On the Ariminum seafront, near the red Bastiani Fortress, The Roc looked out at the leaden blue of the sky and the sea. Assuming the totemic position - erect in all its thirty centimeters of height, the bald head stretched upwards, the wings spread - the anthropomorphic-faced albino bird was engaging every available psychophysical resource in an effort to emerge from the vast and treacherous swamps of the memories he had sunk into.
What was he doing there, in that interstitial boundary between Being and Nothing, Light and Shadow, Earth and Ocean? He felt unsettled and yet in a comfortable habitat, close to the spiritual center of the Cosmos. This was good. Were the paws planted firmly on the ground? He lowered his head slowly. The claws had sunk into the sand. Whitish spots with an unpleasant smell were clustered nearby. Was it his stuff? Maybe yes. Or maybe not. He had had a partner, a friend or a brother, but he was not with him. Those sediments could have been his mortal remains. Unlikely. Rather, they seemed to be slipping out of a melting clock nearby. What did all this mean? That he was evacuating shreds of thought, if nothing else. And that his mind proceeded on paths that forked and intertwined in space and time in infinite branches, none of which, however, led where he wanted. Where then? He no longer remembered it. He returned to the initial question. What was he doing there?
He closed his eyes. He tried to turn the fluctuations of the spirit into images that could give him some useful clue. The shape of a mirror materialized. He crossed it and was catapulted upside down into a wonderful country. His birthplace. Very remote, so far away that it is not even regulated by the laws of Euclidean geometry. A crystalline, symmetrical, harmonic world, made of stars and shells, icosahedra and fractals, of Neckerian cubes and Möbius ribbons, of individual transformations and collective metamorphoses reflected in concave and convex surfaces, of days in negative and nights in positive, of whites and blacks, with some reddish or verdigris glow here and there: so perfect that it takes your breath away.
That place was inhabited by two kinds of people: men with a bird's head and birds with a man's head. Both flew: sometimes with the body, sometimes with the mind. Sometimes in a dream, sometimes while awake. But they didn't know when they got up from the ground physically or mentally, when awake or while they slept. They did not feel the difference, nor did they feel the need to feel it. The real was unreal, the unreal was true, and all was good.
When they hovered in the air they became fish; then they threw themselves into the sea, where birds returned. Because the water flowed uphill, up to the sky, that is, underground. In that abysmal vault of heaven the carp swam among the clouds in pools where the leaves of trees floated among which the carps swam. Puddles and clouds interpenetrated in the best possible harmony. And even the impossible ones.
Everything was good, in that very remote place, everything was in order; but something bad happened and that order was upset. The bird-men died one by one - bodily, spiritually: who could tell? Nobody knew what the difference was. He then decided to leave. In search of a new truth: of a new form of Beauty, which he would bring as a gift to bird-men, to human birds, making them rise from the dead.
He had been on a journey. A long journey. He had passed seven mountains. Or seven seas. In seven days. Or in seven years. He wasn't sure about that either. But he remembered with reasonable certainty the stop at seven pubs in a winter city. Ariminum.
It had emerged from a tangle of abstract lines and contiguous geometric figures, which turned out to be hills, towers, plowed fields, farms as he approached. A large country house had suddenly appeared in front of him, just as he had let himself go to a low flight: on the momentum, he had entered the front door, had risen a little, almost crashing into vaults and beams, had lowered himself risking to burn the feathers between hearths and stoves, until he came out of an open window and got entangled in sheets suspended on wooden racks.
