Ralph Greco, Jr.
Crysmilian was looking for the seam. Someplace between this cloudless cobalt sky and the still mirror water of the Rineby Fled there was-there had always been- a visible seam. The lanky man knew it was here, he had seen it countless times, had come here seeking it every chance he got in fact. Between the traveling, the worldwide showings, the interviews, the life he was trying to make with Jabeir, Crysmilian had always come to this place where sky met water and sought the seam. And although he knew it was here, as sure as there was red sand fanning under his spayed toes, he could not see the seam this day.
“Full count,” Abet Sanzer Trent whispered as they made there way under the tunnel of red leaves.
Crysmilian felt as confident this night as he always did…plenty of seams surrounded him as he and his manager made their way round the high plateau of the university.
“This could be the biggest attendance yet,” Crysmilian’s eldest friend continued.
Coming to the single door of the auditorium, the men heard the milling crowd beyond. Not that Crysmilian felt nervous these five years on, but he still had to pause at the number in the audiences he now commanded. Yes, he had worked hard for these crowds, had excluded from his life any and all distractions except Jabeir’s love and his sculpting, but no other artist on the planet drew such numbers.
“Bebe!” the crowd shouted in concert when the manager and his star appeared down the center isle.
“Bebe. Bebe. Bebe,” the single word followed a smiling Crysmilian as he waved his strong white hands over his head. His adoring public was chanting the name of Crysmilian’s most popular sculpture, the one he would reveal to them at the climax of his show tonight.
The Ublo orbs overhead dimmed as Crysmilian and Sanzer took the school’s biggest stage, the sculptor’s back to the waiting crowd as he settled his mind in preparation. Abet Sanzer Trent placed a soft hand to his client’s shoulder and teased with a whispered:
“Where do we go from here?” he said then left the stage.
The single Orb over Crysmilian’s head brightened when he turned to his audience.
Crysmilian’s showmanship was nearly as important as his pieces. He had a great talent for sculpting, almost as great as his father’s for painting, but unlike his long dead dad, Crysmilian had taken the ‘art’ of showing to a different level of experience. Crysmilian’s father had been of a generation who held showings as social occasions, hardly ever charging the small groups that would come as friends to exchange smiles, offer a story, maybe a song. In that long dead community it was considered a blessing to have the ability to show and a duty of the artist to share with his fellows.
Art, good or bad, bawdy or refined was for all, the father often lectured the son.
“Let the boy hear,” lady Wigma brayed.
“It’s getting late now,” Crysmilian’s father scolded from across the dark hillside.
Smiles flashed as mugs were lifted and the Alri hearths crackled with their blushing heat. This was a private old plateau this group of twenty old friends held their meets at.
“Father I want to hear the song,” Crysmilian lightly protested across the dark moss and bending bushes to his smiling father.
“He wants to hear the song,” lady Wigma interrupted the older man and shot her heavy chin forward to the milling group. “He wants to hear the song. He wants to hear the so…”
Her liquor-addled voice joined with the twenty artisans. A minute later Crysmilian’s father held up his hands in exasperated surrender and his boy was lifted in the lady’s sturdy grey arms. Crysmilian was placed on the closest table as Eller stood then and limped to the boy.
“If you weren’t your father’s son…” the lanky man warned, smiled and the group hushed as all welcomed the composers’ telepathy.
Crysmilian’s knees shook as the sounds filled his head, beyond his ears but stuffing his ears, setting his teeth ablaze, grabbing his belly. It was a rough tumble of sounds, very much like sounds the toothless Eller made when he snored, but there was an un-relentless sweetness to the song. It was if the notes were striving to be something more then they could ever be. Although Crysmilian was wise for his years, a budding artist to be sure, he knew there were strains of this bizarre music he couldn’t understand, may never understand. The boy had felt plenty of touches in his day, had even executed more then a dozen himself, but in this sweet odd music the ten year-old felt an entirely new type of connection. He didn’t know if it was because the old man was so adept at his telepathy or if that his song was just simply that beautiful, but when he looked at the faces around him Crysmilian realized this group of old friends felt the same.
