out of the wind

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
a humble story about discovering and keeping in sight what one really wants in life.

Submitted: July 29, 2019

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Submitted: July 29, 2019

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I

 

There was this little village amidst high mountains. It knew no wind, in the deep valley it was too well protected against it. Thus, this town was still, quiet and (somehow) because of that also very neat. People’s souls were never too much moved. The wind, being an unknown phenomenon, had become something to be feared. Once in a while an adventurous and above all reckless soul would climb up the mountains to go look for it, but none ever returned. These were usually the typical daredevil kids. The thing was that, the valley was so deep, it had a slight sucking power. Meaning that at the top of the mountains there was a broad, shallow tornado that covered the town like a transparent lid. Once up there, the small human being would be swept from its feet, get caught in the hurtling spiral and be shot away like a small ball in a giant’s game.

In this period of time, however, there lived a boy who wanted to undergo this fatal journey anyway. Not so much out of youthful recklessness as out of passion. 

It began with a poem he read in a mysterious book in the town library:

 

If I were not made of flesh and blood

If I weren’t heavy with bones and skin

I’d be the wind, 

Limitless

I would know no walls

Not even bricks

I’d be everywhere and nowhere

Full of bliss

 

After reading this, the words kept swimming around in his skull for days. Finally, he understood two things: the wind is full of bliss and he was just like the poet; he wanted to be like the wind too. For that he had to know it.

The little town knew not much bliss nor sorrow. It was still, quiet and knew no bigger contrast than the grey that would sometimes change into a yellow glow, colouring the streets. But the latter only at a specific hour of the day, as the sun had not much room to shine in the valley, which was more like a gigantic well. All in all, the village knew more than enough rain to make the crops grow in abundance and just enough sun for the people to wear an occasional smile on their face. Was that smile bliss? the boy wondered.

 

The boy decided to go down to the town’s wise old man and ask him about the wind. It was said that he knew a lot about it, at least more than the rest of the population. Relatively, he knew a lot about everything.

‘Have you ever felt it?’ the boy asked.

‘No.’

A silence followed, almost too short to perceive. Then the old man gave a smile, almost compassionate, either with himself or the boy.

‘I’m too old, my son. The amount I’ve had to study has stolen too much time from me. But, with all the knowledge I and those before me have already attained, I’m sure that by just building a bit further upon that, you’ll go up there and conquer it.’

The boy marveled at this idea and immediately became the old man’s student. He would go there, to his little house, in the afternoons and learn about all the varied subjects engaged in the study of the ungraspable wind. He learned that the wind is made out of molecules, so actually is matter and thus not completely untouchable; he learned about its essential role in making seeds travel so plants can grow; about the measuring of it through the scale of Beaufort, which usually went from one to ten. The old man said that the wind up in the valley probably reached up to 25, or sometimes even 30.

The old man was very wise, but the boy was curious and gifted with a quick and agile mind. One of his most common questions was: but how do they know that? Considering that nobody had ever gone all the way up to the top, except for those disappeared kids. 

‘Foreign knowledge’, was the old man’s almost automatic answer. Several books had been imported through the help of trained falcons. 

Thus was the boy’s education for about five years, his nose always buried in this “foreign knowledge”.

His studies occupied a lot space in his brain. So much even, that it was only after those five years  that the boy remembered the poem that had commenced his journey. Upon reading it again, he felt that boiling heat rising from between his legs up until his throat. The feeling had changed, however. It had become more concentrated although more faint, restricted, as if it had less space to move. Fact was, that the boy had disciplined himself very successfully and had learned to use his intelligence industriously. This seemed to have made him more rigid. Because in reading the poem, he noticed he was trying to understand it. Just like everything he had learned until then had added up to his image of the wind, he expected the poem to do the same. But he didn’t seem able to extract any such information from it. Rather than broadening his mind’s view, it simply touched him. It gave him a “core feeling”, if we may say so. And he knew it had something to do with experiencing the wind itself, which until then hadn’t happened yet.

Like usual, he went down to the old man, now carrying the book in his hand, and made him read it.

‘That’s very beautiful,’ the wise one commented sympathetically, then continued making his notes.

‘Yes,’ the boy answered, not knowing very well how to go further from here.

