Blesok no. 59, March-April, 2008
Prose


The Witch
(excerpt)

Venko Andonovski


53.


Three days later, on 20 August in the year of our Lord 1633, padre Benjamin received the following records in the city magistrate:
    Records of 18 August 1633 on the court questioning by torture of Johana Gracijanić, born somewhere in the East, assumed: in the district of Macedonia.
    Confiscated from her: one sorcery bag, with a number of unusual hollow needles, with colors made of herbs, for which the accused claims have been used to create “pictures” on the body, most probably Devil's seals. Thus, there is a reasonable doubt that she is a Devil's confidant: she is literate, but of no noble origin. She admits that she is a daughter of Isian, the pastor of Macedonia. Also confiscated from the bag: herbs she claims she has used for healing, although the court also knows of practices of making poisonous potions out of this very same, above mentioned herbs. Also: a magnifying glass, a gift of her prosecutor, reverend Florian, which has most probably been altered in purpose by the witch, in accordance with her devilish skills, since she carried it with her.
    Confiscated from the old man: one mysterious writing book with black leather covers and yellow parchment, composed with illegible eastern Macedonian letters, with a title that means “A Book about the Book” (this is said by the accused since she also knows our Croatian language). She says that the writing book is hers and that she lost it in his house on the night the old man was arrested, and she escaped the search party. According to her statement, she had written and composed the book herself. This strange witch has written her thoughts about letters and books in it. This strange composition of hers has a heretical learning that colors are the same as the sounds and smells, and our Holy Lord was not perfect and that he had allegedly forgotten to give us another sense, that is, that the most perfect book would be the one written in flesh, lustful, lecherous smells instead of words, for the words are the real Word, and only God is the Word and light. Other devilish, midnight and moon studies are elaborated there as well, such as the one that the most perfect and most passionate, eternally changeable book, the one eternally in creation and loss would be the one of circular shape. The wiring book is filled in calligraphy, which, after a check has been determined to indeed belong to the accused.

Records:
In the year of our Lord 1633, on 18 August, in the watch tower of the free and royal city of Zagreb on Grički hill, fully inside the walls and the fortification walls of the city and the district, on the usual torture place, Johana Gracijanić, based on the conclusion of the master inquisitor was first duly and in the Christian spirit encouraged and seriously warned to discover what was to be discovered. However, since she still persisted in denying, she was handed at 6 o'clock in the morning to the Minister of Justice, the torturer, so that he can examine her body and find devil's seals. The seal was found immediately, in the shape of a lively colored butterfly under her belly, towards the private place which in itself verifies the truth that this poor thing had allowed the Devil to seal her with such a visible and shameful sign that the torturer, after he had cut it off her body, showed it to the honorable court of the city of Zagreb with a horrible shame and visible disgust. When asked when and how the Devil had sealed her, the accused said that she had marked herself, with needles and colors for writing on the skin. The seal clearly shows the two Latin letters that the butterfly is made of in inseparable connection, in a lecherous embrace: J and B, which indicates that the Devil probably bears a name that starts on B.
Large drops of sweat ran down the forehead of padre Benjamin. Tears fell from his eyes. His eyes followed the small letters of the record taker:
Upon this remark, the witch Johana answered by an excuse that she had never seen the devil nor copulated with him that she knows of no name that starts in B. Since she denied, at six thirty she was subjected to torture by tying and constriction of her arms. She sustained on this torture device until nine thirty when she was taken off the device and handed to the second minister of justice, who put her on stretching ladders.
    After six hours of torture on this device, she was taken off the ladders and returned to her cell due to loss of her strength.
    The torture was continued on midnight on the same day when the accused was put on the stretching ladders again. Until six in the morning on 19 August she was tortured in order to confess that she has caused masculine impotence with her excellent husband, the reverend and already mentioned Florian, but she denied everything. When she was asked how she had obtained various magical herbs and what she used them for, she said that she treated her father, the illusionist and shadow maker, the witch Isian from Macedonia, for whom the excellent master inquisitor had already opened a case with indisputable proofs of heresy. Despite fire being burnt on her loins, the accused would admit to nothing more.
    At six o'clock in the morning she was taken off the device and after an hour of break in which the accused asked for water, for which she has an indisputable right after twelve hours spent in torture, Spanish boot was put on her foot. After two hours spent on this torture device, the accused Johana Gracijanić finally admitted that she copulated with the Devil, in the first night (17 August) when she was brought to the dungeon. She copulated with him in her cell. The fiend appeared in the face of the city inquisitor, addressed her with “mila moja djevojčice” and “ludice moja”, which confirms that the Devil knows all the languages in the world, including Croatian, he promised her salvation if she repented and copulated with him, but she answered that she had nothing to repent for and that she was honorable. After she told him that, he jumped on her and he lived with her with force as a man lives with a woman. It was cold, as well as the semen, which is an indisputable proof that it was the Devil and not our honorable lord, the inquisitor. From the above said one can conclude (and the court council of city dignitaries has concluded this in a special conclusion about this case, under no. 167/4) that the fiend chooses no means in his fight with Our Lord Jesus Christ and that he already dares to take upon himself the appearance of our most excellent and most reverend leaders, especially those who conduct these horribly painful processes filled with temptations, to humiliate them, disgrace them and soil their dignity and respect.
    Verdict: the mentioned Johana shall be burnt in the first hour after sunrise, on 21 August, on Captol, together with her father, the old man Isian, as an example for everybody of the free and royal city of Zagreb, who are tempted to take Devil's seal.
    The book fell from padre Bejamin's hands. His eyes were bloodshot, his mouth was dry; he had no more tears. He looked through the window: the people carried posts and boards for building the stake. At a moment he thought of writing the Pope, beg him on his knees for her life, but he understood that there was no horse faster than death, even if he had light for dinner instead of hay; he understood that the bastard with snake eyes deliberately reached the verdict in a day, and he planned the punishment for the next one. He could do nothing else but wait for a miracle; everything was in God's hands, like that time when the stone took it; not the fire takes what he loves the most! Isn't it the same, padre Benjamin, two faces of the same death?
    Crying, the most perfect letters, meaning in postponing, light of this world, therefore dark!



