Lily Von Valley
Dedicated to my sister,
and the Lustre of Jewels
Lily Von Valley
THE SIMON STUDIOS 2015
JULIET WAS DRAWN by the intensely-lit moon piercing the lace curtains, and noticed the interplay of rich bright colours and patterns being penned against the disappearing twilight sky, emerging as her signature. It was as if the sky was conflating the unfurling letters which were briefly shimmering, and the desolate pitch of space.
At that very point she felt a force pulling her vigorously towards the drawing-room window, where she had sat pondering the sky, and the shutters forcefully opened as if pulled by some supernatural force. She somehow knew that it was the moon because it had beckoned to her in her recurring dream, although she had never succumbed to it.
This time its force was too strong to resist. It pulled her upwards like an arrow shooting through the open window: the incredible speed was cutting the atmosphere and parting the clouds. She was flying upwards until she reached another level altogether, a fugue state that was activated by giddying and fantastically coloured visions: the iridescent and inter-looping strands emanating from bizarre circles made her feel faint; the vital and extravagant process of continual re-creation had totally submerged and incapacitated her from comprehending what was happening. And just when regeneration and continuity seemed boundless and infinite and captivating, she was overtaken by an intolerable slumber…
SHE WOKE IN DARKNESS, still light-headed and dazed by the effects of her experience, which conjured up the remnants of dying light; the fading strands and circles were still looping inside her head. But everything remained dark outside it—not even a hint of light. Confused and disorientated, she couldn’t comprehend the events that had taken place. Why had her name been written across the skies? And what was this all-engulfing darkness? Might it have been magic, casting an incredible spell over her? She pondered. It might even have been her mortality on its pier journeying to heaven. She wondered, but nothing made sense.
She couldn’t work out if she were dead or alive because, it was so dark, and not knowing stoked her fear further, raising yet more questions. And suddenly, she noticed the change in the sky, causing a great relief in her. The same kinetic spectacle as before, the multiple colour formations, and glistening, shifting patterns occurring and recurring precisely as she was contemplating or pondering questions. It was a world in constant flux, brilliant patterns that moved with the same rapidity: everything appeared, disappeared, and reappeared in an instant, continually filling the whole sky with the colours of the spectrum. But it abruptly halted again just as she was being consumed by it all.
Dark Contour Developing
THE COLOURS RETREATED AT ONCE, generating the swooshing sound of a great vacuum swallowing everything in its path. Something which looked like a sandstorm was being stirred up, forming and growing from nothingness, taking shape, about twenty yards away from her, speedily heading in her direction. She could see that each grain of sand had a speck of light, looking all together like a medley of tiny illuminated spots, erratically dancing in mid-air. At its centre, a shadowy dark contour was developing as the sand edged closer. Trying to scream, but unable to, all she could do to protect herself was to cower and bury her face in her hands, till the storm abruptly ceased and the sand dissipated. The grains left on the floor were blown away by the last gust of the dying wind, revealing a black onyx floor with white specks, on which stood two black, studded hooves.
The Lustre of Jewels
FOR A SECOND, all was still. Then the hooves began stamping vigorously, as if with a sense of immediacy, trying to communicate with her, trying to command her attention. Then she heard the bellowing voice of the figure saying, “Arise,” followed by a repetition of resonating and sharply echoing sounds in the skies above: “arise, arise…” She raised her eyes ever so slowly and steadily, and beheld the figure, simultaneously observing that she had been transported to the middle of a great gilded hall, and was alone except for the hoofed figure.
The hall was truly amazing; it staggered her. She swayed from side to side, barely able to retain her balance as she struggled to conceptualise its beauty. It was structured underneath a great dome which was crafted from the lustre of iridescent mother-of-pearl and exquisitely coloured gems, and supported by translucent walls, produced in equal measure and quality from the lustre of the most beautiful pearls. She could never have imagined that an Architect might transform the lustre of jewels into magical buildings!
