Io sentia d’ogne parte trarre guai
e non vedea persona che’l facesse;
per ch’io tutto smarrito m’arrestai”.
-- Dante’s Inferno, Canto XIII: 21-24.
Ashley cannot sleep.
Before her bed moonlight shines too brightly through her window
(or at least that’s how she remembers it).
The world is so still in her white little room that she could not tell the hour.
In silence, she sits up and peers through the window.
She imagines breeze coming through the silt.
It seemed that her time alone is frozen in the stream of life,
and that there was nothing in the world that
beseeched her in the little room where she stayed.
In this eternal silence, the door slowly creaked open behind her.
Startled, Ashley beamed into a smile
as she heard the familiar voice of the kind gentleman.
You are here!
She burst into the laughter of a summer bird.
Of course I am; we made a promise.
The tall figure walked into the little room, and sat down beside her bed;
he touched her forehead. Ashley thought his hand was rather cold.
You don't have a fever today.
But of course I don't, I behaved well.
Good. Did you do your assignments?
And out of his brown suitcase he pulled out some scrambled papers--
Ashley heard the rustling sound of the paper and sat up straighter
which made the gentleman smile. He covered his lips
so that he does not laugh, and then he cleared his throat
to change into a stern, serious look.
And she narrated the story in such manner as if each word was inscribed into her memory.
It is how one reads, she had always thought.
Learning by heart was the only way for her to connect to the outside world.
The world she had never understood.
Why did Virgil ask Dante to break the branches?
This is actually a good question. Do you have your Aeneid?
You find Virgil mean.
But what was Dante’s reaction?
How did he react towards Virgil? And the souls?
Do you think Virgil should have acted otherwise?
He walked to turn on some lamplights. Ashley straightened her back.
I think I heard something.
Nothing is there, Ashley.
But certainly, something is there--
Come back here.
She sinks back into her bed, crouching on her pillow, she holds the rose between her thumbs.
Good. Can you answer my questions now?
She replies patiently, though she has no idea what the question is.
She ends up murmuring a little whisper:
Sorry... I lost track.
The Lamb smiles upon noticing her guilt, and speaks kindly:
Would you tell me where Dante and Virgil are in this passage?
Excuse me, who?
She responds to the stillness outside the window.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose name was Ashley.
Ashley had long black hair that touched her knees,
and a pair of big grey eyes that sought the sunlight.
She lived in a little room with a little window.
Next to the window was a little bed where she lay alone.
Beside the little bed, a little table
held an open book on its warm white surface.
Everything around her was white,
including a white little rose beside her white little table,
which was next to her white little bed.
It was a white little rose wrapped with a black ribbon,
smelling like the fresh meadows in early spring.
Sometimes, the Lamb would enter her white little room,
and they would journey a little together in Dante’s Inferno.
edited from 2018 short story "Story of the Lamb"