By Basilio Valentino
'I dreamt that I lived in a primitive land, where some people slept in wooden huts, but most slept under the open sky. I was laying at night, on a bed made of fern and moss, watching the stars. Then I saw a star falling from the sky. First, I marveled at the beautiful spectacle, then I was gripped by fear as the flaming comet plunged towards me.
I thought it would crush me, but it crashed behind the top of a nearby hill. Although I felt a sense of great danger, I could not resist my curiosity and hastened to the top of the hill. When I arrived there, I scanned the valley where the comet must have landed. I expected to see flames, but to my astonishment I saw a being that radiated light, lying on the barren ground.
I went towards it and as I reached it, it rose up. I saw that it had the features of a man so beautiful that I had to avert my gaze and began to cry. It was not a man though, for it was nearly twice the size of any man I had ever seen, its body radiated light and it had wings.
I was paralyzed by the shock it gave me to behold this being. Then it spoke to me, it said:
“My name is Tamiel. You don't need to fear me, nor do you need to avert your eyes.”
“I can't look at you,” I answered with a quivering voice, “you are too perfect, I can't bear to behold so much beauty.”
“I am not as beautiful as you think and if my perfection will soon diminish. Your beauty, daughter of Seth, far exceeds mine,” it replied.
Then I looked up and saw that its light had almost diminished. It now looked like a man, be it one of gigantic proportions. I saw that he was naked and when I looked in his eyes, I saw a fire that burned straight through my soul... then a great, ferocious, lust overwhelmed my senses.
I went towards the being and kissed it. It took me and tore the clothes of my body. We made love for hours, hours during which I experienced a combination of pleasure and pain that seemed impossible to endure. I was not sure I would survive, yet I did not care: what could be better than to die in such a state of rapture?
But I did survive and not only that, I bore Tamiel a son.'
'All of that happened in one dream?' I asked incredulously.
Justine laughed a laugh that was mesmerizing and mysterious. In the semi-darkness, she looked beautiful, not old, not young, but like someone who was impervious to time, like a noblewoman in a Roman fresco.
'I was still in my cell,' she said.
'Eh? What?' I said.
'My cell, the one in which Héloïse had interred me.' she responded.
'Oh, you mean in your story.'
'Yes, of course.'
'I wasn't quite sure anymore where you were, because you were first in that dungeon and from there you seemed to have drifted off into some sort of mythological prehistorical setting. I honestly don't know if I'm still quite following you.' I said sounding confused.
'Dear Basilio, I think you are following me perfectly,' she said, still smiling. And she continued:
'I woke up from that dream in my cell, where everything was exactly as when I had left it... so much so, that I began to doubt whether I had actually left it at all.
In the days that followed, I became convinced that everything I had experienced since I had been taken away from the dormitory, had been either dream or hallucination. In other words: I was sure that I had lost my mind.
There were moments that I neither read, nor dreamed, nor hallucinated – they were the worst, because during those long, long hours I almost died of loneliness, fear and boredom. In time I even began to appreciate fear and madness, for they proved essential allies in my struggle against boredom. Surely, ennui is the most powerful demon of them all!
And so, I completely abandoned my sanity and let the dreams and hallucinations run amok. I existed in a world where nothing was certain, where everything moved and shifted continuously. Where I would tear the clothes from my body and touch myself... feeling my soft body, feeling my nipples, my stomach, my thighs, my labia... as if they belonged to someone else. Or as if my hands belonged to someone else... maybe there were others, I wasn't sure... I had many orgasms, and my screams (our screams?) would fill the void.
I was burning with passion, burning with desire, burning with love... and frequently I burned with fever; I was burning and burning! Was it true that Héloïse often stood at the other side of my door and talked to me? Did she really tell me that she'd been a god-fearing novice once and that love had led her onto a path, away from Christianity, but closer to Christ? Did she really tell me that her lover had been so magnificent that he'd make her tremble and melt? That he made love to her on the pulpit, in the bed of a sinner and in the cell of a Saint? Did she tell me that she had once lived, that she had lost her life, that she would never die?
I talked back to her – whether she was there or not – and told her of my dreams. I told her about my beautiful lover who had fallen from the sky for me; I told her about the beautiful body of Bethsheba and the seductive dance of Salomé. And then I told her that I was no longer Justine, but Theosebeia; that I lived in Egypt and that the unconsummated love for a great and powerful man was scorching me. That it was devouring my soul, had in fact already done so; that Justine had died; that Theosebeia had died; I told her that I was a spirit, waiting to live again.
And then she opened the door and said: “You are ready. Come with me.”'
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