The darkness of the night was broken by the shimmering towers all around him; The Pond reflected a building flaunting flag colors of some distant country while the Untermyer fountain mirrored the red of the Yorker sign standing on another concrete tree a few miles away. All their lights brightened the sky but fell short of falling through the trees, shrubs and bushes that surrounded him. He had reached the fork he knew he would, a test that was a destiny and all had gathered to witness the outcome. What lay ahead didn’t frighten him, those hooded figures swaying to a monotonous chant gave him the goosebumps. They stood there like hungry vultures perched to witness the happening wishing for a cruel outcome so they can feast upon the victim. In front of him he had two paths blocked by an insanely huge bonfire. It mattered not what path he chose, it mattered if he could pass through the fire, un-burnt. The flame of the spit was anything but a welcoming warmth. It crackled like a maniac sending chills to the bone reminding him of every unconscious guilt that lay deep within the chambers of his heart- some lost friends, someone’s shattered dreams as he progressed through his own plans, those few who lay hurt in the wake of his achievements. It hissed flames that whispered through the winds reminding him, much against his own philosophy that karma is indeed the circle of life, it radiated a seducing warmth calling him to itself like an exotic mistress of beauty to end everything right there by succumbing to the flaming embrace. But he knew that wasn’t the way, not for him. He stood there silently, clad in his white tuxedo, trying his best to focus at the task in hand; he removed his Togiharu from its guard, took a deep breath and joined his hands in a short prayer to the power of cuisine. He then pointed the blade to the trees and the ground and began his chant adding numerous offerings to the fire—
“steke blomster av Myrtacae; se den sanne cassia
blande i støvet av Myristica,
og brenne det hele med olje-løk-hvitløk.”
blande i støvet av Myristica,
og brenne det hele med olje-løk-hvitløk.”
As he spoke in wavering lengths the wind began to whisper, the fire began to smoke as if the wood was soaked with oil. Puffs of toasted spices floated in the air carrying subtle notes of caramel with them. The hooded shadows swayed rapidly their chant increasing in pitch almost making it hard for him to hear his own voice as he said the verses; he continued—
‘hell i kjærlighet kokos; liv og vann, sødme av sukker,
legge til notater av salt og sitrus.’
The flames changed the color to a bright orange glow. Leaves of the trees began to flutter as the shadows took off hovering in the air, their voices now so sharp that they pierced through the silence of the night. The shrill voice made him sway for a moment but he held ground. Instincts were his only friends but those too had stayed back mesmerized by the glamorous lights that surrounded the forest.
“ikke glem ekteskapet med ild og krydder;
avslutt med kyss av cilantro, mynte og alle ting hyggelig.”
A few more offerings and the flames had turned into ornate color and the shrill chants were almost reaching their peak. Somewhere his gut told him he was doing the right thing, he was almost there. Suddenly a cacophony of laughter broke out, the flames turned a deep blue and then yellow and as he stared at the eye of the fire he knew he was missing one ingredient. He had almost reached the end but he had missed something to complete the ceremony; he didn’t know what. He groped through every nook and corner of his shadowed brain, desperately hunting for the answer but found it hard to focus as the hooded figures lowered their chant pitch and swarmed closer. It felt as if the air was slowly getting sucked out leaving nothing but a choking darkness. Beads of sweat dripped from his forehead; He closed his eyes, not ready to succumb to defeat when suddenly flashes of memories whizzed past. It felt as if he was passing though tiny tube, pressure from all sides, as if being pulled apart from head to limb.
He found himself in a closed room with sanitized steel walls; he could hear voices and see a flurry of people in green and white coats running here and there. He floated past a corridor and caught a glimpse of a weird creature on the floor, crawling its way towards some place. It was red, scaly but he couldn’t make out what it was. He stared at it, saw it twitching it’s head here and there as if breathing and finding its way. The smell of the spirit was dominant in the insanely sanitized corridors; the stench of the chemicals seemed like a source of strength in itself as it slowly slithered its way around. It hissed, smelling the air finding the way to it’s prey.
For a minute he thought he was being pulled into the slithering creature there but he felt a sudden shove and found himself laying on something soft,like a bed, bound with some plastic chords and bands.
A few seconds and he realized what this memory was about – He lay there staring at the wall in front of him. It was filled with cards from friends and families and some even from the wound healing ‘elves’ and ‘wizards’; he was a favorite among all. A small machine beeped on the side, he ignored it, he was used to the timely chime of the drip – it made him aware that he was still alive. His gaze wandered to the window, the outside was drenched in sunlight and although he could not see the full view he was happy to see the trees and hear the noise of the busy street out there. He took a deep breath, all kinds of aromas and smells filled his lungs – the wetness of the soil blended with the floral notes of the blooms in the garden, it seemed the gardener had just watered the plants in the tiny garden that kept many like him fresh in the sanitized fortress; the pungent odor of the fecal wastes of the fuel consumed by all the vehicles running around the street was threatening the pleasantness in the air; the whiffs of various food that the street vendors sold on the sidewalks played peek-a-boo with the wind. Closing his eyes, he smiled; the sense of smell and the aromas themselves seemed to paint a live picture in his mind. He stopped sensing something was wrong. The atmosphere seemed suddenly devoid of any motion as if every tiny thing in the room was in a limbo. He felt a movement through the door and saw the fanged red reptile slithering towards his bed; he stared at it with horror, somewhere down his heart he knew this was going to happen and the horrific truth was making it’s way towards him. He tried to scream, he tried to move in vain tied to the bed with numerous chords and salines… All he could do was to see the nightmare unfold before him, live. The snake had already made it up on to the bed, confidently it coiled around his legs…and then the inevitable happened- The snake hovered over his stomach for a minute feeding upon the fear that was radiating from his body, it then barred its fangs, tiny sharp yellow dagger-like and pierced his stomach deeply. He screamed as excruciating pain shot around his entire body but it was never heard as if the voice was absorbed in a vacuum. Amber colored, warm liquid dribbled on to the pure white linen, beads of sweat rolled down his forehead. The snake disappeared but the venom was doing it’s job, it flowed smoothly through the nerves up to his brain, it numbed his tongue, choked his nose and dried his mouth completely. The poison became one with his blood, weirdly it enhanced all his senses of smell and taste but yet he could feel nothing; He was shivering, shaking like an out of water fish, gasping for air, mouth wide open.
With a sudden strong pull, he was back within himself, drenched in sweat, his mouth still wide open. But this time he wasn’t begging for air, instead he could hear laughter, loud and free, a weird blend between mirthless amusement and boundless joy emanating from his own throat. He now knew that one ingredient he needed to add, that one missing piece in the test for him to cross the fire. He raised his left hand to eye level; a shrill bloodcurdling shriek shattered the silence of the night as the shadows rose once again slowly vanishing in puffs of smoke. A smell of burnt and seared flesh filled the air as he said the words and raised the blade, poised and ready for the move, it’s steel gleaming in the moonlight…..