When you leave Berenice, travelling south through the Diomara scape, you reach the edge of the kingdom and a city named Calvino. At first, resting upon a dune, the initial hint of the striking city will be a pearly white spire, pressing into the heavens above the horizon, a flawless gem diffusing pure light, shattering the finely crafted tower tip into a bright star that only shines during the day guiding voyagers lost. And as you move toward the city, thirsty and weak from journey, you cannot but be instantly revitalised as Calvino reveals itself to you, pealing away grand, perfect white chapels, merchant shops and vivid, marble statues depicting fairytale heroes and maidens embracing.
But having entered the city, one is immediately overcome by the inhabitants who bramble about on the brink of collapse, continuing their workdays as per what one expects is normal. But all is not such, as each man floats by you with dark eyelids and stern lines. Heavy women push prams that carry quiet babies one could confuse for asleep were it not for the gentle suck of pacifiers and the odd podgy arm reaching from beneath soft blanket. Each person is awake and alive and in the city of Calvino it will forever remain this way. As those who inhabit these walls never sleep, having neither drifted off on a terrace overcome by the rising sun nor held a loved one, breathing slowly the midnight breeze.
The city of Calvino holds a dark secret, concealed behind the ivory face that greets visitors. The cities negative and the nightmare to the dream. For when you cross the Sophronia stream, which snakes through Calvino, evenly splitting the city into two equals, an eerie visage overwhelms you. Black spires twist and crack into the air and broken wooden doors reveal shadowed figures lurking, gnawing with long, rodent teeth, saliva dripping on straw strewn floors. Bizarre, pagan chapels glint oppressively and the visitor becomes aware that he remembers this city from another time. He turns a corner and is shocked by what he knew to be there, as it is not as he expected but mangled and cracked, twisted and monstrous. An ebony tribute, not to two lovers, but to two warriors locked together, both inches from the others sword. This Calvino, evil and damned, mirrors the pure, perfect Calvino but with cracked glass and shattered mind.
For the city of Calvino is built to reflect partially recollected dreams recanted by long dead ancestors. A child’s subconscious image of Heaven reproduced faithfully. Buildings rendered outlandishly tall, containing marble, spiral staircases that ascend for miles to nests of doves that sing to the inhabitants. Murals of love depict children dancing and serene fields brimming over with life, while decorative fountains flow golden in squares of exquisite flora. And across Sophronia, vivid nightmares are realised as the same winding towers but bucked and unreal, torn from a scream. And murals of spikes and pitchforks are unfinished or perhaps vandalised while fountains like those across Sophronia can be found also but only blood flows down their levels.
The people of Calvino don’t sleep but live perpetually in a city of dreams and nightmares.