He stood there for a little while, looking a bit lamely around the room. It was a rainy day and the drops were ticking against the glass windows.

‘That’s important, right?’ he asked finally.

The old man looked up, eyes always sharply fixated upon his, but now a bit spaced out.

‘What do you mean?’

‘The poem is beautiful; that’s important, right?’

‘Of course it is, beauty is one of the greatest virtues of the human being. It has -’

‘But I mean,’ he interrupted almost without noticing the sharp, punishing hit inside his stomach of being impolite. ‘I mean, about the wind. Doesn’t this say a lot about the wind?’

‘Yes, but it is the poet’s experience. We can’t really do much with it.’

‘No, we need to experience it ourselves.’

‘Patience, my son.’

‘I know. I’ve had patience for over five years now. And I’m ready to have more, don’t take me wrongly, master. It’s just that… I had forgotten. I’ve been so taken up with all the studying that I’d forgotten what I was actually doing it for. And it’s for this, it’s this that has made me come to you in the first place.’

The old man stared at him for a little while. 

‘And what is this… this you’re talking about?’

The boy sighed and feared that he could only answer this question banally. There were no words to describe it; everything was already written in the poem. But, as a well-educated young man with a sincere devotion to explaining and understanding, he gave it a try.

‘Well, when I read it, it gives me a certain feeling. That, what you just called beautiful. But this is not a still, harmonious feeling, as beauty often is. It evokes a desire - a very strong one. It’s not only that I admire the poem, I want to be it myself. And I know I’m not, because I’ve never had an experience worthy enough of truly identifying with it.’

‘So…’ the old man gave another glance at the book, which was still open on the table. ‘You want to be limitless... and full of bliss?’

The boy had never felt so ridiculous in all of his life. He averted his eyes to the floor, then looked up again into the old man’s face and said softly but bluntly: ‘Yes.’

The old man was, a bit to the boy’s surprise, clearly moved. He understood. Maybe he’d forgotten it as well, the boy thought.

‘In any way,’ the old man began, clasping his hands mutedly. ‘To get to the wind one needs to first study it. If one doesn’t, he’s exposed to too much danger and bound to fail. You need to get ready like a soldier does for war.’

 

The same night the boy laid in his bed wondering. He tried to imagine how it would be if he would decide to go up to the wind that very morning. A faint exasperation rose up from his longues, followed by a sudden tensity. He thought about the dangers the old man had spoken of. To be sucked into the void; that was the first and only thought the boy had. He’d certainly die. He didn’t want to die. He thought about the kids who had disappeared. A schoolmate of his, a few years above him, had joined them. When the boy was younger he’d often had the same tempting thought of facing the madman’s adventure, but common sense had always held him back. Even though he, for a long time, kept the belief that the adventurers did not die, but instead got to the other side of the mountains and all of them took the opportunity of leaving this sickly dull town. 

The dullness we’re talking about here is not just any clouded sunday where even resting is not relaxing because it feels too boring. It was the people who had adopted a way of being that was almost frighteningly repetitive - if one paid enough attention to it. How often had the boy tried to find a spark of life: tried to cheer up his neighbours with a joke, propose to his friends to go out in the middle of the night and gaze at the stars and the moon. In the latter case they occasionally went along, but in the end he seemed to be the only one to get really hypnotized by the spectacle.

He felt alone, that was for sure. Even more: he felt alone in his vision of what life could be. Where so many people just seemed to go along with the wheel of day in and day out, he wanted something else. ‘Something else’, he said to himself. These two words stopped his thoughts. He realized he didn’t know what they meant. That’s why he was after the wind, which was equally a mystery to him.

But how wise is it to pursue something so unknown?

Here the boy realized that, even though he’d already devoted a long study to it, he knew nothing about what he was chasing after. He did have a faint confidence about finally being able to unravel this mystery, if he was patient and conscientious enough. But on the other hand, he knew his problem could not be solved with answers. He decided to keep going on for a bit longer. After all, five years wasn’t that long a time at all.

 

The next day he went down to the old man’s house like usual. His books weighed heavy on his back but he was filled with a new energy. That kind that befalls one when in times of insecurity one decides to bravely walk on, despite those insecurities.

