Mother of Cities

The Blind Man

Carefully, the young maiden maneuvered past mammoth refuse of concrete and steel in order to make her way to the old city. Her people had fled the harsh and brittle land many eons before, when the waters rose, the streets crumbled and the world had quickly turned to rust. Only the Blind Man had remained, steadfast in his desire to be with the city in its end days as he had been for its beginning. Gingerly, the maiden fondled the two copper coins her father had tucked into her sack before she had embarked upon her journey. She would give the coins to the Blind Man, and in return, the Blind Man would allow her to see. For the young maiden had been cursed with a furtive quest for knowledge that followed far beyond the limits of what her five simple senses could provide for her.

And yet desire, the burning needs of those same five senses she abhorred, drove her flesh to the destined end of her journey. Aching limbs sought the warmth and softness of the Blind Man’s cloak. The young maiden’s quarrelsome insides rumbled with a request for meat upon her tongue. But most of all, her ears desired a quiet respite from the incessant roar that had only grown stronger during her exhausting climb. Tears sprang from the maiden’s eyes as she hoisted herself up upon the boulder she believed to be her final hurdle, only to find a coursing plain of pounding waves set between her and the city.

How would she reach the city’s shore? She had no boat or other mode of transport and no human form could steer through such austere waves unaided. Frantically, the young maiden scanned the banks for a vessel only to find the border as barren as a miser’s heart. Her discouraged and dejected form slapped back against cold, black rock as sorrow welled within her. She had failed her father. She had failed her village. For those who had received the teachings of the Blind Man were holy and the land they walked marked, as they were, to be cosseted from conflict. War, a constant threat to those who lived in the coveted realms enveloping the city, was forbidden in all sites the sanctified roamed.

As grief quickly overtook all claims logic and reason once had upon her soul, the young maiden dug roughly within the satchel entangled around her limbs to retrieve the two coins that had settled within the silken cloth. She weighed their heaviness in her hand for the briefest of moments, and then flung the metal mounds as far as she could across the riotous waters. A heavy sigh escaped from full, parted lips as copper coins slipped twixt silver currents. The maiden edged gently towards the rock’s precipice, hoping to discard her body as she did her dreams within the winter waves. She paused to issue a final apology to the Elders for her failure when she spotted the dark, rakish figure marring the pallid horizon.

It was as if the city itself had birthed him. Skin as if fashioned from rough-hewn brick. Locks a mass of steel wires coiled forth from his scalp. Eyes as clouded and obscure as frosted glass.

The maiden marveled as the old man seemed to hover effortlessly atop the torrents. She studied him cautiously. “Are you the Blind Man?”

He made no attempt to answer her query, but instead fixed his gaze upon the opaque waves that snaked beneath his soles. With the slightest of gestures, a vessel rose from the turgid waters. “You have called me, child.” The Blind Man solemnly settled himself over the craft and motioned for her to join him. “Come.”

The young maiden stumbled towards the vessel, hastily scrambling to climb aboard. As she regained her footing upon the craft, the Blind Man placed a strange fruit within her eager grasp. The maiden bit ravenously into the fruit and was at first taken aback by its bitter taste, but hunger overcame her reluctance as she consumed its flesh. Soon all that remained was a smooth metallic pit she rolled thoughtfully in her palm.

The Blind Man nodded in approval. “All things for a price.” He contemplated the encroaching cityscape as the craft crept through icy currents. “One coin to journey to the city and one to journey back.”

The maiden smiled. “How much will it cost to make me holy?”

The Blind Man plucked the metallic pit from her hands and cast it into the waters. “That you have already paid.”

“Then share the Word with me. Let me know the ways and deeds of our creators. Tell me of the beginning.”

A smile flashed across the Blind Man’s face as if lightning draining from dark clouds. “The beginning? No. I can only tell you of our beginning. For there are still things mortals are not meant to know. And that is one.”

“Then tell of our beginning then.”

“Yes. How fitting to tell of our beginning at this, my very end.” Carefully, the Blind Man pulled two coins from his cloak and balanced one upon the lid of each eye. “There. Now I can see. And so we shall begin.”

The Beginning

“In this place, there was once nothing. A vast emptiness stretched as far and as wide as one could conceive. And soon Darkness came, and settled herself within the Void, filling the entirety with her sable waves.” The Blind Man paused for a series of moments to watch night sweep the sun across the sky. When the first stars made their presence known in the violet firmament, he continued. “And wherever there is Darkness so shall there ever be Light. For Light desires the Great Mother even still, and will pursue her in every realm to which she flees.”

