This is part 4 of 4. Never have sillier words been presented on so inane a topic, and I apologize profusely, but this was kind of fun.
A History of the Period (The Ending)
Who is to say what the period did in his time in Rhodes, where he made his home in Lindos amongst the white homes and the twisting streets, and took his meals with the delighted girls who ached for the stories he brought of foreign lands and the people he had known? At nights, the period perched atop the acropolis to mourn his poet warrior friend, and to pine for the destiny that had been borne in the mountains of Pamir.
It is said that the period went to the vineyards of Rhodes, of which there were a few, and learned the craft of wine-making. Such a noble pursuit for so delicate a soul! But even as the people around him aged, the period remained the same, a mere mark upon the paper of his birth, the same tremulous imprint that had seen war and escape, and that yet craved the bright future that his creator had envisioned for him. In time he turned to many other pursuits. There are rumours of time in the army, rigging sails in the fleet; a turn as a prostitute in the city of Rhodes, where he sold himself to the literati; a decade in a temple on a lonely hill, amongst the monks; even rumour of a time carving the Colossus, where he single-handedly shaped the statue’s phallus. But never, not once, did he involve himself of the crafts of writing and poetry, for these were indeed the balms his soul most ached for, and from which he purposefully kept himself – for though he had amazed the ears of kings, the period yet considered himself minute, insignificant even, a character of small stature and unremarkable appearance. He was plain; a dot some would say; a happenstance mark as others would suggest; a random episode even, one that would soon be consigned to some backwater doldrum of history.
When the barbarians invaded Rhodes, the period fought, but his skills were lacking, for so were his limbs. He was captured, enslaved; a year later upon the galley, he was taken by pirates, who gave him his first taste of rum; and when he finally reached the shores of Italy, it can be supposed that he was tired of the endless whimsy that fate seemed to practice upon him with such fierce and somewhat convenient regularity. His determination, however, ebbed quickly as he was captured by a troupe of glass-blowers, who dragged him to their home in a decrepit castle, where the furnaces ran hot with the guttural fires of the earth. “I will be burned,” supposed the period, and yet even that fate was not allowed him. The blowers encased him in glass, a pearl-shaped medallion that they hung from a golden chain, and which was ultimately supplied to some minor noble who found a glass-encased sheaf of paper to be less than impressive.
For the next two hundred years, the story of the period is uncertain at best, but we know with great certainty where next he surfaced – it was within the halls of an institution in Italy that requires no description, so singular and remarkable an example of art and musee of the time was it. There the period took up residence on a column of marble beneath windows lined with silver, and the Italians and their visitors came to see him, though none stayed long and few gleamed that the glass pendant was not the most remarkable aspect of this creation – no, a precious few saw the mark upon the buried sheaf and wondered, supposed, perchance even dreamed of glory. It was in the musee that the period discovered the beginning of his own latent homosexuality, for he had long since fallen in love with the vase across the hall. There the romance grew, during the nights when the candles had been extinguished, and the gentle clinking of glass and the breathy voice of friction was on display for all the paintings and the sculptures to see; the lovemaking, forsooth, was awkward, even dangerous, but there the lovers lay entwined, as happy as lovers had ever been.
If only the story had reached its conclusion in that place – and yet if it had, would these words be conveyed to you in this fashion to which you are accustomed, or would some other form have developed and risen in its stead? What great alteration of language might have occurred had the period and the vase mated, producing some offspring of elegance and beauty, possibly even a spawn that bridged the world of art and that rather dirty, low practice of assembling words that we now call “writing”? Oh the horror of poetry without punctuation, of sentences without end, of endless diatribes that extend far longer and with far greater pomposity than they have any right to! But in the end we can only wonder about what the lovers may have made, for the vase was stolen, the musee eventually put to the torch, and Italy lost its greatest possession – and nay, worse than that, the world lost a true friend, for the period took sick on the road to Toulouse, and perished in a wagon of hay driven by a certain cardinal on the way to his execution. Farewell period, farewell fair hole, how we mourn your passing, and rue the things that you had not the time to teach us! Another artist, friends, another fair auteur taken before his life’s work was finished, another to add to the morbid tally!