‘Today we’ll start with a different kind of subject,’ the master announced. ‘We already know a lot of theory about the wind; it’s time to get more practical.’

The boy timidly beamed at his teacher. Had he really inspired him to change cours or was it all just mere coincidence?

‘You may see this as a seminar, in which both of us are students today. Because I’ll humbly admit that I don’t know anything more about this subject than you do.

Good, the first question we’ll stick our noses into will be: the wind being a material phenomenon, what does it feel like? We shall use the scale of Beaufort to speculate about this concept. It will serve us as an indicator to our imagination,’ he paused for a second to see his student’s reaction. ‘Good, let’s start at one.’

The boy honestly didn’t know very well what to think of this. He stared for bit at his wise master and then said:

‘Well, I guess it would be like lightly blowing out a candle.’

‘Yes, yes, very good,’ the old man was looking at the table, also seeming quite lost. 

For the first time the boy consciously wondered whether his teacher actually knew what he was doing.

‘Something like this?’ The master suddenly blew lightly into the boy’s face. His breath smelled faintly of smoke and something bitter-sour.

The boy stared at him perplexed, blinking his eyes.

‘More like this, I believe,’ the boy’s cheeks blew up like a balloon and then puffed out the air in his master’s face, trying to reach a broader range, making the stream of air less sharp.

‘Yes, you’re right,’ he brought his hands to his nose and wiggled slowly with his fingers.

The boy was surprised the teacher had made up anything from that.

‘The wind is something that’s all around us, we need to come up with a way to simulate that. Class is postponed ‘till after dinner. Your assignment is to think up ways to simulate the wind. It’s time to get creative.’

 

At nightfall the boy walked back to the old man’s house. At home he had been completely absent, to his mother’s great irritation, trying to generate ideas. The problem was, that he was too excited about this twist in his education. He was so enthusiastic that with every step he took towards his imagination, it faded because of his eagerness to grab something.

Upon arriving at the house, he discovered the wise one had not been any more blessed with insight.

They tried fanning each other with paper and other objects.

A few tiring and unproductive hours later the boy left the house. Arriving at the central square he found the town’s crazy drunkard dancing by himself, swinging his arms around his body while turning in circles.

The boy wanted to cross the square without being noticed, but the drunkard had too good a pair of ears; he used to be the conductor of the town’s orchestra and was said to be a musical genius (the word “genius” being very rare down there). But, not to anyone’s surprise, he had been kicked out (“suspended on grounds of irresponsible behaviour”) and since then had such little access to music that he had taken to listening to that of the street, to most people known as noises. He heard the boys footsteps and called out:

‘Schmuel!’

Rotating, he approached the boy. He had an empty paper bag in his hand, oddly enough the bottle was missing.

‘Where are you going?’ his voice was like the bark of an old but still all too active dog.

He was coming very close, so the boy had to dodge his flying hands.

‘Home- ’ he ducked and came up again.  ‘mr. Misser.’ and ducked.

The bag swiped dusty air in his face.

A shock of inspiration stirred his bony body and immediately he returned to the old man’s house. He knocked on the door. It was opened by the wise man in his nightgown and with a lantern in his hand.

‘Son, you know how much I value your devotion. But I really need some time for myself -’

‘We need to make something turn.’

The old man blinked and yawned. He went in and came back with a short knife.

‘Here, carve it on the door. Now, see you the day after tomorrow. Have a good and long night’s sleep.’

The boy carved on the door: we need to make something turn.

 

They built a fan, trying different kinds of wood until they had found the perfect one: lightweight and strong enough to endure the fast rotations. With a pump-mechanism they made it turn, faster and faster. 

‘This is definitely 2!’ ‘Three!’ ‘Maybe we can make it go up to five’. 

And like this the monks became engineers.

They put their invention on display on the central square. The people, unconsciously bored with their daily labours, approached it with healthy curiosity. Most were bewildered and greatly amused; the elders were skeptical, almost offended; the children exalted.

The machine developed into a more complex and intriguing mechanism, now reaching a velocity of “8”. They had built hand bars for the smallest children who would stand in front of it, so they could hold onto them while being swept from their tiny feet. 

Great news: the average disappearance of children greatly decreased, because they had been given a generous treat for their wild curiosity. 

