Monday, October 13, 2008

By A Whisker

Written today and first published here

Amid the noise of winds meeting, the woman awaited the man’s arrival – certain now that there would be a world for more than just winds to meet. The world had just been saved by the merest whisker, with many previously having predicted the end of life as they knew it.

She imagined a dark theatre in the old days where the audiences could only be assumed to be sitting in their seats by the many red spots provided by the ends of their lit cigarettes – a changing pattern as one spot went out and another lit. This had been the world experienced for an imagined eternity and, as she now watched a landscape exhumed by a genuine sunrise slowly taking mountainous shape beyond the sea, she expected to fall into her lover’s arms as he arrived simultaneously with the ever-spreading light. Not that there had been a shortage of sunrises in the recent past, merely a surplus of disbelief in them.

He believed he was the carrier of the single whisker that had saved the world. It nestled among the many other whiskers upon his face, some off-stage or aside from identity or expression. These he had allowed to grow without shaving, he claimed, as an example of uncharacteristic behaviour. She did not argue; she did not counter-claim that he had not been able to shave in the dark. Neither of them would claim he had created the beard (or left the shaving undone) for the sake of the world’s saving whisker.

The important question today was: which whisker? She vowed to tease it out with her loving fingers. But first a kiss of reunion – and she felt the unfamiliar whiskers scratch her own soft cheeks: a deep kiss that the global perils had long delayed. Other men and women were surely meeting in a similar manner all over the world – since belief was now strangely bringing sunrises to horizons on latitudes that were not due to have one at all, even to horizons still smeared with sunsets that seemed to have endured, on and off, for an eternity. Some sunsets, indeed, had even ‘acted’ as sunrises – but darkening ever overtook them eventually. But, now, there arrived sunrises galore – for real.

Following the kiss, she looked with a smile into the man’s eyes and said: “I must now find the whisker that has saved the world.”

Instinctively, she knew that the act of locating the whisker, isolating it, preserving it as, at best, a valuable palliative religious relic or, at worst, a curative panacea for future world crises, would become the crystallisation of belief required retrospectively to fulfil the good work it was now believed to have accomplished already.

He nodded. As owner of the face that needed searching, there was no way he would be able to find this ‘needle in a haystack’ – and a mirror would only risk confusing matters by inverting the chronology of retrospective effects. This woman whom he remembered loving an eternity ago was the only way the whisker could be found. Until then, there was a chance that the world might slip back into a single sunset continuously forming fitful failed attempts to be a sunrise.

“Ah, here it is!” she cried with a flash of triumph. “A whisker that grows back into the skin – making a tiny loop of hair...”

“Like half a zero?” he suggested, forgetting that, by moving his jaw to speak in this way, he risked the woman losing the whisker.

“Or like an eight,” she said. “All other numbers have tails or spokes. Only a zero and an eight have no loose ends.”

She was almost talking to herself, trying to blot out that she had now lost the whisker. She did not want to blame the man she loved for risking the world’s return to darkness. The nail-scissors she possessed would have to wait. The man and woman returned to kissing, until one felt the other leave, amid the noise of wind.

Elsewhere, millions of other women sought the single whisker on their loving partners’ faces. Careful Dalilas and passive Samsons in methodically staged operations upon disbelief.. The noise of wind was sporadic as were the sprays of red spots upon the various blankets of night after some scissors slipped and gouged cheeks – and, in my case, stabbed an eye almost as far as the brain.

The noise of wind or applause.

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