Canto I

The wind freshens and my bark turns rightward towards the land of the setting sun. Sailing into that place where souls who have taken the wrong path, suffer and brood to free themselves of sin. Here I look to a higher power, oh Celestial Spheres, upon which the angels dance, give grace and vision to this the second book of my second story.

I awoke just as the bus pulled to a stop. My eyes were heavy with sleep and yet, my heart was filled with gladness, for as I emerged from the metal beast, I could once again see the stars. That fair planet(49), which prompts all to love, twinkled with laughter in the east as the Fishes  danced in her train in the oriental blue of the horizon and a strong breeze indicated that the morning was nigh.

Two men stood on the street under the sign of the Greyhound. One was a dark haired man with eagle eyes, who held a sign which had our names writ large upon it. His companion, a youthful Moor, was sitting upon a bench drinking a steaming beverage from a white paper cup.

Upon seeing us, the man with the sign spoke. “Good Heavens. It really is you.” He waved his sign in the air as one who would fan a fire, “When Willow called, I was not quite sure if I should believe her, because it would be quite like them to play a trick on me. However, here you are in living flesh. You are alive aren’t you?”

“My friend never saw his last hour, but by his folly was so near to it that little time was left to run.” said my gentle Sage, “However, my time has already run its course and alas I lived to soon to see the coming of the king and was buried before his birth.”

“Well, yes. Of course, being who you are and all. Oh, my word. This is exciting. Oh, pardon me. I haven’t even introduced myself. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce at your service. And this is my associate, Charles Gunn.” 

He pointed at the Moor, who nodded and said, “Hey. Umm, call me Gunn, not Charles.”

“And if I may say, this is an honor.” Wesley reached out as if to take my Teacher’s hand and shake it. However, as my Master is a shade, Wesley’s hand passed right through. Wesley then made as if to straighten his hair instead and said, “I enjoyed the Georgics and…and…and of course the Aeneid. I spent many enjoyable summer hours in the closet under the stairs reading it.” 

After a minute of staring at my Guide, Wesley came to himself, as a man wakes from a long dream. Turning to me, he said, “And of course, the Comedia…which of course, you haven’t written yet.” He glanced to the left, “Um…De Monarchia. A very interesting book. Oh, and of course, the Vita Nuova. I always loved the poem of the burning heart(50). Slightly disturbing of course when Hannibal Lecter quoted it, but that’s American cinema for you.” He laughed as men will at their own humor and said, “Believe me, you won’t regret coming for help to Angel Investigations. We help, ahem, the helpless. We have just as many books on the arcane as in Sunnydale. More. And while there is no Hellmouth here, we do have a fairly high level of occult activity. I’m sure that we can find your way home in no time.”

He paused. We all stared at each other. The moments passed. One after the other. Drifting like leaves in the slow moving waters. Gunn, seemed about to speak, but then leaned back on the bench.

“We have an oracle. Visions straight from the Powers that Be.” said Wesley. He was bouncing slightly on his toes. “And a demon that can somewhat read the future through karaoke. Not that you know what karaoke is. That would be singing. And not, of course, that Lorne is our demon. He’s just there because we caused his place of business to be destroyed. Twice. However, he’s quite, umm, well mannered about it.”

He paused again. We all stared at each other. The moments stretched out in silence. Gunn laughed and stood up. “Man that was pathetic. Cordie and Angel said you were a spaz back in Sunnydale, but I never believed them. Until now that is.” 

Wesley shrugged slightly and looked like a boy who has been caught with his hand in a jar of sweets by his mother, “I like books. I was carried away with the excitement and of course the three hours of sleep.”

“Yeah, I kinda got that from all the babbling you were doing.” Said Gunn.

Just then a gray man, with a long white cloven beard that fell in double tresses upon his raiment of brown rags, emerged from the alley next to the coach station. As he pawed through a container of refuse, he sang, “Al naharoth babel sham yashavnu gam-bakinu…(51)”   and a tear came to my eye and my heart was heavy with sorrow.

“Oh, look.” Said Wesley.

Gunn turned to look at the gray man, “Look at what? All I see is a crazy bum and I’ve seen that before.”

“No, him.” Wesley gestured towards me with an inclination of his head. “He really does cry over everything. He’s obviously filled with sympathy for plight of the Jews exiled to Babylon. I wonder if the homeless man is meant to symbolize those who are wrongly exiled from their homes. Although, of course, since the Psalm ends with a call for retribution and since they did arrive on a Greyhound bus, perhaps it’s meant to symbolize that Con Grande  will somehow prove a vehicle for the writer’s vengeful return to Florence. Of course, Con Grande’s(52) symbol was a white hound and not a gray hound and he did die before doing much.”

“Dude,” said Gunn, “You’re babbling again.” He pointed at the gray man, who was now singing that song about the one named Louie, Louie. “Two words. Shan Shu. I think the bum is a symbol of someone a little too fond of the Everclear.”

“Actually, its one word. Shanshu.” Said Wesley.

“Whatever, English.” Said Gunn.

“Good sirs,” Said my Teacher, “The hour progresses moment by moment and standing in this way we make no progress to our destination. As this is indeed the City of the Lost Angels, we seek your home, the Hotel where the Sun couches.” said my Teacher.

“Oh, pardon me. Of course, it’s just that this is so very exciting. My very first great literary figures. Well, long dead ones that is.” Wesley smiled weakly, as a man whose accounts are being audited unexpectedly by his long thought dead employer, “But by all means, follow me. Our car is this way.”

Drink more deeply, read the notes. Seek out a list of names at the Table of Contents Read more deeply into the story.