How Zantheus Fell into the Sky

All Rights Reserved ©

THE GARDEN (Anthe's Dream)

The newly formed duo spent two days crossing the desert of Midbar before they reached Ir. They drank from a flask belonging to Leukos and continued to eat fruit, which they had plundered from the trees in a small oasis near the beach. Zantheus spent most of his time wondering if Leukos, who insisted on walking a little way in front of him, really knew where he was going. He assured Zantheus that they were on the very edge of the desert and would soon come to the town called Ir. It was painfully hot in the daytime and the one night they spent there was equally cold, the sand whipped by chilly winds. Zantheus shivered where he lay and remembered Tromo doing the same thing. He wondered what had happened to him. He also tried to stay awake to see if Leukos ever stopped writing, but before he knew it he had fallen asleep and was dreaming about endless hills again, along with mountains, mirrors, and falling through the sky.

*

Meanwhile, Anthē was dreaming too.

She was in the middle of a garden, bursting with life all around her. Trees towered and flowers of every colour dotted the lush grass. It was beautiful. The garden seemed to radiate energy so that the different colours came alive in the eye, blending into each other but standing out individually at the same time. She was enrapt. No single tree or flower looked the same; each seemed to posses its own set of shades and hues, as if one could almost sense the personalities of the leaves and the bark and the butterflies from their unique colours. Here, colour was felt.

At first, not knowing that she was dreaming, Anthē just blinked.

“How…?”

“How did you get here?”

Anthē started. These words had been spoken by someone behind her. She turned to see a young man with red hair, dressed in green, his hands busy writing on parchment while he spoke to her.

“Who are you?” she managed.

“You can call me Leukos.”

“How did I get here, Leukos?”

“Everyone has a secret garden within themselves,” said Leukos matter-of-factly. “Some people think it’s the most beautiful place you can go.”

“I certainly do. This is wonderful...” said Anthē, accepting the logic of the dream.

“Yes, and it belongs to you.”

“To me?” Anthē laughed.

“Right,” said Leukos. “Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. It’s meant to belong to exactly one other person as well.”

What could he possibly mean? Anthē had never even been to this place before. But then…why did it feel so familiar to her?

“Are you sure?” she said. “Who else does it belong to?”

“Not even I can tell you that. Only you can know who it is.”

“That’s strange.” Anthē was only half paying attention to Leukos, still staring at the trees and flowers. “Why does it have to be like that?”

“That’s the way the gardens are designed.”

Anthē moved around under the boughs, staring up in wonder. “Well, I hope I find the person I’m supposed to share this with...”

“So do I,” said Leukos with empathy.

Anthē laughed again, though less confidently this time.

“Hang on, if I’m here now, on my own, does that mean I can come here whenever I want?”

“Yes. As soon as you find the key you can enter whenever you want. It is terribly sad.”

Sad? What did that mean? The boy was speaking in riddles. She decided to humour him.

“What do you mean it’s ‘terribly sad’, Leukos?”

“Well, the gardens weren’t designed for people to enjoy them on their own. If you’re on your own, you can only access half of it. When some people find their key, they go into their gardens and steal fruit from them to keep and eat for themselves. But because they never see the whole garden this way they start to yearn for the other, hidden half. Most of the time they don’t even find this and they just go on stealing more and more fruit, hoping to satisfy their hunger. Or even trespassing in other people’s gardens that don’t belong to them, that aren’t joined to their garden. But they are never satisfied. It’s terrible, really.”

This was clearly a joke. What Leukos was saying made no sense. Anthē thought she’d play along with his game though, at least for a while, and then he could tell her where they really were and how they had arrived here all of a sudden, just exactly what was going on. She looked at the boy. “Alright then, so if what you’re saying is true, that means that this garden has a special extra half I can’t get to, right?”

Leukos looked her in the eyes. “Yes, that’s right.”

“Well, where is it then?”

To her surprise, she got an instant answer: “Do you see that hedge over there?”

At this Leukos pointed to a tall, long hedgerow in the middle distance. It seemed to mark the border of the garden, refusing to disclose what lay beyond it, being too thick to see through and too tall to see over.

