Challenge: Can you decode the highlighted words?
There was a little park over here and I saw some men, aged around 32–45, sitting on benches and stones in the park and jocularly laughing. I saw a board on the entrance of the park with the words “Welcome to Delight Park” and below it “At Luxuria, City of Magic”. There were salons and saloons in the park. I entered in and sat on a bench a little distance from the men.
A young man, very thin, and wearing a very loose shirt, was tramping around acting like an old-aged man. The other men were watching and laughing loud. They looked like buffoons to me. I pulled out the book from under my shirt and read these words to myself:
“Seek Wisdom like one searches for hidden treasure;
And till you find her, allow no game and no pleasure.
Seek her in the squares; seek her in the thoroughfares,
Seek her everywhere, but keep away from barren leisure.”
I stood up, tucked the book under my shirt and was about to walk away when I heard a voice, “Won’t you bequeath to us as well some of your learning, sir!” I turned towards the men. They all were already laughing. I looked at them seriously and turned to move, when they got up, rushed towards me and surrounded me blocking my way.
“We’re sorry if we’ve offended you, sir!” one of them, a man with shorn hair, said. He had the face of a clown. They all laughed.
“He doesn’t look offended, Epicure,” the skimpy man in saggy cloths acting earlier remarked. They all laughed again.
“Shall we sit here and discuss a few things,” Epicure asked with a pretentious look of intelligence on his face. “We are all interested in listening to new things.”
“Yes, yes!” they all nodded and agreed.
“I’m sorry, friends. I haven’t got anything new for you.” I replied and turned to walk away, but Epicure said, “You sure have because we saw you reading a new book!”
I felt it was hopeless trying to circumvent and asked half-heartedly, “What do you know about the Kingdom of Light?” They all broke into hysterical laughter.
One of the men, he was wearing a coat of many colours, signaled at them to shut up, and they stopped. He looked at me with a questioning frown and said, “There’s no other world than this for sure; so, your ideal must be certainly new.”
“An ideal dream worth the dallying,” Epicure said with a clownish smile.
“An idle dream worth not the dying,” another fellow laughed and said. They all laughed again.
There were feelings of humiliation, of being subdued in the moments of my elation. I was locked and wondered what this dark world would lead me to. I thought for long, but remained locked.
“I must go away,” I said, “I have some important job to do.” In my mind I thought that they would let me go because I certainly didn’t appear to belong to their gang. But, little did I know that what I thought was what I thought, and what they had in mind was a total opposite of what I thought.
Presently, I noticed that the man with the multi-coloured coat pulled out a wand, pointed at me, and jerked it upwards. In an instant my book was pulled out of my shirt and caught in his left hand. He then motioned at me and said, “Now, you can go, sir!”
I moved towards him with the intention of snatching off the book but he raised his hand with the stick in his fist and signalled me to stop. I stopped.
“Turn him into a goat, Elymas!” the skimpy man said.
“No, into a bull,” a stout man meddled in. Elymas looked at him with piercing glances. “Certainly not,” the stout man grinned and said, “he should be turned into an elephant…[All eyes gaped at him]; oh no, into an ant!” They all laughed.
I jumped to snatch the book again, and Elymas moved his hand back. They all blocked my way. Suddenly, I saw a policeman arrive there shouting, “What nuisance is going on here!” He then looked at me and said, “You seem to be new to this block. Show me your papers!”
“What papers?” I asked back.
“Come with me!” he said locking my hand into a handcuff. They all sneered. I knowingly didn’t look at the book in Elymas’ hand. The policeman led me out of the park, and I could see those men settle down around the magician, who now opened the book and began to read it amidst fits of laughter and scornful gestures by the others around. I felt lost inside and pulled away.
The policeman took me to a station nearby, submitted my wallet to custody, and took me to a cell. “We’ll examine him at the next call of the Court of Luxuria,” he said to a guard standing there.
“I too heard that some officers spotted two strangers here lately,” the guard observed. “Did you also find the other one?”
The policeman nodded a negative. “But, the City administration has already been set on alarm,” he said as he locked me into the cell and left.
