Authors: Elaine Edelson
Story Merchant Books
9601 Wilshire Boulevard #1202
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
2012 by Elaine Edelson
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
Cover design by Elaine Edelson
Artwork “Chakra Fire” by Elenaray, dreamstime.com
For Aries & Aries Rising Signs Everywhere
HEY FOUND HER
in the Kom el Shoqafa catacombs, standing serenely by the circular staircase with a papyrus scroll in her hand. It was Apollonius’ Conics. She was going to write her commentary on the scroll for her students. She looked down at the potsherds, strewn about her feet.
Those broken shards had been there for centuries; but no one knew how the pots got into the catacombs or why they were smashed. Some speculated that Marcus Antonius brought them after Cleopatra’s suicide.
She was going to trace them by their symbols and give a series of lectures on religious artifacts; that’s why she was really there, systematically cataloguing her finds.
As one of the keepers and scholars of the Alexandrian Library, that would one day be called,
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
, she had the right to access such a prominent place, but these monks did not. Four of them, hooded in brown cloth cloaks, stood on the stairs above her.
She saw them but didn’t run. The catacombs were a sort of home to her, lending needed quiet in times of deep thought. She could have easily slipped away and hid in one of the many anterooms, and they never would have found her. She stayed, knowing that the inevitable could not be delayed. Their faces were hidden in the shadows but she knew their minds.
Her thoughts never wandered; such is the equanimity of a scholar, mathematician, and a Platonist philosopher. But in this moment her mind reluctantly strayed as she thought about her daughter, and how this day would change the girl’s destiny, how her fury would wage war on rationale.
Hypatia dropped the scroll, willing to succumb. Fighting the monks would make it harder for her daughter. Fighting them would teach her only child that hate rules the mind, that wrath and emotional frenzy lead the way.
They do not,
“I will not fight you,” she said to the monks.
One monk ran quickly past her down the stairs, snatching a handful of the broken tiles. Another monk, standing just a few steps above her, seized her delicate wrist, yanking her arm upward, causing Hypatia to trip on her white, linen shift.
How many times did she reprimand her daughter for walking barefoot on the streets? And now, looking down to see her naked feet stumbling, she felt a pain in her heart. Morning would come and she would not see it. Her child would be orphaned.
“I will not give you power by resisting,” she said again, climbing the steps to her death. “There is nothing you can take from me that I haven’t already given freely. The soul is the beginning and the end. All else is transitory.”
At the top of the stairs two monks stood so close to her, that she could feel their hateful breath on the back of her neck. She immediately forgave their ignorance.
Two led the way as they reached the doorway to the street. The monk who had her by the wrist suddenly turned and struck her across the face. Another spat on her, kicking her to the ground, dragging her across the unevenly paved road by her hair.
They descended upon her with the broken tiles, shredding her face and arms. Still, she did not fight them or utter a sound as they beat her. The monks ripped her flesh apart, convinced of their righteousness. They believed they did this thing to save humanity from evil.
The largest of the monks tied her hands to a rope and mounted his dark, agitated horse. The scent of her blood unnerved the beast. The other three monks mounted their animals too, as she lay on the ground quietly praying to the One God who would give her stillness of mind, vanquishing the grief in her heart.
Distant screams rose with the sunrise. Terrified onlookers retreated into their homes. No one dared tried to save her as the monks tore through the streets with Hypatia’s flesh grated into pieces.
Just as Hypatia died, her spirit left her body the way a crane elegantly glides from the Earth, soaring silently to freedom. She blessed her beloved child and sent her the strength to live a life of forgiveness and harmony.
The horrific screams in the street bled into a young woman’s dream, who was sleeping restlessly in her bed. She awoke suddenly and sprang from beneath the covers, running to the terrace balcony. She looked down and past the eucalyptus trees near the gates. A bloodied lump of a thing was being dragged, then dumped, in front of her house. Whatever it was lay motionless on the ground beside her mother’s hibiscus bushes.
The young woman looked up beyond the plaza and saw a hooded monk on horseback. He arrogantly threw his hood back and glared at her with malevolence. He frightened her with his barefaced, fanatical vehemence. His horse reared as he flung the rope to the ground. The other monks joined him and they galloped away, toward the sea, unfettered.
People cautiously gathered near Hypatia. The young woman continued to stare at the bloodied shift, no longer white, trying to understand what it was. Her mind refused to recognize it.
The house servants ran from the house in hysteria to surround what remained of their mistress’ body. It wasn’t until the young woman’s grandfather, Theon, appeared and fell to the ground in agony, did she see.
Her mother, Hypatia of Alexandria, was dead.
The next life
Or, Uranus conjunct Part of Fortune in the 9th
YPATIA, MY MOTHER,
was cut down five days ago by a vicious mob of Nitrian monks. They killed her because her wisdom threatened their stupidity. I, her bastard daughter, Seira of Alexandria, am left to write this account during the fourth week of March, in the year 415, eight days past my seventeenth birthday. Let it also be known that this is the Christian week of lent and that a holy faction committed an unholy act.
Seira’s jaw clenched. Her perfect white teeth gritted. She pursed her lips, let go a solid, long sigh, then scribbled furiously.
