“Tonight, my Chosen Boy, is the night that I will finally tell you all about it. I only request patience of you until we reach the Last Station when your path will be lit, and all your doubts resolved. It doesn't matter how long you've been in the dark; a single match is enough to light up a dark room that hasn't seen light for seventeen long years. The match will fuel the branch, the branch will ignite the log, and the fire will heat the room and our hearts. The same has already happened for us both today. We found a cold mansion that had been closed for a whole month. It was impossible to warm it up just like that. It took patience and time for the fire to do its magic”.
“And what is your magic show for tonight?”
“A hungry bear won’t dance, so I suggest we enjoy our meal and then we'll have plenty of time to continue our chat!”
I drag my numb feet to the dining table and sink my troublesome questions in the first glass of red wine; saving the second and last glass that I am allowed to have for later, as I am sure the rest of the evening is to be full of surprises.
It is by far the most quiet meal I ever had with Grandpa. It’s as if we are conserving our strength for the main event. The table is clear, the dishes are washed and the stadium is now ready to host the grand finale.
Grandpa goes to turn off the generator as I light the candles dotted around the living room. As soon as I hear the generator’s last tired breath, the trembling light from the lamps slowly fades. A sudden silence takes over; an absolute silence filled with magical acoustic tones. A symphony of dissimilar sounds contributes a wonderful musical harmony. A coexistence of sound! The old clock above the fireplace shows seven in the evening and ticks vigorously. There come the moans and whistles of the wind from outside, the crackling of pine logs on the fire, the hissing of warm air within the chimney, tweets and hums from the night birds roosting in the heart of the oak tree, the rustling of small nocturnal insects that have begun their night shift, and other indefinable small sounds that the human ear catches only under the mountain stars. The scenery is now completely changed and the protagonists are the sounds and the shadows. Undulating forms thrown by the candles dance on the walls and vivid red tongues of fire emit flickering reflections of light, giving life to the family photos on the shelves. I stare at the hundreds of books on the wooden bookshelves to the left and right of the stone-build fireplace. This is a place for eating, reading and playing only, which is why no TV set is allowed in the mansion.
It's so quiet that I can hear Grandpa's footfalls as he walks back up the path to the house. He didn’t take his black storm lantern with him as a full moon illuminates the entire landscape. I glance around the room and I am mentally transported to the time when people lived without electricity. Unknowingly, this is an eerie preparation for the story to follow; to a time past, set in 1470.
Grandpa hurriedly closes the door, commenting that it is getting chilly outside. He hangs up his coat and cap, heads for the bottle of brandy and pours without skimping. He then sits comfortably in his armchair, pulling the wooden lever on the side in order to stretch his legs out on the footrest. The ‘throne’ –as he likes to call his dark-brown leather armchair– is a place no one dares to sit in, as its where Grandpa Takis finally rests his tired body after a hard day’s work. I sit on the couch to his left and observe his face as he watches the dancing flames of the fire. The way his seat is positioned leaves the left side of his face completely illuminated by the fire, while the right side is in darkness. I immediately have the impression that the most important person in my life, after Mom and Dad, ultimately has two faces: the face I've known all these years, that of the best grandfather in the world, and a darker more mysterious one that will be revealed to me in a very short while.
“Grandpa, let’s begin from the point where you said that tonight I'll be the student and you'll be the teacher”.
“Learn from your experiences to become wise. Learn from others to become wiser. Ignore learning to remain a fool!”
“Good thing I'm not a fool, right, Grandpa?”
“You are my Chosen Boy! Therefore, why do you need my confirmation?”
“Good to hear! Then how do we start tonight?”
“With me telling you a fairytale!”
“Oh, how nice! Please tell me the story of The King and the Cook!”
“ONCE UPON A TIME...