Night 70. Thursday, 2 October, 1987.
The meeting was in Jeremy's rooms that evening. We were all somewhat astonished when Frankley came in late—accompanied by a woman. "What's all this?" Dolbear exclaimed, actually woken from the doze he had been settling into. "Don't tell me you're taking up with the female of the species! And why in heaven's name bring her here?"
"Not so quickly!" Frankley said, before any of us could make further protests. "I've not taken up with anything, Rufus, so don't you worry. This is Signy Britton. Very sensible, and a friend of mine, although I don't see much of her. She's a lecturer in classics, writes poetry and is trying a novel. Is that a good enough introduction?"
"All right," Dolbear grumbled. "But you haven't told us what's your reason for dragging her in yet."
At last she spoke up. "Allow me to take a seat and have a word in edgewise, gentlemen, and I'll give it myself," she said. She sat down next to Jeremy and took a deep breath, as if about to begin a long speech. "Now," she said, "I haven't been dragged in. I've something to say, and I believe you'll find it interesting. What I want to speak about is the night of the storm." Her face had grown grave.
"The storm?" Lowdham asked, looking at her oddly. "What about it?"
"Well, to begin, early that morning I was dreaming. For me that's rare; usually I sleep soundly, and when I do dream it's mere nonsense. But this one was very vivid, and frightening. It was about a great flood, and the sinking of a whole land. I wasn't just looking on, I felt I was there, trying to escape. I woke up wondering if I had died, and it was very disturbing."
She fell silent. "Go on!" Ramer said, in what was almost a command.
"That night," she continued, faltering a little, "I felt restless and uneasy. I went over to the library, to see if I couldn't get out of it. But the more time went on, the worse things were. Finally I got up and left; it was only a short way back to my rooms, so I thought I would be safe. Suddenly, though, I stopped walking, as if I had been petrified. I stared up into the sky and saw clouds covering the stars. Then there was a horrible thunderclap and tremendous flash of lightning. It seemed to bring me out of my reverie, and I screamed and ran.
"I felt as I had in the dream; I was terrified. While I was running I heard myself crying out, but it didn't seem to be any earthly language I knew."
"What languages do you know?" Lowdham interrupted.
"Latin, Greek, Hebrew, some French and Italian. But this was different. I remember it—I was saying 'The wrath of the Powers has come upon Númenor! Spare me, Fíriel of the Faithful! Allow us life!' There was another great flash of lightning and the rain drenched me. Then everything sank into darkness," she ended with a sigh.
We were all staring at her. Jeremy, who had so far said nothing, turned to her. "And what then?" he asked quietly.
"Well," she said, "when I came to myself, I was in what turned out to be some sort of shelter that had been set up for people whose homes had been wrecked. It seems they had found me unconscious—above the waters, thank heaven—and had brought me in. After they were satisfied that I was intact, I went off and waded through the streets to find that, happily, my rooms as well as my college were high and dry. I got in and just collapsed; I was exhausted. Eventually I got hold of Philip because I felt I simply had to talk to someone about this, and he told me all the other odd things that had been happening. So that's what I have to say."
"Fíriel . . . " Lowdham murmured. "I wonder. . . ."
"Wonder what?" Dolbear said.
"I, oh, nothing," Lowdham faltered. "I was talking to myself."
Signy Britton, meanwhile, was looking a little faint. "Would you like something to drink?" Jeremy asked, observing this fact.
"Oh," she said, "oh, a glass of water would be fine, thanks. I'm just a bit tired—I'll be better in a while."
Jeremy got up. "You say you don't dream often," Ramer remarked.
"I don't," Signy Britton replied. "But you know, I'd always had a sort of interest in Atlantis legends. I wondered if there really could have been such a thing, and when, and where it had gone. And you know I write poetry—well, a number of years ago I wrote this strange verse that I felt was coming from somewhere else, flowing through my hand. I got it both in that language I just told you about and an English prose translation. I have it on paper here, if you want me to pass it round."
"Certainly!" we said, and she did.
Ilu Ilúvatar en káre eldain a fírimoin
ar antaróta mannar Valion: númessier.
Toi aina, mána, meldielto—enga morion:
Talantie. Mardello Melko lende: márie.
Eldain en kárier Isil, nan hildin Úr-anar.
