We are pleased to present the first Istadarium story.
A non professional writer has accepted our challenge to write a micro story taking inspiration from 52 photographs that we chose from the Iger’s. We will call it “a bonsai story” because it is only 19.364 characters “long”, almost like 4 chants from Dante’s Inferno, developed in micro episodes, one every Sunday, from the beginning of the calendar to the end. Enjoy the reading.
Title: Images between zero and one
Autor: Luca Agliardi
Characters: Chicco and Brezza, Marko and the waitress, Ines, Fire-Eater,
The woman of the pendulum
You know, said Brezza, at times like these I think of how lucky we are to live here. How many people can now breathe this air and free their mind into infinity. Chicco was left slightly behind, but when he finally reached the girl, he took a deep breath and let all that marvel fill him like water in a bottle.
From the kitchen of the shelter came an inviting scent. They had walked a lot to get there, and now they were looking forward to coming to the table and rest. The sky outside the window announced a night full of stars, provided that the clouds would let them see them.
What can I get you? The waitress asked. The dish of the day? Said Chicco. Ratatuille, she said, diced vegetables with a few secret ingredients. Secrets, said Brezza, I bet my boyfriend would recognize them. Did you hear that Marko, the waitress shouted. Loud and clear replied the chef from the kitchen, if he can, I’ll offer the dinner, if not he washes up!
You always get me in trouble, said Chicco. You seem different, said Brezza, as if you were afraid. You’re right, the boy whispered looking at the misty window, in fact I feel bored. I know a way to fix it, we could... Here you are, two hot ratatouille, the waitress said putting the steaming plates in front of them.
Everybody at the other tables waited for the challenge. Come on boy, said Marko, the dishes await! Brezza took his hand, it’s easy! Chicco tasted the ratatouille: tomatoes, zucchini, the usual. He felt something light, like a distant sound: he was small again, playing in the autumn, among orange trees. He put down the spoon: thyme! All eyes were on the cook: right!
Another thought, this time it was cold but it wasn’t winter, a long lit corridor that led to a dark door. Brezza felt his hand held. An expression of sadness was painted on the young man’s face, as if trying to escape from an event for which it was intended. Unaware of this, the waitress said, see, you don’t know. Marjoram whispered Chicco. Quite right! Marko admitted defeat.
Shall we go out a second? Said Brezza. Where are you going? Asked with surprise the waitress. We’ll be back, apologized the girl, closing the door behind them. The clouds were gone, as if the sunset had stepped back to give a little more light to the day. Wanna talk about it? No, he answered dryly, I want to be silent and listen to the sound of the world.
The bell on the door jingled, and the two resumed their seats. Here we are, Marko had to offer a drink to everyone. I’m sorry, Chicco said. I’m not, replied the waitress, I haven’t enjoyed myself like this for long time, and even if that stubborn cook would never admit it, you have brought a little joy even to his heart. Here are two hot ratatouille and a slice of cake. On the house!
The two finished eating and went outside for one last breath of air before going to bed. You know, Brezza said, I like to see smoke coming from the chimneys, it reminds me of home. I was thinking about what happened today, said Chicco, I think we need an adventure, something crazy. What do you propose? Brezza asked curiously. You’re asking as if you would like to take part, he replied with a smile.
The sky was full of stars: a city a day, we enter the station and we get on the first train and travel until we want to go home. The night was playing his best intruments, Chicco leaned against a tree in adoration. I’m in! Brezza took a stone from the ground: we’ll leave tomorrow, and in the end, we’ll bring this stone home!
In the morning, the two went down and found the room empty. I also offer you breakfast? Marko yelled from the kitchen. Shut up and bring two croissants, the waitress said. The cook leaned on the counter two croissants still smoking hot that they happily ate. Here you are, the woman concluded, handing them cups of coffee: what plans do you have? We are going back to the city, said Brezza, but will start our journey again!
For where? Asked the woman. We want to explore, said Chicco. You are really energetic, but looking at you, you won’t get far. The woman went into the kitchen, leaving the two speachless. When she returned she was carrying a backpack full of milk rolls. Now you have a chance. The sun came out from the peaks when the two greeted the guests and resumed the path.
