She didn’t know what would greet her on the other side of the portal that she knew would be at the top of the stairs.
She had the vague notion that she would be greeted by Gods that had been conjured into existence by the sheer will of people in dire need of something greater to believe in than themselves. If those Gods still existed.
The stairs were beautiful, sprouted in small colorful flowers, and it was obvious that the staircase hadn’t been used for a very long time. She suspected it was time out of mind, time so great that she wouldn’t be able to understand the concept of it, like she didn’t understand the concept of black holes or dark matter.
She had performed an old Viking ritual. A ritual she had been forced to guess into being, because it was barely documented. From the fragments she had been able to gather, with ten years of research and with several educated guesses filling in the gaps, she had performed a ritual. She had shuddered at the thought of what she needed to do, but she had little choice. She needed to find the staircase and the portal, she needed her name back, and this was the only way. She had tried everything else.
It had vanished one day, her name, almost as if she had lost her car keys or wallet. The difference was that the name she’d lost was irreplaceable, and that name seemed genuinely wiped from her mind. The doctors had called it a rare psychosis, but she knew better. It had been stolen from her and she was going to claim it back.
The portal of the Gods, that was the only way.
She had become an isolated maverick, because when you’re unable to react to people calling you, you become strange, and when people think you are strange… she shuddered at that thought too.
Now she did what she had to do. She would confront the jester who did this to her, she would reclaim her name, if it was the last thing she’d do. And if she had to defy a God that was, hopefully, already transparent at the edges because people didn’t believe in him anymore, then so be it.
She started to climb the stairs. The backpack, that had followed her through the misty calm lands on her journey over the dark desert she had crossed to get to this spot, she left at the bottom of the stairs. There was nothing in it she would need after this. She would have to play it by ear from here, there were no documents, no tales, not the faintest trace of information about what she would actually face once she had climbed the stairs of the Gods.
The flowers were beautiful though, the tiny, lovely knobs, a perennial beauty that no one ever got to witness, except for her now. She started up the stairs, her white tennis shoes in strange contrast to the greenery and she felt she needed to carefully plot her way up the stairs as not to disturb the terrestrial beauty in this unearthly place. It took her a long time to climb and when she was high enough that she might start to see what was actually at the top of the stairs she focused on the flowers below her feet. Yellow, red, white and green in a transmutable visual song, song that could only be sung by artists in close touch with the other worldly.
When the last step was in front of her she stubbornly stared down. Almost regretting her decision to come here, almost regretting the journey. But she faced the horrors that came with her namelessness, horrors that followed losing the identity within yourself so completely, and she saw no other means but death if she would fail. And she would be damned if she would die without trying everything else first.
But now that she was at the end of the stairs, in the garden of the old Gods, she hesitated. Was it really so bad, being nameless? Was it so bad that she dared face whatever was behind whatever portal might be up there?
She didn’t dare to answer the question. Instead she raised her head and took the last step up. Suddenly the sun was shining in her face. She was on a plain so green, she had never seen anything like it. The flowers were there too, small colorful knobs sprouting everywhere. It was such a beautiful sight that it took her breath away and all she could do was stand there and stare. The empty blue sky, a sky that had been dark, black as the night, on her way over the desert. For days she had seen nothing but the starless darkness. It made this sight even more spectacular.
Then she noticed the portal. It was an oval shape, a whirl of colors, something she imagined people only conjured up in a drugged haze. She walked towards it, the strange sound emanating from the portal reminded her of the sound the modems used to make, back in the days when she still had a name.
She lifted her hand, hesitated, but then pushed her forefinger into the whirlwind of colors. It felt cold, but not freezing.
She took a deep breath and then she walked through the portal.
At first she thought she would die. The portal drew her in with such force and violence, she had never experienced anything like it. Then she circled through a never ending space, a whirl of colors and hues surrounding her and she never knew what was up or down. When the whirlwind spat her out on the other side of the portal she landed softly, but naked, in a field of green grass. There where mountains all around her, higher than she’d ever seen before. The snow in the peaks intrigued her.
What was this place?
She looked around, but there was nothing there. Nothing but the beauty of nature, the likes of which she had never seen before. Her nakedness bothered her for a while, but she wasn’t there to be taken a back by something as human and stupid as modesty. So for a while she stood still, trying to figure out what her next step was. She had only thought about getting to the portal, the gate was her final point, now she had no idea what to do.
Then it came to her. She would call his name. What irony was bigger than to conjure up the jester by his name? She only wished she could do to him what he had done to her.
So she stood there, arms in the air, moving in circles and she yelled his name from the top of her lungs.
“LOKI,” she yelled.
When nothing happened she sank down into the grass and cried. She had been so sure, now it looked like all the old Gods had vanished, ceased to exist since the people no longer believed in them. And then where did she stand? Maybe she was insane. Maybe it was all some strange psychosis she was going through and the ten year journey she was on was nothing but a fools errand.