Even though most of these artists had probably heard Eller’s ‘new’ composition at least twenty times by now!
A minute later the touch was retracted, the crowd began to yap again, Eller smiled and Crysmilian was lifted from the table by his father.
“Now it is late,” the older man said and carried his boy out of the gathering.
“And that is about all the ‘showing’ you or I will ever need,” Crysmilian’s father advised.
Crysmilian felt a tear drying down his right cheek as his father carried him home…
He sat on the stage and opened his mind to this audience who had paid highly to be here. Suddenly the rush of all these waiting people was in his thoughts, a cornucopia of so many telepathic touches his father could never have dreamed! To a less disciplined mind, this touching of so many so quickly could have caused harm; Crysmilian only felt delight.
The audience gasped, rolled with laughter, applauded as Crysmilian showed three of his newest sculptures, pieces he had been working on for the past three months.
He was proud of these works, proud he could create them in his mind’s eye and keep them fixed, proud he could show them with such detail. Plenty of his contemporaries created fine pieces: symphonies of such splendor there was fear an audience would be overcome with unbounded woe; tales of such history and spirit that they could not be recited all in one sitting. But what made Crysmilian great, beyond the beauty of his detailed forms and the shadowy knowledge of his deep imagined etchings was the fact that he could keep his work so fixed in his thoughts.
When they finally were treated to an encore of ‘Bebe’, the celebrated piece was flared and cut, pitted at its base, tented at its top and every bit as sad a piece of obsidian-colored masterpiece as each member of the audience had remembered it always being.
No student who had entered that auditorium two hours previous had expected Crysmilian’s performance to surpass their expectations to the degree it had.
“More Comri?” Sanzer asked his client as they sat in the small house the university promoter had provided. It was the man’s own home and Crysmilian would have been flattered had he not been so exhausted when his manager helped him limp over only minutes before.
“I’m fine,” Crysmilian whispered, passing off the offered drug with a nod of his curly-haired head. He knew if he went that route his relief would be quick but the effects of the mind-easing stimulant would take a good day to filter through his system. Certainly his father would have never considered such things...
Why was he thinking so much about his father tonight?
“I think you connected with everyone with the same intensity,” Sanzer complimented his star.
“I’ve seen you do it plenty before, but never on this scale. Where do we go from here?’
“I’m going to sleep and tomorrow I’m going to take the line to Rineby Fled.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of that musty piece of water?”
“You want me to keep doing showings this size…” Crysmilian said, placing his swimming hot head down on the cool blue pillow. “…I need Rineby Fled as much as I can get there.”
The Abet knew to let the tall man sleep.
To be an artist of this caliber had brought Crysmilian luxury beyond his wildest dreams…the best luxury of course was the solitude he enjoyed and treated Jabier to. On a planet with as few landmasses as Erut possessed, a modest home on a fanciful large acreage was about the very best gift a man could give a new wife. Sazner Trent had been to his client’s home many a time, even lived there during those days the thick-heeled manager was avoiding the lines (for no reason whatsoever). He understood Crysmilian’s moods better then anyone, probably even Jabier, but with a home as spacious as his client’s was-and a wife as beautiful as Jabier-the bald man was at a loss to explain why his only client wanted to take a two-day trip to visit the watery byways of a place he had only lived for a few years of his boyhood.
But then again, Crysmilian was an artist.
For the first time in his life, they were having a problem on a line.
Usually the systems ran clear and timely covering the colder plains of Erut. The single compartment Crysmilian had rented was shuttering as the transport halted for an unknown reason this late morning. If he hadn’t been so tired he might have rung a porter, took up the com-link to call to his Abet to book him a new line at the next station. But Crysmilian was enjoying the solitude here on this ancient transport, even if it meant his passage would be impeded.
Besides, he knew well this place they had made their unscheduled stop in.
After his mother had died, Crysmilian and his father had charted a tug to bring them up to these still and quiet waters. At the time it was still possible to acquire a good portion of uninhabited land (albeit a small one) at a fair price in the eastern provinces. Crysmilian’s father had assumed he could make a new home for his son and hopefully avoid bitter memories of his recently departed wife. So the pair moved to a lot not very far from where the line had stopped today.
