by Josh T. Alto
Things that happened at a class reunion in an intimate restaurant on Midsummer-Eve
|It happened ten years ago on Midsummer-eve, the night when people used to kindle a fire and dance around it, the night when ghosts and other beings of the spiritual world were at large and also the night when witches mixed their most deadly poison. It was believed, even, that during this night people’s souls could leave the body and wander over the world.
Totally unaware of all these forebodings, we held our class reunion meeting in an intimate restaurant at the riverside and our little company came together in the garden under the chestnut trees. In the afternoon dark clouds started gathering in the sky. By evening we could even hear the sound of far-off thunder over the hills, but we decided to stay.
We ate delicious fish, tasted the finest wines and our spirit flew higher and higher. We noticed that it had started raining because a furious wind drove the raindrops under our shelter across the table and sprinkled us with a fine spray of cold water, but we were so happy to see each other, to be together again that we didn’t really pay attention to it. We talked about the old days, tried to recall every little moment of one of the happiest times of our lives.
The little candle in the middle of the table, as if standing for the St. John’s fire, danced in the strong wind, exposing our faces in a spooky light. The rain became heavier and it looked as if we were sitting in a timeless aqualung separated from the outside world by huge water pillars or rather a thick impenetrable curtain of water. Around us raved the storm of the century joining together earth and sky, heaven and hell in a gray living mass of millions of water particles throbbing in the overloaded air.
At last the storm eased a little and we could also see the river with the waves lashing at the shore driven by the raging wind. Our humor wasn’t ruined at all by all these phenomena of nature, we drank our wine and talked about ghosts and spirits, witches and superstition and tried to imagine how it was then, hundreds of years ago, how it would have been dancing around a St. John’s fire instead of sitting here in the cold rain.
We were about to leave when one of us suggested that we should ask the waiter to take a photo of all of us around the table. We took our places and were waiting for the flash to come when lightning filled the air and tore it into a thousand pieces. I could hardly see the flash, I even had to close my eyes it was so painfully blinding.
I felt dizzy and had a funny feeling as if I was flying back in time, thousands of years, to a place filled with ragged people dancing around a fire. I was dragged into the middle of the crowd and could smell their sweaty bodies mingled with the smoke from the fire and the scent of burnt meat and cheap wine. In that whirl of people I got near the fire and could see some of them rushing through it and singing songs in a language I couldn’t understand. One girl holding my hand started to run towards the fire and dragged me near to the flames.
Finally I didn’t have any other choice, I had to leap over the fire to save my life. The girl kissed me and left me alone in the crowd, but before long I was taken by the hand again and drawn by other people deeper and deeper into the crowd. There were lots of other fires as well and I soon got totally lost there, not a face I knew and not a word I understood.
I can’t say now how long it could have kept on but suddenly I opened my eyes again and I could see the others sitting around the table looking into the flash of the camera. As I tried to describe my vision to them it turned out that all of us had seen quite similar scenes. It must have been our talking about the St. John’s fire and the shock caused by the lightning that made us see those pictures.
There was yet something else that evening, that was difficult to explain. While leaving the restaurant we noticed that our watches were running totally differently, as if we were living in individual worlds with individual times. None of them showed the correct time and none of them showed the same time as one another either. It must have been the strong ionization of the air because of the storm, we agreed.
A few weeks later when the photo was developed I could hardly believe my eyes. There was no one in that picture, only the table surrounded by our empty chairs and the small candle light in the middle of the table dancing in the wild wind like one of those fires of that medieval Midsummer-eve.
(Word count 845)