“Yes...what about it?” said Anthē, hesitating visibly.

“Come with me,” said Leukos, and he began to walk towards it. Anthē followed him through the flowers and between the trees, content to simply stroll through the garden in the sunlight. She kept her eyes fixed on the mysterious hedge at its end, however, and as they neared it they began to pick out an irregularity in it, a glimmer or sparkle where there should only be a leaf or a branch. When they came closer still she saw that there was a large metal structure embedded in one section of the hedge. When it became clear what it was, Anthē broke into a run. Overtaking Leukos, she went right up to it and began pulling back branches and brushing aside foliage to expose the totality of the structure: a golden door. Leukos just stood behind her, watching and writing. When she had finished, he spoke quietly.

“Your can’t open it by yourself.”

“But I need to get to the other side.”

“You cannot.”

“Why not? Why can’t I?”

“The other half belongs to one other person. Only when you both bring your keys and unlock the door at the same time will it open, and the two gardens will become one.”

“Why does it have to be like that?”

“Don’t ask me, that’s just how the gardens are designed.”

“But I want to go there now! How can I get in now?

“Only when you both bring your keys and put them in the lock from both sides, only when the time is right, only when everything is as designed, only then will you see the other side.”

Anthē was kneeling in front of the door. “You don’t understand, I need to go there now. I can… I can taste what grows there… Somehow I can taste what is behind this door, and I… I need to go there.”

“Is it not as I said? You must wait for the right person. For the right time.”

Anthē stood and turned to face Leukos with a cry. “Why? Why must I wait?”

Leukos looked down at his manuscript, writing with more urgency. He replied in a quiet, but nonetheless firm, tone.

“Do not presume to be angry with me. I did not design this garden. It has been arranged so that everything will bloom at the appointed time, when everything is perfect for you and the person on the other side. When the door is unlocked and the hedge is brought down and the two gardens are one garden, when everything coincides, when the time is right. That is not a matter of choice; it is the way things are.”

Anthē had tears in her eyes. “Well why does it have to be like that? Who says? I never agreed to this! If it’s my garden I should be able to decide what happens in it!”

Leukos did not say anything, but continued to write.

“Answer me!” She turned to him. “Answer me! Stop scribbling in that stupid book! Where am I? How did I come to this place?”

Again Leukos did not say anything, though he now began to walk in the opposite direction, away from the door. Anthē did not want to leave it, but she managed to reluctantly pull herself away in pursuit of him. She ran to keep up with his brisk pace, gasping for the sweetly scented air in between what had grown into deep, heavy sobs. This time she followed him along a winding path that weaved its way between the tall trees, which became more densely packed so that she eventually found herself in a forest. Anthē cried out for Leukos to slow down, but her cry was choked by tears. In her desperation she reached out to pull him back, but as she did so her foot caught on the root of a tree and she was brought to the ground. Instantly she tasted the soft earth in her mouth, and this made her cry even more. It was delicious. As she scrambled to her feet something caught her eye.

She froze.

A little way away from the path there was a small cluster of blackened tree-trunks, the remnants of tall oaks that appeared to have been burnt down. The flowers surrounding them were either singed or entirely burnt away. They were the only dead things in the garden. Anthē walked over to the trunks slowly and knelt on the ground once more next to them, weeping. She caressed the trunks, held the fragments of flowers in her hands and covered herself in tears, alone in her own beautiful garden.

When she could cry no more, she got to her feet and walked on in search of Leukos. She eventually found him where the path came to an end by a hedge not dissimilar to the one they had just come from. Sure enough, there was another large door hidden in it. Whereas the other had been easy to see from a distance because of its magnificent sheen, this one was a lot less easy to spot: it was covered in a good deal of moss and rust and was even slightly dented in one place. The metal it was made of certainly didn’t sparkle or shimmer with the glow of newness; it was grimy and rusty and in fact it looked as if it had been forced open on more than one occasion.

Leukos was sitting on the grass next to it, writing busily, and paid Anthē no attention as she gathered her speech.

“Leukos, back there in that forest, I saw… I saw… Somebody had damaged my garden...”

No reply, just the scratch of the quill, the song of the birds and the brush of the breeze past her ears.

