Saturday, November 10, 2012
Xibalba: The Room of Loneliness.
[This episode answers the question: Where was Chimalmat while her husband was being killed? Why did she leave his side when she knew he was in such terrible danger? When I thought about it, I realized there could be only one possible answer.]
When the ghost reached the hills, he wandered through them until he found a cave opening. Entering it, he passed through a dark tunnel with doors on each side. Each door contained the answer to a different question.
The ghost knew, of course, that like everything here in Xibalba, each room contained trials and traps. He knew that the answer would come with a price.
There were many questions that he could have asked, but one in particular was at the top of his mind now. He focused on the inquiry, framing it clearly in his thoughts, and spoke: "I want to know why I am alone."
One of the doors slowly swung ajar. The ghost stepped through it.
Inside the small, dark cave, there was total blackness. The ghost waited quietly. Then, a torch flared into luminosity from out of the darkness, casting its light on a painting on the opposite cave wall. As the ghost watched, the picture grew more and more lifelike until it became a moving vision.
The scene showed a sumptuous room, filled with objects of art and beauty. On the opposite wall was a great mural painting showing a resplendent landscape, a city of stone terraces and pyramids rising out of lush forest, over which shone a brilliant sun with multicolored rays. Standing in the room was a man who seemed as ornately wrought as all the other things. He wore rich jewelry and a majestic headdress embellished with feathers and flowers; and, most wondrous of all, wings hung on his back, so cunningly fashioned that one could not tell if they were real or a feathered cloak.
But his face was not attractive..Although it, too, was covered with fine ornaments, the decorations seemed only to cover over the evidence of a hideous disease. Blood and pus dripped from a gaping wound in his lower jaw. His skin was puffy and inflamed, bulging in purple welts around the shining silver that covered his nose and ringed his eyes. The eyes themselves were strange to see: made of pure molten metal that shone like the sun. But they, too, were marred: their golden light flickered erratically with a feverish gleam.
If he was once as beautiful as he is now hideous --- thought the ghost.
The man in the picture seemed so ill and exhausted that he could barely keep standing. Yet his damaged face held an expression of stubborn, defiant will. As the ghost watched, the man turned to gaze into an obsidian mirror hanging on the wall. He lifted his hand to wipe at his jaw with a piece of cloth, and gave a muffled sob of pain. His eyes moved to meet the burning orbs in the reflection, and, for a few moments, he stared at the ruin he had become.
And, as the ghost watched the man watching himself in the mirror, a sudden shock of recognition came to him: He was the man in the vision. He, himself, was the man with the beautiful clothes and ugly face.
Before the ghost could recover from his shock, the door opened, and a woman entered. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. If the man's glory was like the Sun and Moon, hers was like all of the stars put together. She had the wild, rugged beauty of the Wooden People; her skin was like fine mahogany, chiseled and polished to perfection. Her long, black hair hung down her back like a river of shining obsidian. Like the man, she was winged, with the radiant plumage of a macaw; and she was clothed only in living feathers that grew from her naked flesh.
And, just as the ghost had recognized himself, he suddenly knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this marvellous woman was his wife.
In the vision, the feathered woman spoke, and her voice was as pure and melodious as a songbird's. "The household business is taken care of, husband. What do you wish now?" She regarded the man with tender concern
The man sighed wearily as he seated himself on a floor mat. "I wish to be left alone today," he replied. Alhough the words were spoken calmly, without anger, they still sent a chill through the ghost's heart.
As he watched, the woman knelt down beside her stricken mate. Her brow was furrowed with anxiety, but she spoke calmly and softly. "My husband, I do not think it good that you should be alone now. You are still very ill, and your enemies might come after you."
"Do not worry, my dear." The man turned to take her hand reassuringly. "I can take care of myself. And I need time to focus, to concentrate fully on healing myself." He let out another sigh of pain.
The woman bent over to lean her head against the man's shoulder, nestling in his feathers, holding him tightly as if he were a precious object. The ghost caught his breath; he was mesmerized by the clear, noble lines of her face, her long, straight hair flowing down her shoulders like a black waterfall. "My love," she pleaded, "is it not time that we seek the aid of other healers? It has been three days now since you were shot. It grieves me to see you suffer so."
But the man in the picture was deaf to her plea. He turned aside, saying, "I will not let the Twins say I am a lesser god than they. They may have wounded me, but they will not humiliate me." His molten eyes flared with anger, directed not toward his wife but toward his absent foes.
"Then do you truly wish me to leave?" the woman asked, her face still buried in the feathers of his wing.
The man squeezed his wife's hand gently. "Just one day, my dear. Surely you can do without me that long?" he jested, as if trying to make light of the situation.
The woman raised her head with calm, stoical dignity. "If you wish it, my lord, then I shall."
"Until tomorrow, then, my lady, when I shall be well again, and the sun will rise golden and bright," the man said. He lifted her slender brown hand, as if about to kiss it; but, considering the condition of his mouth, he decided against it and simply pressed her hand between both of his own.
"Until tomorrow," the woman replied. She got up, and turned to go, her tall form moving with the smooth, polished grace of a proud woman of Wood. She headed toward the door, turning to look back at him just once, with a sorrowful, lingering gaze in her dark eyes.
The sick man was oblivious to her now. He stared at the wall, huddled in his ruffled feathers, lost in his own misery.
The ghost watched the beautiful bird-woman turn back to the door. He saw her walk away with straight, proud steps. He saw the long line of her black hair hanging down her back. He saw her open the door. He saw her go through. He saw her straight back moving away. He saw the door close.
As he gazed at the closed door, the vision faded, along with the flame that cast it, leaving only empty blackness.
The ghost knelt in the cold darkness, covering his face. A wave of intense woe washed through him, too deep for words. For he knew that had been the last time he had ever seen his wife.
What have I done? he thought. I turned away from the one whom I should most have loved and trusted. I sent her away, when she wished only to care for me.
Would he ever find her again? the ghost wondered. And, more important, would she still want him?
The ghost got up shakily to his feet, and headed toward the door of the cave. He knew the answer to his question now: He was alone simply because he had chosen it, and the choice had led to his death.
The price of this knowledge was simply the knowledge itself.
And he knew one other thing: The punishments imposed by the gods are not always the worst ones.