The feet of Gabriela hurry up in brief and quick little jumps, trying to cover the space that came between the huge strides of her grandfather. The useless attempt of her small legs for reaching him is strenuous, as trying to catch a nylon bag dragged by the wind: just when it seems to stop and be at hand, it restarts the flight, again and again.
― Are we already there, grandpa? –she gasps from her small distance.
― Almost there, almost there, my child –shrills grandpa in an inexhaustible tone of vitality.
He is happy. Gabriela can sense glimpses of his cheerfulness by the way he moves and speaks, while he points at a near dune raising up against the horizon of endless towers, boundless silver needles fading away into a sky almost white of limpid.
― There, my child, at the foot of that hill –he says, pausing and being at reach of her for a second–. It’s full of koobs.
And he starts again his trek, leaving her behind once more time. Gabriela turns to verify the distance they have gone through since they left the Village of Veterans. Over there, a few meters down, the triangular and oval shapes of the little village spreads out. Would her parents be searching for them now? Maybe, if they had noticed their absence. Otherwise, they would have another couple of hours before suffering the consequences: no visits to grandfather for a month, and no listening to the stories he usually tells her and she loves so much. Stories of ancient times, of places and objects such remote that nobody remembers them anymore. Except for grandpa, of course. And that only he knows how to find.
― What were those koobs, grandpa? –gasps Gabriela again, more hungry for stories than air.
― I told you before, my child, don’t you remember? –screams grandpa, stopping and turning round again.
The dune is just a few steps away and Gabriela can catch the curious and deep erosion gnawing one of the end of the little hill. Would the koobs be there? What kind of worlds would wait for her on the other side of that enigmatic gap? The heart of Gabriela beats impatient once more time before that new discovering, and her fatigue melts into grandpa words.
― Long time ago –tells grandpa, stretching the syllables and the time–, the koobs were holy objects for people who lived in this land… They were made of wood and pages.
― Pages? –whispers Gabriela, at the yearning edge of a revelation.
― Pages were like soft textures, thin, almost transparent… Upon them held the whole knowledge and stories of the world. Ancient people took them and engraved all what was able to be told and known, and they saved it away in small rolls, and they tied them, and they made them beautiful covers of wood with golden letters, with names that summed up all that knowledge in a single word.
― In a single word? –Gabriela wonders.
― In a single word –replays grandpa, with a knowing gesture–. You could read just the word, or open the small rolls to know all what you wanted to know…
― And did you find them, grandpa? –asks Gabriela, looking eagerly at the gap on the dune.
Grandpa suggests silence with a sign and walks towards the foot of the dune; not towards the gap, but towards a deep and small crater just at the bottom of it. There are scattered small, rectangular objects of different sizes, torn and rotten. To Gabriela they seem curious boxes smashed and blackened by the trace of time.
― Are those, grandpa? –she asks, getting close carefully.
― Yes –says grandpa, kneeling down at the crater edge.
With reverential care, he takes out one of them and holds it out to her. Gabriela watches the rotten object as if it was made of a fulminating scorching light. Her little hand trembles a bit covering the distance towards that disturbing form, and she touches it. She feels the rough texture of that ancient surface, and her fingers flinch a brief second to come back, more confident, and grabbing the small shape with cautious gentleness. A koob.
― Open it up, my child –whispers grandpa, encouraging her through a gesture.
Gabriela looks at him from two eyes crammed with amazed astonishment. Open a koob? The seconds seem to prolong over that precious moment, and into the distance, beyond the endless beat of the wind announcing the sunset decline, are heard the subdued shouts of her parents calling for them, willing to reach them and wiping away that instant. She sees the eyes of grandpa looking up and becoming gloomy facing the night landfall, and then she does it: she takes the small bunch of pages covered by that crust both hard and soft, scrawled by oblivion and humidity. With reverential care, she opens it, slowly, as she feared that the whole world could be smashed in that minute gesture.
― Grandpa –she wails with a tremulous and tiny voice, helpless–. Grandpa… the koob.
Grandpa does not listen to, does not see how the small koob starts to crumbling down among her little hands that strive for keeping it on opening and damming its impending dissolution. The eyes of the old man hold lost into the wind, sniffing around the urgent call of her parents, getting closer and closer, fading away all trace of vitality on his aging face. Then Gabriela understands. She must start to read, to decode the unintelligible scrawls upon those parodies of dead pages, before the night buries them under the darkness.
― The feet of Gabriela hurry up in brief and quick little jumps –she begins to recite–, trying to cover the space that came between the huge strides of her grandfather…
A small light of joy flutters in grandpa eyes, his sad lips are smiling with a new sweetness, and his eyes are closing up at the wind, at the night, at the voices of her parents arriving implacably, and his face covered by the unstoppable lines of the years, gets enraptured being carried by the words that Gabriela keeps waving, sprouting as the beautiful stories that grandpa tells her, learnt in ancient koobs, in a time when they were the door to a world filled by dreams and poetry.