Years passed by and the old man and the young apprentice joined each other in a successful partnership. If only their village had been bigger and more well-connected to the outer world, they would’ve probably become quite famous.


 

II

 

The day arrived: the old man died.

By this time the boy had already become pretty much something of a man and had fallen in love and married. On the day of the funeral his wife found him sitting in sorrow while staring out of the window. She went up to him and laid her hands on his head. He closed his eyes and said, as if to diverge from the profound sadness of the moment by taking up a more practical attitude: ‘I have to give a speech, but can’t think of anything to say. I haven’t slept last night, because I was so busy trying to think up words. But they’re all just meaningless.’ (as we see, he failed at getting practical).

His wife, knowing how precious the bond between her husband and his master had been, was silenced for a moment in the almost desperate attempt to think up something that could guide him. Realizing she was getting nowhere by trying hard, she breathed in deeply and blew the air out into her husband’s hair, burying her face in the softness and faint oily smell of it. Then, she left him sitting there, rather abruptly, and came back after a stretched moment. Even though the boy was distracted by his feelings, he couldn’t help waiting rather anxiously for her to come back and know what she had been up to. 

She entered back into the room holding a book. She placed it on the table in front of her husband and opened it on the right page. The manboy couldn’t help it: tears filled his eyes and his airpipe contracted. He started to cry and let himself fall against the belly of his wife, who was still standing next to him. She caressed his ears and forehead with soft, trembling fingers, making flowing movements.

Something revealed itself painfully to the manboy, like a flashlight, like thunderless lightning. Not only had he come face to face with perhaps the nucleus of his fruitful relationship to the wise one, but also with himself. And what he discovered was: it had been neglected. Unwatered seeds. Which confused him, because despite of all the growth he had been through in the past years, the wealth he had attained spiritually and mentally, he had forgotten about something.

 

Nervous and with stiff shoulders he got up onto the platform in front of the several black-dressed figures. He had never felt such a strong contrast in between being brave and committing a sin. Although he was convinced these were the only words that could honour such a great man, if felt like betrayal. This was personal, this was nobody else’s business. Such a fragile thing could not be shared in public, could not pass through the greasy ears of so many. Ears too greasy to probably even let the words enter. If they did enter - maybe it would shock them. Maybe… this was exactly what he had to do. This was the way to make people understand. Beauty! Show them beauty, nothing else.

 

‘If I were not made of flesh and blood

If I weren’t heavy with bones and skin

I’d be the wind, 

Limitless

I wouldn’t know any walls

Not even bricks

I’d be everywhere and nowhere

Full of bliss.’

 

His voice left a low echo in the high, stone space. He boldly looked into the people’s faces and saw their reaction: they were waiting. They expected this to be an entrance, a preface, or something. Here and there floated a sheepish smile saying ‘that’s nice’ or even worse, ‘cute’. A suffocating mixture of frustration and disappointment took hold of him. For a moment he hesitated: should he just improvise from here on? No. He walked off and left the place, taking his wife gently and rather ostantationally by her hand. He felt safe now: there was nothing left to do. All had become clear.

They stepped outside into the bright sunlight; it was precisely the brightest hour of the day. The church’s square was quiet and still, on the background one could hear the soft song of small birds.

‘Aaaaaaahhahaha,’ the same birds were now seen flying up from the trees. It was the bark of the mad drunkard.

He came up to them dancing on his rubber legs with one bottle in each hand: a full one and an almost empty one.

‘You. Shmuel,’ he put his arm around the man’s shoulder and pointed at his nose with a dingy finger. ‘You are a musician.’

The man laughed kindly at this.

‘No I’m not a musician, Mr. Misser,’ it was hard for him not to follow up with “silly you”. He was always rather touched by the drunkard’s good naturedness towards him, always enveloped in that ridiculousness that made life lighter.

‘No, wait,’ the drunkard responded and let go of him. ‘My lady how lovely you look in black, but it’s not your colour,’ he made a deep bow towards the man’s wife and kissed her hand with such raffinity that made one immediately forget he was that drunk.

He straightened himself up again and looked the man deep in his eyes, even though his own didn’t really seem able to find a point of focus.