Crow-like Feathered Cloak
SHE FELT HER ATTENTION being forcibly drawn to the figure, while tearing herself away with difficulty from the marvellous structure around her. Her first impression of the figure was how antithetical it was, how it bore no affinity to the splendid place.
It was visually dense, and made more so by its dark trappings. Any spark or ray that ventured in its direction got lost, absorbed by its attire. It wore a deep, midnight-coloured, crow-like feathered cloak, covering its entire body, and draping its hoofed feet. Upon its head was a gasket made from flint that lowered into a thinly-encrusted flag-stone visor concealing the face to the neck, except for the slits for its eyes which revealed neither flesh nor eyeballs, and from which she could just barely see a burning amber flame.
“’Tis not a satyr!” she thought, recoiling whether from bewilderment or fear, but certain that it was the most mysterious sight she had ever encountered. Placing her delicate hands over her mouth as if shielding the figure’s ears from the words she was about to utter, she loudly exclaimed:
“Fie, Fie, what art thou that mine eyes behold? Art thou wretched or kindly?”
Stranger than Strange
SHE FELL, quietly retreating backwards, and panting loudly, as if her heart was about to burst. She felt afraid. It remained firm, still, motionless, expressionless, implacable. That pause; that bit of time; that which seemed a considered pause which turned taut, and super refined, stretched out and intensified into time that was about to snap. Then, by a mere gesture it removed her hands from her mouth, without even having come into contact with her: this was stranger than strange. But she summoned up her courage and continued her questions.
“Art thou the Angel of Death, claiming my life, which was borrowed but for a while? Or art thou a Daemon seeking to possess me, if thou hast not already done so? Or art thou a wizard, for good or ill? Pray, tell me… pray, tell me, I charge you!”
She was still trying to exert control over her quivering body. It did not answer, but instead gestured once more, willing her to observe the splendid shapes of the clouds gliding above, presently gathering, and pluming into rapturous, monstrous petals, transforming into shafts of pure light scattering into vivid shades and textures in the Skies, unfurling and rising and falling, from horizon to horizon, an intangible, but real, multi-hued palette.
SHE WAS BEDAZZLED. Excitement gripped her amidst the surreal reality that had enthralled her, losing all track of everything, except that she was now no longer afraid. The fear had receded, like everything else. Reality, for her, seemed lucid and allusive: before she could capture it, it ebbed away. But she still had a burning curiosity to know what was happening, where she was, and who the figure was. But it seemed to her that each question she formulated accessed another weird and transforming dimension which was always unravelling before her, as her thoughts and questions progressed. And even though they appeared only to unlock more magical and delightful spectacles, the figure remained impassive:
“Who art thou? Why hast thou brought me hither?”
And still it did not answer.
“I implore thee, for I know not what hath befallen. Pray, tell me, Lord I charge you again!”
But this time the figure gestured in that same silent manner, and without coming into contact tilted Juliet’s head up slightly so that her nostrils would fully capture the glorious, potent fragrance in the air which was surrounding her, and causing her pupils to dilate. It was of the most sweet, and most delicate, variation. Infusing a musk-like scent that was both familiar and unfamiliar, like, and yet unlike anything that she had ever smelt before. More so, it had a soporific charm, and a lulling quality that swiftly rendered her senseless once more.
But this time it was a waking dream. She was gliding in the enveloping clouds, carried in the haze of perfumed vapour; etherised and cocooned, fluff-like, against the sky.
She was acutely conscious of the supreme aroma, and that she was embarking on a journey to the farther reaches of the skies. She sensed the figure’s presence there, but it was invisible, and somehow silently unfolding the answers to her previous questions, and more, through time and dark space. And it conjured from what unimaginable depths elaborately decorated sheets of parchment that seemingly without assistance turned over, one after another, imbuing her with the knowledge she so desperately craved.
After which, they flowered into a magical and sensual garden, of iridescent bouquets spurting indescribable perfumes.
