This Cycle

[Performance script (narrative part) - Erik Kamaletdinov]

Act I - Prehistoric Africa

Ursul’s eyes were fixed solemnly on the horizon, at the mountain range behind which the last orange hues of the great ball of fire were fading. The rock on which he sat on was still warm, a reminder of the scorching heat that had kept them from leaving that day. Yester-light-day Amare had spotted a group of large horned beast behind Great Jafari, but the path there was long and Oshun had not blessed it with sky-water for two lunar cycles. It had been dangerous to go, and he had made sure to tell this to the rest. Anan had listened to him and gave out the order to remain in place for now, but day by day unrest had pervaded the tribe - women and children were getting restless and the men sterner in their looks. They needed the hunt.
He looked over his shoulder at the cave behind him, the contours of the sleeping bodies lit dimly by the small fire. He needed to put more wood, but it could wait. He returned his surveying gaze to the horizon, which had by now become completely dark, holding above it countless points of light. He used to wonder why they only came out at night. The elder one would tell him that Nyame, the ruler of the skies, whose one eye was the sun and the other the moon, needed something beautiful to look at during the darkness of the night, and so had created the blanket of stars. 

But Ursul wasn’t thinking about that now. His eyes were fixed on a very particular point above the horizon. He felt the pulse inside his chest quicken. Pure blue-green light shot out of its side. They had never seen anything like it. It reminded him of a waterfall he had once seen when he was young, before coming out into the land of the plains. The water would drop down with an incredible speed, creating a mist of fine water around the lake below. This shooting light was like that, but unlike the waterfall it pointed away from the land below it and into the deep darkness separating the stars. But it was not like the other stars. From night to night it moved, covering the other stars with its waterfall of light.

They had feared it a lot. Esi told of an evil spirit from the underworld sent to consume Nyame’s stars of the night, turning him away from the land forever, and casting eternal darkness upon them. The elder one had disagreed with this, pointing out that no stars had disappeared across the succession of nights. Still, fear had gripped them. There had been no sky-water for two lunar cycles. Water sources had been limited to a small stream next to their home, but even that was getting smaller and weaker by the light-day. And now there was an intruder in the sky. Without looking down Ursul felt for his spear, which was still lying on the rock next to him. The rough wood felt good in his hand, smoother around the parts he normally held while hunting. He was tired and scared but didn’t move from his place. He didn’t let his fear show, for if the intruder saw his fear it would make it worse. He knew that fromhunting. Stand your ground or be hunted. Fear has a smell. He looked up again at the waterfall star, watching its light spilling out into the blackness of the night around it.

Act II - Ancient Athens

Anatolius felt relieved to once again hear the comforting sound of cicadas in the distance. His mind had been hectic, but now out of the city centre and with the help of the regular sound of his sandals on the ground, he found himself slowly relaxing again.The debate had been intense, though he hadn’t even planned on attending it. He just happened upon it in the agora, on his way home from visiting his friend Hippocrates for a glass of wine. Hearing loud voices across the square he went to see what was going on. A small crowd had gathered to the side of the path, next to the temple of Ares. He recognised the man who was speaking in the middle, it was Epiphanius, the craftsman and pottery maker. Anatolius was no artist or musician, in fact he was just a regular spice merchant, but he knew of Epiphanius as a well-regarded individual in those particular circles, even among the intellectuals. His loud voice pierced the darkness of the evening square, drawing in people from its hidden corners. 
Listening to Epiphanius speak, he immediately realised what was being talked about - the long-haired star. It had appeared some days ago in the sky above Mt. Parnitha in the north, and had been the topic of speculation of almost every Athenian since. Epiphanius was asking everyone to heed this warning from no one but Zeus himself of an impending doom to all of Athens and possibly mankind. And what would that be? A second invasion by the Persians, or even worse - a return of the Titans for the completion of total destruction initiated by Cronus long ago. 
Epiphanius spoke passionately, almost violently, but to his response came a calm and stern voice. Looking over the heads of the impromptu audience, he recognised the man as Aristotle, the great thinker, founder of the Lyceum. With a clear and powerful voice he made sure to address all the shortcomings of his opponent’s arguments before explaining that the long-haired star was not even a star, but rather a dry and warm exaltation from the Earth’s lower atmosphere. He said that such phenomena had been observed for centuries and had not lead to humanity’s annihilation every single time. Anatolius remembered people in the audience nodding as he argued that not every single natural phenomenon needed to be explained by divine forces. If there is a god, the god is absolute self-consciousness, a perfect being. Mercy, love, and sympathy, would not be the attributes of a being involved in a process of eternal self-contemplation. 
Walking down the barely-lit path, Anatolius relied more on his memory than his vision to find his way back home. Turning left at the large olive tree he felt the texture of gravel crack beneath the soles of his shoes, letting him know he was close. Coming out from the tall buildings, the sky overhead opened up and he saw it again. The peculiar apparition hanging above Mt. Parnitha. It shone brighter than any other thing in the sky, except of course, the moon, but tonight the moon had not made an appearance, and the stage was set exclusively for the strange visitor. He stopped in his tracks to look at it more carefully. The white-blue light emanating from its head spilled out into the space behind it, seemingly a being of light moving at an incredible speed, except it wasn’t and stood motionless against the dotted background. In his
mind, the voices of Epiphanius and Aristotles continued arguing and debating, back and forth, but the strange light remained unchanged, as if it couldn’t hear anything, or rather - didn’t even bother to, as if it was watching everything happening below with a cold gaze of indifference. 