‘You are a musician,’ he poked in the man’s chest with the almost empty bottle. ‘I’m going to teach you what a musician is, now, okay. Because you’ve been indoctrinated. Every idiot can get sounds out of an object that is made to produce sounds… but it takes a great and at-ten-tive mind to really hear music. To feel it here!’ he beat triumphantly with the almost empty bottle against his own chest, which made a bit of rum splash against his nose.

He started to cough rather exaggeratedly and the husband and wife patted him on the back, while laughing empathetically. Inside an organist started to play.

‘You’re way more of a musician than him,’ the drunkard barked abruptly from under his wet mustache.

He gulped down the last drop and threw the bottle against the door of the church. The blow was loud and the glass shattered like crystalized firework. They heard people gasp inside and the organist’s fingers tripped for a second. They couldn’t help but laughing. It wasn’t a malicious laughing at, but much more of a sentimental laugh. It came from deep under their bellies and filled their chests. They tasted sweet tears at the base of their throats. It was the proudly melancholic feeling of realizing that there’s “them and us”, but at least there’s “us”. And they’d rather be “us” than “them”. 

‘Now that’s music,’ the drunkard said while opening the next bottle with his teeth. ‘What about a drink to celebrate, my friends?’

‘I don’t really feel like celebrating right now, Mr. Misser. But thank you for the kind offer.’

‘You don’t feel like celebrating? Why! But one should always celebrate, that’s what life’s for.’

‘No really, too good a friend of mine just.. -’

‘When is life more present than in the face of death?’ his wife jumped in.

A mixture of adrenaline and heavy mourning was brewing in his stomach. For a second he even felt offended. Death was not something that one could joke about. But another voice in his had reacted upon this: ‘they’re not joking.’

He chuckled weakly to himself.

‘All right, hand me that bottle, mr. Misser.’

‘Ladies first, young man.’

With his wife in the centre, gulping down the liquid in a way that never ceased to surprise him, the trio walked down the square and disappeared into the empty streets, singing loudly and with heart.

 

After this event something had seriously changed. It was one of those shocks that opens up a door and then immediately locks it again: there’s no way back. It was time. He was going up there. His wife shared his adventurous spirit; she would join him. They gave themselves two weeks to prepare. 

A heroic allure came over them: they were afraid but determined. These two weeks they talked a lot or not at all. It was the going up and down between anxiety that had to be canalized in rapid talk, and the “sinking in” of their decision that numbed. He packed and unpacked his bag six or seven times. She decided to wait until the last moment in order to have the right feeling for what would be most essential to take along. The first week the sun was shining, the weather seemed to encourage them. The second, a fine drizzle came over the village, but nothing too alarming. It felt rather like a reminder of that nothing could be granted the perfect conditions. The only one in town who knew about their plans was Mr. Misser, who would pass by their house every day at some time or other to remind them of the great feast they were going to have two days (so they had one day to sit out the hangover) before their departure.

 

They went up the cliff. For climbing, it was a convenient cliff: full of passageways that lead the way up. Thanks to this, so many unskilled, young climbers had made their way out of the gigantic well.

They were close to the top now, he felt it even though he could see nothing through the mist. Very shortly after the first shots of adrenaline had sprung from the notion of arriving there, he began to hear a faint, whistling sound. The further they walked the louder it became. ‘Can you hear that? It’s the wind… it’s the wind!!’ She responded with loud laughter. She was walking a few paces ahead of him. He kicked a stone and it fell into the deep, he followed it with his eyes. 

When he looked back he couldn’t see her anymore. He called her name, said she should wait a bit. 

No response. He called out again. Nothing. A sharp panic struck him and he hastened himself. Again. Nothing. Again. Tears began to needle the backside of his eyes, then he was just numb. He called out now without any interval, not even for breathing. He was lost, completely lost. He looked around himself into the endless white void. He had no idea what to do. He screamed now and had difficulty breathing; he could not even sob, trying to gasp for air. When he quieted down, he remained there motionless. He was lost, completely lost.









 

III

 

Back down in town he locked himself up in his house for one year. 

During this year he lived in his dreams. 

 

A stone falling into infinity. From a certain distance on it seemed to start moving. He couldn’t make out whether it was still a stone or a human being. Sometimes he jumped after it and then woke up. Other times he stood there frozen and awoke in paralysis.

