Chapter 4: GIOVANNI ROMANO
The temple towered several meters above the gentle Sikang River. It had not aged one day since my exile to the first dimension over two centuries ago. Girthy, Curtain Creeper vines wound their way around its structure and climbed the temple’s carved outer surface. The vine’s small feet clutched tightly onto its spectacular architecture forming a rich, green, vertical carpet.
The temple itself was rooted at the rocky base of the sloping Blue Mountains which lined the river’s western edge. It stood upon hundreds of sturdy stone pillars that pierced a foundation beneath the surface of the water. Hundreds of exotic—white birds fluttered from the temple’s ornate, stone towers. Their tales were long and nimble like the body of a serpent; I watched as they swayed with the movements of their floating bodies.
The bird’s slender necks dipped as they grew near the river; atop, were heads that appeared to have been dunked in burgundy. I paddled a canoe beneath the temple and entered its maze of pillars. Vines dangled around my head and plunged into the water; proving ample shelter for small fish and other aquatic life.
Their leaves brushed against my soft black hair, and tugged at my broad shoulders. The gentle hum of religious chanting accompanied the river’s trickle as I drifted to a partially submerged stairwell. Monks of varying ages sat upon each stony step with their legs firmly overlapped. They were ordinary people who were garbed in golden silk kimonos; draped in sacred beads and accustomed with our secretive ways and prehistoric dialect.
Their lifestyle and customs had been passed down through former generations for centuries... These people were descendants of the original guardians, many millennia ago. The most decorated monk stood and encouraged me to toss him my canoe’s docking rope. I collected the woven cord in my palm and whipped it into his outstretched hands. He secured the line, and greeted me with his weathered eyes as I climbed onto the first step.
“Nig’shti, re Houdish. Kri’ti hanit’nh,” (Greetings, I am possum, keeper of the nest). He bowed, and spoke in a raspy voice, “You’re him, aren’t you? Lion has been expecting you…”
“Thank you, I appreciate the information,” I returned his bow, and stormed up the stairwell. I did not want to keep Arthur waiting much longer.
“Tread carefully Eagle, as you recall he exists in the shadows…”
Possum’s unexpected remark caught my attention; I spun to address him upon reaching the top stair. The elder guardian had vanished without a trace; like a figment of my imagination. Possum’s associates continued their prayers in unison; their perfection was unwavering. Their chant resembled the distinctive tune of an ancient hymn.
I took my attention off them, and continued to search out Arthur. The floor of the grand chamber was void of all beings at first glance; luminous sunlight trickled in through holes in the walls and arched windows. The sun had voyaged overhead the horizon, and spread its influence across the valley. It was brilliant, as expected for a spring day. I welcomed its presence as I noiselessly strode forward; the floor bore the intricate crest of our ancient O’ri.
Its design resembled a tentacle beast, with a central eye—permanently open in the middle—an all seeing eye—the eye of the Gods. Distinctive characters were interwoven amid the star’s bellowing flames. These were the six pictograms assigned to the individual Inventors. A few birds stirred as my boots scuffed the dusty floor.
My eyes remained fixed on every section of darkness. I studied its form; its movement; its presence agitated me. I sensed his company. A lion’s magnificent roar erupted; breaking the silence and echoing through-out the temple. The lurking shadows assembled in the profile of a lion; the beast sprung from its hiding place; startling me.
I fired off a bolt in its direction. The concentrated surge of electricity disfigured a portion of the floor; throwing debris into the air from its impact. I panted as the dust settled; sweat moistened my hair. His voice came from the shadows.
“Skittish? Or did the last two centuries finally catch up with you?” Theodore Lovington—Arthur Wellesley’s English accent filled the air.
I remained in a strike position as the blonde ‘chap’ emerged from the darkness. Arthur’s pale face glistened in the scattered sunlight. His curly golden mane did not possess a strand of gray; though we were the same age. He was the prudent guardian of the second dimension, my fierce opponent and my jailer. I was the ying to his yang. We respected one another—though we historically mocked each other.
“I am as spry as ever. Now…why did you invite me here? I have been delighted to have been without your company for two centuries—and what is with the Rikagi?!” I hissed, still panting. Arthur chuckled an English chuckle and stepped further into the light. His body became enveloped by the sun as he stood in front of a stone window.
“Well well, aren’t you the least bit eager to get reacquainted? Your English has improved. Your strong French accent is almost comical to listen to—or is it Corsican? Oh, and nice chariot, how did a poor chap like you ever manage to afford such a fancy automobile? That was quite an entrance you made. I don’t think you know the definition of low key.”
