Jail

While waiting for his trial, Arno imagines different scenarios. Some are heart-wrenching.

He presents himself to court in Verdan but Syrtanyelle isn’t there. Her lawyer reads his long list of accusations, and Arno lowers his head. He then tries to defend himself, but what can he say to convince the Vilnen justice system he is innocent and did all out of unconditional love. How to respond to the accusations of having made use of love magic? So Arno speaks already knowing he is doomed, and indeed the judge looks severely at him, and announces he will have to pay a fine and spend six months in jail. Arno’s heart drops. His lawyer look at him with sympathy, but where will sympathy bring him.

The cold manacles are again placed on Arno’s wrists as he lives his worst nightmare. He who cherishes freedom, trapped like a rat in a cell. His belongings are confiscated, sorted out, controlled. He is thrown in a cell barely more comfortable than the police cells. And there he shall remain, with no possibility to write. How will he spend six months between these dry walls? How. With nothing to do. At least if he could write and make up songs and sing them. The cell is cold and unwelcoming. The meals are poor or greasy. And worst of all, his family will soon hear of his imprisonment. His family who begged him not to go to Verdan, not to attend his process. Arno has been stubborn till the end, and he is now paying the price. Paying the price for having believed in his dreams. Paying the price for having followed his heart and his true love. Syrtanyelle has not shown one moment of pity for him, uncaring of his fate. Uncaring of the damage she will cause. Cold, harsh like in her habit. And she is probably feasting that now, drinking some beers with her friends and joking with her parents. Arno tries to remember her true face, the sweetness, the light in her eyes, the tenderness and the depth he had read there. But he can’t, he can’t. He only see a harsh, masked creatures who deprived him of his freedom. He’s not even angry with her, just scared. Scared of how far she went, how far she will go. Terrified. And his love inside his heart screams as he imagine her enjoying her freedom and consoling herself with all sorts of adventures. Why, why did she do that to me? Why did she give me her friendship before? Why did she give me signs of her love? Why did it all go wrong? Why so much cruelty and hate? What did I do her to deserve that?

After a few weeks, Arno is authorized to have a phone call with his parents. It is Bilbo who calls him. He is crying on the phone. Your mother. Mounyë. She had a heart-attack when she heard you had been jailed. They brought her to the hospital and tried to make her recover. But she is… she is… dead. It’s too much for Arno to hear his father crying on the phone, and to learn his mother is no more. He feels a monster. For his egoism, his stupid love, he has killed his mother. But Bilbo is still speaking. …it’s not all, your grandfather too passed away… Arno does not hear the rest of the sentence. His ears have gone completely deaf. His hands and his face cold. He doesn’t know where he is, who he is, anymore. He is lost, completely lost. He cannot even cry. All he feels is cold. He is now a murderer too. Twice. Twice a murderer. He lets drop the phone. He doesn’t care about anything anymore, as all his chest starts freezing. His father is a distant memory of despair. Despair. It’s cold, so cold. Arno starts shaking. He walks back to his cell without knowing where he is going. He sits on the floor. He cannot weep. He is just feeling the uttermost despair. He has killed his mother. He has killed his grandfather. He thinks again of the gentleness of his grandfather, the tenderness of his mother and he feels a cold dagger in his heart. Cold, even colder. How can he continue living. How can he ever go out from prison and return to Falnë, as twice a murderer. With his egoism, with his stupid love. How. And Arno commits his third murder starting to curse Syrtanyelle’s name. She has made of him a murderer. Why did he love her? He cannot even remember he loved her. She destroyed him. Slowly, cunningly, entirely destroyed. A murderer. A monster. Arno tries to remember the little boy full of love he was. And now he is a destroyed man with no reason to live anymore. Only shame and pain and despair. Hopelessness. How can he ever be happy knowing he has killed his mother. How can he even think of being with Syrtanyelle. He imagines her with another man, with a family. That’s what she deserves. We both are monsters, her and me. We both deserve no happiness. I should have stayed in my village. Why did I leave, why did I ever leave. Why. Why. Why Syrtanyelle, why have you made of me a monster when you could have made me happy. Why. A smile of you would have been enough. Why why so much hate.

