excerpt REGNUM PUERILE I was pondering, among other things, about the ways of ogres and dragons, as people were wont to talk about them so much. They were bad, they were mad, they were downright evil – and frightening, though not existing in point of fact. This must have been where I derived the conviction that even what does not exist can harm you as much as what does exist. That it is not the things' existing or not existing that matters, but what they can do to you. For example, the idea of a wraith makes your bones melt into a soft pulp. Not to mention the eerie feeling enveloping you when there's nothing palpable to terrify you – but it does nevertheless terrify you without you understanding this fear. I can't understand it now either. The fear of NOTHING. Then I would blow the image of the lizard up, till it loomed big enough to make me think that these creatures must have been the contemporaries, for example, of our ancestors, the Dacians; then I let myself picture them as still living in the deep penumbra of the forests, the seas, the oceans or on the lake bottoms. I would film with the mind's eye, just as in a picture blown very big, then as in a hologram image that I was gently getting into, seeing the crystal palaces so near, or the ice palace in Andersen's tale. And all the ice melted under the shower of the next images in sequence. I could imagine variants of the scene in which Hansel and Gretel heave the witch into the heat of the glowing oven, leaving her there as a disgusting form of roast meat. And then I'd see right in front of my closed eyelids a huge turkey fledged off, naked, covered with a caramel crust and with a roast apple showing forth from its backside. I'd then see a full-fledged turkey standing straight supported on his own rightful skeleton, turning a man on the roast spindle; it felt like so many times before, when, while eating some cooked animal's meat, I would see myself in its stead, imagining I were it and lying on the plate myself as the animal was lifting its fork and knife to carve me. The turkey was carelessly forking up and down on his plate a man, a child. Hansel. And Gretel. Then myself. The sinister image would then melt into the shadowy slide show of the forests of pewter, of silver, of gold – on the play-board of the game with the Dwarfy Man. Here the several testing moves would come up to challenge you: the encounter with the bear, the wolf, the old dwarf standing cross-armed to detain you on the spot, or the dwarf who – otherwise so serenely merry in his disposition – was sending you back to the start – I would jump over the wild hog or the sly fox only to arrive, frozen like a regular block of ice, and projected astride the sledge drawn by a hare, at the terminus: that hut which was waiting with its door open, and lit fantastically, where a last dwarf stood, ushering you in at the door, seated on a tree stump. I for one would never enter the hut, I don't know why. I preferred to remain at the door, stone cold and happy. Then I'd retrace my steps to the beginning of the road. And – I'd cast the dice again. There were quite a lot of other things crossing my mind, then, deliciously nauseating things or obscene refrains whose sense I could not discern, but I knew they were in the forbidden class of "dirty words." The sinful rhythm got imprinted somewhere in my mind, traveling from one ear to another. What I liked most, as I lay with my eyes closed, was to slide. I enjoyed so much sliding and getting dizzy! In fact, my favorite games were the ones that put me in a state of fear and dizziness. I'd made friends with a bigger boy who played with me at being the airplane. He'd grab me by one hand and one foot and he'd make me spin till he got tired of it, as I never protested or cried like other girls myself, and when he put me down in the grass, letting go of my ankle that had been in his grip, I had the clear sensation of spilling myself out, trickling into the earth at big length, like thaaaaat, slowly, very slowly, and becoming a paste of flesh and brains, a warm pulp, a lively, turbid fluid. I was lying on the earth, feeling sick as the surrounding world changed its 'substance' repeatedly (I have no better explanation to offer for the sensation I felt) – then everything became clear, purified again. Nemira, 1997

by Simona Popescu (b. 1965)