Crossroads of time

inner yard

Balgar had no idea what kind of building it was. Was it just another unfinished construction project? Or maybe an apartment complex crippled by fire and abandoned in the middle of the restoration process? There was no way to tell.

Balgar liked the place and visited it often since he was fifteen. He found the House by pure accident. All he wanted back then was to hide from pouring rain and merciless wind and the abandoned building had walls and a roof, that made it a good enough shelter. It was boring to wait for the rain to end, so Balgar decided to explore the strange place to pass time.

The House was full of holes and cracks connecting the rooms that were not supposed to be connected. There were sloped corridors, doors opening into dark pits, stairs leading to nowhere. It looked like a set for some horror movie yet for some reason Balgar felt perfectly safe there and genuinely enjoyed the exploration. Maybe a bit too much… Soon, he got lost.

The inner compass helping every human being to have a sense of direction had malfunctioned in Balgar’s case, leaving the boy disoriented, without the faintest idea about where he was. Then, and only then, Balgar got scared, no, terrified. He bolted to the exit. But there was no exit, only endless rooms and corridors, only faint moonlight trickling into the House through the cracks.

Tired of running, Balgar switched to stride, then to quiet walking. Wandering in the moonlit corridors, he lost the track of time. Finally, he saw a spot of yellow light ahead, dim, as if the sun came out shining through the city smog, but still promising; he walked toward it, enchanted by the warm, gentle glow like a moth by the fire.

That’s how he found the heart of the House, a strange, impossible place, obviously too big to fit inside the ruin he’d entered some time ago seeking shelter from the rain. If the House were made of paper, not of steel and concrete, Balgar would offer an explanation, a weird one though: you could make such a place by unwrapping the whole construction and then glueing it all again with the outer walls and the balconies inside the box. It was impossible and purely imaginary yet Balgar was standing there, inside the building turned inside out, on a sunlit patch of asphalt surrounded by walls that never ended, just disappeared in the glow above.

It was like walking on one of the urban legends, only very real and very kind. The golden light was hypnotising, soothing, enchanting. Balgar wanted nothing else but to bathe in the gentle unearthly glow forever.

He climbed a pile of junk in the middle of the little yard and sat there, so serene and tranquil he forgot about everything else. He’d gladly stay there forever if it wasn’t for a stranger that approached him, woke him up, and convinced him to return to his world…

Since that day, Balgar came to the House often, not to fall into the glowing trap but to talk to his new friend. They never arranged their meetings but always met, attracted at the same time to the same spot by the urban miracle.

Only one day, Balgar’s friend had failed to come…

Balgar sat on the junk pile in the sunlit yard, alone. For the first time in twenty five years, alone. Something changed in the world, even the light that used to seem eternal, was now dim, like a bright lamp covered with a dirty cloth.

“You are dying, my miracle…” Balgar thought with bitter sadness in his heart. He could imagine how everything would end: with the light dead, the real world would claim the place, strip it of all magic, of all meaning…

No, he didn’t want to see that happen!

Balgar jumped to his feet and headed toward a crooked fire escape ladder, the beginning of a long way back. The one who didn’t come today had shown that way to the lost young Balgar twenty five years ago.

Balgar wanted to leave without looking back but couldn’t make himself do that. He owed the miracle at least a goodbye, so he turned around to see the sunlit yard for the last time. The House seemed to feel the change of his heart for the fading light blinked and, even if just for a brief moment, was bright again. Like a dying man saying his last words, the urban miracle put all its remaining strength into the silent farewell. Soon, everything was over. With the golden light dead, the usual, earthly moonlight shining through the holes in the roof took its place.

“Goodbye,” said Balgar through the tears.

Hunched at the balcony railing like a gargoyle, he grieved. He mourned for the dead miracle, he cried for the world that had lost its magic, the world he didn’t want to live in.