Having struggled free, he had fled chased by the screams of an old hag that looked like the curses of a witch, but they were insults in the local dialect: «Va a scurzé en'te remal, cut venja un azident! S'at ciàp allo stac one leg e al mèin sa quèl!». The bird regained altitude and returned to fly chased by the incomprehensible mutterings of the hag, who, perhaps a prey to Alzheimer’s, after a few minutes had already forgotten about the accident and had returned to her chores - making the bed, preparing breakfast, fiddling over the stove, murmuring disconnected phrases mixed with pearls of Romagna wisdom: «Azidèn d’un azidèn! The wood is all weta, st'an! Le vagabòn de ket l'è com vos non. El ciapa la port de chrch and al torn only for magnèr. Shame! Vat there! Oh! The last time aio slammed the doora in tla fazaza. Ha ha! And I lassé it fora par du dai. So that could spusarme another volt. And be sure to putia that you will have a truvèr well! To do! who was better than yours, burdèl? But then I am really revived... ». Only when he reached a thousand feet in height he found the silence and concentration necessary to look carefully below him; the city then presented itself to him with the features of a mythological giant.
The navel was a square, adorned with silent arcades and abandoned shops; the great urban belly with the Church, the Town Hall, the Fulgor psychiatric hospital - a refuge for derelicts, subnormals, Mongoloids with big heads, empty eye sockets, mouth full of drool.
But there were also the Piadicene Safe Zones, where you can wash down the Romagna specialty with vodka at a safety distance between seven and nine in the evening; the benches in sanitizable material, populated by crippled, handicapped, oversized, poor in spirit and rich slackers with their faces covered by fashion masks; the huge black stone jars on marble bases bearing as an inscription the ancient Ariminense proverb “To those seeking pleasure alienam miratur tabem”, that is, “To those seeking pleasure, disease seems far away”, just as it happened to flowers every day those urns were filled: beautiful but cut, they were about to die.
From here, heading north, a thin and elegant avenue branched off, designed by Modigliani. It led to the face of a second, smaller square, dominated by the circular structures of two majestic medieval buildings, the Arengo Palace and that of the Podestà; not far below, the jaws of the railway station, with its sharp columns and sturdy white travertine walls, engulfed rows of burnished carriages following steaming locomotives that had raced on the railway track parallel to the coast, marked at regular intervals by ancient towers Saracen, under the relentless late afternoon sun - even if the clock on the pediment of the entrance, opposite the trapezoidal fountain with the tapered outline, always marked two twenty-seven. After all, the station is the place where things are stationed. It is the waiting room of Time. The place where even the mythical Golden Arrow, the luxurious Southern Railway boat train connecting London with Ariminum, becomes Zeno's Arrow - in fact motionless. Could this be the reason why it was impossible to find a timetable in the forest of illuminated arrivals and departures boards? Furthermore, as the only destination, those signs offered the following indication: “Tòt praeter one praeclusae”, which meant: “All but one closed”. The Ariminum by trail app offered no further explanations, apart from a long comment that emphasized the importance of individual choices. In Dutch.
Going down the tunnel of the imaginary esophagus, The Roc crossed the dark bowels of the city, the Mercato delle Poveracce, passed under the Arc de Triomphe and emerged between the genitals of that hermaphrodite colossus: the Barafonda, with the Variety Theater and the Brothel, evanescent and deceptive plays of shadows between the salty breezes and the mists of the dozing Rubicon - sleeping like the creatures between three and ten years old who lived in a block built where the river flowed, the Kandinsky Kindergarten. The Roc had made long vaulting around and over that building, with dives, pull-ups and more descents to carry out reconnaissance laps at low altitude.
He had been attracted by the telepathic communications between the kids, by the looks they exchanged in meetings on the stairs or on the landings, when they stood behind a door or in a cradle or were held by the hand like bunches of salad by The Keeper or The Master; from their whispering the formula Asa Nisi Masa - translation of the word “Anima” (“Soul”) in the Serpentine alphabet, where an s is added to each syllable and its vowel repeated: a (sa) ni (si) ma (sa) - to attract a vase without touching it; by the laughter before going to bed, a prologue to an uninterrupted nocturnal buzz; in short, by the secret life of the children of that building, with stories of total love, hatred, unhappiness, always on the stairs, the galleries, the small playground right in front the sea, on the sand.