And at the eastern edge of this new home, Crysmilian eventually found the Renby Fled.
Father and son did make it good for two years. Crysmilian studied while his father kept in contact with friends. The older artist taught the younger techniques that Crysmilian would come to use, then synthesize into a wholly new approach to sculpting. But as the pair grew closer in their solitude, they also grew closer to their grief. Like a rumbling storm that one day must break o’re psychic shores, the confusion Crysmilian felt over his mother’s untimely death coupled with his father’s deep loss. Surrounded as much by water as they were this undiluted pain, the four big rooms with the blue windows became a depository for ill feelings.
It was no wonder the fighting began…
“I do not want you to…’show’…” the old man pleaded, practically spitting the last word across the floor of their porch. “…it is not the way of us.”
“Father, there is no ‘us’,” his son replied. “There is you, your friends, your way. What I know, what I believe, what I will do with my life is as far from you as you can possibly dream.”
“You are an artist like me.”
“And I revel in it…” Crysmilian had nearly shouted in that purple dusk of so many years before. “…as will others when I ‘show’!”
An hour later, with no further words spoken between the men, Crysmilian stood at Rinbey Fled, sighing to the dusking shoreline. The young sculptor could no more change his father’s ways then he could his own; the pair would always clash over their philosophies, but Crysmilian would not be deterred. The younger man had to go out and make his way in the world. He knew deep in his heart commerce for art was a productive part of modern society. No one should damn him a living!
Attempting to ease his breathing, Crysmilian looked across the still fled as he had countless times before. Where luminescent sky met this captured plot of water Crysmilian’s eyes suddenly locked; it was as if he was seeing the shoreline for the first time. A simple meeting of elements that the young man had seen so many times before, but this early evening as the still “zip-papa” of eckles sang in the trees and the three moons shone down upon him, Crysmilian recognized the ‘seam’ of this place. A sudden realization filled him and he nearly lost his balance.
Yes, Crysmilian understood, knew, felt, sensed that this was the way of Erut, possibly the universe.
Everywhere there were seams.
As a musician will search for and see the mathematical purity in a composition, as an influential statesmen will study the alignments of moons and translate that to his daily dealings of intrigue, so Crysmilian realized that his art would be forever infused with the idea of a seam. Forever onward he’d always recognize a spot, no matter how small, even microscopic, when two (or even more) elements, particles, thoughts even, could meet to court perfection. Maybe not as beautiful as the seam at the Rinbey Fled Crysmilian saw this fateful night, but the seam would be there in his life from this early evening forward...
“It’s best to get out…” the low voice advised. “…give yourself some stretch.”
Crysmilian opened his wide eyes to the man standing in the runner outside his compartment. A stout fellow maybe thirty years his senior, the man was smiling and nodding his head out the Linten-Reflecter windows.
“When this happens, there’s not much else to do.”
“I thought this doesn’t ‘happen’,” Crysmilian prodded.
Smiling, he stood trying to shake off his day-dream and the slight embarrassment that he had been having one as the man stayed in the cramped walkway. As he stood to his full height the artist presented his right hand palm down in the usual greeting of his caste.
“Ah, if that were true,” the squat man continued and turned his right palm up and the two men met on the threshold of Crysmilian’s berth. The elder man’s palm was pitted deep brown and calloused.
Despite the obvious disparaged stations between them, Crysmilian detected no humbling in the man, no retreat and certainly no recognition of who Crysmilian was! Not that every corner of Erut was filled with fans or even critics, Crysmilian’s face was well known to many a citizen. He was a celebrity and as with celebrities on every world and from every time, his face, name, reputation preceded, sometimes masked his actual presence in a place.
“You know the Fled lands,” the man persisted as Crysmilian stood close enough.
On further thought Crysmilian surmised the man had to be at least able to afford the luxury of traveling on this class of the line. But what was with the man’s clothes and stopped gait, his rough hands and greeting?
“Better in the past,” Crysmilian offered, despite himself.
Why did this man care? How had he surmised Crysmilian did know of this place and why was Crysmilian engaging the fellow in further conversation?!
