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Tainaron by Leena Krohn, 1998

Mail from another city

© Leena Krohn

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Tainaron - Mail from another city





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The Mimic - the sixteenth letter


In Tainaron I have a balcony where I sometimes sit and bask when the sun shines and I have no reason to go into the city. For you it is autumn, but for us it is still high summer.


Yesterday the dazzle closed my eyelids and set fiery landscapes rolling beneath them. There was a book on my lap, but I did not turn its pages. Here in the courtyard grows a great tree whose name I do not know, and the blaze of the sun was extinguished only when it was snared by the branches.


Look! At that moment I saw below me a group of stones. They were largish cobblestones, grey ones, dappled and reddish ones, granite or possibly gneiss. The centre of the courtyard was paved with them, and they were beautiful stones; but that was not why I was looking at them. It seemed to me that new stones had been brought to the courtyard and that some kind of a hillock had been built, which had certainly not been there before.


Just as this little riddle was beginning to trouble me, Longhorn stepped on to my balcony.


'Look under the tree,' I said to him. 'Do you understand why a hill like that has been built there?'


He looked, and began to smile - if the slow withdrawal of his jaws to the side of his face can be called a smile - I never get used to it.


'Perhaps you find it amusing,' I said, a little irritated, 'that all sorts of obstacles are built on the thoroughfares; I myself can see no sense in it.'


When I glanced at the pile of stones again, I was downhearted, for I thought it began to look like a small grave.


'Do not worry,' said Longhorn reassuringly, resting his light forelimb on my shoulder. 'I see you do not yet know the Mimic. If you wish, I will introduce him to you.'


'Who is he?' I asked, and my mood was cheerless, even though the day was bright and autumn was still far off.


'It is him you are looking at,' Longhorn said amiably.


I did not blink, but nevertheless something happened in my eyes, for now I could see that what was in the courtyard in the shade of the tree was no pile of stones but a living creature, motionless, whose back was covered in a reddish-grey, lumpy carapace.


I wanted to ask something, but Longhorn made a gesture with his hand. He has, you see, a habit of moving wonderfully gracefully and elegantly, and his movement silenced me indisputably.


'Now look,' he ordered, and there was no longer anything or anyone in the shade of the tree. But a round knoll had appeared on the strip of lawn beside the wall, and it, too, was as green as new grass.


'Is it...?' I began.


'Yes, he is quick,' Longhorn acceded.


'I do not understand,' I complained. 'Is he someone, then? Who is he?'


'My dear,' Longhorn said, and looked at me, waving the extensions of his antennae, 'do you believe that the Mimic could have a personality? Today he is one thing, tomorrow another. Wherever he is, that is what he is - stone a moment ago, now the summer's grass. Who knows what form he will take tomorrow. But come, let us go; I shall introduce you to one another.'


'No,' I said, feeling an obscure rage. 'I do not wish to. I have no intention of making the acquaintance of such a person. It certainly takes all sorts....'


'Really,' said Longhorn, without showing any kind of sympathy, in fact teasingly. 'So you want everyone to be someone. You want what someone is at the beginning to be what he is at the end.'


'But surely! There has to be some kind of continuity!' I shouted. 'Development, naturally, but at the same time - loyalty!'


I attempted to continue, but I could already feel my irritation slipping away into the summer day that embraced Tainaron from all directions. Soon I was feeling the desire to protect the unknown creature.


'In a sense I understand him,' I said with some considerable forebearance. 'He is seeking his own form.'


'Is that so?' said Longhorn, and we both leaned over the rail and looked downward. There was no longer any kind of hummock in the courtyard, but beside the large tree stood another tree, but much smaller and sturdier.


'Does he know we are here?' I asked. 'Does he do it for us, or for his own amusement?'


'It is his work,' said Longhorn, but I do not know if he was serious.


'Why are you laughing?' asked Longhorn in turn.


'How I love this city!' I said. 'Perhaps I shall stay here for ever.' (What on earth made me say it?)


'Yes, stay here forever,' Longhorn said, but his voice darkened to such a depth that I forgot the Mimic and turned toward him in astonishment.


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