Saturday, October 22, 2005

Post Number Fifty: Chapter 1, part 2

No need for much of an introduction: those who are reading this presumably read my two previous posts so they should know what this is all about.

Enjoy the second part of Chapter 1.


Elena knew that arguing with Manuela would be pointless, as she had no fault for the requests of Mr. Valeri, but thinking that the disgusting individual wanted to see her right away, for an "emergency", when they were right in the middle of the hottest hours of a suffocating summer Sunday, well, Elena really wished she hadn't picked up the phone.
She turned the handle of the door of the room, feeling even hotter for the annoyance, and she was almost leaving when she realised she was only wearing her underwear, and however modest that was, it certainly wasn't the most suitable clothes to exit the room with. Snorting again for the effort it would cost her to wear something, go out under that sun and drag herself to her job place, Elena picked up her jeans and a short top from the chair, and she wore them, after uselessly trying to wipe her sweat with a towel. With a last sigh, she opened the door and reached the corridor. The rented rooms of the other students were shut, probably because, Elena thought, they could afford the luxury to be left alone. She tried not to make any noise while she reached for the living room, where she found Mrs. Corte. The woman, closer to her sixties than she was to her fifties, sat on her old favourite couch, directly in front of the TV, which transmitted some banalities. It had to be something really boring, for Mrs Corte had fallen asleep, obviously helped both by the heat and by the quality of the entertainment. Elena sighed, thinking of how much she wished to be at that woman's place right then. Anyway, she recollected her energies and left the house.
Immediately she was greeted by a puff of intense heat, coming not as much from the sun as it came from the burning pavement under her feet. The impact with the external air was so traumatic that for a moment Elena felt she couldn't breathe and was caught by a sudden vertigo. She pondered over which physical torture she wanted to inflict on Mr Valeri for forcing her out with such heat. Unable to find any she liked, and being too hot to be willing to think, Elena decided to make it brief and reach the music shop taking the most shadowed path possible. Luckily, a small park – little more than a garden – decorated the square she was supposed to cross to reach her destination, and the leaves of the trees would provide the necessary protection from the merciless sunbeams. There wasn't anyone around. In fact, many citizens were on holidays, perhaps at the seaside, and those few that for the most various reasons were forced to stay in the city, certainly didn't choose to go out at three p.m..
"I am the only jerk around at this time…", Elena thought, while she reached the shadow of the trees in the small park. The sun stunned her and she felt she should hide from its blazing rays as soon as possible. Not a gust of wind moved the leaves. The plane trees and the elms stood motionless in the humid air. At each step on the burned and straw-yellow grass, Elena lifted small clouds of dust and dry earth which found their way through her open shoes, annoying her even more. After a few steps, however under the shadow of a tall plane tree, Elena realized she was feeling sick. She stopped, taking one hand to her chest. She couldn't breathe. She touched her face. Suddenly it wasn't sweating anymore. The girl felt her legs giving in and she let herself fall, hitting her knees, luckily not too hard, on the earth of the park, lifting a puff of dust. She brought her hands to her head which felt like on the verge of exploding. All around, she saw the plane trees float, the buildings facing the square moving towards her and away… for a few instants she felt the whole street was the deck of a ship in the middle of a stormy ocean. She tried to shake herself but the heat took her breath away. With an effort she tried to stand up, in vain. All the world tumbled around her, the sun kept hammering on her head. She saw the sky, greyish for smog and humidity, and the fronds of the trees ran through it like the hands of a crazy clock.Elena fall on her side losing her senses. The thud lifted a last cloud of dust which rested slowly around her.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Post Number Forty-Nine: More Fiction

Most unexpectedly, one reader of my awkward Prologue posted his/her appreciation to my post. I believe that what we do, whatever it is, is meant for others to enjoy. It would be a very poor and limited conception of art, that of one who believes that the creation of an artist is intended for the artist alone. I am not an artist, but if I do something I try to give it to others. There is no point in learning if you don't teach, no point in knowing if you don't share knowledge. What progress would mankind do if the early tamer of fire kept his secrets for himself?

My unfinished novel dissatisfies me, and I plan to start a new one very soon, but if even one person appreciates what I wrote, I feel compelled to post a bit of the rest and see what reaction I get.

This is the first part of chapter 1. I hope you will enjoy it.



