Every morning Sebastian would come out of his improvised office, yawn a couple of times, hand me his notebook, and say, “Do your thing.”
That meant I had to check for spelling mistakes. Oh, and place the occasional comma here and there. Other than that, there was nothing more I could do. Everything he wrote was perfect.
While he slept, I would spend my time in the library, reading books. He had been right. I couldn’t find information about any of the writers or books that were there. But that didn’t stop me from reading them. Some were good; really, really well written. Others, not so much.
But what I found odd was the fact that most of them had the same name for the main female character. Selena.
Selena was a goddess, a singer, a former slave. She was cheery, beautiful, gentle. And there was this strange emphasis, in all the books, on how mesmerizing her eyes were. Also, there was something else that struck me as odd. Something missing.
There was no moon.
In any of the books I’ve read, not once was the moon even mentioned. It was as if the authors had lived in a world with no moon on the sky. And, boy, did they describe the sky during the night. “The dark, angry abyss filled with stars,” as one writer so eloquently wrote.
There was nothing I could do about this and after a while, I simply discarded it as one of those bizarre, useless-to-know facts, like how eerily similar our dreams about falling and flying are to the actual thing.
Then I thought that maybe all the writers whose books were in the Baron’s library had been a part of some sort of literary movement, one that thought the moon to be an overused cliché or something of the sorts.
One afternoon I found a very interesting book. Big, black leather cover. No title or author on the cover or anywhere inside the book. On the first twenty pages or so, there were no words, just some strange signs. Like hieroglyphs, more or less. One on each page. Some of them were quite funny. I don’t know why, but they just made me laugh. Others, on the contrary. They were furious, angry, nostalgic, sad. It was as if the author had wished to evoke every feeling and emotion imaginable.
Then the pages went blank. A lot of them. Then there was a story. A strange story, about a writer with no name, living in a nameless city, in a nameless country. The censorship wouldn’t allow him to publish any of his books. He was starving, growing thinner and weaker every day. They told him that the president of the republic didn’t like his stories.
He couldn’t understand. He felt that he wasn’t criticizing anyone, let alone the system.
So one day this writer sends a letter to the president himself. Tells him everything, asks him to be let to leave the country with his wife. His wife’s name was Selena. A few days after that, his wife leaves him to live with her mother. He told her to do so, he told her that men were going to come after him. Take him to prison.
And so, during that same night, he waits for those men to come and take him away. He stares out the window, sighs. He feels relieved. In a very strange way, he feels it’s better this way. He’d at least have something to eat in prison. And if they decide to kill him, he wouldn’t have to worry about eating at all.
He can’t sleep. He just sits down on his chair, tapping his fingers against his chest. Tap, tap, tap. Then they came. They knock on the door, they yell at him from outside, tell him they have a message from the president.
Arrogant bastards, they behave as if they’re holy messengers. But what they tell him is not what he expected to hear. They tell him quite the opposite. The president is a big fan of his work, the writer’s latest play is the president’s favorite.
But, unfortunately, he can’t let him leave the country. It would set a precedent, the president said. But he is willing to offer him a job at one of the theaters in the capital.
I fell asleep somewhere in the train. I mean, the character was travelling by train to the capital. When I woke up, it was dark outside. I stepped out, stared at the sky for a while. Then I went back inside.
I picked up the book, wishing to continue with my reading. But the story wasn’t there. All the pages, except the ones that had the strange signs on, were blank.