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First Fire

The heart of Eratreün is the great domed library. It is the centre of


the city and the form of the city: the city being built in the shape of an
eight-pointed star. Eight major throughways radiate out, heading
north, south, east, west, northwest, northeast, southeast and
southwest. The throughways heading east are shortest for they lead to
the harbours and waterfront. Those that go west lead to departure
points for the plains and inner lands. North one leaves for the second
city of our region, Onimar, and south to the myriad villages and towns
of Chriniu’s wildest and most beautiful shores. Though the
throughways are set below ground level they are foundations and are
considered the city’s form but not its expression. Its expression is the
residences of multiple shapes and sizes, the colourful markets, the
rolling parks, the communal domes and above all the people of this
great and spacious city.

I have lived now many years in Eratreün, having come from a city of
a region west. My birthplace I left when I was young. Some are born to
stand still, others must swim, they must see and taste a deeper life.

The people of Eratreün say that when a person leaves this world
they must stand before the guardians of the unseen worlds. They must
recount all they have observed, all they have heard, what they have
learned of life. At the heart of the universe is the river where the first
dream began. In order to understand what it had created the dream
became a fire: then a sun. The sun became two suns and the first man
and woman were born. They created a moon to mark the passage of
time. Then they made a child. The child, being the first being bound by
time, succumbed to its illusion. It believed its existence was finite. So it
left the river at the heart of the universe and wandered until it came to
a vast sea. Being tired it dived into the sea and became a fish. The fish
swam and swam until it could swim no more. It beached itself to die
and each one of its scales was taken on the breeze and blown along all
the pathways, all the channels, all the unseen rivers of the universe.
For each scale contained within the memory of the child’s mother and
father and they longed to go home: home being the river at the heart
of the universe. None realised they did not need to go home for home
was within them. We are sparks of the first fire and carry its memory
with us. When the Guardians of the unseen worlds deem we have seen
enough, heard enough, spoke enough, that we have come to silence
then we will become a sun. To become a sun we must learn to breathe
of the first fire, which was once the dream of the river at the heart of
the universe.

When I came to Eratreün I loved to stroll on the waterfront. The long


walkways, the widely spaced linden, the shimmering blue of the great
lake’s surface all spoke to me. You, they whispered, have come to
discover who you are. At that time I lived in a simple room in a poorer
part of the city. Since, I have known comfort and ease. Now, again, I
have a small room near the harbours. Simplicity in affairs is best
followed.

I speak of the great domed library for on those first days in the city I
often went there. I liked to sit and read the ancient texts of our people.
The parchment scrolls, the bound books, the light displays contained
their wisdom. In the mark of a reed, the ink of a pen, the arrangement
of light particles I learned of the search for truth. I learned of the rise
and fall of eras. I learned of the wars and conflicts. There were the
discussions and opinions of philosophers: long treatises on the wonders
and harmony of mathematics. Most moving were the words of the
poets and wise-ones. Their ecstasy, their insight, their reaching to the
heart of things never failed to move me. Many hours I spent absorbing
their writings, etching them as though into my being. Frequently I left
only vaguely understanding, yet full of fire and inspiration. Something
within burned and my footsteps would be surer, my bearing lighter as I
sought the waterfront.

On one such evening, the sun setting behind me, a great amber
disc over the city, I contemplated this fire. Light bathed all. The
buildings and domes were warm, their surfaces reflecting into and
brightening the air. On the waterfront the poplars were heavy and full,
their leaves darkened and listless in the evening warmth. Patterns of
sun played endlessly on the surface of the lake. Even the day’s dust
seemed lit from within.
I found a bench in a small, enclosed park north of the shipping
wharves. Built in the form of a square its walls were lines of Tulip trees.
The yellow and orange flowers hung above my head. At my feet were
beds of peony. Somewhere music was being played: a bow drew sweet
notes from strings, a drum beat a gentle rhythm, a woman’s voice
lingered over a haunting melody.

I thought of the fire around me. There was a fire in everything. I


could not see it yet I sensed it. I sensed that in the movement of the
lake’s waters, the leaves above my head, the music coming from a
distance, the sun lighting everything, another fire burned: a hidden
fire. Was this the first fire? Or was it simply the energy of which all
things partake? I could not say.

The dream of the river at the heart of the universe: Did that river
run behind the fire I sensed about me? What memory, what ancient
memory was at work within me? What ancient memory was evoked by
the words of the poets I had read in the great domed library, the
thinking, the teachings of the wise-ones?

A woman entered the park. A light breeze rustled the trees as she
passed and took a place on a far bench. I saw the leaves of the Tulip
trees turn over and thought there would soon be rain: soft rain,
nourishing the dry earth, darkening the surface of the lake. The woman
was young with light hair and brown eyes. She wore a white linen robe
around which she had wound a crimson sash. She looked over at me
and smiled then put her hands together at her heart in a gesture of
respect. She too had been in the library. I had seen her before one of
the light displays. So, I thought, she too searches the words of the
poets and wise-ones to read of their ecstasy. Or perhaps she
contemplates the harmony and elegance of number. And what fire
brings her to this moment? What river carries our dreams together on
this day? Who knows what spark ignites and recognition is rekindled,
what proximity we once knew or are still to know finds its pathway. The
memory, the first fire, untouchable yet never absent: in the presence
of this woman, the trees swaying above my head, the peony and
jasmine, in heartbeat and breath.
Peter Millington © 2009

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