TBOTSG-Chapter 11

July 4, 2024

When we entered the building, two girls, who Filip was already eying, gave each of us a pair of 3D glasses and asked us to put them on before entering the exhibition space. I didn’t understand why it was necessary to visit the gallery when we could have gone straight to the source. We could have looked for the artist, Andreea Apostol, and asked her why she had left us the flyer and what she had to say. But Filip, Ofelia, and even M seemed very excited to see the exhibition, which apparently had been a resounding success and had recently become permanent. I liked the feeling of enthusiasm that radiated from the others, a feeling I felt I couldn’t experience alone, so I let them enjoy their fresh emotions.

We put on the glasses and stepped into what seemed to be a narrow, curved corridor, with LEDs on the floor giving off light just enough to keep us from stumbling. A few steps ahead, we began to hear a buzzing sound, or maybe it was a continuous ommm, like the yoga chant. One thing was certain: the space, almost completely immersed in darkness, started to take on new dimensions. We passed the wide curve of the corridor and encountered a fluorescent graffiti, which seemed suspended in a sea of fluorescent stars; it had a simple message: touch me. M reached out and smiled, but nothing happened.

‘I think we all need to touch it,’ Filip said, while the three of them were practically glued to a large wooden door that stood behind the graffiti.

They waited eagerly and enthusiastically for me to finally put my hand on the door, something I felt like postponing just to tease them a bit. When I touched it, I felt a vibration that matched the sound. The door lit up as if the sky had opened up, illuminated by four powerful warm lights. I liked the effect. I liked how the others were feeling. But I wasn’t necessarily impressed, a feeling I tried to control because I wanted to experience what they were feeling, not the other way around.

Once illuminated, the door now looked like an artefact centuries old. It appeared as if it were a fusion of trunks, roots, vines, all captured in an extremely detailed sculpture. Somewhere to the right, near one of the hinges, the initials AA were scratched, in the same writing as the now turned invisible graffiti.

Filip and Ofelia were still caressing the wooden surface, which indeed had a very realistic antique look.

‘Wow, this is amazing!’ Filip exclaimed repeatedly, after M finally pressed down the huge handle and opened the door to a space so white and bright that it took us a few seconds to recover from the shock and fully open our eyes.

The others dispersed instantly, each heading towards the image they found most interesting. Six hyper-realistic paintings were arranged radially on the walls of the octagonal room. Paintings that truly reminded me of the past. Paintings depicting people from the other world in a lifelike manner. As you approached, the 3D glasses and the UV lamp effects gave you the sensation that these people were ready to step out of the paintings they were captured in. Additionally, a series of overlaid drawings gave you the sensation of movement.

I felt an almost painful emotion and turned my head to see where it was coming from. M was standing in front of the painting of Fiiuea. He seemed hypnotised and appeared more still than her portrait was, which seemed to move and vibrate with every step I took. I touched his shoulder with my hand, and it was as if a violent electric current pierced through me. A current of emotions and painful memories, more present and vivid than anything I had felt or seen since coming here. I saw Fiiuea, kneeling, covered in blood, ready to take her last breath, as if seen from dozens of new angles—something this painting, with all its intricacies, couldn’t capture— an image I felt burning me from the inside. I withdrew my hand unintentionally and felt the enthusiasm of the others again. I breathed a sigh of relief, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for M, who seemed lost in the past.

‘Filip,’ I said, knowing his potential for enthusiasm, ‘come see the most beautiful priestess from the Second House. This is Fiiuea.’

‘The Fiiuea that M was in love with?’ Filip said, with the enthusiasm I expected, which snapped M out of his reverie.

‘The Fiiuea that M is in love with,’ I confirmed, and instantly felt something unpleasant, this time from Ofelia. ‘The Fiiuea to whom I gave M’s twin pendant and who now runs an empire. The Fiiuea who hasn’t forgotten the gods. And who hasn’t forgotten you, M,’ I added more softly this time, directed only at him.

After a while, the light began to change, dimming, and instinctively, M and I looked up where the projection of the Second House was almost as faithfully represented as Fiiuea and the other priestesses.

‘Considering this light,’ I said…

‘We’re in the Tulip Tower,’ M completed after a few seconds, and then we headed toward the two metal doors in front of us, which opened automatically as we approached.

Beyond was darkness again, feeling like we were stepping into the void of space. After the doors closed behind us, I could see they were part of an ancient sculpture of stone and weathered wood, with pulsating luminous inserts, a sculpture that emulated the Tower of Tulips. That relic of the ancient world, which I myself had linked with an asteroid and planted a tree outside, one made of memories. And this tree too, like the one I had made, seemed slightly out of place yet melded with the rock underneath. Yet I knew something was missing: the oxygen blanket that formed around itself and around the asteroid.

I was eager to see further, so we entered a new room. Mirrors and paintings combining 2D with the 3D effect from the glasses. Paintings of places and people from over there. This time, however, objects from this world, as real as they can be, hung above our heads and protruded from the mirrors, as if worlds were merging in an almost grotesque vision with the reflections swirling around us, giving me a claustrophobic vibe. A vibe of being trapped in a kaleidoscope ready to turn.

The last room was entirely lined with tulips. Tulips of all colours that started from the corridor we carefully walked through and rose up the walls, enveloping the ceiling and everything else. A delicate floral perfume, a breeze, a subtle mist. It felt like a dream.

When we emerged, Filip, Ofelia, even M, were euphoric. And I was happy they felt this way.

The exit led back to the same room where we entered, one of the girls who welcomed us at the entrance quickly coming over to ask if we liked it and if we wanted to leave a message for the artist. She led us to a guestbook filled with dozens of entries. Filip rushed ahead of M, who seemed like he wanted to write something, and scribbled almost illegibly: ‘Reeza was here.’ Ofelia smirked ironically, and M was about to take the pen when I noticed a door opening and a woman approaching us.

‘Andreea Apostol,’ she introduced herself and greeted us briefly with a nod.