It was a hot, humid and exhausting day, or such it was for those that, like Elena, barely put up with summer's heat. In fact, at least in this case, Elena's unease was shared with a great majority of the people of the city, for whom even a drop of rain could be a blessing. Sunbeams instead flooded the room as they had done every day for two weeks, mercilessly, overheating its air, baking the floor and causing a real torment for someone seeking rest among those walls.
Crippled by the heat and stunned by the light, Elena lay on the bed, hot, watching the ceiling. Sleeping, simply wasn't an option, despite her being dozy, because of that vague sluggishness that often catches us after lunch under the summer's incalescence. She would have stayed there, the whole day round, lying on the mattress, covered by a sheet drenched by her incontrollable perspiration, weren't it been for the importune as much as unnerving ring of the phone. Elena considered for a few instants the quite inviting hypothesis of ignoring it. She was too exhausted, too hot, to drag her body off the mattress and force it to make the gargantuan effort to cross the room and reach the desk, where the phone lay. She felt a slight pleasure imagining that whoever was at the other end of the line was punished for the annoyance he caused to her in such an efficient way, one that at the same time cost so little effort on her side. She simply had to stay where she was, watching the ceiling… sooner or later it would have stopped ringing… a ring… another… another one…
"Damn", mumbled Elena, barely audible. She realized she couldn't cope with this. She was too hot even to stand that unbearable ring that rumbled in her head with such insistence. Elena recollected her energies and managed to sit down, although even that simple movement made her blush, and she briefly moved her wet hand across her forehead, verifying that it too was equally drenched. With a snort, the girl rose from the bed and unwillingly dragged herself to the origin of that unbearable ring.
"Coming!" she grunted, as if the phone could hear her. She lifted the receiver and brought it to her ear.
"Ah, thankfully you are there!", answered a feminine voice that Elena recognized immediately.
"Manuela… is it you?", she said, and her voice sounded much more tired and sleepy than that of her interlocutor.
"What's up, are you sick?", she said, worried, perceiving her lack of energies.
"No, it's just this heat… It’s killing me! Come on, tell me what's up, so I can fall back on the bed and forget what you said."
"I am sorry Elena…", she began, and Elena realized by her tone that by the end of the sentence she was going to share the regret, "… fact is that Mr. Valeri needs you today."
Manuela was Elena's best friend, even if in this moment Elena's only thought was that she had forced her off the bed to give her bad news. Mr Valeri, instead, was the oily and stingy owner of a small music store where both Manuela and Elena used to work, at the sole purpose of rounding up the wages they received weekly from their parents and give themselves at least the impression they were slightly more independent than they were as children. It wasn't unusual that youngsters, students, were forced by need more than by choice to ask for their parents' help to survive. On the other hand, however, not everyone liked it, and some had the luck to be able to choose. Elena, who was an adopted child and felt a sense of gratitude towards her parents for letting her in their family, had opted for a job at a music store which was not far from her house, although it would have been more appropriately called a room, since that was what she had chosen to rent; this, to help their parents save money, and because, somehow, it gave her fewer responsibilities. At least, the landlady was a good woman, although sometimes a bit strange, and she lived in a flat that she had shared with a husband and five sons, but which became too large when her children formed their own families and her husband left her for another woman. For this reason, Mistress Corte rented the empty rooms that once had seen her children grow up, to students of the nearby University. She preferred to host girls, because, as she often jokingly put it, "in a house where six men lived there is a desperate need for women to clean up". Mistress Corte asked only for her rented rooms to be kept clean and reasonably neat. In exchange for that, she cooked for all her guests (which, invariably, ended up including some guys) and chatted lively with them all, to the point that some had started calling her "second mum".So pleasant was Mistress Corte, so unpleasant was Mr. Valeri. A person devoted to a single good: his own. He had eyes for his shop only, he had heart for his money alone. Employing personnel regularly to serve customers would cost him obviously more than he meant to spend. But he had the luck to be a few hundred yards away from the University, a place he had no respect for, but that provided him with a significant amount of low-cost employees. Students had little requests, they were satisfied with ludicrous salaries and they could be mistreated at will without fear they would inform trade unions or worse. For one who chose to quit the job, there could be another right away who despaired to gain some money, and anyway, considering the expenses for a youngster who lives far from home, there certainly weren't many that chose not to catch the occasion. Among those, certainly Elena wasn't one, since she had studied at the University for ten months and since five she had worked for Mr Valeri's shop. She studied Anglo-American Literature and this gave her a chance to work and study at the same time, taking her books to her job place and reading them in her spare time between two customers, which happened frequently. She found classical English Literature very attractive, but her passion was for those fantastic novels which told of kings and princesses, knights and fire-breathing dragons, which she had started loving as a child and which she kept on being fond of now that she had grown up. As she often repeated to her schoolmates, "there is something charming with fantasy, something that transcends reality and seems to call for us, and I can't resist that call". Elena thought that a lightning was more poetic than a light bulb and the passions of princesses and knights more exciting than those of her neighbors.


(to be continued)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Post Number Forty-Eight: Fiction

Dear friends and readers, I can't believe it's been a month already since I've last updated my blog. I didn't realize how fast time passes by. I have been busy and distracted, and so it happened that nothing was added to this long list of thoughts of mine.
I suppose that I should apologize for the lack of updates. After all, a number of readers were interested in my musings...

Today, for everyone's delight (so to say), I am willing to post the Prologue of a novel I started writing and that most likely I won't continue. Though the original text is in Italian, I made an awkward translation in English for the charming eyes of my Russian mate; yet I wonder if someone else here is interested in reading the beginning of a fantasy novel, so here you are. I hope you will enjoy it. And if you don't, I can understand you. Personally I didn' t like the outcome myself.