“Memory,” the man said and tapped his right temple with the forefinger of his right hand. At this sudden movement Crysmilian stepped back into his compartment fully and fell back on his soft seat.
It was as if the little old man had thrown hand into his midsection!
“The boy finally does come home,” the man teased, still standing there in the doorframe.
“Rasbed Fane,” Crysmilian drooled the name across his suddenly dry lips. “I...”
“…how long has it been?” Crysmilian’s companion asked, calculating through a light chuckle. “Let’s see, your father’s been dead five years, and I saw you still at the house about a half year before you sold.”
“Can’t be,” Crysmilian said, still trying to clear his head to the realization of who it was standing before him, and how they how found one another on this quiet transport!
“Is!” the little man said and finally stepped into the spacious compartment.
“It’s all right to be shocked, I know I’m old. I know.”
“I didn’t…” Crysmilian tried finally looking up at the man standing over him. “…please, sit, sit.”
“Can’t for too long,” Rasbed began, bending to the offered soft seat.
“I recognized you the minute I saw you at the station,” he continued. “Imagine all these folks knowing you, but I really know you.”
“We could have shared a drink, chatted. I would have loved the com...”
“…a man like you, last thing he needs is conversation he hasn’t asked for.”
“I’m here now, all things are right.”
A full minute of silence passed as Crysmilian studied the lined, yet handsome face of the man he had known so many years before.
Rasbed Fane had been a close companion of Crysmilian’s father and like Crysmilian’s father, Rasbed was from the generation that considered art free. That Rasbed would appear in the clothes he wore, sporting heavy worn hands did not surprise Crysmilian in the least. From what Crysmilian remembered, Rasbed had been a designer of fruit and stone mosaics.
“You’re going to the old land?” Rasbed asked, plopping the young man from his musings. “There’s not much to see anymore.”
“Rinbey Fled,” Crysmilian announced as if the mere mention of the name would silence Rasbed to any more suspicions.
“Beautiful place,” the older man said, still smiling dancing green eyes.
“I try to get back their as much as I can.”
“A sense of history is good for us all.”
“I agree. The place seems to cleanse me, besides…” Crysmilian stopped and turned to look out the window.
Although he knew the old man well, although Rasbed was an artist himself, although the older man knew this place and Rinbey Fled, Crysmilian could not fathom how he could describe his motivations. At Rinbey Fled Crysmilian had first cleared the jumble that was his father’s teachings, pealed back the pedals of grief over his mother’s passing and grew the kernel that would make him an adult…and one of the best artists of his age. How could Crysmilian explain the particulars of this moment of personal epiphany to another when he barely understood it himself; a running line of brilliance where sky met water, a beatific example of the connecting place of all things, the seam?!
“I understand,” Rasbed said to the silent cabin.
Crysmilian almost believed that the old man did, so he didn’t address his daydreaming or the reason for it. He simply smiled at his father’s friend and the line began to hum once again.
“They must know you are traveling…” Rasbed teased, standing. “…I can’t ever get as good service.”
“Stay?” Crysmilian said, standing with the old man. “We’ll talk of old ti…”
“…you have a place to be.” Rasbed said, offering his right hand palm up.
“It’s fine,” the old man said, dipping his pointy chin to Crysmilian’s attempted protest. “I am glad to see you are doing well on the path you have chosen. Your father would be proud.”
With this Rasbed left the compartment and Crysmilian sat exhausted on the couch.
Again his father had entered his day!
If Crysmilian didn’t make the fled before nightfall he feared he might be too exhausted the next day to go to it. Maybe he should have taken his Abet’s advice and stayed clear of this quiet desolate area.
Wasn’t Abet always telling him how right he (Abet) always was?!…
“I don’t truly believe you understand who you are!” Abet Sanzer Trent said.
“And who am I?” Crysmilian asked, his gaze settling over the little man’s shoulder on the pretty circle of girls in the anter-room.
