Dream of: 21 November 1997 (2) "Ecbatana"

I was on an African river-trip, on the deck of a boat traveling along a long river in central Africa. At first I had only been watching a movie of such a journey. On a large screen I had seen the scenes of Africa float by, as if I were passing through the area on board a boat. I had reflected how much I could see and learn, just by watching a movie. I had even spotted a city on the shore and had identified it as "Ecbatana." I had mentioned to my father, who had also been watching the movie, that Ecbatana was the capital of a central African country. He had disagreed, saying the city was much too small to be a capital. But I had pointed out that although most of the buildings were small, a dome could be seen in the center of the city, and the domed building was the center of the government. I further explained that all capital cities in this part of the world were small because the countries themselves were so tiny. All this had passed while I had been watching the movie.

But now I was no longer merely watching a movie, I was actually on the boat, sailing past Ecbatana. Instead of my father, three other young men were accompanying me on my journey. We had pulled out a map of Africa in order to determine our exact location. Africa was the continent whose geography was least familiar to me, especially the central African countries where we were. But I could already sense that my knowledge would shortly improve. My first task was to pinpoint where Ecbatana was. On the map I could see the line of our river. At first I had thought we might be on the Nile. But I now saw that our river ran north-south from central Africa all the way to the southern tip of Africa, crossing through many countries. As I saw how the river crossed through the country of South Africa, it struck me as curious that even though Africa was supposed to be mostly black, the whites had created the most bigoted country in Africa: South Africa.

But we were far north of South Africa, traveling north, already in central Africa. We had only passed a few cities along the way; even on the map we had only seen the names of two or three towns located on the river. Thus reaching the city of Ecbatana, however small it might be, was quite an event for us. We decided this would be a good place to visit.

Almost as soon as my three companions and I debarked in Ecbatana, we realized a special event was taking place today. Thousands of people were thronging through the streets to reach a building where the event was being held. My friends and I joined in and soon found ourselves at the building, ahead of most of the crowd.

Although I was unsure of the exact nature of the building, I was aware of a few salient features. The building was constructed of rough dark brick many stories tall. Although rather plain, the building had the feel of a religious edifice. That feeling was reinforced by the nature of this event. On the very top floor was a statue of a woman, about half life-sized, all dressed in crimson. She stood in a small niche at one end of an otherwise empty room. She could only be seen by the public on one day of each year. And today was the day.

My friends and I didn't have to wait long before we began the long climb up the many flights of stairs. Once at the top, we filed by the white-faced statue, robed in red. It was somewhat of a let-down. To me the statue seemed rather ordinary, nothing of great significance. I failed to understand what all the hype was about. Seeing no reason to dally, I walked by the statue and headed out the back entrance.

Whereas the stairs leading up had wound from floor to floor, the stairs heading down the back descended in a long straight line. By the time I had reached the bottom, I had seen enough, and was ready to continue on with our journey. But now we had a problem: one of our companions was missing. The rest of us waited for quite a while, until I finally decided I would have to go back up to the sanctuary to see if I could find the missing companion. Thus began a tiresome search which lasted the rest of the day. Time after time I trudged to the front of the building, ascended the stairs to the top, then descended the stairs at the rear.

Little of note occurred during these climbs. Once I saw an attractive woman and thought of talking to her; but I didn't. Another time I saw a fellow who I thought might be able to help me; but he looked as if he might hail from South Africa, and I decided not to talk with him. Basically I simply wore myself out climbing.

On my last pass through the building, I could see that the crowd had thinned down to practically no one. Obviously the place would soon be closing. When I reached my other two companions at the foot of the stairs, I told them it was no use, that I couldn't find our missing friend. I was at a complete loss. I simply didn't know how he could have disappeared from us. And I didn't know what we now could do to find him again.

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