March 06, 2009

Chapter V - Lucius Augustus

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Lunchtime went by rather swiftly, mainly because Armando mentally prepared the evening with Nuno and the telescope, and that helped forget the morning's visit to the doctor, or at least postponed his worries for a more suitable time; if there was a suitable time at all to be confronted by his blindness and the other problems he sensed coming his way.
Coming his way were also the steps he heard from the corridor that led to the dining room where he had just finished his meal.
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-"Are you done with dessert, Mr. Armando?" - the housekeeper asked, while entering the room.
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The man smiled briefly due to the rhetoric question, as she was already prompting his coffee in a delicate porcelain cup. His habits of a lifetime together with her lifetime of service had created an undetermined quantity of automated responses and initiatives.
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-"Yes, I am ready for my coffee, Mrs Piedade, and after that my resting time and a nap" - Armando confirmed the obvious. But then, a sudden discomfort changed his expression.
-"Did Mr. Manuel..." - but he didn't have to finish his question, as the housekeeper knew what was troubling the landlord.
-"Yes, Mr. Armando, my husband bought you the newspaper as you were committed with the doctor's appointment."
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He felt relieved. Without the daily ritual of reading his newspaper he could turn himself into a very unpleasant person. Slowly sipping is coffee, he remembered he had to water his plants.
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-"Mrs Piedade, could you please tell Mr. Manuel to prepare everything to water my plants?"
-"Of course. I'll tell him right away, and will bring your newspaper, too."
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While the housekeeper went to inform her husband of Armando's instructions, the porcelain cup was emptied and the elderly man left the dining room. When he finally reached the stairs leading down to the basement, the farm-keeper arrived with two big watering cans, so full they were he could not avoid spill the floor.
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-"Keep on going, my good man, don't let my arthritis stand in your way" - Armando tried to joke.
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Manuel went downstairs, the heavy watering cans bumping against his legs although - being not a young man anymore - he handled them quite well. At the bottom of the stairs a wide storage room, where typical farm hardware denounced some sort of agriculture activity was still having its way on Armando's property. A big wooden gate left some sunlight pour inside the storage room giving the scenario a ghostly appearance.
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The farm-keeper turned left in the opposite direction of the wooden gate and stopped to leave both watering cans waiting right in front of an oak door. A few steps behind, Armando waited for the man to leave, and when he thanked him, Manuel acknowledged with an almost imperceptible vow, disappearing upstairs.
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Now alone, with the perfect notion of how heavy was the awaiting task, Armando opened the oak door. A motion sensor switched on a solitary lamp illuminating the first steps of what looked like a very dark corridor, but its light was so feeble that it seemed a black velvet curtain hanged ahead. He took a deep breath and picked those full cans up, feeling pain in every muscle, every bone of his; slowly, hesitating and balancing, he proceeded until no light was available to help each small step, in a complete darkness.
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But Armando knew that he only had to wait until the passage became very cold, which meant another 10 steps or so, and from there the motion sensor on the other end of the corridor would turn its light on; by then he would feel so glad in anticipation of his resting hours with a newspaper to read...
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The newspaper! He had forgotten the newspaper!
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His obsession with rituals made him mad any time something didn't go the exact way he planned. The sensor turned on the light at the end of the passage, allowing Armando to speed up his march to a point of almost running; in a hurry, he stopped to put down one of the watering cans so he could open the door that separated him from his resting room, his refuge.
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When he passed the door into the room, carrying both cans, he could not close the door nor turn the lights on, but the natural luminescence entering by the window was still enough for him to see. Armando was furious for having to go back, specially because he had asked for the newspaper and the housekeeper forgot it! While rumbling and spilling water until he left the watering cans near the plants, the light from the corridor bathed the room entrance, signalling that someone had been detected by the sensor.
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Manuel, newspaper in his hand, knocked on the opened door while looking strangely unease. Armando didn't know what to say, as he hesitated between exploding due to the newspaper lapse or bursting because of the farm-keeper's unauthorised visit to his sanctuary.
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In a split second his face turned almost nice
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-"Thank you Mr. Manuel, you avoided me one extra trip." - and following his monologue - "As you are here, could you please water the plants for me?"
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With a nervous look on his face, his eyes staring at the room's side where the various plants grew in big vases under a smaller window, the man made an attempt to act normally but even his walking seemed strange. Armando was torturing him so he would pay for both faults, the missing newspaper and the unauthorised visit. By the time both men were close to the vases, the farm-keeper was shaking while trying to water the plants.
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-"So, won't you say hello to Lucius?" - with a theatrical gesture Armando asked the nervous man beside him.
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Although against his will, as if a superior force turned his eyes to follow Armando's pointing hand, Manuel had to fight back an irrational fear before he could face what laid outside the glass.
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Less then three meters across the slope standing outside a lateral window, a mummified roman soldier still wearing his dusty yet well-preserved clothes and armour, his position indicating a horrible death.
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Knowing that Manuel couldn't speak, Armando continued his torturing charade:
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-"Ave Lucius Augustus. Morituri te salutam!"
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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are amazing, M***! I am curious to find out how the plot is going to proceed. The only thing I miss is that you don't write it in your mother language. I prefer the warm touch of Portuguese to the sharp edges of words in English.

Kathleen McGiveron said...

great content, keep writing!! PUBLISH AND SUCEED

Monsal Varga said...

@anonymous:

"MAR PORTUGUÊS

Ó mar salgado, quanto do teu sal
São lágrimas de Portugal!
Por te cruzarmos, quantas mães choraram,
Quantos filhos em vão rezaram!

Quantas noivas ficaram por casar
Para que fosses nosso, ó mar!
Valeu a pena? Tudo vale a pena
Se a alma não é pequena.

Quem quer passar além do Bojador
Tem que passar além da dor.
Deus ao mar o perigo e o abismo deu,
Mas nele é que espelhou o céu."

There you go, this could make a stone cry. Great Fernando Pessoa!

Monsal Varga said...

@Kathleen:

It seems you already have dimmed out your background, haven't you? :)

Femin Susan said...

well written......interesting too...
hope you publish it into a book.....
i liked the story exceptionally it content...
cheers!

Monsal Varga said...

Thanks for your visit, Susan :)

The story grows stranger and stranger, but everything with a purpose. Even small details will be connected to future revelations...

C. Taylor Brown said...

I like your character descriptions, you do a great job of bringing them to life.

Monsal Varga said...

You may have noticed (and I've made it on purpose): no mention to tall or short, white or black, blue or brown eyes, etc, etc.

I leave to the readers' imagination all the details. It is the best "film" you can have in your own mind.

Me thinks ;)

Stanis said...

hehehe! nice! i like the bit about saluting Lucius!

Monsal Varga said...

That Lucius part, wicked, hu? ;)