The cell was a small dimly lit square room (around 10×10 sq. ft.) with nothing inside. The door was made of solid steel with a small mesh window at the top. It was painted deep red. The walls were made of large blocks of stones neatly cut, and on each of the two side walls opposite of each other was engraved the head of a goat. I sat down opposite to the door, and gazed at them for a while. I thought I admired the art at first; but, then suddenly the bestial design of the cell loomed onto my mind, and I had a strong feeling of revulsion. Then, as if in flashes of screenshots, I remembered Law, the vision, and the book, and what I read in it. “Like one searches for hidden treasure,” I remembered and looked up. The ceiling was an intimidating slab with the head of a nasty goat looking at me. I squirmed with an ugly feeling, rose up, and looked out of the mesh window. The guards were walking up and down. It was impossible to now get out. I went and sat down opposite to the door again with my knees pulled up against my chest, my hands around them, and my head sunk between the knees. There were feelings of humiliation, of being subdued in the moments of my elation. I was locked and wondered what this dark world would lead me to. I thought for long, but remained locked; then, I fell tired of thinking and fell asleep.
Presently, there were sounds of footsteps outside and I awoke. The door creaked open, and the policeman gestured me to come out. I remembered the earlier talks of trials and bonded-labour and had an agonizing feeling. He cuffed my hands behind and let me out of the station. I wondered that there weren’t any questionings here. He took me in the direction of a small van that was waiting for me, as I understood, bound to the Court. A little distance away from it, I suddenly jumped to my right and began to run. There were shouts and whistling, and two or three policemen were running after me. My hands were still cuffed and I was afraid that people might pounce on me to stop, so I jumped off the sidewalk on which I was and began running fast on the road. I cut through a few streets, yet being chased when I spotted the police van speeding towards me from the front. Behind me were the other policemen. I looked at my right and saw an old dilapidated house without doors, seemingly abandoned. I jumped off the road onto the sidewalk and then plunged into the house not knowing what to do. It was very dark inside; so I groped for the wall and found it; then, began to sidle along the wall with my palms feeling after it. There were cries outside. “He’s gone inside that building!” “Quick, quick!” I saw a searchlight beam inside and dropped to a squat. I heard footsteps inside and a faint light over my head. I was behind something and it seemed that there was some place inside. I crawled inwards. A few more footsteps entered in. I saw a searchlight beam right over the thing that I was under and a few footsteps advanced in my direction. I stopped my breath. The light waded here and there across the wall then stopped above me. I kept silent.
“There’s something here!” someone cried from a distance, and I heard the light turn and the footsteps quickly recede away. I breathed slowly trying to hear. Many other footsteps moved in that direction. Suddenly, I heard a shutter lift. “That way,” one voice said as they all got out and ran; then, there was silence.
I stayed there for a couple of minutes and came out, still struggling with the shackles on. I sat down on the floor in the dark and coughed, being very afraid to get out of the building because I knew the shackles would betray me. My mind was as blank as the nothingness before me, knowing nothing what to do, and my shirt was wet by the sweat. Suddenly, a thought flashed in my mind, “Why do you fear in the land of the shadows?” I got up straight pushing against the wall, and as I did that my hands hit a switch behind me. A faint lamp kindled on the wall above me and I saw that the room was a large one, but strewn with objects all around in a jungle of mess. There were cobwebs everywhere. The object before me, under which I had hid, was a desk. The desk had a drawer in it with a handle. I turned around and pulled it out and turned again to see what was in it. There was a sealed scroll there with a small brass object in the shape of a double-edged sword beside it. A scarlet thread ran through the needle of the brass object’s hilt. I took it in my hands and fumbled to insert it into the lock of the cuffs on the left hand; I turned it, and in an instant the lock snapped and the cuff dangled from my wrist. I now turned towards the desk with my right wrist on it and easily unlocked the other cuff. I quickly tucked the scroll under my shirt, tied the brass pendant around my neck, pushed the shackles into the drawer and was about to turn off the lamp when I noticed that there was a wardrobe next to the desk. I went to it and, opening it, found that there was nothing in it except a hooded black coat hanging. I donned it and pulled the hood over. Then, I turned off the lamp and hurried out of the room.