He felt someone watch him, someone behind his back, but he went too far into his grief and didn’t care to check who it was. Finally, the stranger approached him and put a hand on his shoulder. Startled, Balgar turned around.

A teen girl stood before him. Her long hair was neatly tied in two heavy braids; she was smiling.

Balgar choked on his words, the very words people usually say when they meet a stranger, like “Who are you?” and “How did you get here?”. They were useless in the heart of the dead miracle because just being there together meant sharing the same truth. It took Balgar some time to find a proper question.

“Do you know why the light has died?” he asked.
“It hasn’t,” the girl smiled again. “You don’t say that the sun dies when it sinks into the horizon, right? It’s the same thing: we witness the change of the cycle. I came here to tell you this.”
“So the light will shine again…” Balgar couldn’t believe it, not with the ordinary moonlight flooding the scene. “It will be the same, right?”
“Not quite…” The girl shrugged. “Let’s wait for a while, just wait, together, without talking, and you’ll see.”

So wait they did, two hunched silhouettes on the balcony railing, in beautiful silence that happens only when two people witness the same miracle together; the silence filling the world and soaring above time itself.

A moment came when the light began to change. Golden rays of the unseen sun intertwined with the silver rays of the earthly moon without becoming one… like golden curls in the hair of an old woman who drank from the fountain of youth. They multiplied, they moved the old age back, they made the time itself roll downhill like a loose stone…

Balgar wanted to say something but the girl stopped him. Patience! Let the miracle speak.

Finally, the golden light had won. It shone, bold and bright again, so much like its old self and so unlike the light Balgar had said his goodbye to some time ago. This light seemed younger.

With the inner yard lit again, the House fell silent, waiting for someone. Balgar wanted to come down the ladder but the girl stopped him again. Patience! Or you won’t hear and see the answer.

The House was waiting, with the trap ready, for someone well-loved but shy. Finally, that someone had come… A boy stepped into the sunlit yard, a long-legged, clumsy teen clad in dusty jeans and rain-stained coat. Fifteen-year-old Balgar…

He climbed the pile of junk in the centre of the yard and raised his face to the warm light, ready to stay there forever.

“Go to him,” the girl whispered. “Tell him he can’t stay there. See: he’s lost, both in life and in the House.”

The older Balgar hesitated. A dozen questions were tearing his mind apart as he watched his younger self. He wanted to know everything, he wanted answers, explanations, reasons; he wanted them so badly the desire to know made him angry, no, furious. The voice of his heart was so quiet, so faint in all that noise! It took Balgar a lot of effort to find it at all. It took him even more to make himself listen to it.

Yet he succeeded, he made the roar of questions fall silent. Of them all, only two remained. Them, he asked.

“Why did the cycle change?” he asked the girl. She was so beautiful in the new light she seemed a magical, ethereal creature, not a human being… and she seemed familiar somehow as if Balgar had seen someone like her before. “What happened to the other Balgar, older than me? Did he die?”
“No. He’s alive and well. And I promised him to be back for dinner,” the girl giggled.
“Who are you?” asked Balgar, astonished.
“You will name me yourself when the time comes. I don’t want to spoil the moment,” she dodged the question. “But, believe me, you will see me soon. Dad.”

She disappeared in the miraculous sunlight like a ghost but before that, she gave Balgar a sweet goodbye kiss and said, “I love you, dad. I know you won’t let me down.”

Alone again, Balgar looked at his younger self sunbathing below, completely lost, caught in the gentlest of traps. How would Balgar tell the boy that he must leave, must have worries, challenges, adventures… life. And a wonderful daughter…

It wasn’t something one could tell in a couple of phrases. Wisdom is not a magic pill. It’s more like a blood transfusion, years worth of it. It’s like a care for a sickly sapling. It’s - patience, just like the not-yet-named girl had said.

Balgar already knew what he had to do. He also knew that without meeting his younger self, he wouldn’t be able to move forward as well.

He began descending the stairs…

(June 21, 2011)

Jump to another story:

English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.