The girls were standing together, sipping drinks of dissolving color, seemingly hanging on the every word of the three men standing before them. The men were the very popular and very arrogant Riri trio. Gifted though they were, Crysmilian was growing a healthy dislike for this group of musicians. Crysmilian had agreed to join their tour at the urging of a few friends who advised it might be the best opportunity for his budding career, but these men and their after-concert indulgences of too-much Comfri and fawning females was proving exhausting. But Crysmilian knew an Abet such as Sanzer Trent would never even allow this passing interested had he not been seen opening nightly for the Riri trio.
“You must leave them as soon as possible,” Sanzer Trent said as if reading Crysmilian’s mind. The young artist turned to the agent.
“And you can help me do this?” Crysmilian asked, his eyes off the girl for the moment.
“Yes,” Abet Sanzer Trent said, then turned to look where Crysmilian’s gaze had been for the past few moments.
“But first things first,” the savvy agent chuckled. “We’ll have plenty of time to plan your career later.”
“Her name is Jabeir, I think you’d like her,” the Abet added and left Crysmilian.
As Crysmilian bowed he realized if the little man’s business sense was as acute as his perceptions he’d sign with him this very night!
“I miss you,” was the only message on his link when he checked it.
The singsong voice of his wife rang in his ears as the heavy dusk surrounded Crysmilian. Lifting his legs up the hillock, the sweet smell of Asmine bushes assaulting his nose, Crysmilian realized that what he most wanted then was to be back in his comfortable house, holding Jabeir, smelling her hair.
What in all creation was he doing up here again?
Seam or no seam, these sojourns were taxing his very need for solace and nostalgia. Next time he felt the urge to trek halfway across the planet he would indeed request Sanzer to sit on him!
He made the top of the moss-ed hill just as the first moon started to show and there out below him was the still brilliance of the Renby Fled. Settling his breath Crysmilian looked down to the lake that wasn’t a lake, the beach that wasn’t a beach and concentrated on the spot dead center of the water where purpling sky met still water. Sliding slightly in the hill’s descent Crysmilian quickly righted his feet in the drag of the sand.
Crysmilian was attempting to see the seam. Someplace between the simple cloudless sky and the still mirror water of the Rineby Fled there was, had always been, a visible seam. The tall man knew it was here, he had seen it countless times, had come here seeking it every chance he got. Between the traveling, the world-wide showings, the interviews, the life he was trying to make with Jabeir, Crysmilian had come to this place where sky met water and sought the seam: the cool sandy bank where the opposing beautiful elements met to make this impossible, yet impressive reflective display. And although he knew it was here, as sure as there was red sand fanning from his spayed toes, Crysmilian could not see the seam this day.
Turning to the descending amber night, Crysmilian bent and dipped his right hand into the sand. Scooping up a handful of the pink thickness he smiled to his sifting fingers; his father was squatting there with him, the old man’s thin upper lip spread to that smile the son had known and dreaded so well. It was not a memory that was washing over Crysmilian now, not like the pangs of recall he had been experiencing during this entire trip. No, Crysmilian’s father was with him now, real, vapor-thin but for these fleeting few minutes, alive.
It is said that on Erut there are no ghosts, only regret. Crysmilian was experiencing his planet’s unique form of haunting. The young artist had come here seeking solace, his seam, the touch-tone to his particular view of his world. Not finding it this early evening his father was right here with him to tell him why.
Mere minutes later Crysmilian stood and walked away from the fled for the last time of his life.
“All I know is that this is his decision at this time,” Abet Sazner Trent told the crowd. In the haste of this conference to the planet-wide press the usually jovial, chubby manager looked haggard. Indeed he was after the previous late night call from his one and only client.
Crysmilian had contacted his manager an hour after leaving Renby Fled. He spoke softly, with metered assurances that he was not drugged or too sleepy. Crysmilian advised his business partner and best friend that he intended to live for an undetermined amount of time out of the public eye, raising a happy home and hopefully healthy children with Jabeir. Despite his Abet’s assurances of the money they’d be loosing and even some curt begging-and not so curt threatening-Crysmilian assured his agent that this was his final decision.
“But why?” three reporters asked in unison and the bright lights above Sanzer’s bald plate seemed to wink for a concerned answer. The room hushed and the world-wide coms opened like hungry maws.