And so we might suppose that the story is concluded, but the night is young my friends, and some of us are too. We have walked the passages of our doubts, finding at times portals to the outside world we have been witness to the sun; others have remained lost, but they maintain hope, as must we all. Have we not in truth learned this from the period? Let us continue then, in France, where the corpse of the period made its way into a shoppe of antiques. Nestled between the Solidares and the Marlowes, the period rested quietly until a boy of twelve picked him up with money that was meant for some “book” as we may suppose them to be called (but in reality cannot properly classify them as such, for these constructions were plodding endless bores, beset by unsatisfying attempts at best to separate idea from supposition, dialogue from thought, paragraph from page). What were this child’s thoughts when he saw the glassy pendant upon the second shelf, above the shoppe-keeper’s shiny pate? Whatever the case, the boy’s eyes settled on the peculiarity of the period, and a glimmer awoke within him, one that we cannot understand now that we recite the story, or come to know how it began or what terrible misdeeds might have occurred if it hadn’t – but there it was, the singular notion that stole into this boy of twelve and a few days, as he put down his scheckles and instead of the book he had been requested to buy, purchased the period and took it home.
In the dark light of his home sat his father, the intended recipient of the book, a man who was practiced in some forgotten art that might properly have been described as phenomenonlogy mixed with an early notion of medicine crusted over with a healthy dose of self-flagellation. He received the gift from his son with little joy – and yet, in the days that followed, something happened to his writing, some peculiar alteration that stemmed without doubt from the occasional glance at the tomb of the period, which hung above his desk. One drunken night, as he worked the details of some engine and its consumptions of energy, the father railed at the heavens for his inability yet again to concoct the answers he so desperately sought; when he awoke the next morning, he had no recollection of how that mark had been made at the end of his sentence. He did not know what creature had stolen into his home to put it there. Could it possibly have been his son, astir in his sleep? He thought it unlikely. Could it have been a divine thing, wrestled from space above the clouds? A preposterous thought. But when his eyes came to rest upon the glass tomb, he finally wondered and he finally thought about the ghost of the thing within, that small thing, and he knew. At last he knew! The composition was finished; the engine was built; and our friend the father ran the streets screaming his victory. In the middle of the square, he shattered the glass tomb and exhumed the body of our beloved period, showing it to all who would listen. It began, of course, right there, in what is recorded (however erroneously) as the birthplace of the period. News spread as though it had appropriated the wings of the pigeons – and so the period was copied, repeated and redone, rebirthed and resurrected, until soon he had conquered in his death what even the Khan had not been able to in his life. It was an immediate infection of such ferocity and vehemence that it soon reached all the world, infecting our words, our thoughts, fully all our prose and sometimes (though often unsuccessfully) our poetry. Period oh my lovely period, how I pine for you through the ages, and hope to see the likes of you again – perhaps in another tongue, perhaps in a millennium or two, we shall see, we shall meet, and we shall be friends upon the deck of some ship that is bound for the edges of the galaxy! It was an ending that could never have been foreseen by those who lived in the snows of Pamir, beautiful Pamir, the birthplace of people and of the period too. And thus entered he into our lives. In his honour – for his permanence in prose and his occasional appearance in poetry – we bow to him, salute him even, and in thanks we offer him a respite, however brief, from the work that he has undertaken through all the histories of our literature as an ambassador of language, a signal of our greater civility that we must always seek to cherish and revere; and thus do we thank him and say our farewells by requesting – for this time at least – that he lay at rest with a smile upon his heavenly face rather than burdening himself with the duty of ending, once and for all, his very own tale
***note: the Khan’s wife Borte, after eighteen months of pregnancy and twenty two days of intense labour, gave birth to none other than that hateful and twisted bastard child that we now know as the question mark