54.


After a moon phase, an answer arrived that afternoon from Venice, from Galileo the red haired:
    Yes, it is true indeed: I have given up my learning. Write to me no more. I am already blind, for I have seen too much light. My lenses shall see for me, those that I have used to decrease the size, and therefore I suffer from the power, which is great and does not want to be diminished. I have decreased the big: that is my sin. But decreasing the big, I have shown the invisible: God. God is not invisible because he is small, but because he is big and he is found in everything, even in the smallest dust bit. This is something the power does not want to understand.
    Good-bye my dear padre, good-bye.
    Your Galileo Galilei, astronomer and God's interpreter.

* * *

E-mail, 20 August 2005, 20:44
From: papa@yahoo.com
To: redhairedchild@yahoo.com

I have a new address. My name is Papa. You remember, don’t you, what you once told me on the river bank? That you don't care what my name was and that the only thing that I should remember for our next encounter is the name that you gave me: Papa! That you'll find me rather than I find you, even after centuries, if I only remembered this name!
Remember, please remember! Everything is the same: the chemistry, pre-flesh, blood and saliva. You are my spiritual and corporal blessing, my pre-shape, pre-fatherland. Let your atoms remember how we loved each other, with our palms and pupils open, in mills and barns, under the sky and on the ground, under the stars and fireflies.
Remember my dear our summer with bare feet and naked hearts: three thunders, three rainbows. Let us sleep in this short moment that is called eternity until death awakens us.
Tomorrow you shall die, my dear. And I with you, in your fiery shadow, I shall die too. I shall burn in a shining death, so that I wake up with you again in a new birth, In reality.

E-mail, 20 August 2005, 20:50
From: redhairedchild@yahoo.com
To: papa@yahoo.com


It was about time you woke up. If you don't wake up, you'll finish in a madhouse or a prison. For I will report you to the police; my friend was right: this has gone too far. A murder threat! I only want you not to executive her. I know where this is going to: you're getting ready to burn her at the stake. Don't send me parts of the end of the novel as attachments any more, if you don't send me parts form the beginning. Don't be perverse and bastard!


E-mail, 20 August 2005, 20:53
From: papa@yahoo.com
To: redhairedchild@yahoo.com

Wow, wow. You're so mad! Mentioning the police, as a way of an outcome of a novel! This is no Agatha Christie, this is no “Murder at the Orient Express”! You're pissed, I can see you. As if made by Doctor Oetker from vanilla sugar.

E-mail, 20 August 2005, 21:03
From: redhairedchild@yahoo.com
To: papa@yahoo.com

Switch off, stop! I'm in a hurry. I'm going out, I'll finally press “block the message”!

E-mail, 20 August 2005, 22:03
From: redhairedchild@yahoo.
To: papa@yahoo.com

Where have you been for a whole hour?

