Challenge: Can you decode the highlighted words?
“Welcome!” said the voice.
I lifted up my eyes; Sin sat before me on a dark maroon throne. I was surprised because I could see her face now, and it didn’t look unfamiliar. She wore the airs of autonomy and the contours of carelessness; her eyes wore a rigid frown of despisal and distrust. She looked energetic, elegant, and elite. She wore a dark maroon royal robe and had a crown of sparkling diamonds on her head. The throne she sat on had engravings of different living creatures; the hood over the crest bore the semblance of a peacock’s feathers widespread, the resting arms projected with the heads of two lions, the apron or waist of the throne was girded with the semblance of a viper, and on the two outer sides beneath the arms were engravings of goats and swine in various postures; the footstool was shaped like a toad, and six statues of lions guarded the steps to the throne, three on the right and three on the left. Over the canopy and on the walls around were oil lamps flickering with dim flames; the lamps had the appearance of tortoise shells. I saw that the walls were draped with hangings of intricate and exotic design and the floor was a glassy mosaic of yellow and brown resembling a chess board. The room was palatial and vast.
“You like this place,” she observed. I noticed that I didn’t have any fear. She didn’t look unfamiliar.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
She smirked. “It doesn’t matter,” she said with a smug, “you’re already here.”
“What is this place?” I asked.
“This is the City of Magic,” she said, “where dreams come true and thoughts ride on wings of fantasy; where objects appear at the wish of the heart and images walk out of paint into reality. Here Time is unknown and Boredom is a name despised. This is my City on the fringes of Time, the shelter of angels and the stronghold of man. Here children grow wise and the young acquire skill; they ride on fire and on the wings of the wind.”
“Why am I here?” I coldly asked.
She smiled and said, “Because you belong here!” I felt confused. But she continued, “Don’t be afraid of anything. Feel at home and be at ease; for in a moment of this sequence you’ll see everything.”
I didn’t like her smile because it looked like the smile of triumph over me, and yet somehow it also seemed that she had triumphed. I felt like I had lost my world to her. She smiled again as if she read my thoughts and said, “You think too much, young man; it will hurt your brain. You need to forget the past and learn to live in the present.”
“I must go back,” I said.
“You ask for the dripping rain drops to return to their clouds.”
“But, don’t they someday?”
“If a bullet fired can return by itself to its barrel and an arrow shot can return to its bow, then may Time be reversed and you return to the place you wish to go.” I despised the talk but felt helpless, yet also knew now that it was worthless talking to someone who I believed had caused this all. She, apparently, read my feelings and sneered.
Then she smugly said, “I can read hurt and hatred in your eyes; this is a good sign—they are my marks of strength.” I scowled. She smiled. “Can’t you see that you’re entering my world,” she said, “You’ll find this one much more meaningful.” Then, placing her fingers on the heads of the lions on the arms of the throne, she began to softly brush their heads; and suddenly, it seemed that all the heads of the lions twisted and gave a growl. She smiled. Then, they began to roar and it seemed that fire came from their mouths, but in that very instant she and her throne with the lions and the entire chamber faded like the blending of images into the view of a heavily trafficked street with high buildings on both sides of the road, and I saw that I was standing in the pathway of the pedestrians leaning against a railing facing the road. There were big cars and motors of various kinds madly rampaging the streets; while men, women, and children were running as if they didn’t have time. There were shops and offices of various kinds in the buildings by which I surmised that this may be a market place. It was also dark and there were heavy street lamps burning profusely and lighting up the street.
“No beggars are allowed here,” I heard somebody shout. I turned right and saw a short, stout, man who by his uniform appeared to be a policeman. He was looking at me threateningly. I caught the direction of his eyes and looked at myself and was surprised that my clothes were torn and murky and all rags. I felt deeply embarrassed. He looked rudely at me and I understood his gesture to move away from that place. The lights were beaming thick and hard; and, I had an urgent desire to hide from the world. I felt my hind pockets on the ragged trousers and was amazed that my wallet was there. I took it out thinking, “I may not have removed it when these things happened.” I examined the few notes in it and was surprised that they were different and had the image of Sin in it and the signature of a Governess named Avaritia. Things looked confused and it was hard to say if the world felt really unreal or unreally real.
After a little while, I reached the end of the street and saw a garments store. It had a luminous name board over it with the words “Liberal Garments”. I entered in and saw that it was certainly a huge store with clothing departments of various kinds. But, since I was in great embarrassment because of my condition and didn’t like the way I looked in the mirrors all over the store, I quickly turned to a place where there weren’t many people and began searching for a shirt. I picked up a shirt and trousers and went inside the trial room to try and change.
In the trial room, I looked in the mirror and saw the rags. They looked horrible. So, I caught hold of them to remove them, but I couldn’t. There was something that made it difficult for me to remove them. I began to sweat and shiver, and was doing all I could to remove the rags, but nothing helped. I tried in that manner for perhaps 30 minutes; then, suddenly I heard some voices outside.
“It seems somebody’s inside!” a voice said.
“It’s been locked for over 15 minutes now,” another replied.
“Knock the door! A queue is building up,” I heard someone say.
There was a rap on the door. At that instant I looked in the mirror and a lion’s translucent face growled off my rags on the mirror. I shut my eyes. Then, immediately I put on the shirt and trousers just over the rags and came out of the room trying to act as normal as I could. I went to the counter, paid the price and walked out.