Anatolius sighed and kept moving. The closer he got to his house, the more his mind started filling up with other things, household chores and business contracts, his kids, his wife... and soon enough the long-haired star disappeared from his thoughts, only to resurface in his dreams that very night.

Act III - Mongolia (middle ages)
performed only in the extended version (not in the video)

The hard rain had made it difficult to see where he was heading, but he persisted.
The rocks were slippery with mud and he felt every pull could be his last as he tried to scramble up against the roaring storm. His horse was somewhere below, down where the soft grass of the steppe had turned into a rocky cliff. Temujin’s breath was heaving in and out violently as he finally found some shelter beneath a large rock. It was well hidden from the plains below - he could hide out here for a while if he was lucky. When his breath had slowed and his body relaxed a little, he went through his sack. All he had was a leather wrapped bottle of milk and some flint, which was useless anyway - he didn’t want to get spotted by the Merkid, who were probably looking everywhere for him right now, turning over every stone in their path. The raid had left them no time to scavenge around for provisions - he had woken up, grabbed the sack and jumped on his horse. May the Eternal Blue Sky bless that old woman for hearing like a weasel and sounding the alarm. 

Sitting under the rock he could feel his fists clench tight as he thought about Borte and what had become of her. It seemed like only yesterday they had gotten married, and now she was being carried back to the Merkid camp to be raped and humiliated, to be given out as a bride like a piece of meat to a pack of wild dogs. He knew it wouldn’t make sense to go after her now - he had six men at his disposal he could count on, but the Merkid had fifty or more and planning a raid on them would be planning suicide. 

Temujin did the only thing he could. He turned around to face Burkhun Khaldun and prayed. This mountain had saved him from the vastness of the Mongolian plains, where no mercy was given to those looking to hide, and brought him closer to the Eternal Blue Sky to make his prayers heard. Temujin sprinkled milk into the air and the ground, and then removed his sash, powerless and bare to the gods above. 

But the gods above tested him with a difficult choice. Each of the three rivers that flowed out from the mountain offered him an alternative choice of action. Southeast, the Kherlen River pointed him to continuing his life on the steppe, but no matter how many animals or wives he accumulated as a herder, he would always risk losing them in another raid to the Merkid or whoever else came along. Northeast, The Onon River, along which he himself had been born, meandered through more wooded and isolated land. It would provide him more shelter, but lacked pastures for animals. Living there would require his tribe to scrape by - life would be safe but without prosperity or honour. The third option was to follow the Tuul river, which flowed toward the southwest, to seek the help of Ong Khan. But Temujin didn’t want to have to rely on any other khan for assistance, which would put him in debt. He had declined the offer to be subordinate leader under the rule of the khan not a year ago and moreover, the Merkid might have put a price on his head to tempt the khan. 