Arno thinks of ripping his throat open with his razor. But the thought of Bilbo stops him. He imagines his father crouched in the mud, crying, falling on his knees, asking the heaven why disgrace has fallen upon him in such a harsh way. That stops Arno’s hand. But life is now entirely tasteless. He barely lives, barely pays attention to what is around him, and he spends the next months as a ghost of himself. And when his pain finally ends, he wants to escape from Vilnen, he wants to escape from himself, he wants to escape from the world, he wants to disappear. Yet the thought of his father keeps him moving. But as he walks in the street a familiar face appears. Arno tries to turn around, to run, to escape. The face of all his nightmares. The face that haunted him day and night when he still felt something. Syrtanyelle. Too late, he cannot escape. She is laughing with another boy. Arno stops, his legs shaking. He turns toward the wall. Crouches. He doesn’t want to see her. He doesn’t want to see her expression as she passes by. He doesn’t want to be thrown in jail again. She passes by, ignoring him, perhaps not even recognizing him as he must look as a ghost of himself. It’s been months Arno doesn’t look at himself in a mirror.

He arrives at the airport to take an airplane with the money that is left, but there a police man stops him. You are being researched, he says gravely. You are accused of recidivism, you have importunate a young lady. Arno wants to say he didn’t do anything, but does it matter truly? He just lowers his head even more and follow the policeman for another six months in jail. This time he doesn’t even call his father. The poor man would die of shame.

When Arno gets out again he is even more emaciated and stranger to himself. He takes a taxi to the airport not to risk encountering anyone on the street. He jumps in the airplane praying, begging, not to meet her again. He lands in Tinë and barely recognizes his village that has become a city in the last years. He goes down the bus on the village square and slowly, tiredly walks the distance separating him from his grandmother’s Shouhimë house, where Bilbo lives. He steps into the lane in the garden walking ever slower, vaguely remembering his grandfather Jarido when he was a kid, who told him so many stories and gave him the taste of storytelling and singing. Oh how the Arno of that time is far away. It’s been more than a year Arno doesn’t think of a song, doesn’t tell a story. Stories were a curse for him. It’s because of his stupid stories, of his stupid love, he became a murderer. With a cold resolve, Arno promised to himself never to tell a story again, never to sing or listen to a song, to let entirely go of his accursed gift. Had he been quieter, more normal, he wouldn’t have met Syrtanyelle, wouldn’t have fallen in love with her, and his mother would still be alive. His grandfather Farno would still live too. But even then, as Arno curses the day he was born, as he curses the day Syrtanyelle was born, there is a tiny part in him that remembers his Syrtanyelle of love, and that suddenly brings back some emotions to his heart and even more suffering. Noooo, he screams to himself. Noooo. He walks the last meter to the house and knocks at the door of the house. His father opens the door and opens his arms for him, but Arno doesn’t dare to accept his embrace. He lowers his face until his father comes kiss him on his brow. My son, he cries, my son, what has happened of you, what has happened of you. Arno lowers his head even more. He kneel on the floor and hides his face against a couch. Father… I just want to die. I want to be delivered of myself. My son, I beg you, have some hope. Father, I am destroyed, I am a murderer, my head is a hell. Isn’t there a need for someone to sacrifice himself somewhere? Please do not do that, please. Bilbo starts sobbing, but Arno can’t take it anymore. The last piece of life in him is gone.

He hears there’s a perilous mission of underwater exploration in the ocean on the large of Tinë’s shores. There are few chances to come back alive. Bilbo accompanies his son of the ship. His eyes are moistened, but he is sobbing no longer. May God be with you my son, he tells him, and it is a relief for Arno to see his father has accepted his decision, has seen that he could not continue to live. He makes his farewell to the world and dives deep into the waters with a stone, deeper, ever deeper. Waters are scary, but Arno doesn’t care about his life anymore. He wants to put the most of distance between himself and the surface. He never wishes to come up again. The air in his lungs becomes rare. Rarer. Arno thinks of all his dreams he couldn’t fulfil. These dreams, this love, this gift that lost him, that made of him a murderer. He thinks of Syrtanyelle, and tries to imagine her reaction if she ever learnt of his death. Arno imagines her laughing it away. He takes his last inspiration and his lungs fill with water. He sinks. He hears a cry somewhere. A strange piercing cry in his heart. He sinks even more and lands lifeless at the bottom among the rocks and the weeds as his deathbed.