Tourists in Mnemos will pass over medieval bridges; their paths will be disconcerted by cobbled streets that meet at irregular angles, mostly ascendant; in the Old Quarter dozens of criss-crossed washing lines will uphold the changing angles of the sun in a billowing patchwork of faded pink, fawn and beige; sets of plastic chairs will be folded away in the corners of stone courtyards; there will be a hundred doors with glass insets and wrought iron grilles; there will be thirty seven hidden gardens that have run to seed; there will be three hundred and thirty two tenantless balconies looking out over a thoroughfare; there will be a solitary miniaturist by the harbour hawking decorated pens; there will be an uncountable number of men or women moving without explanation behind the windows of unilluminated rooms.
The tourists will wander up and down the streets, often the same ones, time and time again, their bags stuffed with programmes of events and maps that tomorrow they will discard; in one language a statue will be described as “eventful”, in another “prescient.” A piece of playful humour — “In our town this is not so sorry a state!” — will translate in all its functional particulars, while at its heart there will be something, some imperative that inspired it, that will not translate at all. The tourists will haggle, not really sure why they are doing so, and then, pleased with their skill, feel confirmed in their conviction that life here is mostly a deception. They will eat in bars with repetitive names, and when they read their pamphlets, they will learn only what they learned already about a hundred similar towns, with their feudal monarchies of preferment and complacency, interspersed by occasional acts of selflessness and bouts of civil and natural disorder, a smattering of legend (the dragon wrapped itself thrice about the city; its head is the castle, the four towers its teeth, and the long swathe of the river its tail). A few loanwords will survive (argentavalo, the rider of the silver horse, aurorialio, a keeper of gold) from a dialect now dead, the greatest works of which will have documented, in plain and unadorned prose, little more than the harshness of work in the surrounding fields, and, by way of a litany of minor, graphic events, the quiet injustices of the world.
Each man steps into a different river, and the pen maker knows this. When he depicts in a single scene the four towers, the castle, a few prominent streets and even the town’s coat of arms, he is well aware that they cannot exist together – not in these colours, not from this vantage point, not at this time. But, painting on a pen, he offers the hope that there could be a story which, in some one, particular moment, might be the true one, alongside his own acceptance that this is not it.