by Slawomir Rapala
The Diaries of Mr. Ignatius Donnelly,
Found Aboard a Ship Deserted on the Arctic Ocean
Atlantis is calling me. I hear her whispering into my ear as I lie awake at night. I look at the ocean and see her glistening towers rising from the dark waters...
Oh, Atlantis, Atlantis...
The last of my crew died this morning. I committed his body to the sea...
I am alone. There is no nothing save the black ocean and the icebergs...
Oh, Atlantis... All those who ventured to write of Love, they have failed. Their description of the passion engulfing a man who learns to love, their depiction of the passion that swallows him whole, it falls miles short.
Why is that, I ask?
The answer is deceptively simple: no one possesses the talent needed to depict Love fully. A writer, no matter how gifted, cannot depict it, because he is bound by the limits of his language. A painter may perhaps capture a glimpse of Love but will others see it the same manner as he? Impossible, I say. A sculptor may spend years trying to depict Love, but he is bound to fail as well, though he may be praised for having the talent and perseverance.
People will admire what these artists create, they will nod their heads in false understanding and agreement, and pretend to see what the artist wants them to see, but how can they? Impossible, I say again. Love is different to each person and manifests Itself in a multitude of different ways. And they say God works in mysterious ways. Nay, I say, unless Love is God...
Whoever you are, dear reader, what can you know of Love? You have not seen Atlantis. I have. In my dreams I see her every night.
I’m very old and tired. I feel as if I have already seen everything there is to see, experienced everything a man may. I fear that after having gone through so much, there is now a gap between me and the rest of humanity.
My friends, my family, acquaintances, they are all thousands of miles away...
I feel as if I was taken out of a comfortable cocoon in which I have lived for many years, taken to heaven and allowed a glimpse of it. And although I saw perhaps only a fragment of what there is to see, I was so in love with that vision of beauty, peace, love and harmony that I wanted to leave earth and enter heaven. But they had locked the gates of this astonishing place and left me standing alone somewhere between heaven and earth. Alone and unwilling to return to my everyday existence. Alone and unable to enter the only place where I ever felt peace.
I have been here ever since, standing in this same spot like a wretch, not knowing what to do. I keep hoping against all odds that if I continue to knock at the gates, eventually they will have to open and let me in, or at least I will be told to go to away.
Ah, my wretched plight! Atlantis, Atlantis...!
Right now, there is nothing. Just the earth below me and the iron gates of heaven before me, those hateful gates that I loathe. They may not even know of my being here, floating amidst the icebergs. Perhaps they do not need me. Perhaps they are afraid that I will ruin their perfect harmony, that my lowly self and humble presence will somehow desecrate their haven... Perhaps I cannot admit my shortcomings, those small human failings that keep the gates closed before me. I keep deceiving myself that I am a good person only so that I may go to sleep with a smile and look with hope towards a better tomorrow...
My fingers grow numb from the cold. I can hardly hold a pen now...
She is nearing. The call is stronger now. Atlantis is near...
When I first saw her, I was mesmerized.
I will never forget the first sight of her, when her awesome towers rose from the sea. They shimmered in the sun and spread a heavenly light for miles on end. It was as if they had gathered the light of the sun, all of the world’s light and spread it forth...
Though far away on the deck of my ship, I saw the guards, tall and handsome men, pacing the walls of the city. Cascades of water for centuries have polished the stone. I had to shield my eyes. The sight was too much.
An ageless city, Atlantis. Oh, Plato, you fool! What did you know of it when you chiseled your words into stone?
I have spent my life convincing the world of her existence. Many have called me a fraud. Many have laughed openly. Aye, but they had not seen her.
I pity them. Atlantis is marvelous. And Atlanteans are magnificent.
I met my first Atlantean years ago. He spoke a strange dialect which many mistook for just another Balkan language. He was tall and proud, and his noble features had already inspired painters and artists.
He had come to read my works. The Antediluvian World, my monumental accomplishment, my proof of Atlantis, he cast away with distaste. I was hurt.
He read my poems instead, and my stories. Some moved him and he committed them to memory. Amazing how easily he learned our tongue. He spent two weeks with me and spoke it well after that time. He even acquired my accent.
I asked him questions, which he dismissed with a smile.
He painted Atlantis. It was a breathtaking work of art. I spent the night watching the colours fade away and the shapes disappear from the canvas. No proof of Atlantis, he whispered. And my book? He laughed. They will not believe you, he said.
He disappeared and left me yearning for Atlantis.
She is moving. She is coming.
The current is strong and she floats with it, nearing my ship with each hour. I can feel the draw. Often now I sit on the deck and look out into the ocean.
How much longer? I have little food left. The cold at night is intense. My crew is dead. I fear scurvy.
It took me nearly a decade to recreate the painting that the Atlantean had completed in less than an hour. And, I must admit, it was nothing but a mere caricature of his work. Yet he had left enough clues in it to lead me to Atlantis.
Another decade. His short excursion and my life’s quest.
The towers glistened. The gates opened and he came forth on a chariot drawn by giant sea-snakes whose fiery breath warmed the cold Arctic air. He had not aged a day, though more than twenty years had passed. I have changed. But time had not yet found Atlantis. Its steady current passes by her and she remains unchanged, unaltered by the ages. Eternally happy and young.
He led me towards the gates and allowed me a look. A look! After twenty years of searching, here was my reward!
And yet it was more than I had hoped for. I gazed upon beauty unsurpassed, upon peace unmet elsewhere. Olympus, Utopia, Eden... all shadows. Her beauty inflamed my heart and stopped it in its beat. My heart had stopped as time had stopped, and I spent a lifelong moment gazing upon the lost city of Atlantis.
Someone must have painted this scene and me in it, stealing a glance into heaven. I remained in this still frame for centuries. Time did not exist. Only peace.
I woke on the deck of my ship. Atlantis was gone. There was nothing around me save the black ocean and the scattered icebergs looming dangerously above me.
I spent my life searching for Atlantis. I searched for her before I knew her, and I searched for her afterwards.
It’s like building sand castles. You craft one according to a careful design, putting a great deal of time and effort into it. Then you guard it against the water, the wind, and the envious people who wish to destroy it. But, alas, you cannot be there at all times and eventually the sand breaks apart and the castle falls. Maybe helped by an angry tide, or the vicious wind, or maybe by envious people. Or perhaps it crumbles away all by itself because it was made of sand?
Sand castles are not meant to last. For a while I was mad enough to think that one would, that the dream of Atlantis would continue forever.
She is here. Her call is strong. Oh, Atlantis, Atlantis...
When was the last time you simply looked at a sunset for a moment even without thinking about anything except how playful the colours are, how the red reaches a darker shade with each passing minute; how it battles the blue and the pink and the yellow and the orange; how it wins inch after inch and how finally red turns to blackness and engulfs the earth completely?
I’m off now to look at my last sunset. Perhaps I will see her towers once again before my eyes close to the setting sun. Perhaps the gates will open and a pair of sea-snakes will come forth to fetch me and lead me into an eternal dream...
Copyright © 2006 by Slawomir Rapala