The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Fiction: Jack Harte

Excerpt from   Arcana   a work in progress

Introductory note:

This is an episode from Arcana, a story written in the style of the heroic sagas, but with anti-heroic intent. Zaja is a Jesus Christ figure, re-located to Ireland. The saga evolves in 22 episodes, pitched against the Major Arcana of the Tarot. One of the episodes was published in Issue 25 of The Ofi Press and is available here.

It will be launched on World Book Night, 23 April next, on the Internet from the Irish Writers' Centre, Dublin, and in different translations from other locations around the world, including a Spanish translation from Linares, Mexico.

 By Jack Harte (Ireland). Published in Issue 26.

13   Sun and Water

Long before dawn, when there was just enough light to show the path through the trees, the Saint led the way. They were fasting, bare-footed, and bare-legged. On top of the mound, which was a gigantic heap of stones, they got down on their knees. Moving on their knees, they circled the mound three times, then digressed down the stony path to the river. Along the river-bed they made their way, slowly shuffling forward over the jagged rock. When they reached the bottom of a path on the other bank they ascended and followed it along a cliff face, then down again to the river-bed.

 

Before they began the ascent to their starting point, the Saint picked up a stone from the river-bed and beckoned Zaja to do likewise. When they reached the mound again the Saint cast his stone on the heap and Zaja followed suit. They were getting to their feet just as strong light started breaking on the horizon.

 

The Saint stood on top of the mound of stones and faced the rising sun with his two arms outstretched in the form of a cross. Zaja stood a little way off, watching the Saint as much as the sunrise.

 

The Saint stood staring at the sun until it cleared the horizon. Then he lowered his arms. It was clear to Zaja that he was dazzled if not blinded by the exercise.

 

“Can there be a greater manifestation of the spirit of love in the universe than the daily rising of the sun, bringing us light and heat, bestowing graciously the gift of life?”

 

Zaja did not answer, for he was deeply moved by the beauty of the moment. The hardship of the station he had followed had sharpened his senses. The pain from the cuts and bruises on this legs elevated into an intense awareness of every green leaf in the grove as well as of the sea in the distance and the sky overhead, of the birds stirring in the trees to welcome the day, of the animals rising from their sleep to prowl for food. He did not speak, for he was overwhelmed by this intense awareness of the livingness of everything.

 

The Saint fumbled past Zaja and down the path to the river. It was clear that he could not see but was able to pick his way through familiarity with the grove. Zaja followed him. When he reached the river-bed he followed the flow upstream until he was standing under the waterfall where Zaja had first seen him. He knelt at the keeve and dipped his hand into the water scooping it up to bathe his eyes.

 

“The other great miracle of our earth,” he said, “is water. Think of how water is constantly flowing, finding its way to the sea, there to be raised again as vapour and breathed back across the land, to nourish everything that grows. Don’t tell me I am worshipping water when I kneel here in awe of this phenomenon. If there is a spirit of the universe, then it is manifested here too.”

 

“The argument is that all these things behave according to the laws of a Creator.”

 

“Water obeys no laws. If it did, then ice would not float. The river would freeze in the winter from the bottom up and kill the fish and every other thing that lives beneath its surface.”

 

The Saint’s vision was restored, and he looked about him, looked at Zaja who was standing still, as if in a trance. “Come on,” he said. “We have paid our respects. Now let us go and have breakfast.”