrent of rain.

text & artwork by Marian C. Ghilea

New Horizons

Words –
or filling a screen.

are only
in long calls
that shake
the clouds.

lift your gaze
away from this text
and let your wings
spread high
until they touch the sky.

(c) Marian C. Ghilea, 2021-2022
artwork by Marian C. Ghilea

Two Bells

Two Bells

Time never drains.
Always restless,
it pours into entropy,
filling eons
with whispers.

The first bell tolls,
and everything
begins to take shape.

The second bell tolls,
and the Universe is already too old,
an ancient child gazing ahead
towards the incoming end,
cloudy ripples
of dreams
filling whispers
with eons.

Două clopote

Timpul nu se scurge niciodată.
Mereu neliniștit,
se varsă în entropie,
umplând eoni
cu șoapte.

Primul clopot sună,
și totul
începe să prindă contur.

Al doilea clopot sună,
și Universul e deja prea bătrân,
un copil străvechi ce privește înainte
spre sfârșitul care se apropie,
valuri înnorate
de vise
umplând șoapte
cu eoni.

Du sonoriloj

La tempo neniam malpleniĝas.
Ĉiam malkvieta,
ĝi enfluas en entropion,
plenigante eonojn
kun flustroj.

La unua sonorilo vokas,
kaj ĉio
komencas formiĝi.

La dua sonorilo vokas,
kaj la Universo jam estas tro malnova,
antikva infano rigardanta antaŭen
al alvenanta fino,
nubaj ondetoj
de revoj
plenigante flustrojn
kun eonoj.

Deux cloches

Le temps ne s’écoule jamais.
Toujours agité,
il se déverse dans l’entropie,
remplissant les éons
avec des chuchotements.

La première cloche sonne,
et tout
commence à prendre forme.

La deuxième cloche sonne,
et l’Univers est déjà trop vieux,
un enfant antique regardant devant lui
vers la fin qui approche,
des ondulations nuageuses
de rêves
remplissant les chuchotements
avec des éons.

Dos campanas

El tiempo nunca se agota.
Siempre inquieto,
se derrama en la entropía,
llenando eones
con susurros.

La primera campana toca,
y todo
comienza a tomar forma.

La segunda campana toca,
y el Universo ya es demasiado viejo,
un niño antiguo que mira al frente
hacia el final que llega,
ondas nubladas
de sueños
llenando susurros
con eones.

Due campane

Il tempo non si svuota mai.
Sempre inquieto,
si riversa nell’entropia,
riempiendo gli eoni
di sussurri.

La prima campana suona,
e tutto
comincia a prendere forma.

La seconda campana suona,
e l’universo è già troppo vecchio,
un antico bambino che guarda avanti
verso la fine in arrivo,
increspature nuvolose
di sogni
che riempiono sussurri
con eoni.

Dois campainhas

O tempo nunca esgota.
Sempre inquieto,
derrama em entropia,
eons de enchimento
com sussurros.

A primeira campainha tocou,
e tudo
começa a tomar forma.

A segunda campainha tocou,
e o Universo já é demasiado velho,
uma criança antiga a olhar para a frente
para o extremo de entrada,
ondulações nebulosas
de sonhos
sussurros de enchimento
com eons.

Zwei Glocken

Die Zeit läuft nie ab.
Immer rastlos,
ergießt sie sich in die Entropie,
füllt Äonen
mit Geflüster.

Die erste Glocke läutet,
und alles
beginnt Gestalt anzunehmen.

Die zweite Glocke läutet,
und das Universum ist schon zu alt,
ein uraltes Kind, das nach vorne blickt
auf das kommende Ende,
wolkige Kräuselungen
der Träume
füllen Flüstern
mit Äonen.

Два дзвони

Час ніколи не вичерпується.
Завжди неспокійний,
він перетворюється на ентропію,
наповнюючи віки
шепотом еонів.

Дзвенить перший дзвоник,
і все
починає набувати форми.