My mother was born as a reminder of all things charming and intelligent. She was graceful in her genius, chaste in virtue, and forthright in her dialogue, except for the matter of my true father, which she refused to discuss.
Will I ever know who he is?
Seira momentarily held her breath in a noiseless show of temper then gave up fighting the unknown. She let out a small defeated huff before continuing her writing.
Hypatia authored scientific and mathematical works that will carry her name far into the future. She lived and died knowing what she believed, believing in what she knew.
Deafening shrieks echoed in Seira’s mind, piercing her ears. She clapped her temples repeatedly. A scorching memory seared her thoughts. The sound of her mother’s half dead body being dragged over bricks: thump, drag, thump, then blood spattered across the road as she stood watching, in a horrified trance.
Seira gagged. Ink stained fingers covered her mouth to stop herself from retching. She grabbed her hair, forced a silent scream in her head, and rocked her body forward and back.
Stop…stop…STOP! Her mind commanded.
Focused on the candle flame, she was distracted. This calmed her enough for now.
She lectured on freedom of thought, of knowing the self, and of being in this Holy Universe. My mother touched the lives of many. Her body was small, but her spirit towered high. She had the most beautiful colored hair. It was as black as a raven’s crest, shimmering blue. Her curls fell evenly about her face, framing her elegant features. Her eyes, a lustrous dark copper hue, were deep and penetrating.
My mother carried herself with a holy posture. She always reprimanded me for my boyish ways. She would have preferred me to direct my competitive spirit into extended Platonic studies.
Seira rolled her eyes with condescension.
She drew men to her through the brightness of her mind and wanted no more than that of them. How odd. To me, that seemed so contrary to her beauty and grace. It was rare to be touched by her. She shunned sensuality. I never understood her.
A light, scratching sound startled Seira. Her eyes darted the dark corners of her bedchamber. She held firm to her pen and remained steadfast in her seat. She feared a blast of breath would explode her tightly clenched lips. Nothing moved.
A bird on the terrace ledge, she thought and relaxed.
Seira squinted in the dim moonlight and in the flicker of a dying candle. She reread her newly written passage by mumbling aloud, quietly. Her left thumb was preoccupied with molding a bead of warm wax that had dripped onto her table.
“Contrary to hmmm…grace…I never understood her. No, I never did.”
Seira, mesmerized by the candle’s flame, strained to stare at her thoughts. Closing her eyes to get a closer look, she hoped to discover where her feelings might be hiding. Her eyelashes fluttered, eyelids lifted, and her expression gave way to nothing. She glared at her scroll and quickly hunched over to continue.
Even more remote than her touch was her parenting of me. She raised me at intervals, the way her brass astrolabe functioned—calculated and precise. As if I were a mathematical problem to be solved by determining the distance between the horizon and the Sun. Where did I fit into her life? But it’s true that she always treated me with respect. I respected her, too, but hated her fame because it took me from her very heart.
I know her students needed her. I needed her, too. I wonder if her death is an omen of my bastardly existence. I have no father and now I have no mother. What will become of me? Is it possible that my unspoken rage brings disaster to my keep? I’m too confused to know and no one has any answers for me.
Many knew my mother, even the bishop, John of Nikiu. He said she was a pagan sorceress in league with the devil. He said she had satanic wiles.
I saw him once; a fat man with spittle on his chin and the skin of a lizard. He’s got the kind of power that sits behind words that can strike like the tongue of a viper. That kind of mind is the true demon, manipulative and petty. I pray to God that I never need kneel before him, forced to kiss his hand. I fear he would lose a knuckle, and I my head.
My mother was neither sorceress nor devil. I can only endow that title upon Cyril, patriarchal Bishop of my homeland. Everyone knows that he and his hateful Christian brothers despised my mother’s acclaim, an acclaim that came only from worship to truth and nature.
I saw Cyril at our salon once. I climbed into the tree just outside mother’s window and peered at his profile, his posture straight, unyielding. What I saw of his face scared me. His bald head was partially covered by some ceremonial hat. It reminded me of a skeleton I once saw in an embalming book.
If my suspicions speak true, Cyril is her murderer. But I have no proof. My silent accusations fall on his face like an eclipsed sun, fading into darkness. I know full well that it’s my anger that speaks now and to give it credence leaves me wanting bitter revenge.
Seira squeezed then extended her cramped fingers. Her fatigued body heightened her vehemence. She was never at a loss for words. Most often her words poured out of her mouth during inappropriate moments like a blackbird screeching at the sun. Seira let her emotions speak. Her critical mind and compassionate heart could only stand in line and hope for an opening.
Not many could read or write at Seira’s age, regardless of social position. Her tenacity and random untamed immaturity would have invented a language had one not been there at her disposal.
Her frenzied lack of control often resulted in abandonment. Whether a nurse, a tutor, or even her own mother, someone would inevitably lose patience with her attitudes and promptly leave her presence, without a word. Seira hated to be left alone. Abandonment was the only way to stop her. It was her mother’s suggestion. It worked.
Seira felt cold at her writing table. She rubbed her arms to generate warmth. Acknowledgement of her own body slowed her thoughts from a deluge to a steady, more synchronous current of memories. She sighed aloud then resumed her painful need to recount her compacted life in words.