Lauren Bell’s New Short Story – Sunrise Over Cappadacio

Sunrise Over Cappadacia

by

Lauren Bell

typewriter love

Adeline shakes her lipstick-red umbrella on the steps of the grand gallery which are huge slabs of polished marble, so shiny you can see your own reflection staring back. The effect is a little unsettling if Adeline is completely honest, but the building is what strikes her most; it looks like it has been crafted entirely from ivory with gold twists for door handles, like something taken from a dream.

*

Inside and Adeline feels its effects even more. The walls are huge white spaces, cavernous voids for spectators to lose themselves in, and the floors are waxed eggshells. Each room is a cube dedicated to a theme or specific object perfectly preserved for the curious spectator. As she enters each room, Adeline is highly conscious of her breathing as though, somehow, this act is not permitted on the premises.

She marvels over sculptures created from human flesh and blood, tapestries woven from animal hair, contraptions made from kitchen utensils and other household goods. She has never seen such weird and wonderful inventions.

But nothing can quite prepare her for what she sees in the next room.

*

In front of the photograph, about four feet away, is a slim bench presenting the spectator with the perfect view. Adeline tilts her head to one side, wondering where the name of the piece is. She looks at the empty space around the frame and sees nothing. There is no card above or below which declares the title. Nothing to clarify or confirm its identity.

Adeline inches her way closer to the photograph, hoping that the artist may have included the title somewhere in his artwork; again she is confronted by an absence. But then she studies the gilt-edged frame more carefully, peering at it the same way one peers through a window and notices a series of letters printed down the right hand side: Sunrise over Cappadocia.

She reads these three words over and over as though committing them to memory and settles on the last word – Cappadocia. She has never seen, read, or heard this word before. She rightly assumes it is the name of a place; although she has no idea where it is.

The word is completely foreign to her; she sounds the word aloud, though it feels like sandpaper on her tongue, coarse and unfamiliar. She has no idea how to pronounce it: Cappa-dokia, Cappa-dosia, Cappa-dosha.

In order to better appreciate the composition of the piece, Adeline takes her position on the bench. She barely acknowledges the softness of the seat, the plush cushioning beneath which makes one feel as though they are sitting on a cloud.

Sunrise over Cappadocia is an intense wilderness where mountains control the landscape and dwarf the sparse trees scattered about like streetlamps on country roads. It depicts a kingdom of sand and stone, not unlike the tales of Arabian Nights; a dual composition of fragility and strength.

But then something catches Adeline’s attention, something she is sure wasn’t there before. Glancing around the room, Adeline is greeted by half a dozen backs. She turns her attention back to the photograph and the world begins to change.

*

The first thing she feels when she wakes up is thirsty as though all the moisture has been drained from her body. Her head is heavy, her limbs aching and weak as if they haven’t been used in years. Adeline attempts to focus her gaze, to find one thing she can take control of, but the landscape seems to shift around her, slipping from sight.

When she does manage to adjust her eyes, the only colour she can see is beige. It is soft, something she is able to sink into. She notices the statuesque forms of the stone mountains like formidable, faceless gods bearing down on this arid wasteland.

The world is waking up, preparing for a new day as Adeline attempts to locate herself. Nothing moves. Even nature seems to have abandoned this place, preferring an environment that can offer them nourishment and shelter. A slow, meandering wind whips through the landscape, shifting layer upon layer of sand. Her hair blows about, a dark mist spread around her face.

This is a place to lose oneself, she thinks. A place to be forgotten and forget.

Adeline can no longer recall the hustle and bustle of frantic city life, people flitting to and fro like moths drawn to a flame. There is no sense of chaos or urgency here.  And there is no such thing as time. Days are measured according to the movement of the sky, the arrangement of the stars at night, the sheer expectation of possibility.

And it is bliss, to not have people following; treading the same path you walked only a few moments ago, watching as the sun ascends higher and higher into the sky.

About twenty feet ahead, a cloaked figure stands, his cape a great black sail riding the air currents; his hair a mass of roguish curls.

Adeline rubs her eyes which are beginning to close, though she did not feel tired a minute ago. The air is thick and dense with the spice of cinnamon. Her lungs feel coated with honey, her stomach swollen with sugar, yet she cannot account for the sick sensation which has suddenly overwhelmed her.

The sky is alive with new-born light, the brightness unable to register in a common man’s eyes. Adeline blinks rapidly, hoping to dislodge the heaviness she feels in the back of her head, wanting to preserve the juxtaposition of this land: the rough with the smooth, knowing these images are already dying.

When she next opens her eyes, the cloaked figure is less than eight feet away, and Adeline can see that he hovers, his feet not touching the sand. She wonders if he is an apparition or whether he is an angel of death come to take her away from this shifting realm.

Until she sees the small leather pouch he carries.

The mountains begin to spin around her, the wind accelerating at a terrifying rate, blowing huge drifts of sand up into her hair and eyes. The sand does not sting or scratch but appears to soak into her skin. She watches the mighty dream lord approach, one hand immersed in his small leather pouch; his face a smooth milk-white mask, completely unreadable.

He extends one spindle-fingered hand towards her. A stitched smile spreads across his face. It is simultaneously nightmarish yet reassuring.

His cloak fans around him, the epitome of night, while the sky overhead breaks like an egg spilling its yolk faracross the land. A legion of blackbirds and starlings emerge from beneath the opened garment, dive-bombing at tremendous speeds.

Instinctively, Adeline covers her head from the avian attack; though she cannot move. The dream lord continues to approach, taking his hand from the small leather pouch and sprinkling it like confetti in to the wind.

A scent of cinnamon and honey blossom fills Adeline’s world as the sound of distant feet punctuate her thoughts. The tread grows heavier, constant, almost as if an army is approaching, while the mountains begin to crumble, the trees torn from the ground like plucked hairs, and the sunblisters the sand city turning it into a pure goldsea.

*

Back inside the gallery, the bench in front of the photograph remains empty; although a faint impression still remains.

After hours, the curator will study the photograph for a long time, considering the various elements which make up such acomposition.

But he will only notice one thing: a cloaked figure seemingly lost in Cappadocia.

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