This is not an ordinary book. In fact, it is a stretch to call it a book. These volumes are a collection of essays, personal histories and fictional writings on a wide variety of topics, mostly pertinent to women. You might say the volumes are a historical compendium of womanhood, though they are a little more than that. These writings can best be regarded as a long labor of love, by a woman who deeply loves women.
Despite the overwhelming focus on women, men and others will also find the writings interesting as well. I certainly found some to be quite interesting, especially some of the essays.
This work is apparently written by a woman with a unique point of view, who addresses women directly in the text. She repeatedly encourages women to love and empower themselves more, because, according to the author, we are entering a new phase of humanity which the author labels ‘the dawn of women’.
I say ‘apparently written by a woman with a unique point of view’ for a reason. Actually several reasons. First, the author, who calls herself Elena Eleadi, apparently looks like a young woman in her early twenties. I say apparently because I have never met her, but a trusted friend has. Yet though she may be in her early twenties, she writes with unusual maturity. Second, I cannot provide much information about the author, since she prefers to remain a mystery. Her name has no results on Google. I have researched her name in numerous directories, both national and international, and no one by that name comes up. Third, I remain skeptical that she is the author of all these essays. The only thing that lets me believe these essays are all from the same person is the writing style- the syntax, phrasing and general structure. Finally, the original source material for these essays is fundamentally extra-ordinary, in the truest sense of that word.
Why would I, the Editor of this volume, be skeptical about their authorship? Why would I criticize the book and author in this manner, basically defeating the purpose of this whole enterprise? Why would I want to sound like I am missing a few marbles? Because the story of how I received the original source material for this book is as unusual and mysterious as the contents and author. In fact, it is an experience I shall never forget.
In fact, I believe the experience of finding the package of manuscripts for this book says much more about its contents and the author than I could by describing the essays contained herein. So I will describe that event.
Please read on.
On the morning of December 3, 2019, I found a large package on my cabin front porch. Now, this may not seem the least bit unusual. But the reader should know the following: first, my cabin is remotely located in the Vermont woods; second, only the local sheriff, whom I have known for fifteen years, knows that I am chief editor of a well-known publishing company; (full disclosure: our daughters have been friends since their first year in college and both of them have been working at the publishing company for seven years); third, the dirt roadway to my cabin is well hidden from the main road. Few people know about my cabin, except for the sheriff, the mailman and others who come to do maintenance when I am away.
So Elena, the young lady who left the package, knew who I was and that I was at my cabin. How do I know it was Elena who actually delivered the package? Wait, there’s more. Elena did not come by car or motorcycle. In fact, she did not even walk on the dirt road that connects my cabin to the main road. That dirt road goes south from my cabin.
Instead, Elena chose to walk from the forest north of my cabin on foot, apparently trekking for miles to approach my cabin indirectly. How do I know this and why would she do this? I know this because it snowed heavily during the evening prior to the package being delivered. And the following morning, I saw her tracks in the snow rounding my cabin and proceeding back northward from where she had come.
I can only guess that she wanted to arrive very quietly during the night and that she wanted me to see her tracks in the snow in the morning.
The reader should also know that my cabin stopover was completely unexpected, even to myself. I was due to attend a seminar from December 2nd to December 4th. But at the last minute the seminar was cancelled. So on a whim, I decided to duck away for a few days to my solitary man cave.
As the reader may surmise, I was a bit unnerved to discover the package and those footprints in the snow under these particular circumstances. The reader should know that it is not uncommon for editors to be stalked by crazy wannabe writers. So rather than risk a potential booby-trap of some type, I called my trusted friend the sheriff.
To my even greater consternation he apparently knew this young lady by sight and name (“Yes, Elena said she would leave it.”). Apparently, she had told the sheriff the day before she would leave me the package at my cabin early that morning, and he was sure that everything was fine.
In other words, this rather remarkable young lady had: found out who I was; found out about my private cabin; found out that I was due to attend a seminar; found out that the seminar was subsequently cancelled; somehow knew that I would take advantage of the cancellation to take a break and arrive on the night of December 2nd; obtained the precise location of the cabin to approach it on foot from the north, (whereas the township is to the southeast); had made acquaintances with the sheriff and gained his confidences, to the point where he even made the forty-five-minute trip to my cabin so that we could open the package together.
The reader should know the sheriff and I are good friends. He is like my older brother. When I pop up for a visit, we fish, hunt, golf, play poker, chat, watch sports and drink beers together. He is not a man who talks about people generally, even less about gossip. Naturally we talk about our daughters and occasionally his late wife. But generally speaking neither of us comment on acquaintances or people we have met. We gab about sports, fishing, politics and work.
So it was surprising to hear my friend the sheriff describe this young lady in somewhat effusive terms. Elena was a young girl in her early twenties with a lovely face, hazel eyes, dirty blonde hair and dark skin. She was roughly 5’-6” in height and nicely proportioned. She had a “gorgeous smile” (a direct quote, though the sheriff never talks in these terms) and a charming, ingratiating manner as if she were innocence incarnate.
