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Spider's wire

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One day, Shakiamouni wandered in paradise, lonely and serene, amidst the beauty of lakeside flowers. The fragrant breeze produced a slight ripple in the water. It was an ordinary spring morning, sweet and perfect. Now as this god walked slowly and slowly along the warm grass of the bank, his gaze was captivated by the splendor of the sun on the transparent waves. He stopped and wished to see through the clear waters what was happening this morning underground, where hell was, because beneath this lake of paradise, infinitely distant but perfectly visible to the divine eyes of Shakiamouni, were the marshes of blood and fire where the thick crowd of the damned moved.

Among this crowd he saw a man struggling more furiously than the others. He was trying to lift himself, reaching out to the empty skies, climbing the flames to shout his revolt among the sulfur fumes. Shakiamouni recognized him: it was Kandata, a very strong-voiced bandit who had spent the days shamelessly plundering, burning, murdering and raping. Had he ever had a small gesture of kindness, even a tiny one?

Shakiamouni wondered, and like a slight mist a memory came to mind. One day when Kandata was walking through a forest, surrounded by an army of vigilantes, he had stepped on a spider, but had restrained his boot out of respect for the life of this little animal. He had felt a tear of brotherly compassion for her.

Shakiamouni savored this memory with an imperceptible but infinite happiness. “Maybe you can redeem Kandata,” he said to himself. Near him a paradise spider was weaving the web between two lotus flowers. He gently took the marble with his fingers and, through the waters of the lake, unrolled it to the swamps of hell.

In the midst of those cursed depleted tortures whose pale, complaining faces drifted around him, Kandata, the only rebel, was battling the puddles of blood, chasing wild fires like insect clouds, when he suddenly saw a spider’s thread flash. In the darkness of the sky. He lifted his head and realized it was descending straight from a star-bright hole in the highest sky. At that moment her heart skipped a beat in her chest and it occurred to her that she could escape the miasmas she was rotting in.

Greedily he reached the edge and began to climb with all his might. As a good thief he was able to climb with agility in the dark, but the star was far away and paradise was still beyond her. He tried to rise, but lost his strength, and when he realized that he could not go on, decided to rest for a moment.

So he stopped lifting and looked down. He had not been in vain: he could scarcely distinguish the infernal swamps, lost in a misty mist, and in the air he breathed no longer overwhelmed the oppressive smell that covered the places from which he came. “One more effort and I’m saved,” he said to himself with ravenous joy. “Me, paradise, me!” But before resuming the climb, he lowered his head again to take courage and take one last look at hell.

Then he saw, deep in the back, like ants in the flash of flames, curls of darn, mad with hope, clinging to the end of the thin rope that climbed and climbed after him. “What a disgrace!” thought. “Can’t you see this thread is fragile? Only by miracle can it hold me! How can you resist this army of rascals? It will break and we will all fall back to hell, me and these damn jealous!”

– Stop it! he shouted with all his strength, shaking with fear and anger. – Who allowed you to go up? This thread is mine, only mine, darn, drop it!

As soon as he had said these words, the spider’s thread snapped at the mere breath of his voice. At once.

At the edge of the lake of paradise, Shakiamouni saw Kandata fall like a bright spot and spin until it buried itself in the distant infernal mists. Now it was lost forever. Nothing could save him. How strange and complicated men are, the god thought, suddenly melancholy. “Why did the bad guy want to save himself?”

Shakiamouni resumed the calm walk by the water, in the indifferent breeze and among flowers of perfect perfume. It was noon in paradise and the sun in the sky had not yet found the slightest cloud.
   Henri Gougaud The Treasure Tree Lisbon, Gradiva, 1988

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