short stories · wording


Mon, 28 Dec 2009 09:39:11 +0000


Imagine, if you can, a silence that is not the absence of sound…
Let me start again.
Imagine a silence that is not nothing, not what they call a ‘vacuum’, but a collective hush. Every being, animated or not, green and growing or fast and flitting or hiding in the muck of the ocean; imagine every creature and thing that lives holding its breath. A silence so profound, so…
I-I am no orator, my words are too weak. I am made for walking and waiting, and sitting through long nights, and bearing all with patience, and tending fires. I would leave matters of passion and art to my brothers and sisters, they are the ones men tell stories of. My tongue is clumsy; I never thought to explain myself. Yet… There was a young woman: she stopped me walking one night and asked me questions. She said she worked for…some paper, or…well, I cannot remember, I was too shocked that she saw me at all. I sat with her; we spoke. She was very beautiful: her belly was firm and round, her hips wide, breasts high, skin smooth and she moved as if she was about to burst, wrapped around so much life, so much need for the future. She blew her nose into a faded blue cloth. I remember that in detail.

She told me I looked so tired, so worn, so faded and grey. I told her yes, I am. She touched my hair, curled a tangled bit of it around one finger. It broke like dry straw. She offered me no shelter, no succour or aid – as others have – but sat and talked with me, and somehow I was more grateful to her than I have been to all of those that helped me over the years. I have a clumsy tongue, not many have the patience to hear my story. This lantern, this walking stick, this tiny feeble flickering thing that rules me. That a contraption of metal and glass could rule a goddess: it seems like a very good joke! She listened, unlikely as it was. She listened until the end, when I told her why I devote my existence to this absurd little lantern, why its embers are to me a god, as men have gods.

If it were to go out, I told her, everything stops. Imagine a silence that is not an absence, but a great hush as everything that lives waits at once to be undone. There is nothing after: the credits are over, the tape runs out, the curtain falls, the Red King wakes up, everything…ends. Of course I am a slave to this tiny glow, of course I am. I trudge, and suffer, and grow more thin and pale and faded and pitiful with every sundown. Of course I keep it safe, of course I do.

She asked me: do you ever want to just throw it down, stamp it, smash it apart? I could not answer; I fled.

Do I dream of shattering glass and dying coals underfoot? Of course I do.

Of course I do.