 

He saw her appearing from the white void and they walked down the mountain, side by side, back to the village. They got home and picked up normal life again, as if nothing had happened.

 

He went up the cliff by himself and found her on the other side, where everything was white and illuminated. He walked up to her and embraced her. Upon his touch she shattered into a million dark pebbles and the ground beneath them disappeared into the black, that appeared because the pebbles conglomerated like pixels. 

 

He was enveloped in darkness, like when he would go to the bathroom at night when he was small, at a time when the dark seemed darker. 

Searching for a light but unable to find one, he felt stuck. He walked blindly, neither knowing whether in a straight line or in circles. At a certain point the walking would get heavier: the ground beneath him was getting more steep. After a while it got so steep he had to use his hands not to fall backward. Then, he’d suddenly have his nose pressed against a wall, which before had been the ground, while clinging to it like an insect or a lizard. He found himself unable to move. Slowly his hands and feet started to let go of the surface. Desperately he tried to hold on. Then just at the point when he was about to fall into the abyss, he woke up.

 

He stood where he had lost her and decided to walk on instead of going back. He reached the top and got caught in a strong wind, mildly stronger than that of the invention of him and his master. From the white mist the invention itself doomed up, with the old man standing beside it. He walked up to him and asked:

‘Master, have you seen -’

At this moment he suddenly caught the sight of a body part flying by - usually a hand or a breast. Then another one. He looked up at the invention and saw it was covered in the red of blood and sticky strands of hair.

He turned back to the old man, who said with a calm complexion:

‘Soldiers live to die.’

 

He went up the the cliff, alone, while the whole village stood there watching him to say farewell and awe at his bravery. She was with the crowd, waving him goodbye. He walked up the mountain in wild enthusiasm, feeling strong and confident. And kept on walking. And walking. There was no end to it. The top always covered in the pale grey of the clouds, which made it seem non-existent. With every step he took, his confidence and his enthusiasm faded, but somehow his body kept its pose of the fearless hero: he continued to smile and to walk steadily. Then he began to feel emptier and emptier from the inside, his body stiffer. He turned into something like a mannequin, still walking. He never reached the top.

 

The mad drunkard handed him a bottle. He took a sip but nothing came out of it.

‘You have to blow, Schmuel.’

He did so and it shattered into pieces. The glass came in his eyes and blinded him.

‘The blind can still hear,’ the mad drunkard said and began whistling a song, a beautiful melody. 

Then he hit a dissonant, emphasizing it by whistling it louder than the other tones. Another dissonant, longer and not fitting to the rhythm. Slowly the melody changed into an arhythmic cacophony, getting louder and louder. The drunkard would be whistling with such force now, that he’d be spitting a shower of saliva into the man’s face. Then he usually woke up.

 

Again, the moment when he was walking behind her and she had just gone out of sight. He called her. She responded to this, still invisible, and told him to come closer. He froze and woke up in paralysis.


 

IV

 

At last, he picked up his studies again, about the wind and other things. And he started to teach.

When his students asked why he never had gone all the way to the top, he’d answer he wasn’t ready yet.

With growing age, he started to accept he would never be ready. 

‘I’m too old to be a soldier,’ he thought to himself, while arranging books, making his notes, cooking. 

 

One day a student of his asked:

‘But have you ever felt it?’

‘I haven’t, but I’ve come close.’

‘So you’ve tried and failed?’

‘Pretty much.’

‘Why have you never tried again?’

‘I never knew when I was ready. I lost too much to just go up there again.’

‘How did you know before that you were ready?’

‘Well, there was a great impulse: my teacher had just died. I knew he himself had wanted to go up there but never did so. I think his death made me realize I shouldn’t let the same happen to me. But I now understand things are much less straightforward.’

‘Weren’t you afraid?’

‘Oh, I was pissing my pants.’

‘Then how did you manage to overcome that?’

‘I don’t think I ever did. I rather think my will to live was stronger.’

‘Than what?’

‘- My fear to die.’

‘And now?’

‘I’ve been too close to death to forget about it.’

‘So is your fear to die stronger now?’

