A trip to the underworld

A trip to the underworld

Arno woke up in the middle of the night

and he walked silently to the wooden trap

he opened it, and lo!

he already was down the scale, in the cellar

he walked toward one of the walls

and a door appeared in the stone where there was none

as he crossed the wall and suddenly found himself

in a strange place he had never been to before

a narrow tunnel where a river streamed

and a nearby path on which he stood

Arno could see as in dim daylight

despite there being no light

he walked for a while along the stream

but then he discovered he could run without getting tired

and so he run and run, but he still got to nowhere

at a moment Arno had the idea to jump

and move his feet and his arms like a bird

and suddenly he was launched into the air

swimming in the currents and riding them as if he were in the sea

it all felt very natural to him as he went on faster and faster

and then the gallery became broader and broader

until he arrived in a place where the river formed a cascade

and flowed down into the emptiness

since Arno was flying, he didn’t to follow the narrow path

that now winded on tiny stairs cut into the rock of the cliff

and he could look at all what surrounded him

for a moment he felt completely disoriented

he could not see the ceiling nor the bottom of the place where he was

but he noticed hundreds of galleries like the one he had walked in

all leading their own streams of water that joined into dozens of cascades

flowing down toward the depth of the ground

more than a room or a valley Arno felt like he was in a country or a world

and in fact as he fled up and down he discovered cities all around the enormous depression above which he floated

the cities were built into the largest galleries that bore the widest rivers

there were also cities built on spurs that appeared from nowhere in the middle of the canyon

the cities all seemed dug into the rock rather than built

and as Arno was far away from them he could not distinguish if they were inhabited or not

but he immediately had the impression that they were all alive

there were thin bridges of ropes that stretched above the canyon

connecting one town to the other

the rocky walls surrounding the hallow were also all carved with narrow stairs winding in all directions

Arno now flied toward the bottom of the hallow that he could not yet see

there seemed to be a cushion of haze rising from there

and Arno continued flying until he saw what was at the origin of the mist

he found himself flying above a wide sea

and on the sea there were several islands with marvellous towns that shimmered with strange lights

there was no sky and no sunlight, and the only thing people from down there could perceive

was the gray violet mist that wrapped their world in fumes, with some hints of blues and greens in places

Arno continued to fly toward the island he found the most beautiful

it was built on a hill and there were many towers and buildings that rose

here the buildings were built with stone and they did not seem to be dug within the rock

at last Arno ended in the middle of a narrow square

and he soon realized the stone used was very colourful and gleaming, as if buildings were built of quartz and what they called precious stones from the other side of the world whence Arno came

but he had not the time to look at their architecture and further marvel

as he soon was surrounded by many people walking toward him

men and women who looked different from all he had known

they were shorter in stature and skinnier and Arno was almost of the same height of the shortest among them

he noticed their eyes were gleaming like those of animals at night

but he read only kindness and amazement in there

and it suddenly dawned on him they could see without light

the skin of their faces was as white as snow

and Arno found their traits as beautiful as the buildings they constructed

the rest of their bodies was covered in all sorts of colourful robes

as the temperature was low enough to wear long sleeves

Now the men and the women formed a circle around him, and they bowed to him with respect

“You have come back at last,” one of the men said in a language Arno understood

“Who, me?” Arno replied in confusion

“In times of yore, there were flying angels who came from other worlds our stories tell. You are one of those, aren’t you?”

And Arno suddenly had the impression of remembering something old he knew

“Where am I?”

“This island is called Anaheriyë. You have landed in a friendly corner of our world, for we have not lost our roots as others have since the fall of Ychrentiyë occurred.”

“Am I in underworld?”

“You are, but this is for us the only world, as we have never visited other places,” the man replied

He was the only one speaking, but Arno had the feel all the people surrounding him were of the same mind as the man was

“Come visit Anaheriyë the fair. You are welcome to stay here as long as you wish to.”

And Arno followed them as they walked in narrow streets which cobblestones were shining in a thousand colours

and the houses were built with the most beautiful materials he had ever seen

The men and the women did not talk, but they looked intently at his expression

and Arno felt they were happy and proud to see how marvelled he was

after visiting the town they went down stairs and they found themselves in a lower version of the town

in face each house had a part dug into the rock and its lowest door gave on an underground lake

where luminescent ships floated here and there

it was much warmer than in the higher part of the city, and Arno discovered the lake was hot

it was above the ocean’s level that surrounded the island

and its water sprang directly from the mountains depth that were filled with molten rock, the Anaheriyë explained to him

“The famous fish of Anaheriyë swims in these waters and these you see are our fishing boats.”

They continued walking on narrow stone ridges and bridges that connected the neighbourhoods of the lower town

and here too almost everything was built of precious stones

and the reflections they casted on the lake surface was beautiful

“You have said that not all people in the underworld remember the past?” Arno asked

“Anaheriyë is the only island that has kept all its songs and its wisdom,” the man replied, “bickering and fighting have become the norm in many places, and all the towns that were not as strong as ours have fallen already. But now you are here to help us.”

“Help you?”

“Not today. You are tired and you shall rest, come we will show you your house.”

Arno followed the Anaheriyë out of the lower part of the town

there, they brought him to a tower which winding stairs they climbed and climbed

until they reached the top and had a view on the entire island and on the surrounding sea that endlessly stretched

from there Arno was surprised not to see the islands he had glimpsed when he had come down flying

and he told himself he had not realized the real dimensions of the underworld

Then they showed him his room that had windows from all sides of the tower

They brought him a meal made of fish and vegetables and fruits that grew in Anaheriyë

it was strange to see their faint glow in his plate, and they tasted delightfully

and then Arno suddenly felt very tired and he fell asleep on his bed