Buber’s Basque Story: Part 19

Kepa and Maite, huddled with Ainhoa, watched from the shadows as the man entered the cave. He was dressed in a running suit typical of the 1990s — the bright blue nylon jacket and pants were decorated with square patterns of white, pink and grey. To Kepa, he looked like a parody of all of the photos he saw of his aunts and uncles when they were younger. The man’s hair fell down in long wet locks that drooped past his shoulders. He sported a goatee that was immaculately groomed and formed into a point beneath his chin. He was older, maybe in his mid-forties, though Kepa was horrible at guessing ages. Everyone always seemed either much older or much younger than himself.

As the man entered the cave, he almost nonchalantly waived his hand. Instantly, the cave entrance disappeared and the cave itself transformed. The rocks Maite and Kepa had been sitting on earlier became stools and chairs. The walls of the cave became brick and a desk emerged out of one of the walls. The desk was covered in books and papers. Above it was a shelf with seemingly hundreds of cubby holes, each filled with some object, most of which Kepa didn’t recognize.

Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

The man himself changed as well. The running suit disappeared, replaced with an outfit that looked like it came out of some French historical movie. He now wore a tight black jacket that was fastened down the middle with gold buttons and loose fitting black pantaloons that matched his jacket. His black boots, polished to a lustrous shine, reached up to his knees. On his hands, he wore several rings set with large jewels that sparkled red, blue, and green. Most striking, from Kepa’s perspective, was the white frill that encircled his neck. His hair had dried instantly and was now filled with curls. On top of his head he wore a large-brimmed black hat with a large white feather sticking out of the band.

Maite and Kepa watched as the man strode to the desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out a box. The box was made of wood but the edges were adorned with polished silver. The clasp, which the man opened, was also made of silver. The man took something out of a pocket on the side of his jacket. He smiled as he held it up to the light of a candle that had also appeared on the desk. He placed the small object into the box, which he then returned to its spot inside the desk. 

Ainhoa grabbed Kepa and Maite’s hands. “Be still and don’t panic!” she whispered in a voice filled with urgency. The man turned his head toward the shadow, as if he had heard them. But a moment later, he shrugged. He then picked up something off of the desk — what Kepa couldn’t see. Holding it between his finger tips, the man waved his hand through the air and the room began to disappear, only to be filled with solid stone. Maite and Kepa gasped as the stone surrounded them.

“Hold on and hold your breath!” they heard Ainhoa hiss. She squeezed their hands as they became completely entombed in the stone and all light and sound disappeared. Kepa could feel a tug on his hand and then his body felt like it was being dragged through the rock. It was almost like walking through water in a pool, except the rock was infinitely more dense and he couldn’t see or hear anything. After what seemed like forever, he could feel the movement of air on his hand as it slipped free of the stone. Soon his head also peaked free. He took a gasp of air as he turned to see Maite’s head also appear out of the stone face of the mountain, a look of terror mixed with wonder etched in her face. Ainhoa led them out onto the muddy path, pulling them out of the rock, until they were completely free. Trembling, Maite and Kepa watched as Ainhoa collapsed to the ground.

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