‘I’ve found I’m content keeping to my studies.’

‘Ah.’

He felt she wanted to say something else but then chose not to, out of respect for the elderly. This made him feel rather suffocatingly isolated. Anxiously, he waited a bit longer and then said:

‘Let’s go home then.’

He couldn’t understand how that had come out of his mouth. It felt as if he had prevented life-changing words from changing his life. 

As he was waving his student goodbye he wished he could get rid of the ornamental smile that was nailed onto his face, by himself.

Then, after a dozen paces down the street, the kid turned around and walked back to him.

‘Master, the other day I asked my mother if it bores her to go to the market everyday - to do the same thing every day. She said she likes it, because “it is important to know how to spend your time”. She says “at least I know I spend my time well.” Is it the same with you and your studies?’

Limitless and full of bliss, limitless and full of bliss. Limitless, Limitless - I’m made of flesh and blood I’m heavy, so damned heavy with bones and skin. I see only bricks, not even walls.

He opened his mouth in the automatic reaction of a teacher who has his answer always ready. And then remained like this for a good three seconds. He saw in the eyes of the small girl the growing discomfort and slight disgust, natural at the sight of a bewildered old man. Then he let his head hang and shook it wearily. He opened his mouth again as to excuse himself for such behaviour, but the child was faster.

‘You don’t like it, do you?’

‘I do, I do like it. It’s just that… I don’t know if it’s time spent well. Really - I have no idea what should be “time spent well”. I keep doing this as to just do something. What would your mother do if she didn’t go to the market every day? 

With all my years I have never understood why we keep ourselves in these patterns, these repetitions. As if - as if we’re afraid we’d be nothing without them. But that… that’s just... ‘ he looked the kid in the eyes and saw they were completely fixated upon him. He couldn’t make out whether they were full of fear or wonder. Maybe both. ‘Do you need patterns?’

‘Well I go to school and need to set the table every evening -’

‘But when you’re not doing that?’

‘I go outside and play with friends… or draw. I don’t think those are really patterns,’ she laughed softly at this. ‘It’s more like… exploring.’

‘Do you see that as time spent well?’

She responded to this with a frown, confused.

‘I don’t know,’ she shrugged her shoulders. ‘I just have fun.’

‘How is it different from going to school or setting the table?’

‘That I do with a reason.’

He thought about this for a second.

‘I don’t think I do my studies with a reason… I just feel comfortable doing it.’

‘So then you’re just having fun!’

‘Yes, yes I am.’

 

That evening the old man set behind his desk as always, face hidden in the written world. But something was itching beneath his deep concentration; the words got blurry now and then. 

He heard something coming from the other room. He looked up in surprise, his heart skipped a beat. Finally, she was home. He stood up and immediately sat down again, realizing the foolishness of his thought. Then stood up once more, because he was still positive he had heard a sound.

He went into the adjoining room. A mouse raced out of a corner and then disappeared. The old man returned to his desk.

He tried to slip back into his book, but found it unusually hard. A feeling was bothering him. In his belly, a tickling itch. He found himself restless.

‘But what do you want?’ he said to nobody in particular. Or either to himself.

Every time he tried to concentrate again on the words it was as if something pulled him back. And the more he felt that, the harder he tried to read. It was this naggingly competitive game in between the invisible hand and his tired eyes.

‘But what do you want?’ he asked the hand.

He actually didn’t want to know, so that’s why he continued reading, pretending he couldn’t receive an answer to that question.

 

He was walking in darkness with only a faint orange light shed on the space in front of his feet. He walked slowly, cautious of what might be beyond the small illuminated space. Then he felt something in his neck, something cold and rough. It grabbed him by the throat, gently, and started pulling him backwards. He tried to escape it, but despite the soft grip he couldn’t make it let go. Then another hand grabbed his shoulder. And others his arms, his legs, his face. In slow, tiring movements he tried to free himself, but his body was too heavy to work with him. He managed to calm down a bit and then became aware of the vast darkness that lay in front of him. Even if he’d succeed at breaking free, what would he do? Escape into the dark? The only thing he saw was the faint golden glow against the pitch black. A hand grabbed him by his mouth and nose now, making breathing, which had already been hard because of the hand on his throat, impossible. He tried to pull himself away but this only worsened it, as the hands would only press harder. Slowly he began to relax, not so much out of decision as out of exhaustion. His mind running fast, sirening danger. He was hot, cramped. Nausea befell him and he was certain to suffocate. The hands were taking him in, deeper and deeper.