“I do not see how the details of my personal life are relevant, and your Rikagi granted me an undesired phone call with my insurance company! I still had thirty one months of payments to make on that car!” I shouted and tossed my useless key fob across the room. The battery operated device spun like a top and landed at the soles of Arthur’s feet.
“Heh, I was curious of what you had been up to all of these years. But… as expected you are intolerant as ever,” Arthur shrugged his firm shoulders, and stepped out of the light. I watched his tall—scrawny figure travel across the room.
“Fine, since you insist on pestering me… I taught mathematics at Tulane University in New Orleans. Then…when my lack of aging became suspicious, I collected my pension and moved to Brooklyn. I have been teaching statistics there for the last thirty years. I cannot imagine your life being any simpler over the past two hundred years.”
“Impressive, you are living your dream. You wished to teach mathematics at a University in America since before becoming Emperor. From what I recall, it was your first choice in occupation? However, your challenges are relatable. That is something I am unable to deny. I have had to change residencies four times and live under several different aliases. Did you remarry?” The Brit asked as he took a seat in the shadows.
“Heh, you have almost had as many wives as fingers on a hand!”
“How dare you!” I grew furious from his insensitive remark. “My forth wife died eighteen months ago. I held her frail body in my arms as she perished… I begged for some way to keep her alive.
I am done with remarrying; I am sick of attending funeral after
funeral and seeing my loved ones die as I live on.” Arthur closed his eyes for a moment and smiled after listening to me.
“And who is the young woman living in your apartment—what
is her name, Paige?”
“How do you know her name? Leave Paige out of this!” I defended my ‘girlfriend’.
“…That brings me to why I invited you here.” Arthur quickly changed the subject as soon as he sensed my mounting anger, “We have spent the previous two hundred years banished from the spiritual realm—to live forever in this dimension. I guess you could say we are the walking dead? Did you research how your reflection died here? You passed away in exile, on Saint Helena. Doesn’t that bother you? Don’t you think it is time for us to finally join the others? We don’t belong here, Boney.”
“This is about the execution of my son, Adreian isn’t it?” I growled.
“Yes, with your assistance… we can finally end this nightmare and deliver our souls to where they belong. I assume you’d be willing to collaborate? When Elder appointed me to be your jailor, I certainly hoped you would have made up your mind centuries ago.”
“What you ask of me is not a simple task,” I snapped and stood upright.
“You cannot be serious? Are you proposing that you still need time?”
“I request my privacy. Do not ever contact me again. I will initiate contact on this matter if I find the desire to reach you,” I turned to leave. I took off work and riled Paige for this bullshit—I internally grumbled—and I lost my damn car due to Arthur’s madness! The silhouettes of lions formed from the shadows, and barricaded me within the temple. They ousted aggressive growls. Every fragment of darkness came to life within the room, including my own shadow.
“Hmph, I am not wasting another minute of my time, Napoleon. This will end today. You do not understand the magnitude of our situation. That Rikagi will not be the last you will encounter! There will be many more like it! Due to your little stunt two centuries ago, the six dimensions can no longer coexist. The threads of the universe are snapping—imploding—and reality will soon cease to exist. You have two options. One, exhume your son and stop his heart—your heart from beating, or two…if you cannot do that…”
Arthur rose from his spot and stepped onto the O’ri carved into the floor, “Two—I called you forth on your death day; it is the only time the walls between, time, space and dimensions are the thinnest within your reality. It is the bicentennial of the death of your reflection. You arrived late, but it is still the fifth of May somewhere on this planet.” The English man explained; and swallowed hard. “I cannot believe I am saying this, but the fate of our universe is in your hands, Bonaparte. If you can align time, and space, with the third dimension… retreat to the year 1804, track down your son and execute him. This will permanently alter history, but will secure a future for our universe.”
Arthur sent me a nervous scowl, “now…” he huffed, “when you reach the year 1804, there will be two of you. Do not cross paths or form an alliance with your other self. The world can barely handle one Emperor. That includes meeting with your associates, or Josephine. Your task is to hunt down Adreian and destroy him.”
It had been two centuries since I walked amongst the people
of the third dimension. Their culture and technology was now unfamiliar to me. Essentially, the year 1804 in the third dimension was equivalent to the year 2104 in the first dimension.
The six dimensions’ parallel arrangement and independence from one another, permitted humanity to progress at different rates; the dimensions experienced a significant gap in their evolution … by hundreds of years. For example: the first dimension was the slowest to advance, and the sixth dimension experienced the most development.
The third dimension was three hundred years more advanced than the first; while the first and second only experienced two hundred years difference in their technologies. And parallel historical occurrences would happen only if instigated by historical figure who was simultaneously an Inventor—such as myself. The discussion between Arthur and I carried my mind to a recent memory where my past first caught up with me in the form of my present maiden, Paige.