For my Fantasy Writing course, I was asked to write about the circumstance during which my narrator first met up with a particular archetypal character. Two different voices were required – which do you prefer and why?
I have never enjoyed traveling in public conveyances. It is most uncivilised to share such a cramped space with a complete stranger for hours and hours and hours on end. If one is truly unfortunate, as I was on that particular evening, one might, by necessity, even be forced to share one’s meal with another who heralds from a foreign land. The only good thing to be taken away from that entire experience was that whilst nibbling away on an egg and cress sandwich, I no longer could be expected to make polite conversation.
Imagine my joy when at long last, my stopping train chugged into Boston’s fashionable red-brick and plate glass Back Bay Station. I breathed a welcome sigh of relief when after raising her gloved hand, that badly-dressed French woman with whom I been trading lies for six hours waved adieu. After directing my ladies maid to attend to my baggage, I alighted on the smoky station quay and was at long last, delighted to stretch my legs.
Although I had hoped to enjoy my first view of Copley Square, home to Trinity Church, America’s quaintly colonial nod to the superiority of European architecture, I was disappointed. A dreadful snowstorm originating from the very heart of Canada had in earnest, descended. It was impossible to see the nose on one’s face, much less anything beyond. Drawing my woollen cloak closer I followed the porter bearing my luggage. Poor luck, I told myself. Perhaps, with the grace of God, after I will have arrived safely at my cousin’s gracious home across the River Charles in Harvard Square, tomorrow will be brighter.
Now, imagine my sorrow when after only a few yards, my carriage became stuck fast in the same icy white drift as the one before it.
“I am terribly sorry, Ma’am,” announced the driver, sticking his big head through the tiny window. “No further progress can be made. May I suggest that you and your travelling companion spend the night across the way at the Fairmont?”
Although I was not best pleased with the idea, there was little else that could be done. After the driver had arranged for my luggage to be conveyed across the street, I eased my cold fingers into my warm fur muff and prepared to make my exit. To this day, I cannot be certain how what happened next actually did happen. Suffice it to say that when I turned around, I encountered not my maid but a clean-shaven, dark-skinned man, who was strangely attired in a black woollen tunic, black silk tights, and tight-fitting black leather gloves with cloth covered buttons. A black bolero hat, of the same type that I had seen the week before in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art sat squarely atop his well-shaped head. In his left hand, he clutched a pink papyrus scroll and in his right hand, a shiny silver caduceus, the kind that any well-educated gentleman or gentlewoman will instantly know is associated with Hermes, ancient messenger of the gods and psychopomp of the dead.
“Good evening, Madame,” he hissed. “Diaktoros at your service.”
When first I laid eyes on Diaktoros, it was mid-winter; snow fell fast and thick and the frozen air was laden with the acrid smoke of designer fireplaces burning designer wood. I’d long been anticipating my visit to Boston’s Copley Square, home to Trinity Church. Because of its risqué Romanesque arches, pious Byzantine angels, and flying Gothic buttresses, the building has been one of America’s top ten architectural masterpieces for the last one hundred and sixty-three years. After an awe-inspiring article had appeared in a late 20th century Architectural Digest, that House of God has drawn a record one million visitors each and every day.
That night, however, Copley Place was desolate, deserted. Little surprise. It was half-past midnight in the midst of a howling storm. Equally of little surprise was that moments after the bullet train upon which I’d just arrived had dashed onwards to Canada, I realised there were no taxis. Having never before visited this ancient city, named by the Puritans after the town in Lincolnshire from whence they’d emigrated, I was unfamiliar with the lay of the land. Under such circumstances, might I not be forgiven for failing to realise that The Westin Copley Place, the four-star hotel in which I was to take my sanctuary, was no more than a few yards off to my right?
Ruing my own foolishness for having mislaid my dagger during my journey, I turned left, and walked quickly toward the soft, pink glow of a distant streetlamp. But instead of encountering a busy hive of respectable commerce as anticipated, I found myself in what, in those days, was known as a marginal neighbourhood: one side of the street was gentrified whilst the other, was a ghetto. Since the beginning of time, marginality has been dangerous. Likewise, street crime was as rampant then as now. I needed to get out of there as soon as was possible. Leaning against that streetlamp, I consulted my old-fashioned plastic-coated map. A split second after tucking it back into my great coat pocket, I felt a gentle tug on my sleeve. With my heart leaping into my throat, I pinched my wrist, and gathered my courage. Slowly I turned to face whatever fate had chosen to deliver.
Imagine my relief when instead of finding bandits wearing Carnival masks and wielding sharp sabres, I was confronted with a clean-shaven, dark-skinned man, about my own height. He was modestly attired in a black woollen tunic, black silk tights, and black leather boots with cloth covered buttons. A black bolero hat, of the same type that had become wildly popular after last month’s Versace Autumn/Winter fashion show, sat squarely atop his well-shaped head. In his left hand, he clutched a pink papyrus scroll and in his right hand, a shiny silver caduceus, the kind that every schoolchild knows had been associated with Hermes, messenger of the gods and psychopomp of the dead. I tilted my head to one side, as was the custom upon meeting a stranger. After politely tipping his bolero in the direction from whence I’d just come, Diaktoros smiled and then vaporised, leaving a bevy of cooing white doves in his wake.