I know these mountains by heart, Chicco said as they walked through a dense forest, in a few meters there is a trail sign. Brezza laughed, you amaze me every time, I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast. My mother often worked abroad. When they proposed to stop here son was happy that he accepted. I like this area, I feel free.
The two stopped near a waterfall for a snack. Can you smell this fragrance? Asked Chicco. Brezza sniffed the air: I can’t smell anything. It seems that the wind brings with it the memories of all the lands from which it has been: the coolness of snow-capped peaks, wild flowers, even the city asphalt. The girl looked at him in admiration: it’s nice to hear you describe our world so well.
The two arrived in the city at sunset. What do you say, shall we go to the station or shall we wait until tomorrow? Asked Brezza. We throw a coin, heads we go now, tails we leave tomorrow! The girl pulled a coin out of her pocket and tossed it in the air: heads! Here we go! Said Chicco.
The board indicated two trains available: sea or city? Asked Brezza. Sea! Said Chicco. Ok! Two tickets for the train on platform 4. You don’t seem like sea loving people, said the man from the ticket office working on the computer. We’re going on an adventure! Said Chicco. That’s right, today the sea, tomorrow we don’t know! Added Brezza. The man gave them the ticket and pointed to the platform: have a good trip then!
15, 16, 17, Here it is! Exclaimed Brezza opening the door of their cabin. The walls were blue, three bunks on each side, a window on the bottom and a small picture hanging behind the door showing an alpine lake. Shall we leave everything here and go for a bite to eat? Asked Chicco. Gladly, but you pay! Answered Brezza. Only as long as we don’t end up in some strange challenge.
The two recognized the silhouettes of monuments in the distance as the train was leaving the city. What sandwiches are there? Asked Chicco. The choice is poor, said Brezza, but the one with salami and mushrooms looks good, let’s try them. All right! Two please, plus a Coke and a lemonade. They had dinner in front of the window as the darkness engulfed the landscape and everything became dark.
Are you awake? Whispered Chicco in the early morning. I want to give a shape to the shadows that filter from the curtains with my eyes closed as you taught me. What do you see? Asked the boy. A seaside village, surrounded by sunlit hills. Are you imaging all this? No, I peeked a look on my way to the bathroom! Said the girl laughing. Shortly after, the loudspeaker announced their arrival.
From the station the sea could be seen. Arriving in the village it seemed that time had stood still: there were bakers, butchers and greengrocers. How much? Asked Brezza indicating an orange. Twenty cents, replied the woman at the counter. She took two and after having peeled them asked Brezza if he wanted a slice. Are you happy, said the young man, and we’re just beginning.
Brezza bought everything without having an idea of how to match the various foods. Near the beach, they found a landing stage: sweet or salty? She asked. Sweet! Said Chicco. Biscuits for you, focaccia for me! Some fishermen were setting their nets, the air was filled with the characteristic odor of fresh fish and incomprehensible dialect phrases that enliven the ports.
After dinner, the two reached a promontory on which stood a tower. The town was small but every time they travelled the main road they discovered something new. The tower offering a full view of the area: the station, the hills, the sea, but what struck Brezza were the clouds, still as silent witnesses to the rotation of the world.
Around one o’clock, they returned to the station: the next train is in an hour! Said Brezza, we can go for a little walk. Once in the main square, the girl noticed some workers installing illuminations; she went over and asked: is there going to be a party? The town festival, said one of the electricians. When is it? From this afternoon until tomorrow night, you musn’t miss it!
How about while we wait we go for a dip? Asked Brezza. Once at the beach they were greeted by the roar of the waves. Chicco could feel the power as if they penetrated his soul. We left without thinking about swimming costumes, said Brezza looking in the backpack, but when she looked up she saw a naked and joyful shape disappear into the foam of the waves.
That was great exclaimed Chicco drying his face. I haven’t seeing you like this for so long, Brezza said adjusting her hair. He smiled, I haven’t felt like this for a long time. It is as if the water had lifted the weight I felt on me and now I feel lighter. In the distance they could hear the first excited voices, accompanied by classical music that presages the opening dance.
