Tuesday, April 01, 2014
The star stared down, a single fixed eye in an otherwise empty night sky. Few had ever seen such a completely clear sky, a sky that was far from any city light pollution, a sumptuously crystalline blackness or nothingness, eventually encompassing for the first time a pinprick of light that I assumed to be the light of a star having travelled here toward me for eternities....
I always pluralised the word 'eternity'; it seemed to show respect to the eternity maker; I did not want to assume that it was at all straightforward to create a perfect single eternity. You often needed several things to make one thing.
A single perfect star appeared worrying. For if there was one star, why were there not more? As a child, I was brought up on skies clustered with stars, many gone nova, most seen by the naked eye, but there were millions more that I imagined reaching out their light to more sensitive eyes than mine, to more reachable or closer eyes than mine, closer, that is, to their light source.
Childhood had not lasted long for me; I felt myself to be a wanderer even before I had left my mother's womb.
I often left my own body behind. I eventually forgot I had a body to which I needed to return. They would have to burn a body like that in case another returned instead of me.
I watched that star, or that star watched me. An eye for an eye. A staring game. Each daring the other to go plural first.
Sally had lived close to the motorway most of her life, at the top of a block of flats - with the city stretching on both sides of this modern river of traffic, running parallel, only a few miles apart, with the real river. Light pollution was an everpresent problem at night, but there were worse problems than not being able to see the stars during uncloudy night skies, worse problems like real air pollution to suck into the lungs and then seeping its stench into the nose's channels of the head, worse problems like a grating noise pollution as if caused by tangled helicopter vanes, or that was the way Sally felt the noise to be not only in her ears but inside her body to the very deepest bone that she imagined nestling somewhere near her heart, beneath the layers of aging fat. Touch pollution was also present for Sally, a tangible Braille for the skin of her whole body that literally pressed the ridges of the city into her very soul, a special language of that city which her fingertips might have followed like raised text if she had been blind. A City of invisible ridges as well as visible roofs and edges and sharp corners and even sharper shadows thrown by the artificial light of night and the sooty sun of day. The helicopters - sharp with shuttling flashes as well as strangled metal - kept up their uncertain rhythms at all times, but mostly making the nights more awake than daytime could ever be. Once upon a time people slept at night and awoke by day ... but now the ever-encroaching 24/7 reality created the opposite, created waking by night and sleeping by day, but more and more Sally found herself fitfully awake all the time.
Each of the two stars continued their attempt to outstare the other. Little realising they were the same star. The wandering star.
Bob lived in a part of the city different to that where Sally lived, except he wasn't always living in the city at all. He lived on its outskirts, but the outskirts had only today caught up with where he lived and claimed itself city. Some form of 24/7 existence had finally captured him as he lay awake in his bed staring up at the slowly flickering ceiling with increasing hopelessness. Would he ever be able to sleep again? He had heard of people like Sally in the inner city who had grown accustomed to never sleeping, or in Sally's case, fitfully awake most of the time, a wasteland each night filled only with another slow flickering more inner than outer, more invisible than visible, a sleep pattern she hardly noticed. She later went to work with her eyes mostly shut, walking across the river-bridge, as the helicopters grew even more grinding and clattering, but never as noisy as they were at night, punctuating the waking wasteland that had become her sleep. Bob tossed in his bed. He had never met Sally, but it was as if he knew her simply by knowing somehow that one day he would meet her.
Nothing changed. Eternity met eternity and became one eternity. That's the only way to describe it. But I would soon no longer be around to describe it from the human point of view. Brought up long ago as a child to study the skies and its stars, but now to be killed by old age, I shall be leaving the skies to describe themselves.
Once pluralised, now I was not to be even one.
Far from the City of Bob and Sally, there remained a relatively unspoilt coastline, unspoilt by man, unspoilt by nature, or at least by man's nature; nature wasn't always natural. A few homesteads dotted the area just beyond the beach where a small boy called Harry was digging in the sand. The sun was hot and his parents had told him to stay in the shade. It was uncertain whether he was digging for something specific or just digging out the sand to build a sandcastle or just digging for the hell of it, a frenzy of purpose, the only purpose being to kill time.
It was hard for him to relate the huge blazing sun to the twinkling stars he saw at night, but his parents had told him they were one and the same thing, except the huge blazing sun happened to be nearer to where he was. In fact, Harry wouldn't be there at all, without it. Harry, however, believed that it was simply his own seeing it that created its existence. Without Harry, there would be no huge blazing sun, he believed. But it was impossible to tell whether he really believed what he believed. The sharp sand writ his skin all over with proud words. There were many Harrys. My name was Harry.
I once met Sally. I travelled by helicopter at night.
Given a sufficient number of eternities, however, everyone meets everyone else.
So there's still hope for Bob.
The wandering star went out.
One last light pollution.