Temujin prayed for three days and three nights to the sacred mountain Burkhun Khaldun and the Eternal Blue Sky above it. He prayed for strength, he prayed for faith, but most of all he prayed for guidance in this crucial moment. On the third night the storm opened up to reveal a sky dotted with countless stars. Temujin looked up into it, feeling so close to them he could almost touch them. He was hungry and completely exhausted, laying there without moving, barely breathing. But a strange thing caught his attention. It was a streak of light suspended in the sky. What could it be? he thought, sitting up. It was bright, brighter than anything else up there. The light seemed to be a star but one with a beautiful blue-green tail, seemingly floating in the Black Sea around it. Temujin was transfixed with the sight. He got on his feet and felt the wind of change around him. The tail-star was pointing towards the southwest, where the curly shape of the Tuul River lay. There was no mistaking the sign. He would save Borte, his bride, no matter the cost. The Eternal Blue Sky had granted him a promise and a way out of his predicament. He felt he could salvage an ally in Ong khan and together bring down the Merkid. He bowed down to the beautiful tail- star that had lit his way, and prayed to it nine times. Then he waited for the first rays of the morning sun to guide him down the sacred mountain to where his destiny awaited him.

Final Act IV - 1986

Marianne had to turn her keys several times on the ignition before the cranky engine finally came to life. But right before she left the driveway she heard a howling sound from her cabin. “Oh shit,” she thought, and a moment later both her and Charlie were driving down the dark country road. It had been a hot night, and so she opened the window on Charlie’s side before he managed to stink up the car with his restless panting. He stuck out his head and let the air hit his furry face, ears flapping in the wind. 

There was no one out here. Her headlights were the only things illuminating the lonely road in front of her. It reminded her of the time her father had taken her and Alex to see the comet. It was the middle of the night and they were both tired and sleepy, but the bumpy horse carriage and the excited voice of their father kept them awake. He was a big man with a large moustache and an intense look. He told them everything he knew about Halley’s comet, about its composition of ice and dust, about its 75 year orbit around the sun, about its visibility from Earth. “Papa, not again! you already told us this,” they shouted at him. He would nod and puff his pipe in silence for a minute, but then his excitement got the better of him and once again he was unloading everything on them. Marianne smiled. It was the one memory that had always stayed with her, in spite of her age. 

Turning right at Clarke Road, she followed it up to the mountain until it turned into a dirt path, and got out with the help of her cane. Charlie jumped out of the car with a zest for life and began sniffing out the the new territory. With a flashlight in one hand and cane in the other, Marianne slowly and carefully started up the path towards thesummit. In her heart she felt a kind of excitement and nervousness she hadn’t felt for a long time. 

The summit revealed a beautiful starry sky and there in the distance, on the other side of the mountain, the streak of light. It looked exactly how she remembered it when she was 10. It hung there so peacefully, the light so gentle and subtle. She could almost see her father pointing to it next to her, telling her and her brother that it had travelled across the entire solar system to be there, and will only appear again in 75 years. None of them were here with her now - Alex and her father had both been killed in the war, which seemed like such a long time now, and her mother had died some thirty years ago. Marianne had had children with Walter, who now had children of their own, but they were all so far away. Walter had left them two years ago, and now she was all alone, living in a small cabin in the woods, away from everything and everyone. 

She gazed out onto the comet’s blue tail and before she knew it she was crying. And it wasn’t because she was lonely. She was happy there - life was predictable and she went on a lot of walks with Charlie, who always kept her company. She cooked well, read lots of books from the library, and grew all kinds of stuff in her yard. She didn’t know why she was crying. Was her entire life just a mere blip in the eyes of the comet, an ancient being returning from the depths of the solar system? What did it mean that she had kids, that she had gone to school, that she had felt love, that she had known these people in her life, or that she had once picked a bunch of dandelions and blew them onto a nearby lake? Halley’s comet was here now and soon it will be gone. And she would be gone with it. But it would come again. And again, and again.

She felt something wet on her shoulder and turned to see Charlie sniffing at her. She looked at him - he was obviously just happy to be there, happy to be out, to be sniffing, to be running... and it made Marianne smile as she ran her frail hand through his soft golden fur.