Graveyard of unspoken ThoughtsTo my feet, traces of gravel tell the story of a path that once led somewhere. I follow it to a small house — deserted, like the rest of the village, and yet beautiful in its own way. Nature tried its best to reclaim the dirty gray brickwork and the creaky wooden gate has long lost the fight against the cold air seeping in through every crack. I turn around, once again letting my eyes wander over the crooked roofs, the crumbling stairs and faded paths — perhaps this house had once been in the better part of the village.
A few flakes of chipped blue paint fall to the ground as I open the door and a million dust particles dance in the sunlight falling through the doorway.
The decay is less visible on the inside — while my eyes still adjust to the darkness, I make out a single fish swimming its circles inside a pond underneath what must have once been a skylight. As I make my way further into the house, more and more books cover the floor. Just a few at first, but soon books of all sizes and colors cover the entire ground.
It is only when I see my faint, flickering shadow against the wall that I realize I'm not alone. Surrounded by a mighty fortress of tattered books kneels a woman in the light of a small oil lamp. The wrinkles in her skin cast deep valleys of shadow onto her face. Between tidy strands of white hair, bright eyes fly across the yellowed pages of the book in her hands. She hasn't moved since I entered the room — and yet, she seems to acknowledge my arrival.
"Come, sit". Her lips move, but only a whisper makes it out; too precious the arcane beauty of this silent room.
Something in her voice, in this whole situation, leaves me no choice but to follow her extended hand, clear a few books from the floor, and kneel down where she gestured me to. While I'm still absorbed in the constantly changing patterns of light and shadow on her weathered face, she silently hands me a book from a pile to her right.
It barely looks like something you can call a book — only traces remain of the red fabric cover and the pages are stitched together from countless different materials. Yellow, White, Brown, Coarse, Smooth, Thick, Thin — a history of paper between scraps of cloth.
My dear Tori,
I thought you would never read this letter, but I'm so glad to see I was wrong about that.
Do you still remember the day we climbed that mountain together?
I spent a lot of time thinking about that day, over the years. About what I should have said then, standing on the peak with you. And I never found an answer.
"What is that?", I ask, looking up from the page. I find a face watching me not with judging, but certainly curious eyes. "This", she says, still almost whispering while her arms vaguely gesture outwards, "is the graveyard of unspoken thoughts. It is the last refuge for all letters never sent, all speeches never held, and all words left unsaid." And as if that was all that could possibly be said about this wondrous place, her eyes once again wander over all the books around us, mentally turning chaos into order. "And what about you? Who are you?", I interject, trying to get some more answers to the aura of questions that seems to surround the room. "I like to think of myself as a scholar of the unspoken." She considers that to settle the question and turns around to read in a thin blue book. I don't see much potential for more conversation and continue to read myself.
I tried writing this letter so many times and yet always found myself missing an answer. Was there anything I could have done? Or was it a futile attempt all along? I am writing you today not because I have found answers, but because I realized that they can never change what happened in the slightest. In other words, I am writing you today to ask for your forgiveness.
"Do you know why you came here?" I don't know how long I've been reading — lost in a stranger's thoughts. "I... No. I don't." I don't even remember how I got here — much less why. But she does not seem too worried — she smiles. "Consider this my gift to you, then." She extends her hands, holding another book. A newer one, this time. Not knowing what to do, I take it, more out of instinct than anything, and watch as she nods, turns around, and shuffles off into an unlit hallway.
It feels heavy for a book of its size — not unlike the old bible that used to lie around my childhood home. Thin, translucent pages full of small serif print. And there, on the first page: A name.
A very familiar name.