Now it is night again, so I will get on with what I’ve started:
In my college years, I read practically all of the time, you see, always except when I was sleeping (which wasn’t much) or when I was writing to you (which was more), but practically all of the rest of the time. All this reading had not yet brought me wisdom and had not yet brought me riches, but once, in the moldy dusty cellar of an old world library, it brought me the location of Bostanji’s ancient tower.
The wisdom and riches would come later, in good time, I thought.
Somewhat later, I stood at the top of that tower, as one does, and I looked out at the objects of my desire, the stars. In my hand, I held a butterfly net. Perhaps. Memory fails. It is possible that I am mistaken in this and that my hand held the leaf skimmer for a back yard pool, which would have been somewhat easier for a person of my life experience to locate on short notice.
You don’t care. It is a minor point, a minor point, and yet my mind does not release it.
The net – whatever the original purpose of its manufacturing had been – was perfect for reaching for stars. A pile of gemstones soon lay at my feet. They captured light in ways I had never imagined possible.
I would have stared at them all night, too, but no sooner had I begun than I heard a sound in the distance. I looked out from the tower to see, far off in the moonlight, a glint from the swords of the Sultan’s soldiers coming straight for me.
Impossible, I thought.
Skeletal. Coughing. Hacking. Mummified in parts. What remained of the Sultan’s soldiers soon closed in all around me at the top of the tower.
“We’ve come for the Sultan’s gems,” one of them said.
In what I might describe – and not at all inaccurately – as a fit of desperation, I took the gems, the sapphires and the rubies, the emeralds and the pietercites, the atracites and chrysocollas, and even those democracites and bobstones, and I scattered them across the floor.
“The Sultan’s gems?” I said. “They’re not here.” For even as I scattered them, the gemstones, in the sky for so many centuries, as it were, retained their constellational order. Each kept its relative position to all the others. They had had lots of practice, after all.
So when the Sultan’s soldiers looked over here, in this corner, they saw only a big dipper, which is a ladle of sorts, I suppose.
And when they looked over there, in that corner, they saw only a harp called Lyre.
Over there, they saw scales of justice. And there, that was a fish. And a bear. And a scorpion, too.
The eyes of the Sultan’s soldiers, so very ancient and with eyesight so faded, could not make out the truth of it. The soldiers coughed. They hacked. At last, they shrugged and simply walked away, leaving me behind with my tower full of gems that used to be stars.
These gems I fashioned into jewels and when I am asked where it was I got all of this sparkly jewelry from, this is the story I tell.
It is the story I told this time, at any rate.