“Somebody has been in my garden! Someone ha-”

At last Leukos spoke, almost with a sigh. “Yes, I know.”

“How did they get in?”

“You gave them your key. Or they broke in.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t have a key, Leukos. This is the first time I’ve ever been here!”

“It most certainly isn’t.”

“What do you mean it isn’t?” More anger bubbled up through Anthē’s tears. “Tell me, Leukos! Tell me! Where am I?”

Leukos stood slowly. “You must leave now. The key is in your pocket.”

Anthē just looked at him, bewildered. After a brief moment she dared to slip her hand into the pocket of her dress, knowing that it was empty and yet discovering that it contained a small golden key. Without a word she strode up to the battered door and placed the key in the lock. It fitted perfectly. She turned it.

Then she woke up.

*

Later on that day, Zantheus and Leukos came to a settlement on the edge of the desert where it merged into a parched wasteland. The first structure they encountered was a large canvas tent fixed against the wind by a series of ropes, still a fair way off from the main settlement of Ir. “I will make enquiries about Tromo in here,” announced Zantheus, and he walked through the hanging door. Leukos went in after him.

Inside the tent, Zantheus was pleased to find, was an official-looking desk with a fat, well-dressed man seated behind it and a long queue extending back from it entirely made up of men, which he joined. He barely noticed the rows of benches parallel to the length of the tent lined with attractive, under-dressed young women. Leukos did not join the line behind Zantheus but stood at the back of tent, watching and writing. In front of Zantheus, one by one the men were arriving at the head of the queue, where they would have a brief conversation with the fat man. He would then stand up and go over to the benches to talk to the girls before bringing one of them back over to the desk with him. The man at the front of the line would then hand him some money and walk out of the tent with the girl, past the line. Zantheus, oblivious to all this, simply stepped forward each time a customer left the tent, patiently waiting his turn. Leukos continued to watch and write. Some of the girls whispered and giggled amongst themselves. More customers joined the line behind Zantheus.

After some time, one of the girls decided to get up and approach Leukos. She was a bit shorter than him and very attractive, with dark brown hair that fell to her shoulders, sensually cloaking her creamy tanned skin. She strode confidently up to Leukos. Brown eyes flashed, but he refused to meet them.

“Hello there, stranger.” She extended her hand to him.

“Urgh,” said Leukos, “is that the best opening line you can come up with?” He let her hand remain suspended where it was.

The girl blinked. “I’m sorry? Do you have a better one?”

“I suppose,” said Leukos, “that if there were a better one you would have used it...” Still he refused to make eye contact.

She withdrew her hand. “I can see you’re a shy one. Is that why you don’t want to wait in line like everyone else?”

“No. I’m waiting for that man over there.” He aimed his quill at Zantheus just for a second to indicate whom he meant. By now the knight was third in line.

“You mean the man in the armour?” asked the girl. “Are you friends with him?”

“Friends...” said Leukos with a sly smile. “I’m not sure that’s the word...”

The girl was irked by this boy’s ponderous way of speaking. She tried another approach.

“What’s your trade, stranger?”

“I’m a wandering scribe,” said the boy. “I’m leading the man in the armour on a journey to Qereth as a favour.” He had not stopped writing in that little book for one moment since she had been talking to him.

“What are you writing?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“Well,” the girl changed her tone, moved in closer, and even slipped an arm seductively around Leukos’s waist, “why don’t you take a break for a moment? Why let your friend have all the fun?” Leukos had to hold his paper closer to himself to carry on writing. “Look at me, stop writing.” He didn’t stop writing, and he didn’t yet raise his eyes to look at her either. “Why don’t we have some fun together?”

“I don’t think that would be a very good idea.”

“Why not?”

“I think you know,” said Leukos, and looked her in the eyes.

The girl was visibly taken aback. “What’s your name, stranger?” she said after a moment, but now a lot less confidently.

“Leukos.”

Anthē almost let out a shriek, but stopped herself just in time. She let go of him. “Oh…pleased to meet you, Leukos. My name is Anthē,” she said. She said it slowly, dazedly, as if she was in a dream.

