the Ouroboros of Darkbishop

Secrets imprison knowledge, constrain understanding, obscure true pathways. Some secrets throb with power, sparkle with the colours of alchemy. Great is the secret known as the Elixir of Eternal Life. Great is the secret known as the Philosopher's Stone.

Some secrets are tucked away at the back of your mind never to be known on pain of death. Secrets carried to the grave and beyond. Secrets that curl in upon themselves, like frightened creatures, furtive and small. Hidden in places where the foul miasma of corruption marks the presence of horrors beyond imagining.

Dark knowledge lies pooled in stagnant ponds, where the stench of decay hangs heavy and close. Such is the nature of the Secret that lies forgotten and inert inside the bottom drawer of a dust-covered cabinet concealed behind the cobwebs at the back of a gloomy chamber accessible through a heavy bronze-studded oaken doorway at the end of a twisted passage in the Mansion of Unremembered Things.

Up and down the Mansion's tenebrous passageways floats and flits a spirit, a ghost, a thing, an entity. Lonely as an orphan, the partial self struggling toward personhood is mindful---ze knows loss, ze knows torment, ze knows fear---but of zerself ze knows nothing.

The Mansion is a vast and intricate structure deep within a subterranean labyrinth known as the Underlands. Above---on the surface---crouches a City lost and lonely in the unexplored reaches of an impenetrable rainforest blanketing the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Valley is surrounded by the impassable Mountains of Guilt & Shame enclosing one sixth part of a poorly understood continent of a small planet orbiting a dying sun on the outskirts of an unknown galaxy in an unknown universe formed by an unworshipped creator of unknown origin and duration.

Half-remembered in myth and legend, nameless and ancient beyond calculation, the Lost City was founded by a tribe of beings of whom no trace remains but the gigantic blocks of stone concealed by vines, split by thrusting tree roots, hidden beneath thick and furry mantles of lichen, moss and fungus. None of the temples, avenues and dwelling places has been destroyed. All still stand: there has been no fast-moving cataclysm here. The war between the rainforest and the City is slow-moving, ever happening, a mighty clash between armies at the pace of plants, in deep green time.

A species of four-limbed mammal makes its home among the vegetation-smothered walls. The creatures squeak and chitter to each other in the neotenous vestiges of a proto-language as they hunt for insects in the nooks and crannies of the City, and grub in the thin soil for edible tubers. But the entrance to the Underlands they avoid, screeching fearful warnings to the young ones still too foolish to have learned there are places where none may safely go.

Always, Darkbishop returns to the Underlands, traversing the dark corridors in dreams and visions, drawn to the mystery like a moth to the flame. Always, around zer neck the Talisman of Ouroborous: a circle of gold engraved to resemble a serpent swallowing its tail.

Through that hidden world where no other travellers walk, Darkbishop's soundless footsteps trace the chaotic labyrinthine complexity of caverns, chambers, tunnels and avenues entwining like the thousand arms of a primaeval god... embracing and infiltrating a multitude of worlds, each a sparkling gem of Indra's net, reflecting the hallow-light of all the others.

"Is there a purpose to my being here," wonders Darkbishop, "and if so, is it mine? And if so, what is it I wander?”

From the grey and empty air the Spirit replies: "Thy purpose lies concealed within thee Friend, as dark and secret as the fear within thy heart."

"I fear nothing, foul wraith," mutters Darkbishop angrily, zer right hand moving to touch the Talisman, as if for reassurance.

"Can'st thou find no love in thee, Friend? Only anger that burns the soul?"

Darkbishop searches zerself and finds only the glowing embers of barely contained rage. Ze answers the Spirit with a grimace of loathing and continues on zer way.

"Hast thou no pity for one less than one, Friend? Only contempt that corrodes the soul?"

Darkbishop searches zerself and finds only the poisonous tendrils of arrogance. Ze answers the Spirit with a dismissive shrug and continues on zer way.

"Wherefore thy pride, Friend? Contempt begets hatred cold enow to freeze thy very soul."

Darkbishop searches zerself and finds only the icy tundra of emotional retardation. Ze ignores the Spirit and continues on zer way. But stops in mid-stride on hearing the small, sly words of malice: "Thy secret, Friend, is known to me. Would'st know it too? Would'st learn the nature of thy doom?"

A faint glow hangs in the air, then moves slowly for Darkbishop to follow. The route is long and recursive, confusing, labyrinthine. Eventually, the Spirit leads Darkbishop to one of the entrances to the Mansion of Unremembered Things. Thence, down a twisted passage to a heavy oaken door studded with signs and symbols wrought in bronze and copper. Darkbishop pushes open the unlocked door with a trembling hand, then enters the gloomy chamber. At the back of the chamber a curtain of cobwebs conceals a dust-covered cabinet. A faint glow illuminates the bottom drawer of the cabinet.

Darkbishop leans forward, takes hold of the handle, and is about to pull the drawer open when caution prevails.

"How do I know this isn't a trick, a trap, to lure me to my death or torment beyond measure?" enquires Darkbishop.

"Thy emblem of Ouroborous protects thee, does it not? Do not hesitate. The knowledge is waiting for thy mind to embrace." The voice of the Spirit is anxious, nervous, pleading.

Excitement throbbing at zer temples, Darkbishop tries to force zer muscles to obey. The culmination beckons, the anticipation mounts. The years spent searching, the loves lost, the dreams turned to nightmares, and for what? To know, to see, to understand… to remember! Dark knowledge lies pooled in stagnant ponds; it also lies forgotten and inert inside bottom drawers of dusty cabinets in haunted chambers of Mansions deep within the Underlands.

"Open it fool!" The Spirit's enraged shriek echoes soundlessly in Darkbishop's troubled mind.

But still ze hesitates. The desire to know is huge; but larger looms the fear of the unknown. Ze cannot bring zerself to do it.

"Then get thee hence: go pick fleas with thy timid siblings!" If ze had teeth to gnash, the Spirit would gnash them. Instead, zer evil designs frustrated, the Spirit utters the words of doom, casts the hex ze has cast so many thousands of times before.

A species of four-limbed mammal makes its home among the vegetation-smothered walls of the Lost City. The creatures squeak and chitter to each other in the neotenous vestiges of a proto-language as they hunt for insects, and grub in the thin soil for edible tubers.

Among them is a newcomer. Around zer neck hangs a circle of gold in the form of a serpent swallowing its tail: the Ouroborous.

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

wicked and sick (refresh/home)