At this stage she couldn’t help but think, that aesthetics was mimicking decadence tinged with artificiality, but imbued with life. Heightening and maddening her senses beyond containment…
Lapiz Lazuri Arches
AT PRECISELY THE POINT when night began to give way to dawn, she began to wake to a strong scent of sulphur, and perceived the breath-taking metamorphic lapis lazuli arches, rising majestically from the dark, and from the misty-blue dew being penetrated by the early glow of light. The arches were of the finest Arabian blue, contrasted with a brilliant white marble floor which they framed. The corridor gleamed, and seemed like an interminable, long, pulsating pool as the sun’s beams dipped and bounced off its water, and mingled with the lapis and the golden inclusions of pyrites, which shimmered opaquely like a living mirage, rippling along its entire length.
She knew she’d have to walk down the corridor, carefully, precisely, in a straight line, one foot in front of the other. In fact, she was almost gliding over the marble floor, barely touching it. It was the effect of the slippers she wore, which no words could adequately describe. She’d noticed, in addition, that she was robed anew: a single–length, white lace gown covered her body, as if concealing her modesty, and a scalloped-edged white silk shawl was draped over her head, as though to veil her beauty: both were long, voluminous pieces of delicate fabric that draped over her figure, her sweeping train trailing behind.
Beauty, and a Comely Look
AS SHE APPROACHED CLOSER to the arches they began to widen, the offered perspective like that of some exquisite jewelled painting—the arches in the foreground expanding beyond measure, with a succession of arches narrowing into the distance. As she moved through the corridor, a few doors flung open as she neared them. The crow-like cloaked figure then reappeared with two others, who positioned themselves one at either side of Juliet: in front of her the crow-like figure beckoned her to enter through the blue arch, pointing to the bolted door, which immediately unbolted and swung open. With it came the aromas of frankincense, myrrh, and jasmine-infused air, and a cloying, musky blend of dried blossoms, saffron, cinnamon, and vanilla. It was like an olfactive sensual explosion, as when essential oils are distilled, their aromas settling over an Arabian Souk.
But just as the sensual ecstasy she was experiencing was pushing her beyond febricity, and becoming almost unbearable, she sensed that someone else was there!
He was a man of the deepest Eastern beauty and comely appearance, whose eyes were further defined by the jet-black kohl he wore, and his thick black eyelashes. He was lovingly and gently combing the silken jet-black hair of each of the maidens in his company, while oiling the individual strands from magnificent purple and golden vats next to the amber, red, and black crushed-velvet divans upon which the maidens languidly sprawled. They were just as comely as he, and had arresting smiles beautifully formed across their faces. And he thus began:
“Many maidens, whose love I could never requite, were maddened by my beauty. Just as Ophelia was driven to madness by her seemingly unrequited love for Hamlet, so many a noble mariner was lured to his doom by the painfully unrequitable song of the sirens.”“But beauty and love ought to bear no decay or madness. Thus henceforward I shall love the fair maidens equally. For I am Solomon.”
He paused, then continued:
“Upon thee shall I bestow the knowledge of beauty and grant thee requited love. Thy True Love will hold thy heart in his as could no other with a gladness unlike any that hath passed,. It will form the beauty of your song, strung with beauty and love in the creation of strands coming together as one.”
He smiled a smile unlike she’d ever witnessed, and every negative thing that she had ever felt, flowed away, leaving her with only the embodiment of serenity, and a deep engulfing feeling of “love”, and “beauty”. It saturated her, bathing her in an unadulterated calmness and tranquillity, and any remotely unconformable emotions simply drained away.
AND THEN, and the crow-like figure on the left ushered her towards another arch. She entered it and saw that a solitary female of the most astounding grace and beauty sat spinning a long length of a finely woven fabric. She gazed up at Juliet, and thus began:
“Juliet, thy train is long and of the fairest beauty…I spun it for thee – I am the Weaver of Time…and the fabric I knit for thee is of the most precious yarn: it is thy life—without it, thou wilt cease to exist.”