That was exactly what was coming back to her: a dream. A dream she had had that morning about being in a beautiful garden of some sort with a key in her hand and tears streaming down her face. She had forgotten about it afterwards, but it was all coming back to her now. And this boy had been there, with red hair, writing in that same book. And he had been called Leukos.

Anthē did not normally get nervous around clients—that would be bad for business—but this was unnerving her. It was definitely the same boy.

The large well-dressed man at the desk looked up from his conversation, but Anthē regained her composure and gave him a little wave to signal that everything was alright.

“Let’s go outside,” said Leukos.

“…alright,” said Anthē.

She gave the man at the desk another signal and they left the tent. Leukos only went a short way before she stopped him.

“You’re the boy from my dream,” she said.

“Your dream?” said Leukos. “What are you talking about?”

“This morning I had a dream about being in a beautiful garden, and part of it had been burned down, and there was a key but I couldn’t open one of the locks, and…and you were there.”

“Young lady,” said Leukos, which sounded a stupid thing to say because he was quite young too, “I have to tell you I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“No, it was definitely you! It’s so strange… I know it sounds mad, but you were in my dream. It must mean something…”

They stood watching the sun go down in the west. For a while Anthē said nothing more. Something was going on in her mind. She was confused. She was trying to process the dream, but she couldn’t work out what was happenening. She felt very disorientated. The memory of this beautiful, enchanting garden filled her mind, brought back by seeing Leukos again. Where had he come from? How had he been in her dream? It couldn’t be a coincidence. What was going on? It had been the most exciting, colourful, irresistible dream. She had felt as though she never wanted to leave. Only...if it had been a dream, why had it felt so real? And why was this boy now turning up in her waking life? And also...why did she feel so sad all of a sudden? Something was happening to her...

“Are you alright?” said Leukos. He must have noticed that something was wrong.

Anthē sat down on the hard earth, her head in her hands. She had started to cry. She wasn’t entirely sure why. The tears came ready-formed, as if they had been waiting, stored up, to be cried. In fact she felt oddly as if she was simply picking up where she had left off in the dream. Leukos sat down next to her.

“I’m sorry...” she said between sobs. “I’m not usually like this...”

“Don’t worry. It’s fine,” said Leukos. “Do you mind me asking what’s wrong?”

Anthē didn’t know what was wrong. Well, actually she did, of course she knew. But she didn’t know why it was bothering her now. Normally she was able to keep these feelings buried deep down where she didn’t have to confront them –the shame, the depression, the guilt, the self-disgust. But for some reason they were all rising to the surface. Why now? What had triggered off these tears?

When she did not reply, Leukos spoke again. “It’s alright to cry. Sorrow is what carves us out. We find out who we really are when we cry.”

“That’s easy for you to say!” Anthē snapped. Stupid boy. What business did he have here? Who was he to show up in her dream, and then come into their tent and refuse her services?

“It is,” said Leukos. “It is easy for me to say. But believe me, I know. I know what it’s like.”

“You don’t know half of what it’s like,” said Anthē resentfully.

“Tell me then. What half of what’s like?”

Anthē tried to pull herself together. It didn’t work. Against her wishes, the words started to spill out. “Working here. How could you ever know what it’s like to work in a brothel? You’re a man! You don’t know what it’s like, living here, working here, day after day. You go to bed with a man, have a bath...then the next one. It’s horrible. It makes you—it makes you feel sick. It makes you hate yourself. And everyone else. You see the worst of people. But the worst of all, worst, worst, worst of all, is that you feel like you’ve been tarnished. You’ve been tainted dirty and nothing, nothing in the whole world will ever make you clean again. Nothing in the whole world will ever make you enjoy your life or feel like yourself ever again.”

There was silence for a while. Then, with absolute seriousness, Leukos said “So leave.”

“I can’t,” said Anthē. “I can’t...he won’t let me. Keleb keeps us here by force. And it’s not just him, he has his friends...people he pays to do his dirty work...”

“Escape then. You can come with my friend and me.”

Anthē looked at the boy to make sure he was being serious.

“What, really?”

“Really. Like I told you, I’m a wandering scribe, leading my friend who wants to get to Qereth. You could come with us. Start a new life there.”

