Symbols

As if possessed by a strange spirit, a voice sounded inside Catalina’s head, but it was not her own. It told her to step forward, and come closer to the first stand. She put her hands gently around the silver owl and closed her eyes as instructed. She could see shadows moving behind her eyelids, and gradually they became clearer; a scene played out before her. She was sitting in a circular chamber, which was lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves. On them were an uncountable amount of books: thick, new volumes with hard and neat covers, and old volumes, falling apart at the binding with curly script writing in gold on their leather-bound covers. Before her, on a wooden desk, sat pots of inks, sheets of new parchment and a globe of the world, all hers. She opened a drawer, and saw the neat display of rulers, compasses, protractors and various other instruments. Then the scene faded. “Knowledge”, she thought to herself.

She moved to the next stand, where a golden apple stood. Cupping her hands around it, she slipped into a trance. She was standing in front of a mirror, and as she watched, the scenery around her changed. At first she was standing in a podium, watching a jousting tournament. Two knights charged at each other and as the tip of one lance was about to enter the other knight’s chest, everything blurred. Then she was standing in a room, mostly empty except for a man and a painting. He stepped aside after a few moments and she was looking into the most famous painting of all times: the Mona Lisa. She turned around for a better look, but when her back was facing the mirror, the room changed once again. She was in the court of Elizabeth I, on one of the feast days. The queen herself was sitting at the high table, devouring roasted pheasant. But the peculiar thing was that she remained the same through all the scenes, a mere girl of eighteen. The voices and laughter faded, and she was back to where she started, next to the golden apple. “Eternal youth”, she whispered.

Now familiar to the process, Catalina moved on automatically and lifted the crown from its stand to set it on her head. She nearly lost her balance as the crown was heavy. It was set with diamond and pearls, and intricate designs were carved into the solid gold. She fingered each jewel, and fell into another reverie. She was sitting on a throne, draped in silk and velvet, decorated with exquisite embroidery. In her left hand she held a sceptre, and her right hand held a peacock quill. A roll of parchment was set in front of her, and she was directed to sign at the bottom. She dipped her quill in the inkwell, which was filled with a violet liquid, and signed her name. Then a flash showed her a knight carrying her order, plans made, and a war fought for her honour, all because she signed a contract. “More power and wealth than I’ll ever need”, she thought, shivering slightly.

She moved on, and gently picked the rose from its stand. She brought it to her nose, and sniffed in the delicate smell. She closed her eyes once again, and reappeared in a luxurious room. She was once again in front of a mirror, although this time it was just for pure fun. She was trying on different outfits, a grey taffeta gown with silver embroidery, a blue satin gown with slashes on the skirts to show her creamy petticoat, a violet gown of silk with long, flowing sleeves and a high neck… She seemed to shine in every outfit, and even Aphrodite couldn’t compete with her. And then she was lead down a staircase lined with red carpet, and was dancing the night away, with dozens of young men asking for her hand in marriage and praising her beauty. “That’s exactly what it is, beauty” she thought. She knew she wouldn’t choose it, but the endless amount of beautiful gowns did seem rather tempting, considering she had been a maid with simple clothes all her life.

And then she was upon the last stand, the stand bearing the insignificant crystal globe. She took out her handkerchief, and dusted the globe’s surface lightly. She brought it up to eye level with both hands, admiring its smoothness. But she didn’t close her eyes this time. The air inside the globe shimmered, and curtains of light appeared, dancing. This subsided for several images. A bunch of blue lilies and baby’s breath appeared, and then a blurred version of her family. Books, quills and parchments flash across the globe, and an image of a school materialized in its place. A house emerged, not the kind of fancy palace but a cosy home, and children ran one by one out into the yard. And, saving the best till last, an image of Jonathan appeared, and stayed there. She watched him laugh, as she had done so, so long ago. She was mesmerised, she couldn’t move. All her efforts to forget him were wasted. She took one hand off the globe slowly, and the image disintegrated. “Love and happiness” she sighed, longing to live in that world within the globe.

The End

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