“I have no idea,” he said, not lying. When he had asked this very question of his most popular client and best friend, Crysmilian had replied with:
Abet Sanzer Trent ended the press conference with these same words.
“Does he show any signs?” Crysmilian’s father was asking.
Crysmilian had taken his year old son Beltwa with him to the lake this bright day. As the little blonde-haired boy pushed a pile of stones in and out of the shallow water, Crysmilian turned to the specter of his father.
“Sometimes a pile of stones is just a pile of stones,” Crysmilian said, smiling at his father.
“Now you sound like me,” the old man said.
As he had with that dusking evening over a year ago Crysmilian could see straight through his father’s wide body. It was a disconcerting sight to be sure had he not been used to it. Actually, the only problem Crysmilian could see in his father’s spectral appearances was the question of what one would be the last. On Erut these ‘visits’ didn’t usually last a year, Crysmilian had thought he would not see his dad beyond that night a year ago when the old man had finally imparted the secret of the fled to his son.
“This is a good place,” the old man said turning to his son, smiling at the boy below them who could not see the older man.
“As good as Rinbey Fled even,” Crysmilian agreed.
“When it comes to that fled it’s hard for me to be objective,” the old man said chuckling.
The man his father was when he came to see him now was very much like the man Crysmilian had known way before arguments of showings and their mother taking ill. His father was contented again, the very same man who had sat his son on his knee to project paintings into his sons’ waiting mind. He was that handsome lean figure who had filled Crysmilian’s imagination with resplendent colors, still-lifes and undulant tableaus. He was that powerful artist who had projected paintings of perfect cut light and color, very much like the rich tapestry of an illusion created to soothe in a faraway private lake.
“How often do you want me to thank you?” Crysmilian said without turning to the old man. “I will never…”
“Love him like I love you,” the father said to his now crying son. “And maybe build him something with those stones. When he’s old enough to understand.”
With this Crysmilian watched his father’s ghost image dwindle and fade in the morning sunshine. He would only ever see the man from this day onward in his dreams…
“I’m not sure I can believe it,” Crysmilian said to the image of his father.
“Of course you can’t, who of your generation could do such work?” his father teased, floating there in the twighlight.
As Crysmilian squatted, running the cool sand through his fingers, the old man had appeared, admitting to the younger that the seam of the Renby Fled had been a projection, at least the part that had so entranced Crysmilian all these years.
On Erut there are far stranger things then being visited by a dead relative to impart a truth.
“Why?” Crysmilian asked.
“To give you peace, plus I liked it, I thought it was good.”
“It was,” the younger man said to the rippling night air. ‘It colored my entire life’ he wanted to say ‘You colored my entire life.’
“I just added to what was here already. That first time, the night of our fight. When you left with that look in your eye…I knew where you’d be heading. I thought I’d do my best. Leave as much of myself there as I could so if you ever came again…”
“…but always here, all this time…until now?”
“You don’t need it now. Actually, it’s still there, but you see beyond it.”
“How can you still…”
“Do you think all those years on that hill we were just drinking? We did have skills you know.”
“How powerful are you?”
“The art, not me,” the older man said. “More then some, not as much as others.”
“I am a child compared to you.”
“No…” the father said and lent his hand to his son’s shoulder. “…you are my teacher. You took what I gave, what I thought was only for one, for a few at most and look what you’ve made with you life.”
“And now it’s gone.”
“How can it be gone if it lives inside you?” the father asked and began to fade.
“Your hand’s cold,” Beltwa said. Crysmilian looked down to realize his sons’ little hand was clutching his own.
“And yours is dirty,” Crysmilian teased as the little boy smiled his blinding row of teeth.
“Come see what I made,” the boy said and tugged on his father. Crysmilian followed down the slight hill to the water’s edge.
Ralph Greco, Jr., is an internationally published author of essays, poems, short fiction, button slogans, children's songs and phone sex scripts. Mr. Greco is also an Ascap licensed songwriter and lives in the wilds of NJ suburbia.
Photo Courtesy of dreamstime.
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Fiction Copyright © 2006 Ralph Greco, Jr. All rights reserved.