The tables were prepared for dinner: fish of all kinds accompanied by good wine and folk music. The boys decided to order a bit of everything. At about ten o’clock the dance floor began to fill: will you grant me this dance? Chicco said holding out his hand to Brezza. She smiled and the two launched into what no image could describe: a true moment of levity.
At the party, they met Ines, baker and historical memory of the town, who told them various facts and gossip: the Hollywood director who shot one scene at the tower on the headland, the ship that ran aground off the port by error, etc. When Brezza explained their travel plans she offered to host them for the night.
If it had come out tails, we probably would not have met you, said Brezza, turning to Ines, and we would not have lived through all these experiences. In addition, said the old lady, you would not have tasted the best country breakfast, my word! The atmosphere was filled with the aroma of coffee and the sun’s rays that welcomed a new day, drawing geometric patterns on the curtains of the living room.
The two discovered that in the town where there were going there was an art exhibition with works from around the world. I love how the sculptors are able to mold the material into delicate and sometimes impossible shapes, Brezza said. You’re right, said Chicco, I love the absolute tactile sensation: muscle tension and the colours that glazed eyes are still able to distinguish.
After reaching the cloister, they visited the first part of the exhibition. The ceiling was affrescoed and Chicco did not fail to emphasize the characteristic musty smell of historic buildings. The restoration was almost finished and most of the wall decorations were visible and easily identifiable. After the ground floor, they went to the first floor.
Nothing prepared them for the magnificence of the hall on the first floor, in contrast to the poverty of the cloister that seemed built to deter treasures hunters from the past. Every centimeter was finely decorated: paintings and sculptures filled walls and crevices. Brezza described every detail and finally, looking at the brochure, said on the second floor there is only one piece of art.
The work on the second floor was lit by a single light leaving the room shrouded in darkness. Could you describe the concept of delicacy, Brezza asked in a whisper. Chicco was silent, waiting. Is there anything more delicate than the wings of a butterfly gently touched by the love of two human beings?
After the visit, they stopped to get some food. Excuse me, asked Chicco, we would like a couple of sandwiches. Brezza looked around curiously, the room seemed empty. Chicco heard a noise in the back and a few moments later out came a thin little man, with a strange dark mustache and a Davy Crockett hat: I can be usefully to you?
We would like two sandwiches, repeated Chicco. Of course, replied the grocer, what you love, you say, here only high quality products! Why are you wearing that funny hat? Asked Brezza forgetting lunch. She couldn’t help it, if anything struck her, she could not resist, she had to investigate, looking for any wonder that the world arose before her eyes.
The meat slicer turned on: my name Fire-Eater, or better, so called by people, they says that I remind them of popular story, you know? Talks about wooden b... Pinocchio! Said Brezza with a laugh, but you’re too skinny! Girl dear, the grocer slipped deftly behind her, you still not tell me what want in sandwich. How did you...? Exclaimed Brezza incredulously!
I have a bad feeling about this, Chicco said. No knows the name of parents, I Found! Left me in the basket in front of the monastery steps in Russia, with hat. Sorry, said Brezza, it is very sad and I didn’t want to laugh at you. Fire-Eater put the sandwiches in a brown bag: not be sad, little golden hair, here everything I need! Want see something magical?
Do not worry, come, come. The Fire-Eater’s shop was immense, the walls were hung with junk of all kinds: sleds, ancient masks, model airplanes and more. This way, the grocer said, opening a door to the back, welcome in the city park. What is special? Asked the girl while Chicco kept up his guard.
In the park there was a pond in the center with a strange pendulum reached via a footbridge. Fire-Eater spun the wheels of the pendulum and everything around them suddenly began to rotate like the rides in an old amusement park: what’s happening?! Asked Brezza! Magic! Laughed the grocer.
A light from the top of the pendulum projected the image of a building immersed in the snow, then another, and so on until the gears stopped. Magic said Fire-Eater, one day found pendulum in store. No liked and I gave to the mayor who put here. While fixing gear, discovered this: perhaps images are memories my past.
