Saturday, December 06, 2008


The chamber is small, just a roughly cut square, six feet long on each side, just spacious enough for a handful of people. The floor is cut from inner earth and nothing disguises its raw nature. There are no rugs or tiles upon it, it is just cool, compacted earth that has the faint smell of decomposing leaves upon a forest floor. The contoured floor is a very deep brown, almost black and somewhat shiny in spots towards the center and more dusty and matte along the perimeter where the ground becomes the wall without any hard angles. There is nothing smooth about it, it moves like a soft miniature landscape with subtle differences in the height of each corner, between walls there are slight valleys and mountains, each one barely perceptible on first glance. Traces of footprints are visible in the dust around the edges and indentations of hard metal tools mingle among them, disguising their origin. The floor is cool at any given moment, made cold by the depths within the earth, hidden from sunlight and the touch of air and wind and light. The walls of the room are carved from the earth as well and they remain gritty, sloping in spots, protruding in others without any thought of geometry.
The space is almost completely dark, illuminated only by a very small fire that burns in the center of the earthen floor. Little bits of coal and small scrapes of wood crackle and cast elongated shapes onto the walls. The colors on the walls dance in shades of black that quickly jump into the realm of pale orange and then quickly move back towards the dark. In the flickering shadows that lick the walls, a couple of tapestries decorate the creased walls. They are semi-large rectangular pieces of geometric art made of colorful thick wool. In the firelight, it is hard to make out any of the colors, but the shapes do not divulge any mythic images, there are no distinct figures or representations, just hard geometric shapes: triangles, lines, squares, rectangles, circles. The shapes overlap and reach outwards, as if trying to be the one closest to the surface of the tapestry. The result is a fusion of lines that has no definitive subject. The triangles and squares and long lines are in sharp contrast to the imperfect square-ness of the floor and walls of the chamber.
In the center of the chamber, the little fire, barely larger than a dinner plate, is contained. Broken pieces of coal and thin logs burn and crackle, sending their smoke up in a long, thin current that voyages up into a ceiling that is completely black with smoke from previous fires. From the soft edges of the walls, the ceiling tapers up into a blackened peak with a thin hole at the very top which ushers the smoke from the room.
There is a vague shadow in the room, a thin man who moves quietly and softly around the perimeter of the chamber. His footsteps make no noise, his movements cast only the faintest glimmer of shadows upon the walls. His gait resides somewhere between anxious pacing and mindful, controlled movement. He is alert and attentive, aware of everything in the small space and watching it like a quiet guardian, waiting for a threat like an outdoor cat on the boundary of its land.
Beside the fire, standing only inches from its grasping flames is a short brown skinned woman. Her thin ankles and skinny legs lead to a very round stomach which has the shape of a large tree stump, lacking any curve. Hiding her legs is a skirt made from thick black wool that still smells of sheep and has little bits of leaves and small branches the size of toothpicks woven within the cloth. She has wrapped the long material around her lower half like thread around a spool and holding it all up is a large colorful sash that is tied around her stomach, in multiple knots.
In the firelight, the color of her skin is like black coffee mixed with milk. Below her beautifully embroidered neckline, her large breasts protrude from her thick white linen shirt like autonomous mothers ready to feed any and all creatures that would hover at her feet. Her thick, chubby shoulders lead to very thin, delicate wrists and to her hands that are clutching each other in a loose embrace as she stares with a fixed gaze into the small fire.
There are scattered gray ashes along the periphery of the fire, but the porous black coals burn bright in the center of the room. Sitting directly upon the burning wood and coals is a medium sized brass bowl which is about a foot high. Its mouth is wide and small flat indentations from a hammer grace the sides of the vessel. Inside the bowl, is a pile of fine gray ashes that fill it halfway. The woman’s smooth face is relaxed, her mouth is slightly open and curved in a small, almost undetectable smile. Her dark eyes, which are lined at the sides with thick crow’s feet are soft and hazy. Her eyelids are slightly drooping. The woman holds her gaze upon the bowl. The man in the shadows roams the periphery of the dark chamber in perpetual vigilance.

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