Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Part Three: History Party

A wise man once said that if talk were made of silver then silence is surely gold. Whatever he was talking about he obviously never lived in my house.  I wasn’t even back in my room for ten minutes getting dressed for the new neighbor’s party when my golden silence degenerated into silver.  And fake silver at that!

“Markus!” my annoying brother Jonathan was shouting.  “Dad says get a move on!”

“Yeah, you dweeb.  Get a move on!” my other brother Jonathan chimed in with his two cents.  Now isn’t this just great?  Not only are mom and dad on my case but so are Jonathan and Nathan, my wonderful older twin brothers or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb as I prefer to call them.  I’ll just answer something back and hope they’ll go away.

“Ok, whatever guys.  You two go ahead.  I’ll be right behind you,” I shouted from behind my door.

Just because they’re older they think they can boss me around.  It’s hard being the youngest, always getting picked on.  For most people it’s bad enough dealing with just one older sibling, but lucky me who has two copies to contend with.  Those two are into nothing but mischief and are more trouble than they’re worth, which would be about a buck and a quarter if I could find some sucker to buy them on the black market. Since they’re twins they look alike, but that’s where the similarities end.  Jonathan is comfortable being the brains while Nathan is the muscle.  So all in all I can say that they do make one big menace to society.

Ok, I’m dressed and ready.  Finally!  We’re heading to the Binyamin’s house.  They’re the new family that recently moved to the neighborhood.  Mom says they’re from Israel and that Mr. Binyamin took a job here.  He’s some kind of archeologist or historian or something.  Anyway, it has to do with ancient history.  So at least they might be interesting.  Nevertheless, neighborhood parties are usually – correction, always – boring, and I mean the mind-numbing kind of boring.  Oh boy, dad’s yelling for us. Ok, time to head out.  Let the fun not! begin.

“Hello there.  You must be the Baylocks. Welcome to the Binyamin house,” the man at the door said with a heavy but friendly accent.  That must be Mr. Binyamin.  He’s a big guy alright, right around the belly and with a big mustache too.  I wonder what Mrs. Binyamin looks like.

“Oh Avi, don’t hog the guests,” a lively voice from behind him said.  “Aaah welcome… welcome to our home… I’m Erma Binyamin.  Do come in, there’s lots of food inside and many of the other neighbors are already here… feel free, our home is your home,” she said.

Mrs. Binyamin had dark red hair and was wearing a green sleeveless dress.  Whereas Mr. Binyamin could stop a bus, his wife was a tiny thing – short and wafer thin but with boundless energy.  But in an odd way Mr. and Mrs. Binyamin seemed a perfect fit like they were made for each other.  It was sweet. But no sooner were we in the door when Jonathan and Nathan pushed me out of the way to head inside.  They probably smelled the scent of a girl or a buffet.  Mr. Binyamin took dad inside and mom got busy chatting with Mrs. Binyamin and the rest of the lady neighbors.  Their house sure was different.  There were lots of trinkets and knick knacks all over, things you could tell that they had collected over the years.  It was like being in a museum or an art gallery or something.  There were colorful paintings on the walls, old statues, pottery, and boxes, and what even looked like an ancient scroll.  They must be things from Mr. Binyamin’s work.  While looking at the cool stuff I could hear the chatter of the rest of the party around me; the voices of different neighbors coming from different rooms of the house and the backyard.  But one voice stood out among them all. It was Val.  

“Hey Markus, glad you made it!” She said with her usual cheery voice. 

“Well it’s not like I had a choice, is it?” I said.

“Oh just chill, it’s not that bad.  And just look at all this stuff!  I wonder where the Binyamins got it all?”  Val was reading my mind, as usual.  It really was like being in a museum. 

“Yeah, they must have lived all over, or at least visited lots of places from the looks of all this stuff,” I said.  “Those paintings over there look Asian.  And those statues next to the stairs are African.  And that painting there…”  I stopped dead in my tracks.  I was frozen.  What I saw totally stripped me of my thought and speech.

“….And? … What, Markus?” Val asked while nudging me with her elbow.

I started to snap out of it.  “Val, look at that painting on the wall over there where the twin knuckle heads are hitting on the Fischer girls.  That face. I’ve seen that face before.  It’s . . . Val, it’s my angel!” I started walking toward it and Val instinctively followed.

“GET OUT!” Val said from behind.  We both stopped side-by-side right in front of the painting, staring.  “Oh my god,” Val said in a low voice, “Look at the boy sitting in front of the angel.  It’s you!  Markus, it looks just like you,” she said in a frantic whisper.  We both just stood there as in a trance. 

That was my angel and me in the painting on the Binyamin’s wall!  A weird sensation started going through my entire body from my head to my feet. The painting was old, very old, and yet that was definitely my face in it.  In the painting I was sitting on a patch of grass holding my angel’s hands.  The sky was covered in dark clouds and in one corner there was a hooded figure in black.  It seemed like a man. His face was hidden in the shadow of the hood, but two eyes pierced through from underneath.  They were dark and bright at the same time and with a menacing look to them.  In the painting’s other corner was another hooded figure, this one in white.  It was a woman.  Her face too was hidden in a shadow, but it was a shadow of light not dark.  Like the other figure, her eyes pierced though the bright shadow.  They were light pink, gentle and graceful.  At the center of the picture, behind the images of me and my angel, was an ancient stone temple that dominated the surrounding forest in the background. 

“Oh. I’m assuming that you’re Markus and you’re Valery,” Mr. Binyamin said bringing us back to the moment as we turned toward his voice.  “Your parents were just telling me about you two and what inseparable friends you are.”  He noticed what we were looking at.  “Ah, I see you’re admiring the Shimbala painting,” he said.