Пролунав другий дзвінок,
і всесвіт вже занадто старий,
древнє дитя, що дивиться вперед.
назустріч прийдешньому кінцю,
каламутні брижі
наповнюючи шепіт

Два колокола

Время никогда не стекает.
Всегда беспокойно,
она выливается в энтропию,
эоны наполнения
с шепотом.

Первый колокол звонит,
и всё такое
начинает обретать форму.

Второй колокол звонит,
а Вселенная уже слишком стара,
древний ребёнок смотрящий вперёд
к входящему концу,
облачные колебания
шёпот при набивке
с эонами.





© Marian C. Ghilea, 2021
artwork by Marian C. Ghilea, 2022

Japanese translation by Akiko Ishida

In memoriam Margareta Ursachi (1945 – 2022)

Dear Mother,
I know you would have wanted me to go on after you are no more. I will do my best to continue my journey on Earth with my head held high until it is my turn to rest. I will write to you often and hope you can find time to read my letters on your journey among the stars.


“Let’s watch them from over there,” the master said, stepping aside.
The three teenagers followed him to a spot near the edge about ten meters away. From their new vantage point, they began observing the five men.
The rope with the large hook of steel continued to descend into the water. Now it had to be close to the artifact.
“Did you get it?” the leader asked.
“I think I did,” replied the man who was handling the operation.
“Try to pull it up slowly,” the boss said.
The man attempted to move the rope upwards. The hook didn’t budge.
“It’s jammed,” he said. “Perhaps the thing down there weighs too much.”
The other thugs came closer. They grabbed the cord and began pulling it with all their might. Nothing happened. The Two Waves master was grinning, amused by their futile efforts.
“Why can’t they pull it out?” Kolin asked. “Is it that heavy?”
“Not exactly. As I have already told you, time flows much slower next to it. Force and momentum don’t propagate normally there,” the master said.
“What are they going to do then?” Lila pressed.
“These guys won’t be able to retrieve the rope and the hook from the water. At some point, they’ll have to give up.”
The five men kept pulling the rope with stubborn determination. Yet, the line seemed attached to something weighing several tons. With an angry expression, the leader turned towards the Two Waves master and shouted:
“Hey, you! Why don’t you come here and help? You look strong enough. Perhaps the six of us could drag it out of the water.”
“It won’t work,” the master replied, shrugging.
“How do you know that?”
“I’ve read some time ago a little book about these artifacts. Time slows down tremendously near them. You have to pull the rope at really high speed to move them even by one centimeter.”
“Why don’t you come here and show me?” the leader went on, this time in a threatening tone.
“I don’t feel like it. Perhaps, after you give up, I might somehow find a way to do it myself and bring the artifact to my home.”
“You surely have a big mouth,” growled another man from the group, stepping closer. “Perhaps I could convince you with this,” he added, unsheathing his curved sword.
The teenagers went pale and walked a few steps back, away from the imminent danger. The mobster was tall, muscular, and outweighed his opponent. The master didn’t look concerned. He continued to smile and said:
“Please, don’t do that! Swords are sharp and could hurt someone!”
“I’m fine with it, ’cause I won’t be the one who’s hurt,” the ruffian barked.
In a few strides, he got close enough to strike the master. The other gangsters came closer, too, watching the two men with amused expressions.
“So, are you going to tell us how to extract the artifact from the water, or not?” he went on, blade pointing at the masters’ chest.
“Probably not,” the master said, grinning widely.
The ruffian lounged, his sword aiming for the young man’s heart. The master didn’t react until the blade was just a few centimeters away from his body. What followed looked more like a blur. The teenagers heard a loud clang as the long piece of steel hit the ground. It seemed the master had stepped in and grabbed the wrist of the hand holding the sword. Now the attacker was down on his knees, hands behind his back. The blond man was holding tightly both his wrists. A couple of meters away, the sword lay on the rugged surface of the rock. The master forcibly lifted the gangster to his feet. He gave a solid kick to his buttocks, sending him sprawling towards the other four men.
“Anyone else feels like playing?” he asked in a calm voice.
The thugs knew when they were outmatched. While the kicked man was slowly getting up, rubbing his bottom, the gang leader replied in a more conciliatory tone:
