a smell of cinnamon

26 september 2005

The sun stood high in the early summer afternoon. The shadows were slowly melting into the crevices in the cliff surface under Pedro’s hands. He had picked this spot for the light which was essential but now his mind was focused elsewhere while his body was moving on instinct and routine. His hands feeling the rough texture of the cliff, his feet seeking grip in the uneven surface. Climbing had always been a favourite pastime for Pedro. Sometimes it was the thrill and excitement of the actual climbing that Pedro sought but more often was it times just like this when he needed the solitude to gather his thoughts or clear his head. Thus, Pedro always climbed on his own. It was a fairly gentle cliff with lots of footholds and plenty of places to rest and Pedro was an experienced climber. He didn’t even need any tools to scale these cliffs anymore and that was the way he liked it best. It gave him a feeling of freedom and of being close to the nature. Here he could be truly at peace.

However, Pedro wasn’t peaceful at all today. The events of the past days bothered him beyond belief. He couldn’t remember being this unsettled ever. Usually he could approach any problem with cool logic and just think it through. Nothing really surprised him any more and ever since he started studying at the university he had grown increasingly level headed. Of all the students in his year it was obvious he was the most brilliant, already been appointed the chairman of both the math club and the literature society. Usually there wasn’t a question that Pedro didn’t have a good answer to and in debates regarding most any subject he had strong and insightful opinions. The past week however had been anything but usual for Pedro Sanders.

At first Pedro didn’t think of the small but yet significant changes that occurred around him. The worst thing he did notice was that he had trouble sleeping at night and to his embarrassment fell asleep once during a lecture. A couple of days ago all the weird things really caught his eye though. He could find himself sleeping at his desk with his head on his books after collapsing on them in exhaustion from trying to solve some extraordinarily difficult problem. This in itself wouldn’t really have raised his eyebrow in the slightest but the fact that once he woke up he understood the problem through and through puzzled him to no small extent. At the board meeting with the literature society some of the members said the weirdest things and he couldn’t seem to get along with anybody the way he usually did. In the corridors of the school he couldn’t help but overhear several of his classmates’ whispered discussions about the most intimate things he’d rather not know about. In all and all, this past week had really driven Pedro to the edge of his sanity. Today he had taken the day off in hopes of getting away from all that. Apparently, his hopes were in vain.

This day had started off like a nightmare. There’s this dream everybody recognizes, of walking in public and realizing that one is completely naked, or without pants at least. That dream, Pedro had for real when he walked to the bakery to get fresh bread in the morning. He closed the door with a bang, standing and panting for a while as he tried to gather his rushing thoughts. There hadn’t been many around to see his little excursion but his ears were red to the very tip due to his complete embarrassment. The worst thing was that there was no logical explanation. However he tried to wrap his mind around the fact that he stood there, pant less, it was unfathomable. Not knowing weather to laugh, cry or just pass out Pedro dragged himself into the kitchen and began making an alternate breakfast considering there wasn’t any fresh bread to be had. Even this task was apparently too much for him as he realized once he tasted his spicy porridge that tasted like he of cayenne peppers. Tired, bewildered and hungry he went back to bed.

Up till then the day had just been weird beyond belief but waking up Pedro decided it had just been a dream and went about the day as planned. He went to the bakery and got his fresh bread without any incident and without anyone looking at him sideways. Somehow it had worked out, Pedro thought. It had just been a dream and everything is just as it has always been. This thought popped as a balloon when he bumped into a tall man as he walked around a corner. The man apologised and took off his high hat for Pedro before he rounded the corner somewhat jingling since he was entirely made of glass. For a moment Pedro just stood staring into thin air before he continued his way home. It was obvious he needed to go and talk to someone, a doctor or maybe a psychiatrist. Sure he had experimented with drugs a bit, who hadn’t, but he had always kept away from the stuff that supposedly could give flashback hallucinations or paranoia. The only explanation was that he had either been slipped such a substance, he was dreaming or he was indeed going crazy. Anyway, he decided to go to the hospital to get this figured out.

Sweat was breaking out on Pedro’s forehead as he thought of the horrifying experience on his way to the hospital. He edged upward a bit to get a free hand to wipe his brow so the salty pearls didn’t get into his eyes. He looked at his hand, the hand that earlier had pushed an old woman over so she broke something. He was the one heading for the hospital and when she fell and started screaming he had panicked and just run off. There was no possible way he could explain to her or anyone else for that matter why he had pushed her over. He had been walking absentminded, pondering what to say to the doctor. However he put it he came out sounding insane. Suddenly he heard the sound of horses close by and as he turned around he saw a whole team of them bearing down on the old woman. It was just the Boy Scout instinct that made him do it. The horses should have trampled him but of course he didn’t have a scratch. His imagination had carried him away once more. He ran straight for the cliffs and didn’t stop until he collapsed at the feet of the red rock, breathless. This was the place he had always come to when he felt uneasy or bewildered. Maybe it was mostly old habit that made him climb today and maybe it wasn’t such a wise choice, but up he went.