But she’d seen the stairs with her own eyes, the steps that impossibly sprang out of the dark desert sand, flowers and all, and she had seen the colors in the portal, nothing could be as real as that portal.
When she stood up she was determined, and it occurred to her only afterwards that it was that determination that conjured the jester into being. Suddenly he was standing before her, larger than life, beautiful in a special way and the grin on his face was impossible to resist.
He cocked his head and laughed.
“So, you did manage,” he said after a while. “I didn’t think you would, they never do these days, it’s so much harder now I guess”.
She was speechless. There he was, the conjurer, the jester, the wicked one and she had no idea what to say to him.
“You’re naked,” he said when the silence had become unbearable and she smiled. It was a smile that melted her innards and she was able to move again.
She was still dumbfounded though, “you’re not transparent at the edges,” she whispered. She looked at him. “You know what, I don’t care,” she said. “I’m here to confront you, either you give back what belongs to me or you strike me down right here,” she blurted out.
“My, my,” he said and walked in a circle around her. “Aren’t we a hot-head. You know you look much better than the vixen I had my three bastards with, I should have done like the others and gone down there instead of seeking out the Giants of my kind,” he laughed a little half heartedly.
“I want my name back, Loki,” she said, making a point of saying his name.
“I know you do, …” she was sure he said her name, who would know that name better than the one who stole it from her. He made a gesture with his hand and suddenly he was carrying a heavy fur coat, without a word he handed it to her and she swept it around herself. She wasn’t cold, but at least she wouldn’t have to stand there and confront him in her nakedness anymore.
“You know, …” and again she was sure he said her name, though she couldn’t hear it, always as if the word didn’t register in her mind. As if the world was censoring her name away, making sure she didn’t quite exist. “We are fading into non-existence, there is little left of us but the occasional sneeze,” he said. “Our world is crumbling down and all that remains is the occasional remnant,” he put his finger underneath her chin, she noticed that his fingernails were long and clean. “All we have left are a few people like you, desperate enough to seek consolation in us. We are your last straw.”
“No,” she said sternly, “You were the culprit, the only one I could possibly blame,” her words ebbed out.
“And how could you possibly know that?” he asked, grinning.
“I do, because I heard the words when you took my name, I heard the words…” she swallowed hard.
“Delicate creature you are,” he said, “very well, you want it back? I’ll give it back to you. I guess my goal is reached anyway.”
“Why?” she asked, “why me?”
“Because while other people might blame their weak minds, or psychological traumas, you were strong enough to seek the truth, in the face of the greatest obstacle there is.”
“And what’s that?”
“Forgetfulness,” he whispered the word, as if it was a curse word and he didn’t want to be caught saying it. He swept his long blond hair away from his eyes and turned around. He walked a few steps and then he faced her again.
“We are Gods without followers, and Gods without followers vanish into thin air, their greatness, whatever it was, becomes nothing more than a funny story people tell their kids as a joke. Our power came from the belief, from the hopes and wishes of those who sought our guidance, now we are nothing more than a side story and soon we’ll be gone.”
“And so you steal people’s names? What? To get revenge on those who don’t believe anymore?”
“Quite the contrary, my dear,” he said smiling. “I do it because in facing me, you will have little choice but to believe in me.”
“I will never worship someone like you,” she said quickly.
“It doesn’t matter,” he whispered. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek softly. “You are a true valkyrja,” he said. “An energetic woman, a true viking, if I ever met one.”
“I will never worship you,” she said again.
“It doesn’t matter, because you will speak of me. And you will share your story, however absurd it may sound to the modern man, and a few will listen and even if you will never worship then at least the word will get around. Or that’s the theory. You aren’t the first one, but you are the first who managed to find me and face me.”
He took her face with both his hands and looked into her eyes.
“I return what I have stolen, Saga,” he said. “May you remember it, and use it well”.
It was like having a stone removed from her chest, hearing her name. It was as if the wind suddenly caressed her cheeks and her eyes suddenly saw a world full of life and magic. It was like regaining a soul, after having sold it to the devil.
He left her with a soft kiss on her lips. A stolen kiss, but what he had returned was ever so valuable and in returning it he had given her a gift as well.
She could see the worlds that belonged to him and his fellows. She could see the world that would vanish if those Gods did and she could hear the promises given, not only by him, but by his kin. They were bold promises, but she was just one woman.
And suddenly she was at the top of the stairs again. Staring down the flowery path, overlooking the hazardous dark desert she would now have to cross again. She saw her backpack lying on the ground and knew that she had brought no provisions for the journey home.
But she had what she came for and she had something else too, a promise of a lifetime of remembrance, to be greatly rewarded. All ideas of revenge had vanished from her mind.
“My name is Saga,” she tested and when she heard herself say the word she fell to the ground and cried. “I am with name,” she whispered, “And I will remember you Loki, though I will never worship you.”
And she thought she felt a warm breeze playing with her cheek, and maybe she heard the echoes of laughter as she descended the stairs, ever so carefully not to disturb the flowers.
Copyright © Eygló 2015