I asked if the sheriff was himself, if he had had an accident and bumped his head. But the sheriff assured me there was nothing transactional: no impropriety; no trysts, blackmail, revenge porn, etc. She just seemed like a nice girl, he said repeatedly.
Now, I know the sheriff is an excellent judge of character from his decades as a sheriff of the small township. So his trust in the young lady allayed my concerns of stalking. Apparently, she had first arrived in the town in June 2019, spending a week visiting the town and hiking about. The sheriff estimated he had spent about five or six hours with her in total during that week, showing her the township, explaining local customs and gossip. (And to this he admitted some impropriety, “Can’t an old man enjoy some honest to goodness beauty every now and then?”) Elena continued to return to the town every one-to-two weeks to hike, check the local wildlife, plants and climate, etc. Ostensibly, she was a zoology student. But it was clear to me she was trying to ingratiate herself and let herself be chaperoned by my good friend the sheriff.
The sheriff confessed Elena had asked about me in a couple of recent conversations. But the questions were innocuous, generic and few. The sheriff noted it was not like she was asking questions about me on every visit, or trying to pry into my affairs. She had heard that I vacationed there from someone in the town and merely seemed curious that a VIP like me would retreat to such a place.
I thought this extraordinary because it confirmed my suspicion that she had researched about me elsewhere. We both called our respective daughters but neither of them had met or heard of any young lady matching Elena’s description. I wondered if Elena was CIA or perhaps a foreign agent.
Certainly Elena was a piece of work. A remarkable girl with an uncanny gift for ferreting out information and trust. Real spy material. Or so I thought. Because as it turned out, my concerns of stalking and infiltrations were completely unfounded. The sheriff has never seen her again, much to his dismay. And she made no further contact with me. Her mission accomplished, her package delivered, she discreetly vanished.
The package itself was even more mysterious and unusual. The first layer was a typical heavy-duty black garbage bag. In the folds near the top knot was riveted a small plastic envelope, containing a piece of polyethylene, on which was written in supremely delicate 17thcentury penmanship a note that simply said, “Please do not burn, yours graciously Elena”. There was also a copper coin in the envelope, with the strangest markings. I later found out from a team of expert conservators that it was likely of early Sumerian origin, maybe 3,000 to 3,500 BC.
Inside the two additional nested garbage bags, (we surmised as protection from the cold humidity), was a thick blanket that was new, perhaps purchased at a Walmart or similar.
Inside that was a clear plastic bag containing a large bundle of multiple layers of bubble wrap.
Inside the bubble wrap was a large leather bag that was centuries old and hand made. One could tell from the stitches that the bag had been repaired many times. The dark leather was so used on the outside that it was shiny. And the leather was so worn that it was unusually soft to the touch. Notable was the fine embroidery stitching on the leather in gold and black. The stitching was a frame of fifteen panels on each side of the bag, each panel containing different and unusual geometric patterns, and on closer inspection, various flowers, some of which looking similar to certain parts of female anatomy, shall we say. I was later told some of the flowers depicted were peace lilies, while others were orchids, toad lilies and so on.
On the inside of the cover flap of the leather bag there was a small silk pouch attached with some threads. The writing seemed Japanese, but Elena had added a small note to the pouch saying that it was “for better fortune” and that the pouch should be kept closed to maintain the ‘good spirits’. We were later told the pouch was an omamori, a Japanese amulet, recently made.
The leather also had an odor of perfume that perhaps Elena had applied on the leather directly. But it was a perfume like nothing I nor the sheriff had ever smelled before, or since. A scent of fruit- blended pineapple, peach and orange and a spice or two neither of us could place. Extremely unusual. And intoxicating. It had us both salivating. So we paused to drink a beer.
The sheriff commented on the obvious care Elena had taken to protect the contents. And that the leather bag and copper coin seemed to belong in a museum. As it later turned out, the same team of conservators dated the leather bag to about the 12th century.
Inside the leather bag was an oversized, rigid, expandable leather briefcase that had seen better days. There were scuff marks everywhere and the metal parts and handle were worn.
And finally, inside the briefcase were the manuscripts.
In the lid pouch of the briefcase, were four polyethylene envelopes containing $20,000 each in the unusual denomination of five hundred dollar bills, with another polyethylene note written in the same fine penmanship that simply read “For your time, effort, authentication and translation expenses, yours graciously Elena”. There was a fifth envelope containing a USB drive with a note that simply read “document scans, schema and additional text for the diary”, as well as a second coin that turned out to be a Roman Republic bronze coin.
The sheriff checked the serial numbers on the money and they were authentic, from the 1928 McKinley printing series. We surmised she might have gotten the bills on Ebay or from a collector’s store. (“She certainly means business”, remarked the sheriff.)
I was even more confounded. I had the distinct feeling I was being bribed. But as it turned out, the payment was a good estimate of the fees involved in preparing this book. Why? Wait, there’s more.