Shimbala?  What’s a Shimbala? What is this painting and where did it come from?  Who is that angel in it?  I realized at that moment that only Val and I saw the similarity between me and the painting.  Mr. Binyamin didn’t notice anything.   

“Mr. Binyamin,” I asked, “Where is this paining from?  And what’s a Shimbala?”

“Well Markus and Valery, I purchased that in Jerusalem when I was just starting out teaching history and mythology.   It was my first find really.  You see at the time I’d been studying ancient Somara mythology when I stumbled upon this in a small antique shop in the old Arab Quarter.  It’s a depiction of an ancient Somara legend called ‘Shimbala’”

“What’s this legend about?” Val asked, again reading my mind. 

Mr. Binyamin broke into a wide smile and put down his glass.  He came a step closer to us.  “It’s a beautiful story, stoked in mystery and rooted in the ancient religious beliefs of the Somara people and civilization.  You see, they believed that the world and, indeed, life itself was divided into three realms: Gaia, Hilious and Hicious.”   “Gaia,” he said gesturing upward, “translates into heaven.” “Hilious,” motioning downward, “is Hell.”  “And Hicious,” spreading his big hands to either side, “is Earth.” 

He continued, “These realms were believed to be inhabited by different kinds of beings. In addition to the people of the Earth, or the Hicioulites as the Somara people called themselves, there were other magnificent beings from Gaia, above, and Hilious, below.  Each being had different powers and a specific role to play in the universe.  Today, we would think of these beings as angels or devils.  The legend of Shimbala is a tale of defiance centered on the absolute core of all beings – love.  True love.  It’s a simple story about a boy who falls in love with a girl.  And it is the most beautiful tale in the universe.”

“You see, a long time ago, when the world was in its infancy, Hicious, or Earth, lived in harmony with both the heaven Gaia and the hell Hilious.  In Hicious there was a kingdom of the most devoted people, the Somara. They believed, like many modern people today, that there are two balancing sides to the world – Gaia and Hilious.  In order to maintain the balance and keep the favor of the both of these realms, a sacrifice had to be made: a Somara sacrifice.  Those destined to be sacrificed were called ‘Limas’ and they were revealed from birth to fulfill this important role.  Through them the Somara retained the innocence and purity of life by keeping the universe in balance.  Limas were considered the purest of creatures. They weren’t human, but they took the form of Hicioulites.  In this regard, they could be from any class – a slave or a nobleman. 

“One day, the Somara Kingdom was blessed with a long-awaited Lima that took the form of a Somara girl.  Her name was Ariana.  At birth she was recognized as the Lima by the high priests and as prophesized by Gaia and Hilious.  She was the beautiful only daughter of a great king.  When Ariana was about 21 she came into the time of her ascension.  This meant that the Age of Light would soon be upon Somara, when the sacrifice would be made, the balance of the universe maintained, and the Lima returned to Gaia and Hilious. 

“But just then the winds of fate began to blow in Somara.  And they grew stronger and stronger.  The Somara believed the winds to be an instrument of the gods that brought dramatic change to life and fate.  At that time, Ariana’s time, the winds guided to her kingdom a young traveler named Amir.  He had been crisscrossing the land seeking knowledge and adventure.  When Amir and Ariana met, their fates were forever changed.  They first set eyes upon each other at the temple which Ariana frequented while prepare for her duty as Lima. Upon meeting, the two fell deeply in love.  It was an intense passionate love that became the center of their being. 

“But with the Age of Light approaching Ariana was destined to be sacrificed. According to the scholars, this was usually around when the Lima turned 25.  The priests of the temple were furious when they found out about Ariana and Amir.  And for good reason.  Gaia and Hilious were ruled by powerful beings called guardians.  They were promised a sacrifice and would demand it.  If they didn’t get it then Hicious would surely suffer dire consequences. 

“But the lovers couldn’t bear to part.  Desperate for help, they invoked the spirit of Shimbala.  Shimbala was the god of birth and death who transported souls to their lives on Hicious and who also guided them to their next existence after death.  When the being Shimbala appeared, Amir and Ariana pleaded for a way to keep their love alive and to stop Ariana’s eventual sacrifice.  The Shimbala listened intently to them.  He could see the love that they shared and saw fit to preserve it.  To do this, he had to hide the souls of Amir and Ariana from the guardians of Gaia and Hilious so that they would never find them.  He did this by granting the lovers eternal life through reincarnation.  They would be reborn and meet again in different lives for eternity.  This would allow their love to live on and also keep them hidden from the guardians who would pursue them relentlessly over the eons.  And so ever since, according to the legend, Ariana and Amir find each other again in new lives.  And this, Valery and Markus, is the legend of Shimbala.  Except for one additional bit – the foretelling of a prophecy.   But we’ll leave that for another time.  Now, who wants a kosher hotdog? ”

Mr. Benyamin’s  story was amazing and struck something in me. It filled me with awe but also made me uneasy. I think Val felt it too.  She put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me, but inside my head it was chaos.  I wanted these bad feelings to go away. That’s when my angel’s face came into my mind.  I can see the beautiful face so clearly, with all its majesty. It immediately made me feel good.  I also want to call out my angel’s name. In my thoughts I slowly started saying, “Ari-a . . .”  But something is wrong, I can sense it.  My angel is crying.  I can feel the pain emanating from her.  A strange feeling is coming over me. My angel’s face is disappearing from my thoughts and in its place are two black menacing eyes.  Then a song starts to fill me ears, “♫ I’ll be seeing you… ♪ In all the old familiar places . . . ♫”  Suddenly, I feel weak and out of breathe. The room is getting darker. I can’t breath.

“Valery!!” I managed to say before things go blank.

“Markus?  Markus. Are you ok?”  Val said with panic her voice.  “Help!” she yelled out.  “Markus just fainted!” 


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