E-mail, 20 August 2005, 22:07
From: papa@yahoo.com
To: redhairedchild@yahoo.com

Haven't you pressed “block the message”? I was busy: wording your death.

E-mail, 20 August 2005, 22:09
From: redhairedchild@yahoo.com
To: papa@yahoo.com

Well, it's enough! Now I'll really block you. By noon tomorrow. I'm going out with a real guy now: made of flesh and blood rather than paper and ink, as you would say.

E-mail, 20 August 2005, 22:11
From: papa@yahoo.com
To: redhairedchild@yahoo.com

Just try. I'll strangle you.

Delivery failed. The message has been blocked by the recipient.



55.


It was nine o'clock in the evening, on 20 August in the year of our Lord 1633, when the guard unlocked the cell under the fortification walls of the reverend and free royal city of Zagreb and handed a torch to padre Benjamin. The guard held in his hands the red shoes the father had given him as a pay for the secret visit. He looked at them and he could not stop wondering: he smelled them to make sure that they were really lacquered. Then he let the father in and locked the door behind him. “Just be quiet, reverend”, he said. “I'll come in a quarter of an hour. It is quite enough to… besides, she is fully immobile, you can do whatever you want”, he said, grinning obscenely with his mouse-like snout in the semi-darkness.
    Padre Benjamin entered the cell.
    “Papa!” she almost screamed with joy, in disbelief that she had the strength to utter his name. She lied on the floor, in the corner, on her right hip: her left leg was stretched on the side and was unrecognizable under her knee, since it was crushed by the nails of the Spanish boot. She breathed fast and she licked her lower lip: there was a hot blood-shot line along her face where they had whipped her on the day the guards had arrested her. She looked at him and her eyes suddenly got the same shine that belonged to him that summer of theirs, the summer of heated horse shoe, the summer of a single long moon day, (for what is a day, and a man's life if not a moon phase: young moon in the morning, full moon in the noon and waning crescent in the afternoon): it was the shine of the day when they caught a fish, the shine of her sun multiplied in the scales of the carp; the ringing shine of her lisping zh-s and sh-s on the day she caressed his belly, the shine when she would tell him; “Stop sighing, I can's sleep on your belly”. It was the same girl, the same fire that started in padre Benjamin and caught on his robe, leaving him naked to the world; it was the same pomegranate, with the same doe's lips under the rags she was wearing now, only wounded, humiliated and immobile.
    It was the same Joan, except that it was all gone now. Life has run out as small grains of wheat in the watermill though their intertwined palms on the summer that was left behind them, and padre Benjamin knew it, and he also knew that she knew it was so.
    He sat in the corner and put her head in his lap. He started crying as a man, inconsolably, hard. His hot tears fell from his cheeks on her face, and it looked as if she was crying too, with his tears (for lovers also lend tears to each others, not only passionate smells). “Don't cry”, she said. “It's nothing, Papa, don't cry, my Papa! I shall return to what I was made of: fire and light, sunlight and daylight, don't cry, please, for I'll be happy to be what I am: an untamable speed. Is there a bigger happiness than coming home, Papa, to the house of fire, to your Father?” He sobbed louder and louder, in a manly, deadly growl, he sobbed and could not stop, and she continued to comfort him as if he was a little boy:
    “Don't cry Papa, please don't cry: I promise that I'll call you, I'll call you before every storm, Papa; you shall see my soul glowing in the clouds; I shall appear as a rainbow, as three rainbows, not as one; I shall appear as your childhood clouds, in an eternal changes, and I shall appear as the wind, as a butterfly, as the ashes of the wind that is long gone, I shall write you a letter that is alive and loving forever in autumn leaves, when I take them and blow: shshshshshsh!; and I shall sleep on your eyelashes without you noticing me, and don't be angry that you won't notice me Papa, for I will not want to wake you, while you sleep tired of your books and dream of me; I shall appear as a fish, with my insides filled with your unborn children; as a dragonfly that has hidden eternity in a moment, imprisoned life in a day; I shall appear as zh and sh in the mouths of other beautiful girls, you will surely recognize me, Papa, as the amber in the heath; you shall see me Papa, as living amber, when you're old and gray haired, sitting by the fire in a monastery, I shall appear as your shadow, Papa, I promise that I'll call, I shall even appear as Vevčani firefly, if you only call me and if you still love me; I shall appear as a the pupil of a turtle-dove, for it has the same color, the color of the fire; I shall baa as a black lamb, I shall appear as a red pomegranate brought from the south, you shall indulge me Papa, don't cry Papa, we were happy, so let them burn us now, for they know of nothing else but to burn the happy