I would like to add, this is for all my readers, but for one in particular, a Singaporean Chinese girl called Iris. I don't know her, but I have read a few entries of her blog. She likes fantasy for sure, and she seems often depressed. I usually feel compelled to help people out of depression because I was depressed myself and know how it feels. There is very little I can do for someone I don't know and who lives on the other side of the planet, but if she likes fantasy, then I presume she might enjoy reading the Prologue I am about to post. If a trace of pleasure is stirred up in her mind as well as in any other reader's of mine, then I'll take it my goal is fulfilled.

To everyone, and to Iris the Chinese Singaporean, have fun.



The young guy would hardly find the courage to break into the large hall hadn't it been for the incredible urgency of the message he carried with him. His short, curly dark hair stuck to his sweaty forehead, more due to anxiety than for the run to climb the many stairs; the youngster halted when he entered the hall and looked around, anxiously.
The man he looked for, an elder with a flowing white beard, was sitting at the reading table, deep into one of the many books of his richest library. He was giving him his back, and showed no sign of having noticed the young man’s arrival. Drawing from the little courage he possessed, the youngster spoke: "Sir, I beg you to forgive my intrusion, I wouldn't disturb you but I believe this news deserves your… immediate attention, Sir". He conceded himself a pause before concluding the sentence: he knew all too well what the old man thought of haste and "immediacy". Evidently, his opinion hadn't changed, since the elder didn't reply, nor he lifted his head from his reading, to the point that the young guy wondered whether he had spoken too softly.
"Sir…!", he repeated, louder.
Without lifting his eyes, the elder answered with a persuasive voice, one that years appeared not to have affected if not barely. It didn't sound authoritarian, nonetheless it commanded respect in those who heard it.
"I am old, my child, but I am not deaf. Not yet, at least."
Blushing, the youngster was stunned. The elder raised his back but didn't turn around. Again, he spoke.
"Well? What have you come to tell me?"
"Sir, I believe it is better if you read this message yourself. It was delivered a moment ago."
"Then give it to me, child!", said the elder, yet not with disappointment, rather, almost amused by the youngster's embarrassment. He seemed to turn around to watch him on purpose, as if he meant to enjoy the scene of another confused guy in his presence.
"Sure! Here you are!", the youngster quickly answered, and handed him a rolled up scroll, tied by a narrow red stripe.
The elder took the parchment and untied the knot that held it in position, giving the impression of having read many messages without ever being struck by any in particular.
He started reading, mumbling some words, when he suddenly opened his sky-blue eyes wide. The wrinkles on his forehead corrugated in the expression of surprise that pervaded his face.
Expecting this reaction, the youngster wasn't taken aback by it. He had been told the contents of the message some minutes before and had reacted similarly.
"Is it authentic?", asked the elder, apparently he himself confused by the incredible news he had learnt.
"Yes, Sir. The signature is…"
"… Is the one we expected…. Yes… but this means that…"
"… We found her, Sir."
"But this letter says she is…"
"On the other side. I know Sir, I read it too."
"We must induce her to come here."
"What is it, child?", asked the elder, raising his eyes towards his interlocutor.
"The Enemy too knows we found her."
The elder stood up suddenly. One who hadn't known him for long would be surprised to see him so full of energies at his obviously not young age.
"How can it be?"
"One of our envoys was a spy, Sir. Our men stopped him but it was too late, he had forwarded his message already."
"Then we are in danger! So many years to reach this point and suddenly we lack time! We must act quickly. If she fell in the hands of the Enemy, it would be the end."
The elder turned around and opened a drawer. He took out a parchment, on which he quickly wrote a message using a goose feather he found on the table. He didn't even sit down to write. He rolled the parchment and turned towards the youngster.
"Here you are, take this. Those are instructions that you must forward to our envoys. Tell the guys downstairs to hurry, we don't have time. We must be quick."
The guy found it incredible, that even considering the circumstances the elder was using the word "hurry". He didn't remember him uttering that word aloud if not together with criticism about the foolishness of youngsters.
"Sir? Please forgive me… what are the plans? How…?". The elder didn't give him the time to complete his sentence: "There only is one way and it doesn't depend upon us, as you perfectly know. You are too young to remember it, but there has been another case when it was necessary to take something to the other side… although in that occasion that was the destination, not the starting point. Anyway, if the guys downstairs will follow my instructions literally, we do have good chances to succeed… otherwise… well, otherwise there won't be any place into which taking someone. "The youngster was caught by a thrill at the perspective he was being suggested, no matter how unlikely. He couldn't but trust the bearded man. Anyway, knowing him, and knowing how wise he was, he had no problems trusting his word.
"I'll be quick, Sir!", he declared, glad for an instant to be able to utter that word without being criticized.
"Good… and may Fate assist us. I only hope it's not too late already."
The youngster rushed to the stairs, while the elder scratched for a moment his bearded chin, thinking. He looked at the large book with leather covers, lying on the table. He didn't have the necessary concentration to keep reading it anymore. He closed it and mumbled: "This is our only hope… It is time to do my part". Therefore, he exited the large hall passing through a richly decorated side door made of white wood, leaving the book he was reading closed, on the table.Most likely for a long time.