I can so vividly remember that all of us had held our breath and the mill of time slowed down so that its ticks and tocks pierced into one’s ears like the stomps belonging to a stampede of giants.
“Dear Mazzy…” She began and a fierce tenderness danced in her eyes whose optical gravity I observed rang from their unmined cores, and thus I toddled forward. The heel of the foot with no shoe had stopped bleeding but it was terribly sore and this was exceptionally noticeable now, because things were moving slowly and all attention had fallen on me. This brought on a reinvigorated sharpness in my perceptions and all the tiny regularities and strings of chaos occurring inside my body had amplified double-fold.
The Muse continued. “At every moment of this quest you were afraid. You were afraid that you would lose the people you love. You were afraid that you would let people down. You were afraid of the evil that lurked in and under those grey castle walls. You were afraid of the shadows cast by Arcana’s malice. You were afraid of the Unknown. I could see that. I could sense that.” Quietly astonished by the wise intrusions of her eye into the primal fibres of my soul, I made no expression to her appraisal but I suspected her convictions were duly confirmed by the tell-tale waters that had now slowly begun to seep along the shoreline of my eyes. The Muse was right.
She stepped closer.
“But there is a rare fire in you. It believes in Goodness even when everything tells you not to.” She paused and trawled for the right words. “Where there are spoils, in people and in places, unfixable domes of darkness assumed unconquerable, you stand and you watch and you are afraid of what consequences they may inflict on the people who matter to you, and to those whom you know not of. Yet…” And then a sweet calmness rippled in her voice, “… however untamed your fear, it has never ever been so strong as to take away your fire, your gift of Light. You are not holding it. You are It.” I realised I was not anymore staring at a mortal face but at the very essence of a being that was Inspiration. “You are a small thing and you are afraid of the shadows and the blackness, but if only you could see what I see, what everyone sees…”, She now smiled and the world paused, “… inside the jaws of an infinite Universe forged of the murkiness of black obscurity, there walks a ray of Orange. You. The Lady of the Lamp…”
The weep of a solitary tear ran down my still face.
There was a solemn silence behind me. No one spoke.
The Muse wiped the tear off my face. “That is why all who cross your path, in every way conceivable, and I include those in the breeds of evil too, shall all come to learn of the Light. You will help them and each time you do, you shall be renewed.” She stepped back and straightened her back and looked upon me with a mixture of authority and affection, “In honour of your Gift to shine your Light on the weak and on the cursed, I gift you in return a prophecy.” And she took from behind her back a book with an enchanting cover depicting an illustration of two lovers entwined and entangled as one. I was somewhat at a loss. “I present to you ‘Romeo And Juliet’ and I chose this for you because you are, in every incarnation, the faithful Juliet. You are one half of a legendary love story…”
She placed the book in my hand and not tearing my gaze from her, I nestled my gift against my chest. I ought to have said much but I was, in truth, blissfully glad that I was deprived of all articulation. Only two words I managed, but they took an aeon to form on my lips and she knew how much I meant them, “Thank you…”
A single tingle of the bell rang behind us. It was the working of that humble oar made to wade across the tide of the door as people came in and out. I turned around. A familiar and golden afternoon light poured in and a faraway look came over me, followed by a smirk that fluttered like a bird across the vast canvas of my soul.
We left the bookshop in jolly spirits!
There was no hurry in our steps as we made our way to the teahouse. The burden of the quest lifted, the forest air and the ardency of sunshine that had matured over the course of the day, as well, as the sudden teeming of bustling laughter from tourists, all together adorned us in a fantastic bubble of a new kind of aliveness. It was as if this was the first day of everything!
We were about to enter the tearooms when Rianna stopped and I could tell that she had something important to announce and that it would prove hard to tell us of her decision. She clasped onto my arm and considerately addressed me. “Mazzy, I need no rest. I am feeling well again. The time has come for me to leave you all”.
I was flummoxed and yet I detected that she had put a lot of wise thought into her decision. “Where will you go?”
“You will help me to get there”.
“I don’t follow”.
“To my Chosen One”.
We all exchanged confused glances, except for The Crone. She appeared to be unperturbed by the odd choice of words expressed by the Muse.
“But you informed me that he died a long time ago. How will you find him now?”
“You will take me to him”.
“Me?” I found myself trying to keep afloat and make sense of her bizarre proposition.
“Surely you can’t bring him back from the dead?” Sachi gave a disbelieving smile.
Alex butted in, his face positively confused. “Mum is right – for once!” Sachi playfully slapped his cheek.
“Mazzy, remember I said to you once that the Universe lives in you?” Rianna’s eyes burrowed themselves into mine. “Well, it really does. You did it once before, you can do it again”.
“Alright, now I am very lost! I can’t make heads or tails out of this!” Squirming in the fortress of these riddles, the pain in my heel exacerbated and I let out a long drawn sigh of exhaustion.
Rianna nudged closer and carefully placed her fingers on my clammy forehead. Without telling me so, I felt compelled to close my eyes.
What happened next? ♥♥♥
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Blackwell’s Bookshop | Oxford | UK 2016