ones, for they envy them, and all learned laws and all world courts and all court wigs and hammers, all the uniforms and ranks, all the marriage arrangements are invented only to forbid to people to burn each other's fire in their bodies and hearts, to tickle their souls in sweet fires, that is why all of this foulness has been invented, to persecute the fire from our lives and bring in order, water that is commanded according to the wanted shape of the vessel, so don't cry Papa, we loved each other, we lived everything in a moon life, in twenty-eight circles of the Earth around the Sun; we burned ourselves, we turned into fire, Papa; you were setting sweet flames on my loins, along my neck, in my thighs, inside me, you have sealed open and close my insides with a kiss and hot stamps, you melted me like old gold and cast me in a church bell, I have burnt for hundreds of times with you Papa, to hell with it, it's nothing, don't cry Papa, tomorrow it shall be nothing compared with all of our fires until not, Papa!” and then she caressed his beard lying in his lap.
    Finally, he calmed down. He looked at each line on her face, for he wanted to remember this image: her perfect triangular mouth, smiling sadly, her ember eyes, her pointed chin, the unextinguished fire. He looked at her face upside-down in his lap: her face of glorious fresco painting, made in a breath of an ancient Slav. He read in her eyes that she was indeed not scared, she was even eager to leave, to become fire, to be with him again, to call him from everywhere, to come to him as the light, as an evening fire set by a shepherd on a distant hill, as a hot summer, as a silent sun sleeping in the sugar of the heavy autumn fruits.
    “I never bought you shoes”, he said all of a sudden, in a reproaching tone.
    “I know you have”, she said, caressing his beard. “Red, lacquered. I can almost see them. And I know that your heart crumbled when you had to give them away: but I no longer need them; if you left barefoot, you don't need shoes, for you walk the light”.
    Then she lifted the rags from her belly and showed him the empty butterfly spot. “See”, she said. “It flew away”. Then she smiled sadly. But she smiled anyway. “It's better off free. They tore its wings, the two letters: they separated them. But I know they will find each other again and they will join”, she said.
    Then they looked at each other long, without words, he wanted to say something, but she said: “Psst! If you want to speak, say something more perfect than the silence”. And he kissed her on the forehead. “You, tomorrow… you will watch?”, she asked suddenly. He swallowed: silent tears still ran down his cheeks and neck. He said: “Lovers die with the same breath”. And she knew that her Papa will be there. “I want to see your eyes while I leave. I want it to be the last image that will settle in my pupil, the door of love and death. I want to have a feeling that you take me your firm hot hands and that you walk with me to the rainbows”.
    She smiled sadly and ran her finger along his lower lip, as he did with her the first time, in the watermill. “Death is a door”, she said. “You just pass from one room to the other. But you are in the same house, my bit of dust: in the universe. I shall wait, I shall wait for an eternity if I have to, so that you land on my palms again. I breathed too passionately, and that is why I lost you”, she said.
    And then they were quiet.
”Angels have passed”, he said. “Yes”, she said. “Angels whose day grew shorter by a lightning”.
Death is a door; indeed, the door did open: the rat stood on it, with a torch in his hand.
Then she looked at him and said: “Go now, my Papa. It will be easier if you leave. Besides, you shall see that when you arrive where you have started from, my voice will be there and it will wait for you, since it will arrive there before you”.
He did not understand the last sentence. He looked at her in wonder, and she said: “Go, run, for my voice has already left”. And he thought that she was entering some pre-mortal delirium, as Dorica Vugrinec, and he shivered. He carefully laid her head on the floor, as if leaving the most precious thing, he kissed her on the lips and with tears in his eyes he felt her breath: a breath of an animal scared to death.
There was no secret salvation door.
Then the guard pulled padre Benjamin roughly to the exit, and everything that padre Benjamin heard was the heavy metal door cruelly and mercilessly bang closed behind him.
    The light bearing rat walked behind him. At the first step he said: “It seems that master inquisitor still has better time with you friars”, he said. “He always leaves the cells in a good mood”.
    Padre Benjamin walked in front of the light bearer fallen under ground, one step before his light; when a man rushes he even goes before the light, the same as if he walks behind it: he walks in darkness. He smiled for the first time in his life with the edge of his lips, where rage has accumulated. Rage heavy as a bag of black and barren stones.

Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska




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