A policeman in uniform appeared behind them: do not listen to him, nothing good ever comes from that store, just junk! Always pleased Mr. Brute! Said the little man. Bruce, an American name, how many times do I have to repeat it damn fool! I want to try! Exclaimed Brezza. The behavior of the policeman convinced her to look beyond appearances.
Brezza swung the hands and the magic began, showing a tower perched on a high cliff. A strange force attracted her to the center of the water in which other images were projected: blue skies, details of the town, you could even distinguish the voices of passers-by. It can’t be the past, she said once finished, I do not know the places you showed me.
Try you! Said Fire-Eater to Chicco. I don’t think it’s a good idea, he said visibly awed. Brezza hugged him and whispered in his ear something that only they could hear, on the other hand I think it’s an excellent idea. The boy took courage but when he swung the hands, the pond became dark and from the depths rose an unknown sound.
Chicco followed the sound until from the darkness beautiful women took shape: immobile, white, and yet so vivid and sensual. The noise became unbearable and the boy fell to his knees. Is everything alright? Brezza asked worried. I think so, Chicco said. What you see? Asked the little man. Three beautiful white women in darkness.
We back, I prepare you specialties! Said Fire-Eater. No! Exclaimed Chicco, I want to try again. But he tired, almost hurt, said the grocer, turning to the façade adorned with plants and hanging clothes. He’s right Chicco, you don’t seem ready to do it again. The boy took her hand, I need you. Okay, but as soon as you feel bad, promise me you’ll stop! Promise! He exclaimed without being too convinced.
The ride began and they were enveloped by darkness. Suddenly an image appeared. It’s us the other day, said Brezza, we’re going to the festival but it is different from how I remember it. I hear the sea, said Chicco, the voices of the people and the smell of food. An annoying whistle destroyed the moment of peace and the hands stopped.
Welcome! A lady on a balcony welcomed them without turning. Where are we? What are these pictures? Asked Brezza nervously. Concepts, said the woman, do you ever hear of a place, see it in a photo and create your own interpretation. These images are Chicco’s projections, his vision of the world. Are you ready for the next step?
What was black and white took on blue hues. My mountains, said Chicco, I had forgotten. The world of each of us is made up of happy and sad memories, she said, your trip was not dictated by boredom but from the fear of not being able to live. Did you start to think again when you felt the strength of the sea within you, but still lacked something, you had to see!
You been away plenty of time? Exclaimed Fire-Eater from the back door. Is the lunch invitation still valid? Asked Brezza changing the subject and returning to the shop. Pirozhki! I do not know the recipe, but are great snack! Said the little man bringing to the table dumplings stuffed with onion. Brezza tried one, what did you say they were called? Pirozhki! I made once for customer, he Russian, and told me that they are russian.
What see in pond, shortly after Fire-Eater asked. The pendulum is like a camera, said Brezza, which does not show reality but a subjective interpretation. Chicco clenched his fists until they hurt: you see places that you’ve only heard about and you are there, you can almost touch them. Blin! Kak krasivo! Then I saw idea of country of me child, said the little man over the moon.
Why sad, big day today! Said Fire-Eater to Chicco. The woman at the well, said the boy, she showed me something that I had forgotten for some time, the reality of my world. For years i have been living with blindness and it is not easy to hear comments about incredible landscapes and wonderful trips. I sharpened my other senses but the story is quite different from what we read in comics.
I have always tried to best describe what I see, said Brezza, letting Chicco complete it with his feelings. Tin woman not showed you world, said Fire-Eater, she explained you how to build world. It not anybody, everyone can add piece: you hear the sounds and scents and she tells you colours. The little man smiled: two of you create wonderful things!
The little man realized that they represented the ways in which each of us trace his expertise in shared history. Brezza and Chicco are what it is and what it might be, because between zero and one there are infinite other numbers. We must honour a promise, Brezza said removing the stone from the backpack. Refreshments need, said Fire-Eater bringing out another tray of Pirozhki.