The papers were in a new oversized plastic box file. There were hundreds of them. In different sizes and shapes, on different types of paper, from different time periods. And, the most important part, in different languages. There was writing in English, Spanish, German. Others confirmed there was 14th century Italian, 17th century French, Arabic from the 10th century, Russian from the time of Catherine the Great, 15th century Chinese, 13th century Japanese. There was writing in ancient Latin, ancient Greek, Aramaic, 4th century Indian, Indonesian and even some snippets of Sumerian and Akkadian. It was a treasure of languages. The more the sheriff and I pondered this, the more stunned we became. How could a young girl get all these artifacts? How could she possibly have known all these languages?
How did we know she had to be writer of all these papers? Because the handwriting was consistent. One could recognize Elena’s hand in all the writing. Some papers had left leaning calligraphy. Others had right leaning calligraphy. Others still had lettering straight up and down. Most was cursive, but some was in print. Other papers where ideographic or pictographic. Some of the papers had notes written in the margins, or sketches or doodles of various things. Some the papers had drawings of faces, fauna and flora, dresses, objects, anatomical sketches, diagrams or other things related to the text. Many of the papers had added writings from later periods, as Elena followed up or expanded on certain topics. Some papers were true palimpsests, with the original writings erased, but still somewhat legible.
Yet one could see a consistency in the details of her writing strokes and penmanship, as well as a consistency in the style of her sketches and drawings. And her signatures were remarkably consistent- “Elena Eleadi”. Even more astonishing, the conservators confirmed the signatures were contemporaneous to the writing. The ink of the signatures matched the ink in the document. So it was not that someone had signed papers later, as a hoax.
A few of the oldest documents had been painstakingly reconstructed from bits and pieces of ancient papyrus. It seems much of this reconstruction work was done in the 14th century. The ancient bits were glued to 14thcentury parchment, with some of the missing areas filled in with 14thcentury ink. A few other ancient scraps had been recently fixed in plastic laminate, to the chagrin of the conservators. But they understood the purpose here was to preserve, translate and publish. The papers themselves, while culturally and historically interesting, where not so significant that they could shed a lot of light on details of human history. The conservators concurred with Elena’s prescript that this was an unusual diary, but a diary nonetheless- a collection of essays and fictions through time, reflecting a woman’s thoughts about women primarily, and also about society and history, with a good number of historical anecdotes.
At the time of our discovery, the sheriff and I concluded the girl had somehow inherited these documents. The sheriff did not think she had stolen them. In fact, it made little sense that she would steal them, collect them, and give them to an editor, with a $80,000 payment to publish them. And the conservators confirmed these were original but unknown papers. And they concurred they were authored by the same person, not only from the calligraphy but the style of actual writing and words used. As some examples- “Nature”, “Mother”, “Father” are routinely capitalized. “Inanna” (a Sumerian goddess) is invoked in many of the documents where normally this would be out of place, such as in the Chinese, Japanese and Italian texts.
So perhaps Elena had inherited these papers, probably from her parents or grandparents. But if so, why would she pass them off as hers. And why would they be all signed by the same “Elena Eleadi” if they had been written by different distant ancestors?
In her note to me, Elena said the papers were hers. This is an impossibility of course. But the fact they were all signed with the same name, in ink and calligraphy matching the writing in the documents, left us infinitely perplexed.
Here I was thinking the plastic bag contained a carcass or similar as some kind of a sick joke, or worse. And instead, inside of this rather unassuming exterior was a treasure that could only be described as a museum curator’s wet dream. It made me wonder how many other treasures have been lost over the centuries, thrown out because it was assumed there was nothing of value inside.
Even more incredible is the mystery of Elena, wherever she is. How did she come to have these papers? Was she acting on someone else’s behalf? If so, how did they come to have these papers? Was there a secret society that had collected these papers over time, over centuries? Some kind of “Elena Eleadi society”? And if there was such a society, what would be the purpose? How could interest in such a society be maintained?
The conservators have assured me that these documents are authentic. That means there has been incredible effort to preserve these writings by this woman or women who sign as “Elena”.
Or perhaps, the most unbelievable conjecture of all, there is a young girl named Elena, who has apparently lived for 5,500 years, who does not age as she explains in her diary, and who has written all this material and who, despite being 5,500 years old, still looks like she is in her early twenties. The cynic that I am, I gag at the thought.
It took about ten months to get the translations done. The $80,000 was a good estimate. The translation and secretarial expenses to convert these writings into digital format wound up being about $75,000.
Fortunately, Elena provided a detailed outline of how she wanted the book structured, how the papers should be grouped and in what sequence. We considered providing images of the originals, but Elena’s instructions were “to keep it simple”. She noted the content was more important than the source documents.
Given the capability of self-publishing, I still remain perplexed why Elena brought the package to me. $80,000 is perhaps the most expensive vanity publishing effort in history. But, as she noted to me, the idea was “to spread the word”, and she thought going through a reputable publishing firm would help distribute the book. But, given the bizarre circumstances, and the unbelievable conclusion that these are the writings of a 5,500-year-old woman, readers may understand why I, the Editor, prefer to remain anonymous.
Almost a year later, after many discussions, the sheriff and I do not talk much of this discovery, or of Elena. Instead during a pause in poker or golf, we may exchange looks and nervously laugh as we both wonder, who in the world was this girl.
The Editor- November 15, 2020