Episode 5: Part 1 of a long series.
A Message from a Soul Watcher
Now that “The Transcendental Tourist through Time” is becoming more popular, I think it is best to talk to all of A.J.’s readers. The soul, if you believe in such a thing, is a trickster of time and space. It traverses these realms like liquid amber, hardening and capturing only the vessels of its past earthly lives like insect bodies preserved in golden orange for posterity. However, these preserved shells are merely the vehicles; but the soul, that fickle persistent entity, comes and goes, ignoring time and space all together.
Now, in reading these peculiar time epistles, you will certainly discover some discrepancies. For instance, I have said before that I first met this earthly vessel, A.J., during the heyday of Angkor Wat but as you may have noticed, I have also said that I have met him earlier than that. What does this mean? Well even I, who seem to attract a restless soul, am blinded. Soul recognition is a difficult craft to master indeed. I can only guess that Angkor Wat was the first time I recognized the soul that inhabits A.J., frankly, a name I find too modern. However, as trickles of karmic memories descend upon me, new vignettes become more recognizable and I discover through my journey that this so-called A.J. and I have met, perhaps, way farther than measured time and much often than I have perceived. This is indeed a scary thought.
Souls after all are energies, and like all energies, no two energy sources can exist so close together for so long and interact with each other for so long without one consuming the other. Imagine a white dwarf close to another star; eventually the white dwarf will consume the flames of the star. This is indeed a dark foreboding thought.
Let us proceed to the latest episode but first, a warning.
Take heed readers, this traverse through time passes through a darker channel. After all, a passage to the river of light is often lacerated by intermittent dark dry swamps. This episode occurred generations after the disappearance of A.J. on his way to Asia Minor (now Turkey) from China, and after my happy death in the plains of north-western Mongolia, now Tuva Republic of the Russian Federation. For those who have not read our China encounter, it is best you read it; a hundred years had passed.
Now, let the dark journey begin.
The Roman Senate spearheaded by Seneca the Younger had released several edicts prohibiting the wearing of silk basing it on economic and moral grounds. Silk was considered to be decadent and immoral. Seneca declared, “I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one’s decency, can be called clothes… Wretched flocks of maids labour so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife’s body.”
The Senate tried in vain to dissuade the public from its near addiction to silk. Silk, as one Roman general put it, could divinely wrap any plain looking woman with the luster of Venus.
The famous and powerful meretrix Augustina (present day name A.J.) was enthralled by silk and she made sure that her agents would go to the farthest reaches of the empire to purchase the finest silk from the Great Eastern Empire (presently called China). The Silk Road made the Roman trade to the great Eastern Empire possible and, of all its exotic commodities, silk was the most sought after, especially by aristocratic women and men who lavished their lovers with such enticing linen.
Augustina was different from other Roman women. She was a woman of influence who dined with Senators, Generals and common folks, some even said with a visiting prophet from the East, but its veracity had never been confirmed. Before rising to fame or notoriety (depending on who you are asking), unknown to many of her patrons, suitors and allies, Augustina was not a true Roman.
Growing up a slave girl after her parents were killed by the Romans near Byzantium (later named Constantinople), little Augustina was purchased by a Roman general on his way back to Rome. The general hid her inside a carriage full of rare artifacts and other precious commodities from the East. On her long journey to Rome, little Augustina found herself underneath silk and other precious cargos, and their touch on her dirty sun-parched skin lulled her to sleep. From time to time, the general would throw parcel of food at her. The good general pretended to throw his leftover morsels at the back, but his intention was that they would land on Augustina’s carriage and she would secretly grab them and eat. It worked ingeniously. She had to remain hidden, occasionally lifting her head slightly to see the road ahead or extend her arm to grab pieces of food that the general threw at her. It was important that no one saw her.
A slave girl, even one purchased by a Roman general, was bound to be a prostitute, like all slave foreign girls during the great Roman expansion. All it took was one of the general’s comrades to see little Augustina and demand from the general payment for favors the general owe them. The general, knowing full well that he owed his life to some of his comrades, would have no reason to refuse if they demanded to have their way with the pubescent slave girl. He had to keep the slave girl a secret. Young Augustina felt that this Roman was different. He would save her. The general, whose name had been forgotten through time, rode his horse with a melancholy indifference. From time to time, when a cool breeze passed, he remembered his wife and two daughters still waiting in his Roman villa, but he knew that if indeed he still had a house to return to, his beloved would not be there. The earth had long claimed their bodies after they had mercilessly been executed by a paid murderer, rumor had it; a Senator ordered the vindictive deed.
After many moons passed, the general’s caravan finally reached Rome. Once alone, the general called out to Augustina. “Girl, come out. No one is here!” Augustina slowly crawled up from the carriage. The general lifted her thin body. His touch was cold and painful. Augustina realized that he had not lifted a young person for a long time. There was no tenderness on his hands or a hint of protective touch. He released Augustina from his grasp even before her feet touch the floor so she almost lost her balance when her feet finally landed on the cold marble. “Bathe!” He yelled. At this point, Augustina’s face crumbled. She felt that her fate had not changed. She would still be a prostibulae (an unregistered prostitute) like most orphaned slave girls. It was just the location that changed. As she bathed, she sang a melancholy piercing song, the only one she remembered her mother sang. Tears rolled down her cheeks and the tears washed her face clean.
But the goddess Aphrodite had other plans for her, and on her twenty-ninth birthday, Augustina would meet me, a 16-year-old boy, another one of those prostibulae of Rome. My name was Septimus meaning seventh because I was the seventh slave boy of the austere merchant Josephus. And my partnership with Augustina would bathe Roman roads with the blood of the aristocrats. But of course, we did our acts with the sophistication of a thousand-year-old vampire. Oh do not fetter, we were not vampires, please. Vampires are such low class creatures; we were much more than that. We had souls with scores to settle.
To be continued.