Finally, the beach. It was bordered, to the east, by the green and continuous strip of the pine forest, an oasis of peace punctuated by weather vanes with the words “Officium meum stably agitari”, “My task is to be steadily agitated”, which many believed to allude to the incostant character of Ariminensi; behind the grove the hills began to rise, reaching their apex in the Cliff, innervated by narrow and treacherous paths up to the summit garrisoned by Catholikà, an ancient Byzantine village overlooking the clear waters of Romagna, on the final stretch of the Kraken Gorge (monster who, according to legend, devoured fishermen's boats).
On the western side, the artificial pools were divided by buoys, which also signaled the bathing limit, beyond which the Adriatic stretched. Signs placed at regular intervals on the shoreline warned: “Ne male in vada inpactus you die”. The translation from the dialect sounded like this: “To avoid drowning in a glass of water”.
It was the Baths area. After the still disheveled Aurora had opened the doors of the bridal chamber to allow the Sun, worn out by the nocturnal rehearsals, to come out for a breath of fresh air, bands of excited kids had crept among the well-spaced umbrellas, waiting for the first tour of vacationers. They had crawled towards the changing room area so as not to be detected by the surveillance cameras, commandos of Dwarvish Rambos with a specific objective: to contemplate, through the disconnected tables of the mobile cabins, busty women undressed dreaming of beauty contests, fashion shows and Instagram profiles with millions of followers. Further on - accessible to many, but not to all, indeed only to a very few who knew the way to get there - extended the mysterious ravines of the Iperuranian Beach, where it was said that the Damned Artists were hiding.
In the evening, the coast was filled with the footsteps of people heading to the port, to witness the departure of the Ace of Hearts, a mythical ocean liner glowing with phantasmagoric lights. It was destined for the otherworldly abodes of the international jet set - fascinating and unattainable - who had spent a few days of vacation in the forty-two exclusive rooms of the Grand Hotel, all furnished with authentic French and Venetian pieces of the eighteenth century, sheltered by the liberty style facade painted by a Disney pink. Once the ship had disappeared among the tetrahedic stars of an octangular Zodiac, night now fell, the pier - the Palata - emptied itself, leaving the field to Crepitu, the motorcyclist who sped back and forth until dawn roaring and fluttering (it was not easy distinguish between the two noises).
At each passage of the motorized walker, a chained dog answered from the external toilets, indifferent to the signs (by the natives who knows why called “Bisacàn”, frogs) that warned: “Silence omni pladùr maius”, or “Silence is for everyone more than noise” (some philologists of the Dutch school have preferred the interpretation: “Let yourself be deafened by the silence!”). With the panting barking the animal testified to its solitary presence, except for the Moon, who had lingered on the beach volleyball court, to the side, as if preparing to serve. As long as an oblique beam was fired ... From the main road an Armourtruck, crushing the porphyry cubes, launched a low growl, preceded by the tinkling of alloy wheels on the cobbles.
The last vision of The Roc, before falling into a comatose state of intoxication on the coast, was a swarm of birds around a fishing boat.
The boat was a tawny yellow that blended with that of the diurnal star, which reached the peak of its circular path. The sun's rays fell perpendicularly like jewels hanging from the miter of the musical god Sun Ra. Passing through pearly clusters of clouds, which chased each other in the empty rooms of the malachite green palace of Heaven, they improvised a vertical harmony on the sea - a blue chalcedony slab stretched from the port of Ariminum to the ancient landings of Bithynia.
The boat, in the center of the scene, was laden with citrine sea breams, platinum-colored sea basses, large behemoths (Jinshin-Uwo, in dialect, the Fish of Earthquakes) zebra-striped like lava stones, small silver elephant seals, goldenfish caught while swayed among azure algae, which stood out on piles of other fish of all shades of the quartz, rose, violet and mauve - agonizing but still throbbing, on the deck: a glittering saucerful of secrets, enveloped in the whirlwind of jazz dance frantically conducted by winged animals.
An evanescent picture.
Because The Roc was among them but, at the same time, he was each of them.