Toi írimar. Ilqainen antar annar lestanen
Ilúvatáren. Ilu vanya, fanya, eari,
i-mar, ar ilqa ímen. Írima ye Númenor.
Na úye sére indo-ninya símen, ullume;
ten sí ye tyelma, yéva tyel ar i-narqelion,
íre ilqa yéva nótina, hostainiéva, yallume:
ananta úva táre fárea, ufárea!
Man táre antáva nin, Ilúvatar, Ilúvatar,
enyáre tar i tyel, íre Anarinya qeluva?
The Father made the World for Elves and Mortals, and he gave it into the hands of the Lords. They are in the West. They are holy, blessed, and beloved: save the dark one. He is fallen. Melko has gone from the Earth: it is good. For Elves they made the Moon, but for Men the red Sun; which are beautiful. To all they gave in measure the gifts of Ilúvatar. The World is fair, the sky, the seas, the earth, and all that is in them. Lovely is Númenor. But my heart resteth not here for ever, for here is ending, and there will be an end and the Fading, when all is counted, and all numbered at last, but it will not be enough, not enough. What will the Father, O Father, give me in that day beyond the end when my Sun faileth?
"It's a form of Avallonian," Lowdham said, looking excited.
Jeremy had come back with the glass of water and set it at Signy Britton's elbow. "Oh, thanks," she said. "A form of what?"
"I call the language that," he replied, hastily. "Has any more of it ever come through to you?"
"Just a minute, Arry," Jeremy said, sitting down again, "remember I haven't heard everything. What about the language?"
Lowdham handed him the paper. "But have you ever gotten any more like this?" he repeated.
"Yes," she said. "And I've had other stuff, you know . . . oddly enough, it's always poetry. Whether that—Avallonian, or this other odd language. I don't know what it is. It seems vaguely Semitic."
"Adunaic," Lowdham interjected. "Can you remember any of that?"
"Adunaic?" Signy Britton echoed. "No, I can't say anything from memory, sorry. But it's always about the same thing. Always about Atlantis, sort of an elegy for the land that had fallen, become lost, and could never be recovered. There's one thing thatkeeps turning up: a 'straight road.' A straight road went westward, now all roads are bent."
"That's it!" Lowdham exclaimed. The shout was enough to rouse Dolbear. "It runs through everything. The Straight Road—to the West. It was the Ban."
"What?" Dolbear said, sitting up in his chair. He was not the only one who found Lowdham rather cryptic. [Immediate realization. Not a time to explain things. AAL.]
"It's the boundary they broke," Lowdham said impatiently. "That's it. They were barred from the Straight Road, and trying to take it brought the Downfall upon them."
"Hm," Dolbear remarked. "Why doesn't Michael put his bit in? He's the one who started all this, after all."
Ramer did not answer but again turned to Signy Britton. "Did you ever tell anyone about this?"
"No," she said. "I thought I'd better not. I was afraid that if I did, they'd think I was losing my mind. What with everything Philip's told me, though, and what you've all said, I think I'm beginning to understand. Yet it's still so strange! I've been sitting at my desk, trying to think, and all of a sudden, without planning it, have begun writing. Often, as in the case of the poem, it comes so quickly that I couldn't have made it up myself. They talk about 'automatic writing,' but it isn't that. It's more as if I know it already, as if I had it memorized long ago and thought I'd forgotten it."
"When you wrote down the poem, what did you think it meant?" Ramer asked.
"I'm not sure," she said slowly. "I thought perhaps it was a myth—or was it? But the feeling I got from it was one of terrible longing, and sadness, as if everything that I had ever known and loved was fading away, slipping down into corruption and ruin. There was no chance for redemption in sight."
The clock struck ten. "Time to end, I move," Jeremy said, stifling a yawn. "Sorry to break this up, but I haven't had all evening to sleep, like Rufus."
Signy Britton rose. "I ought to be going," she said. "Thanks for giving me a hearing, anyway, and a bit of clarification. But I've a feeling this is still all leading up to something more."
Frankley and I walked Signy Britton home. "Very good of you both," she said.
"Sorry I didn't contribute much, Philip," I remarked. "But a minute-keeper has to listen more than talk . . . and this took more listening than usual."
Frankley laughed a little. "Right, Nick," he said. "Good night!"
AAL. PF. WTJ. NG. RD. MGR. JJ. S.B.