Then they let go. He fell onto his knees. He was covered in cold sweat and shivering violently. He found himself searching for the hands, wanting the hands. For a while he sat there in complete silence, breathing heavily. His breath was loud, it seemed to fill up the space around him. He tried to calm down.

‘This is a dream’, but that wasn’t very comforting.

He wanted to get out of this situation. He pinched himself to check if it would make him wake up, but it didn’t. He stood up and walked around for a while. A white bulb appeared above his head. It seemed very far off, something like the moon, but flatter. He looked around himself, but down there everything was still packed in thick darkness.

He stared at the white bulb for a while, forgetting himself. Before he became completely aware of it, the bulb had come closer, or either gotten bigger. Its edges seemed to be moving now, very slowly and smoothly, like tiny waves. He squeezed his eyes and with that it appeared to come even closer. The waves looked more like hairs right now, or short tentacles. But they were hands. Hundreds of hands stuck out at the edges of the shiny white circle, like a hurdle of insects, or spiders, trying to lure him inside.

Disgusted and terrified with the sight of this, he automatically turned away to make a run for it. But after a few paces he realized it was useless. Where would he go? And it was following him, like the moon does. And again it had gotten bigger.

He couldn’t help staring at it, trying to understand what it was. 

A small creature ran over the hands, completing the whole circle.

He began to hear faint voices: ‘It’s fun, it’s fun.’

He turned his back to the circle and put his hands tightly over his ears. He was watching his shadow on the ground, drawn sharply against the light of the bulb, surrounded by the hands.

Then a mouse appeared at his feet: the creature that had been running over the hands before.

‘This is no fun,’ it said.

‘No,’ responded the old man.

The mouse had its eyes fixated upon him. They started getting larger and larger, until they popped out of its head and changed from black to corpse grey to white. The skull grew with it and its fur fell out. Through the soft grey hairs light, greasy skin pushed its way, dissolving the hairs that hadn’t fallen off yet. The old man beheld the fleshy spectacle of a mouse turning into a man. The mad drunkard, Mr. Misser, was the great revelation. Mr. Misser, who had been dead for years and years.

‘What do they want?’ he asked the mad drunkard.

‘What do you want?’

‘To be at peace.’

‘Are you?’

‘How can I? Look at this,’ he stared with glassy eyes into the white circle, in utter confusion.

‘What are you afraid of?’

‘Of what they want.’

‘What do you want?’

‘To be at peace and nothing else.’

‘Are you?’

‘No!’

‘Why?’

‘They aren’t letting me.’

‘What do they want?’

‘I don’t understand.’

A laugh came from behind the circle - a woman’s laugh.

‘It’s her.’

‘Do you want her?’

‘I can’t.’

‘Well, she’s there.’

‘Not really. And it’s not right to want her.’

‘Maybe it’s not her you want.’

‘What do I want?’

‘Aha.’

Mr. Misser crawled back into the circle, like the mouse he wasn’t anymore.

The boy stared at the circle again. He was looking at the hands which still  creeped him out.

‘Like a thousand grandmothers wanting to squeeze your face...’

He moved his own hands. He felt something titillating, like being a magnet and coming near another. As he was exploring this feeling, he noticed that the hands, which first had seemed to come from behind the darkness, giving the impression the circle was a portal, were now holding it instead. Touching it as if it were something soft. 

The tingling feeling sunk deeper into his skin. He felt his blood running, heard the vibration of his throbbing heart. He couldn’t tell any longer whether his was breath inside his body or everywhere around him.

Then, suddenly, he felt a warm stab in his plexus. It was nice and painful. He reacted to this by clasping his hands together, like when catching a flying insect. With this, all the hands closed in on the white bulb and it started quickly to disappear in between them, as if being devoured. The hands fused with the darkness and at the last sight of the light, he woke up.

The old man departed that same morning, like he had done several years before, this time never returning.



 


© Copyright 2020 Schlemiel. All rights reserved.

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