Ariel’s Story #7 – The Pool

by MW Cook

     I came to the park. I was surprised to see how much had changed. And doubly surprised to feel how much had remained the same.
     The grass around the pool was cleaner by far. There were uniformed men and women with bags going around and collecting the garbage. Other uniformed men and women carried sticks, which they used to encourage the homeless to move along and not make trouble (or a mess). Because of their efforts the area had a crisp, clean look to it. The people were well dressed, if a little subdued. It made it more comfortable, truth be told. It’s hard to engage in meaningful spiritual duties while unfortunates are distracting you with their temporal problems.
     But while the park had certainly changed, the pool itself, at first look, seemed the same. The gates still surrounded the stairs down to the water. Though above the archways, new symbols had been carved in. I found the one of bread and descended.
     I was not alone. The gate of bread seemed to be the entrance for many devotees. As I went down and saw the pool clearly I became confused. The water, for one, seemed just as dirty as it had the last time I was there. The smell, even, was nearly the same. And in the centre of the pool stood a man, holding something in the water with his right hand. He moved and shook the water with his left, and it seemed he sent different types of ripples to each section of shore.
     I drew close to the water. It was the water that was important for me. I touched it and, alas, it was the exact same oily, useless stuff of before. I looked out to the man holding that thing in the water and wondered.
     I tried cleaning my hand off, on the ground and walked back up the stairs to the park. I found a tree and sat beneath it.
     A man passed by who had the look of a fellow with wisdom.
     “Sir,” I called out to him, “please, where is the fountain?”
     “Why, it’s right here my son.” He pointed back to the cistern.
     “But I was just there, and the water is as foul as it has ever been.” I held up my hand to show him the oil stain. “I was told that Sume and her husband had done away with its filth and built a clean fountain. Why is it still here? But even that is not the most important thing in my mind in this moment. I only want to see Sume. And, if at all possible, her husband. Can you help me?”
     He cocked his head to the side. “Dear son. You can most certainly meet the bride and husband. But you must be part of one before you can meet the other. The fountain is fresh and clear, in truth. But you must approach it from the right direction.”
     “All this I was told by a man in town. And I entered the way he bid. The way of bread.”
     He had a look of utmost sorrow and pity. “My son, I fear that man was a deceiver sent by the enemy. That is not the right gate. Enter with me by the way of the Fish. The fish, you see, is the oldest symbol of the bride and her husband. From that direction the water will be clear and crystal to you. And you shall clearly see both the bride and husband.”
     I was about to object at this point, for it made no sense that approaching a place from the south rather than the west would have any impact on the nature of the place itself. But then I recalled that this dream was very much like an allegorical fantasy story. And in fanstasy stories strange things may happen. So I took his outstretched (oily) hand and walked with him to the fish gate.
     For a moment, as we descended, the sun reflected on the surface of the water in a way that made it seem clear. But it was only a moment. And the stench washed over me again and the pool was as dirty as ever. The man who held my hand did not seem to notice this. And he smiled as if showing me something difference from what I had seen through the Bread gate.
     “Not only is the water clear and holy,” he said, “but also you can clearly see the bride and husband there in the centre of it all.” He pointed to the man, still stirring the pool and holding something in the water with his right hand.
     “That man there is the husband?”
     “Of course.”
     “But I see only him. Where is Sume? Where is the bride?”
     His eyes judged me as I asked. I thought he wouldn’t answer. But he did, eventually. “Can you not see her? He lovingly holds her in his right hand.”