The City of Magic - Chapter 8

The Chase

 knew you would come back here again.”

I looked and before me sat a lady dressed in red. I recognized her as Luxuria from the statue that I had seen in the square. And as soon as I saw her I closed my eyes; not because she looked frightful, but because her appearance was arrayed in such magical power that a glance at her got my senses confused and involuntarily drawn as a moth is drawn to the fire. I shuddered with weakness and fear.

“Do you intend to hide by closing your eyes or do you want to deny the reality that you’ve seen?” she laughed. “Don’t you have the guts of a man?”

I opened my eyes and looked at her the second time, and in that very instant, I felt my strength drain away, my limbs became helpless. She moved closer to me and with each step that she took, I grew more powerless. I wanted to run, but there was too little strength left. I closed my eyes. Then, I felt a sharp metal touch the bare skin of my neck, and I collapsed into nothingness, amnesia, and a cesspool of pitch darkness. After that, I remembered nothing.

When I awoke I saw that I was in the same cell that I had been locked in earlier; but, now thick and long chains bound me to hooks on the nose of the goat’s image on the wall. I shuddered and felt heavily guilty about all this. “I shouldn’t have turned back,” I thought. “But, where could I go; for no matter, how hard I would run, I could never have run away from this world of shadows…”

I looked at the picture of the goat, then at the solid iron door. “Running away would be harder now,” I thought, “but, I should get out of here!” Then, suddenly, fear and doubt gripped my soul. “I’ll be caught again anyway, for how far can I run? And then, the situation would be worse. Why not submit to this than trying to get out of where I’m bound to return again and again!”

Suddenly a thought hit my mind. “Why not fight and destroy the villains?” But, then again I felt warned against fighting the crocodile in the river. Yet, it also seemed worth dying while fighting, than just pine away and die without even giving a try. As soon as I had thought these thoughts, I remembered the brass pendant and found it on my neck. I bent myself at the lock, inserted the pendant and, in an instant, the lock snapped open. Then, I tried it on my cuffs and they snapped off. I was now free; however, the steel door was impregnable. So, I arranged the chains and cuffs to look as they had been, while construing means to be free. I remembered the scroll and opened it. It looked blank; then, as I was about to roll it back, I saw that some letters began fade into it. I stretched it back and read:

Vacuum, the barrenness of empty desire;
Insatiable craving, abysmal mire;
Deluded by Lust, the cunning liar;
The end of all ends, brimstone and fire…
Leave the dark dungeon behind;
Leap into the Light;
Break through the hideous blind:
Flee! Stand not to fight!

The text then faded out and the page was blank again. I wondered. I rolled the scroll back and tucked it in.

A few minutes later, I heard steps drawing close to my cell. I repositioned myself. A key turned and the door opened. Two policemen entered in. One of them drew closer to me to unchain me; I seized the opportunity, wrapped myself like a lightning around him, cuffed his hands back, then placing the brass pendant in a piercing position against his neck, ordered the other officer to step back. I, then, using my captive as my shield began to walk away from the place, as the guards and officers stepped back to clear the way. I moved out of the station, then whirling the policeman away with a strong jerk, I ran and ran and ran. I ran through quick turns of streets, jumping across roads, crossing, skidding, dodging, ducking, while the sirens kept sounding and people kept shouting; I ran mad and wild, the pendant still clutched hard in my hand. My legs felt heavy, my chest throbbed with pain, my fingers felt numb, but I ran and ran until I reached an intersection of main roads cutting around and through the Market; then, I crossed the street into the Market place, barged into a big cloths store, ambling in at the very instant; then, rushing to where they sold coats, picked up a black hooded coat and went into the trial room.

I panted for a while, almost feeling like throwing up; then, I opened my palm and the brass pendant looked as if it was bleeding. I strung it around my neck, and in that instant looked in the mirror and was shocked. My hair was shorn. I wore the coat, pulled the hood over and came out of the room. There were policemen everywhere. The exit door was blocked and guarded as the team of officers searched the store. I had turned my face away, fumbling at the garments, pretending to search for others. On an opposite glass, I saw two officers walking towards me. When they reached at the distance of a handbreadth, I quickly turned aside and went to another part where there were many people and mixed up with them, pretending to be totally immersed in the search and fully unaware of their presence.  Suddenly, I heard the sound of a buzz. Then, an officer’s voice said, “We request all of you to kindly stand your ground as we make a search for an absconding criminal.” There were whispers all around. Officers, then, flooded the store all around, many new joining them, and began a thorough search. They looked at each person closely, searched the trial rooms, and behind the dresses. Now, I saw five of them advancing towards me from the front. My heart beat faster and I knew of no hope. They examined two in front of me and then turned towards me, when I felt pull on my trousers. I turned around. There was a little girl of perhaps two, pulling at my trousers and smiling at me.