no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 5

“Then all the charm
Is broken – all that phantom-world so fair
Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread,
And each mis-shape the other”
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Josephine awoke with a start. For a moment she was totally disoriented, half a tired schoolgirl and the other half a confused inmate of some unnamed institution. Shivering, she stood and remembered where she was. The sun was midway in the sky, almost directly above her, but she felt no heat. She gave up on trying to get to school, she could deal with her parents’ half-hearted accusations later. The metal roof she stood on was cold to the touch, and Josephine vaguely remembered the lilting melody and rusty ladder that had delivered her here. She glanced about, then checked her watch. It was exactly midday, and she knew she ought to get inside before the searing heat came into effect. As she stepped quietly over to the edge of the station roof, she began to wonder at something odd. It was not even remotely warm, and she should be inside in the next minute. Having been taught since birth about the dangers of the sun’s extreme radioactivity that flared up once every day, she had never thought to look outside during the half hour in the middle of the day when everyone was compulsorily kept indoors, behind shielded windows. Since she was a child, she could remember all the scientific mumbo-jumbo and the barked orders that kept everyone wary of their sun and its predictable solar flares. But now, thinking back, she couldn’t recall anyone ever really explaining what happened to their world three hundred and sixty five days a year. She bent down, a small frown creasing her forehead, and placed her bare hand flat on the metal roof. It was as cold as it would have been in the shade, as cold as it had been while she was sitting, dreaming of another place, a far colder and more sterile place. Josephine looked upwards at the glowing orb hanging over her head, and heard a faint trilling sound. It was the alien melody that she had heard earlier, but once again she couldn’t see where it was coming from. Somewhere in the distance…
Leshala is almost cross-eyed, staring at a single speck on the artwork. She sucks her breath in quickly and her cocks her head in disbelief. Her gaze shifts from the uniformed figure in the middle of the dome and focuses on a small, bedraggled group, painted in harsh black lines, staring from the edge of the painting into the milky white dome. The sun is now at its zenith and Leshala realises that the dome has become almost completely transparent. Both the outsiders and the little girl figure can see each other, and indeed they have.
Leshala begins to hum a high-pitched tune, dug up from somewhere in her memories. She turns away with an almost melancholy look on her face, and sits at the computer alternately staring at the screen and the painted window. Her humming grows faint, until the bare white room is completely silent.
Josephine couldn’t stop her hands shaking. This, then, is what had been hidden at midday everyday from all the hurrying people as they went about their daily lives. The sun wasn’t so hazy and Josephine could see through the walls she had never even known existed. She looked about her at the empty streets and silent homes, windows shut up against an imagined evil. Instead they trapped the evil in with them, never daring to look outside to see what they were hiding from. But Josephine could see now, by a strange combination of accident, coincidence and intent. She knew what she had spent her whole life running from. Something inside her knew the truth, something or someone that whispered in her ear. Now she could see through the milky glass, to the sun and the desert around her.

And in the distance, standing upon the promontory with a joyous smile but aged and weary eyes, a band of travellers will turn away and head back into the merciless desert. They have been reminded of what they had been, what they still could be, and they will know that the truth they sought could never be eternally buried. With a haunting, dissipating song flowing behind them, the Fractured Listless try to continue on their pointless pilgrimage towards a dying sun and eternity.


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