After a pause, she went on:
“Thou art bound by Time, of which but a tiny portion hath granted thee passage. Thy journey, complex yet beautiful, will blossom for many moons in thy worldly sphere: use it wisely”.
Then she faded.
AT THAT MOMENT Juliet was ushered by the crow-like figure on her right towards a staircase at the centre of another great arch, which they ascended. At the top, a mezzanine level had a pole erected from the base to the roof from which were hung vast tapestries, and shimmering satin silks. They formed the walls of a kind of great pavilion, in the centre of which were figures silently and densely clustered around a different sultry maiden. They had been intently listening, attracted by the mesmerising quality of her oration. It was a most achingly binding and captivating narrative, by the young maiden who turned her head towards Juliet, and thus she spoke:
“My tale is a life force which, once upon a time, was narrated to the Khalifet of Baghdad over a thousand-and-one moons in exchange for my life, and freedom”
She paused, then continued
“For I am Shahrazad, and my hikayat are infinite and enchanting: I bestow upon thee the Eternal Word as a gift, and by thy dexterity shalt thou temper structures of eloquence, which will never fail thee. But be warned: employ the craft wisely, and never misuse it.”
She too disappeared.
The Opulent Bed
AS BEFORE, with one on either side and a third in front, they descended what had now been transformed into an elaborately gilded and winding golden staircase. This time Juliet was directed by the third cloaked figure from the front, who gestured towards another arched level where she was brought before three more maidens, to whom the figure delivered an ornate book.
One of the maidens was so radiant and emotionally intense that when she spoke, radiating musical vibrations that could be felt and heard:
“I am Empress Ora, presiding over modern suns…and I am in awe of you, as is your betrothed, your True Love, although he has never laid eyes upon you.”
The second said:
“I am the Princess Espirella, and I confirm that your True Love aspires to be with you, as his only wish, and even though he has never set eyes set upon you, he has entwined your heart with his.”
And the third said:
“I am Queen, the Majesty of Stars…and we, in our ethereal Royal Kingdom, all bow to you, as did your True Love when he blew his spirit upon yours and blazed your name upon the skies in a declaration of his eternal love.”
As she fell silent, absorbing what had been said, she perceived that all their robes had been transfigured into costumes cut from panels of roses woven by the Time-Maiden of the first arch. Their floral couture panels accentuated their curves as well as the bloom of the rose. The three made a synchronised gesture, pointing her to the opulent four-poster bed, which dominated the chamber. Its canopy was patterned from golden turquoise and azure embroidery from the thread of coral; its undulating drapery cascading in golden trellises leaving a lingering lustrous beauty. It was of an opulence that she had only read about in fairy tales. The three gathered around her as if she were Venus, about to take flight from her shell, beseeching her to stay but for a second longer.
But she couldn’t contain herself any longer. It was too much too bear. And she yawned with heavy eyes, and drooping eyelids, and a willingness to slip in between the magical sheets below her feet that were gently and softly alluring her to them. And before she knew it, she was in the bed… caressed by the silken sheets… and she fell into a sound sleep, with only the lustre of jewels, gems, and pearls of the pavilions and walls, and the lapis lazuli of the blue arches continuing to radiate in her sleeping mind…
Lavish praise heaped upon this dazzling new star in the literary firmament
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
Not since the days of W.M. Turner has Margate played host to such intoxicating artistic talent!
(TOM DICKON-HARRY, THE MARGATE MERCURY)
Dreamy and ornate, drawing inspiration from Beardsley, Wilde, the Thousand-and-One Nights, The Bible, The Koran… (HEBRIDES BAILEY, THE JOURNAL OF SCHEHERAZADEAN STUDIES)
Wonderfully descriptive… Vivid, fantastical, feminine, sensual… Ethereal, other-worldly, colourful—an exhilarating tour-de-force!
(GASPARD DE LA NUIT, FINCHLEY CAFÉ SOCIETY REVIEW)
Source: The Skies