no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 4

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly… Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”
- Chuang-tzu
Josephine turned over and frowned in her sleep. She cracked her eyes open a bare millimetre and she recoiled as the garish sunlight burned her eyeballs. Groaning, she flipped open her bedside alarm and realised that it had not gone off when she had set it. It was now ten minutes to the start of school, and her parents would be furious if they knew she was still in bed. Indulging in a quick thump of her head on her deformed pillow, Josephine quickly rose and got ready to go, brushing stray hair out of her face. Throwing her uniform on, she grabbed her bag and ran out of the house, clicking the electronic key behind her as she left. If she could catch the train about to arrive in under a minute she should be fine, but as fate insisted on doing, there was a large crowd of people at the entrance to the underground station. No matter how hard she pushed or how small she tried to make herself, she knew she wouldn’t be able to squeeze her way through in time for the train. Shutting her eyes and forcefully releasing a frustrated sigh, Josephine decided to wait outside rather than stand amongst the suited workers in the clammy terminal.
It was quite warm outside, the sun a disturbing red colour, like a torch seen through cellophane. Josephine unzipped her jacket and glanced about, looking for somewhere to sit for the next twenty minutes. There wasn’t really anywhere she could see. The entrance to the station had been designed to regulate public thoroughfare, not as a rest site. There were two busy lanes, divided by a thin metal barrier, and automated gates every few metres that allowed for passengers to turn off to their required platform. These platforms were situated somewhere deep below the ground, Josephine knew, but she didn’t really understand why it was built that way. She remembered hearing once that it was because the midday sun had strange warping effects on the metal used for rails, but if metal gilded buildings could stand in it, it couldn’t be so bad. She shook her head and walked up a bit of a slope to where she thought she could hear faint music. Streets at this time of the morning were usually quiet, except for the rumbling footsteps of moving people, so hearing music was really quite odd. As she followed the strange enticing music, Josephine lost all thought of time and any idea of where she was meant to be. It was simply the most beautiful, most haunting thing she had ever heard in her life. A ladder appeared that she had never recalled seeing before and she climbed it without another thought. Very soon she was at the highest point in her little town, but instead of peering around, looking at the view, she sat down and closed her eyes.
Leshala leans back as she rereads her masterpiece. A shadowy image comes to her, of a complex, ordered city hidden beneath an eerie silvery dome. Strange little people hurry about and barely notice the refracted and off-colour sunlight that streams through their protective shell. Leshala sighs in sadness for these little people, her creations. They are totally oblivious to the disparity of their lives. They seem blinded by the glass they live in; not realising that the only physical connection they have with each other is via the steel intestines they have bored into the earth. They do not realise how effectively they have cut themselves off from one another.
A suspicious frown comes to her face, and Leshala turns slowly around in her seat. There is no one there, but she still feels something is wrong. She does a visual check of the walls, floor and ceiling, but again there is nothing outwardly different. She shakes her head, shrugging off the thought that something has changed. Then she realises that her first instincts were right. She realises exactly what has changed. The painted picture stuck to the wall behind the false glass window is no longer someone’s interpretation of the scene from that poem. Instead of lush greens and blues surrounding a sparkly opalescent palace, it is now almost entirely a harsh red colour, a desert under a pitiless blue sky. An angry sun hovers above, and below are scattered white bubbles like foam on the earth’s surface.
Somewhat stunned, Leshala carefully approaches her new scenery. It cannot be, but it is. The bubbles from her story, those intricate hubs of deluded activity, they are in the picture. She feels herself being unwillingly dragged towards the centremost dome. Closer, and closer.


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