“You’d help me escape?”

“We’d help you escape.”

“Why would you do that? I wo-”

“We would expect nothing in return, of course,” said Leukos. “You can journey with us for as little or as long as you want.”

Anthē was overcome. “No...no...I couldn’t. There’s no hope for me…”

“That’s not true,” said Leukos. “Sometimes, hope is just putting one foot in front of the other. Come with us.”

The idea was becoming a real possibility for Anthē. How she had longed to be free of this place. She had usually kept the longing sealed up tight in a place where it didn’t bother her so often, stored up with the depression and self-disgust and shame –that was the only way to cope. But now it had got out, along with all those other feelings.

“How far is it?” she asked.

“It’s quite a long way away, but it’ll be worth the journey once we’re there. It’s a huge city, full of opportunities. It would be a fresh start.”

“I’ve heard of it, of course...” said Anthē. The garden was fully back in her mind, as though it was all around her again –it hadn’t ever really left. It came with the strangest sensation, more of a taste than anything else. She pulled her thoughts back to the present. This boy, this boy was offering her a fresh start. She could go to Qereth and begin again, recover, forget this place maybe even get married? Yes, that was what she wanted, wasn’t it? Ever since she was a little girl. To find one person and belong to that person and have them belong to her and her alone. How she had had to subdue that hope, how this place had forced it into the smallest available space left in her heart... And then there was the dream she had had this morning. The boy was denying having ever met her before, but she had definitely dreamt about him earlier that day. It had to be some kind of sign.

“I’ll come with you,” she heard her lips form the ridiculous words. Keleb would never let her go. He’d stop her, or send people after them.

Leukos stood up. “Great,” he said cheerfully. “I’ll be glad of the extra company. And so will Zantheus I think, in the long run. Let’s go and tell your boss.”

Anthē got up too and made sure she had brushed all the water from her eyes and cheeks. She went back into the tent with him, utterly terrified, not knowing how this was going to work out. She ignored the curious looks from her colleagues and walked up to the desk, Leukos at her side. By now Zantheus had reached the front of the queue. He and the fat man were having a rather heated conversation.

“How dare you suggest that I could even be capable of such a thing!” Zantheus was saying.

“Oh, I’m sure you’re quite capable of it,” said Keleb, eyeing him up and down. He noticed Anthē. “What are you doing back so soon? Does he want someone else?”

Zantheus addressed his guide. “Leukos...are you aware that this man is offering the opportunity of...of fornication in exchange for money?”

Keleb laughed.

“Yes, I was well aware of that,” said Leukos. “Zantheus, this is Anthē. She’s going to be joining us on our journey.”

All of a sudden Keleb’s expression changed. “She’ll be doing nothing of the sort!”

Zantheus could not believe it. The stupid boy had befriended one of the female…workers. “Come on, Leukos, let us leave this place,” he said.

“Yes, but we’re not leaving without this woman,” said Leukos calmly.

“I don’t know who you think you are...” growled Keleb, “but if you think you can just come in here and–”

He was interrupted by the sound of Zantheus’s weapon sliding out of its sheath. Zantheus was disgusted by this man and wanted to get away from him, but he had realised that Leukos was not going to be easily persuaded. The boy would probably risk death just to follow through with his insane whims.

Keleb jumped up from his seat and backed away. The men in the queue behind Zantheus all ran out of the tent. The women in the corner looked over, some with anxiety, most with profound anticipation.

“We’ll make you a deal, Keleb,” said Leukos. “You let Anthē leave with us, and my companion here won’t gut you like a fish.”

Zantheus was not sure that he would be able to kill again, but he stayed calm and tried his best to look threatening. Keleb, his eyes fixed on the broken blade, managed to stammer “Y-yes, of course, t-take her and go!”

Satisfied with this, Leukos turned and walked out of the tent. Anthē spat on the desk, and followed suit. Zantheus, not entirely certain of what had just taken place, sheathed his sword and accompanied her out. Many of the women breathed out sighs of disappointment, a few of relief.

“Well, that was completely unfruitful,” he said when they were out of the tent.

“Not completely,” said Leukos. “Come on, let’s keep looking for Tromo.”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.