“Sorry, sir. It was a misunderstanding. I suppose we shouldn’t bother you anymore. May we take the sword and leave?”
“Sure. Take it and leave the island at once,” the master shouted.
With hurried steps, the gangsters left the platform. After two minutes, the teenagers watched them balancing above the waves in an inflatable motorboat as they approached the shore.
“Now what?” Lila asked, looking at the young man. “Do you plan to retrieve the object yourself?”
“I’ll give it a try. However, I’m not sure I can pull it out,” confessed the fighter, scratching his head.
“You still haven’t told us where this thing came from,” Kolin insisted.
The master sank into his thoughts for a while, then he said:
“I don’t know. Once every few centuries, mysterious artifacts show up in our world. In most cases, in unpopulated places. The main martial arts schools are always on alert to retrieve them before they come into the wrong hands. I can’t tell you more.”
The Two Waves fighter obviously knew more, but he showed no intention to elaborate on this topic. It had to be knowledge meant only for the initiated members of the martial clans.
For a few moments, they watched silently the waves breaking below the platform. Then the master walked to the edge, picked up the rope left by the thugs, and pulled it lightly. It didn’t budge, as expected. He wrapped the cord around his right forearm and got into a low stance with his feet wide apart and knees flexed. Then he closed his eyes for a few minutes, breathing deeply and gathering energy.
With an explosive move, his right hand threw a punch in the air away from the edge, jerking the line. The rope moved up by a few centimeters. The blond man held the line with the left hand, preventing it from falling back in the water. His muscles tensed under strain. He took another deep breath, then punched the air once more. Again, the motion seemed to pull up the line by another centimeter. The master stopped and released the cord. The rope slowly sank back into the water, into its initial position.
“It won’t work,” he sighed. “I can barely budge it. It will take hundreds of punches without any break to get it out of the water. No one has so much endurance.”
“Then, what are you going to do?” Solis asked.
“I’ll think about other ways.”
The master sat down on the ground, flexed his legs into a lotus stance, and began to meditate facing the sea.
“Maybe we should go to the beach, get our clothes, and head home,” Lila said.
“You’re right. It’s getting late. Let’s go,” Kolin agreed.
They turned to leave and almost bumped into a middle-aged man dressed in a dark-blue uniform. He had come to the scene as noiselessly as the Two Waves master.
The newcomer smiled. He was of average height and rather slim, with pale skin and short, dark-brown hair. His black pupils measured them in silence. The badge of a black bird with yellow eyes and beak was shining on the left side of his chest, surrounded by a red circle. A supreme master of Aquatika! The teenagers froze.
“Hey, don’t get scared by me!” the man laughed heartedly. “I came to help!”
The supreme master stepped in, getting closer to the meditating man. The blond man, already aware of his presence, stood up and turned around. As soon as he saw the badge on the other man’s chest, the eyes of the Two Waves master widened in surprise, and he bowed, full of respect.
“My name is Anh, and I came to help,” the Aquatika supreme master said.
“I’m Rongo,” the younger man replied, smiling. “It seems lots of people are interested in it already, not all with the best intentions. How do you know about this artifact?”
“How do YOU know about it?” the older man countered, raising his eyebrows.
“Well, the sensors from our headquarters detected this morning unusual perturbations in the local field. I couldn’t pinpoint their source from the beginning, so I went first to look for it west of Akonit. However, I concluded this morning that the Iron Rock was its most probable location. Not sure about what to expect, I just came to take a good look at it and found these kids next to the artifact. What about you?”
“I’ve found out about the perturbations today, in the early afternoon, and decided to check them out. You never know what could happen if this artifact fell into the wrong hands. Like the five guys who’ve just left this place a few minutes ago.”
Both men smiled, then Rongo continued:
“It’s worrying to see this kind of people coming to retrieve it, doing the dirty work for someone powerful hidden in shadows. More of them might show up before it gets dark. If you can pull it out of the water by yourself, it would best to do it as soon as possible.”
“You’re right,” Anh agreed. “Let’s do it!”

(to be continued…)