Sitting at the marble table, Luca gazed at the open book before him. The dull, grey light of late afternoon illuminated fading ink. The air smelt of ancient leather and brittle paper. Tall bookcases loomed on either side with dark bound tomes resting on dusty shelves.
The brown writing flickered before Luca’s eyes. He blinked rapidly to bring his vision into focus. His eyes felt gritty and he frowned, remembering the disturbed night—voices speaking out of the darkness. Unease crept across his skin as he recalled their suggestions. He had always heard voices, but in this place of books they were clearer, more insistent.
He wanted to leave, but the spidery writing lured him back, held him down in his chair. Before long, his vision blurred again and he stretched his lean frame against the carved seat. The white silk robes caressed his skin, and he looked with pride at the silver embroidery upon the sleeves. The black belt at his waist gleamed with pale jewels.
Such opulence had never been his at the Temple. This was a far better life than murmuring prayers to a god who never answered. Gone were his days of threadbare tunics and running barefoot wherever the priests ordered him to go. Only the nightmare voices made him uncomfortable.
He sneered as he raised his brown eyes to the turbid sea far below. Those at the Temple claimed to be enlightened. He knew now they lied. Here, surrounded by books, he was the enlightened one.
The rain-pregnant clouds hung low, and a violent wind made the waves foam with sudden whiteness. The clouds surged apart for a moment and let the sun’s light through; beams of yellow-gold shot through the break like a fan. For that short moment, the clouds and waves appeared darker, more threatening. Then the clouds obscured the light and all was grey again.
Luca held onto a thought that rose up from his memories. Rain spattered on the window pane in a hard rhythm. In a few moments, the sea vanished behind the wind-harried downpour. Everything inside the room was still.
The voices said that life was grey. Luca’s thoughts whirled faster. If life was grey like the clouds and the waves, then it was only illumination that made them appear dark. There was another thought rising up. Was illumination an illusion?
Luca hunched forward over the book, staring sightlessly at the window. If the light was an illusion, then there was nothing wrong in what he was doing. He became aware of losing something very precious, as if he was diminished.
He shook off the feeling and returned his thoughts to the voices. The memory of them ceased to be uncanny. Instead, he felt comfortable with them and smiled at the audacity of their suggestions. Such things would be inconceivable at the Temple.
Luca blinked in the gloom. The short afternoon had descended into night. He bent to his book again, looking forward to his time of rest when the voices would visit him.
Outside, the wind howled and rattled the window frame. The sea pounded against the cliff, threatening to undermine the place of books.