Time has no meaning on the wall. There are many paths to chose and a long way to climb if one is up to it. The breeze was cool now and Pedro’s fingers were getting numb. As he looked around him he realized hours had passed and the sun was already touching the mountains on the horizon. Up here he would get about a minute more sunlight than down in the town but once the light had faded the climbing would be harder so he should quit now. He slowly edged into the familiar path that would take him to the gentler slope. From there he could swiftly climb the last bit up to the winding stairs that led to the top of the overhanging cliff he was ascending.

A strange smell on the wind suddenly caught Pedro’s attention. The fragrance reminded him of the wax covered cinnamon sticks some of the girls at school used to burn as incense. He stopped and caught in the smoky air, feeling somewhat suffocated by the smell that was getting ever stronger. I felt like something was burning very close, it was definitely hotter than just a moment before. Annoyed and somewhat trembling Pedro started climbing again, realizing that it was almost dark now. He wondered how he could have lost track of time so completely. Suddenly the air cleared and Pedro looked down over the town. Rather than seeing the town for all the mist below his gaze fixed upon a silhouette just a few meters below him. As the figure was closing in on him Pedro could see that it was an elegant young man with long black robes billowing around his figure. Pale, dark haired, with an antiquated high hat and a matching cane the man simply walked up to him, politely touched the rim of his hat and smiled at Pedro.

“Hello Sir. What a lovely night for a walk,” he said and took a deep breath of the cinnamon scented air. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

Dumfounded, Pedro just stared at the man standing at a ninety degree angle from the cliff as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything to this character of his imagination.

The man just stood there, looking at him and continued after a while, with a somewhat amused expression. “Whatever is the matter Sir? Are you not well? And why are you lying flat to the cliff if I may be so rude as to ask?” With this, he tilted his head so he looked straight at Pedro.

“Who are you? Or should I say ‘what are you?’” Pedro reluctantly asked since the character didn’t seem to go away on his own.

“That was unnecessary rude,” the man said with affronted tone. “I apologize for my earlier tirade of questions and for my lack of manners. I am Mirade, Count of Kwasikaji, your humble servant. Would you be so kind as to tell me your name as well, Sir?”

“Why bother? Wouldn’t you know if you’re a figment of my imagination? What’s up with this polite attitude anyway? Jeez, I must be having some sort of mental collapse crossing over to the nineteenth century Europe or something.” At this moment the mist cleared enough to show a night sky Pedro definitely did not recognize. As he looked down he saw flickering lights as from a small village, not the grand town he knew to be there. “Hey, this is getting way to weird for me now Mr Quasimodo. Would you please just disappear?”

“That’s three interesting thoughts actually,” the count burst out with an enthusiasm that made Pedro feel like he would be hanging here all night. “I wouldn’t want to delve into the matter of disappearing right now. It is way too troublesome for such a marvellous night like this. However I think that you might be onto something regarding that crossover. Who could have imagined such a bright fellow dropping by like this in the middle of the night? I beg you to tell me why you would ever think that I would be a part of your imagination! Actually I would consider the idea self-centred to no small degree.”

“It’s just that…” Pedro began as he felt chilly raindrops on his bare arms. He looked up at the clear night sky decorated by strange beautiful stars. It started to drizzle and looking back at the count, seeing the rain passing right through him Pedro snorted. “Well, I’m dreaming and you’re nothing more than a part of my subconscious trying to tell me something though I can’t imagine what since you’re just full of crap. The first thing I am going to do when I wake up is to call a psychiatrist that can tell me exactly what’s wrong with me and then you will disappear. God, I can’t believe I’m actually talking to some batman ghost standing on the wall being all British!”

“I’m not British.” The humour was gone from the counts voice and his eyes were black as the night should have been but wasn’t due to the whirlpool of stars that lit the eastern skies with a pale green light. “You’re in my domain now boy and you should be careful who you insult. The god to whom you refer cannot help you here.”

“That’s it,” Pedro announced in a final and superior tone. “I’m tired of this shit. I’m leaving now. I know how end this. Sayonara sucker!” With that Pedro launched himself into the air, yelling one last thing to the count as he fell. “I’ll say hi to the psychiatrist from you!”

“What a pity,” the count said to himself. He smirked as he thought of the boy’s farewell. “He sure was interesting. And he would have been such a treat. What a waste.”

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