“And when Light discovered Darkness in this place we call our realm, he forced himself upon and within her, and laid his seed deep inside her black folds. And as the eons passed his child grew hard and strong in the Great Mother’s womb, encased in an egg of fire. Darkness groaned with labor as the egg issued forth. And as it spun in a pool of her inky blood, she whispered words of love and tenderness to it. But Darkness could not stay with her child; for she knew that Light would come for her once more. And she could not bear it. And so she fled, discarding the egg in the black remnants of her tears and blood.” The coins atop the Blind Man’s eyelids began to tremble. “She abandoned him.”

“Great fissures began to appear and streams of fire crackled and hissed round the egg! And as Life tore into being, the shell shattered, casting fiery fragments across the pool of darkness. And so they remain today. Our worlds. Our stars. No more than bits and pieces of a discarded husk.”

Tears pooled below the coins. Carefully, the Blind Man wiped the wet and weathered skin beneath his sightless eyes. “And so Life, great scion of the greatest of beings, gazed mournfully into the pool of his mother’s blood and the remains that once housed him. So astounded he was by his own reflection hidden beneath the thin film of galaxy, that he dipped his fingers within, giving rise to his own dark likeness. And so Life, no longer alone, would have a constant companion in Death, a sister and lover formed from a portion of his own essence and his mother’s blood.”

“All that is. All that we are. We are brought forth by Life, journey through the remnants of Light and Darkness, and are taken by Death to begin it all anew. All that is and all that will be. Until what remains of Light finally dims and the droplets of Darkness grow hard and cold.”

The Blind Man removed the coins from his eyes as the vessel touched upon the city’s shore. Instinctively, he reached for the maiden’s hand to help her disembark. “It is not the tale you wished for, no? No angels or demons. No tricksters of man. No decree that one force shall hold dominion over another.”

The maiden shuddered. “It is a cold story. And heartless.”

“And that is why the common man must not know it.” The Blind Man placed his woolen cloak around her frame and pulled it tight, wrapping her as if a child within the soft cloth. Slowly, he lowered her to the ground. “But now that I have told you of the beginning, you cannot leave without learning of the end. For all accounts that are holy must be taught in pairs so that one may balance the other.”

“And then will I be holy?”

“Holy?” He motioned for her to be silent, then placed a copper coin upon each of the young maiden’s heavy lids. Amber lights from long since abandoned skyscrapers twinkled softly in the distance. “It is ordained that the Word will be within you. Now, listen.”

The City

“Angels and demons. Gods and goddesses. All spirits are formed and reformed according to the whims of man.” The Blind Man circled the prone body of the young maiden. Rigid steps left soft tracks in the wet sand beneath them. “A goddess is no more than a woman who was once loved. Would you care to be one, I could make it so.”

The maiden erupted in light peals of nervous laughter. As she fidgeted, coins danced upon her eyelids. “Are you saying that the scriptures of the old ones are not true? That we worship false idols?”

“I am saying that the coins you cast into the harbor are perhaps best served residing in your own pocket.” The Blind Man smiled as he bent down to tap at one of the copper mounds. “Though is Love a falsehood? Truth be told, it is currently formless, but has man not created it? Has he not given life to it through his energy and will? And should man call her Ezili or Aphrodite, is Love any less real?”

A small frown marred the young maiden’s face as she contemplated her mentor’s words. “Love? No. Love is real. But Ezili and Aphrodite are not.”

“Because man no longer honors the goddess. But he believes in love. And so Love remains.” Spreading his arms wide, the Blind Man raised his palms to the heavens. In the distance, lights began to flicker and die as darkness enveloped the harbor. “And Ezili was once as real as you or I.”

“Master, I—”

“Hush, child.” He brushed the coins from the young maiden’s eyes and pressed his withered palms against youthful lids. Her vigor intoxicated him. And yet, sober words fell upon her waiting ears. “I am old, child. I am so very old. But your people keep me alive, venturing to this city for generation after generation. Plucking treasures from its pathways. Keeping me covered in your coins.”

“W-what are you?”

His voice was no longer human. “You? You will be the last of your clan to set foot upon my shores, but it was fitting for one of your kind to be here to witness my end. After all, I was born through your blood; my existence sprang from your labor. And you and your people shall be reborn though me.” He slid his hand down upon her belly; a dark sigil arose from his touch. “You will take your people and go west. They will follow you because you are holy. They will worship you because you are marked. New worlds will be born of your journey. And I will be able to rest.”

“This is our home! I cannot—”

“You can and will. The fruits of labor already reside within you, bitter though they may be. Peace be with you, Mother of Cities. May your name ring out until Light fades and Darkness has grown cold.”

“Father?” Cautiously she opened her eyes and beheld the barren horizon.

The Blind Man was gone.

A maiden no more, the young woman climbed aboard the waiting vessel. The sigil upon her belly glowed, a lone beacon in the ubiquitous night.