He was in a bedroom now, it was painted yellow and smelled new. A small bed was tucked in one corner, the sheets were folded down tight and the pillow was made of stone, hard and inviting. Over the top of a wooden desk was five pictures of trees arranged in a pentagon, and a framed, still- fresh daisy hanging in the centre behind glass.
Seated in a chair by the desk was an older woman, her face was wrinkled with care and love, as though a painter had, in a fit of madness, decided to lash at his masterpiece with a fine black paintbrush, not spoiling his painting so much as aging it beyond the beauty it once had to the wisdom she had earned. He did not know the woman, but at the same time she was familiar, like a right hand is familiar, or a leg. Tied to her foot was a bright red string, looped around twice, and he could see that the other end of the string was hanging loosely from his neck. A man stood in the opposite corner of the bed, facing away from them both, his body hunched with anger. While he looked at the man, his clothing remained the same, but when he blinked, it changed. First from sturdy blue wool to, blink, a dark green suit with coat-tails that hung to the backs of his knees and then, blink, dirty, ragged scraps of cotton held together with grime and sadness, and then again, blink, back to wool.
He was not sure why, but he knew that the man hated him, hated him more than any other person ever had or ever would, and for some reason it involved the woman whose name he did not know but he was tied to her - by string or love, it was anybody's guess. For himself, he felt no particular affection or dislike towards the man, but whenever he so much as glanced at the woman, his heart began to beat fast and he thought that for sure it would burst from his chest and bounce around on the floor. She caught him looking at her and smiled, reaching behind her back and handing him a plate with meat and potatoes and vegetables and smothered with gravy. It smelled heavenly.
The man in the corner grunted loudly and cleared his throat, he seemed to know that the woman had given away food even though he was facing the wall and could see nothing. His neck was purple and he was wearing the suit. But before he could take the food, it disappeared and the woman handed him a wobbling yellow pudding, and then a thick red soup, then roasted duck, then steaming noodles, then a bubbling stew, then steamed vegetables, then a bottle of wine.
He was sure now that the man would turn around and sever the string between him and the woman, and perhaps beat him. But this never happened. The man, his clothes changing and growing dirtier and more worn with each transformation, simply grunted and shouted and cleared his throat and displayed his impotent displeasure through sound. And they ignored him.
The food disappeared, or was eaten, he wasn't sure which, and then the man and the woman stood and walked close to him. Both radiated love, now, but for each it was a different sort. The woman's was unquestioning and total, like sunlight on a cloudless summer morning, but the man's, it was tempered with respect and pride, and felt strong, like a cool spring breeze just before dusk feels strong.
The man looked him in the eyes and took a long piece of green string from his pocket, holding it in front of the trio. He carefully tied one end of the string to his finger and then looped it over the woman's ear, and then tied it to his guest's arm. Then the woman had her turn, tying another red string around his neck and attaching it to her foot. They continued like this for some time, the woman always tying it around his neck in red, the man changing the colour of the string and the position on both of their bodies with every piece. There was nowhere for him to run now, if he wanted. He was trapped.
The room disappeared, and so did the man and the woman, but the string remained, the thick red clump disappearing off into the Eastern horizon, the mish-mash of colours from the man spreading out in every direction but the red's. He tugged at the strings, and maybe one or two broke, but the rest held firm and tight and he chaffed under the burden.
In the clear blue sky a dark cloud suddenly appeared, large and formless but always approaching. It halted directly above his head and he felt that if he could only raise his arms from the infernal string, he would be able to touch the cloud and make it rain to cleanse himself. All around him the grass, before so green, began to die, it needed the water, and he could not give it. Over there, just out of his sight, he could feel lightning crackling down and he knew that someone else was being rained upon and that this was not fair, not at all.
And then a bright shiny new pair of scissors appeared in one hand and he was able to slowly, methodically, and trying hard not to arouse suspicion, cut the strings, one by one. The many coloured strings from the man were easier to cut but they took a long time; He was encouraged when, with almost all of the man's strings cut and lying on the ground like a dying animal, a fat drop of water splashed onto his forehead.
The thick, intertwined red string was too difficult to cut in one great motion. He had to take the scissors with both hand and awkwardly saw at the string, there was no way this action could go unnoticed and his fingers were being cut on the blade of the scissors. Far off in the distance he could see the woman, running as hard as she could to reach him and he began to hack at it faster, he knew that he must cut it all before she arrived or his efforts would have been for nought.
With a loud snick that echoed much longer than it should have in the large abandoned plain, the red string was cut; it flopped to the ground and thrashed about like a snake with its head cut off that was taking too long to die. The woman was one hundred metres away from him when it happened and she stopped and collapsed, her body touching the ground just as the first drops in what would be a torrent of rain fell upon the cracked and dying earth, rejuvenating the ground and returning the green.
The woman was not moving and the man was nowhere to be seen. He was free, and began to walk. As he did, stones and brick grew from the ground until he found himself in a dirty alley, it was still raining and he could just make out three figures up ahead.
Waving his hands in front of his face, he parted the rain to see the three people better. Two were men, young like he supposed he was young, and they were dueling with umbrellas while a girl watched. His eyes fell on her face and when she returned his gaze a soundless clap could be heard throughout the world and the rain, the clouds, and the alley with the duelers disappeared and there was only her and him.
Their eyes always together, she fell gracefully onto the ground and landed on a soft pink bed, her clothes dissolving until she was naked before him, open and willing. With each step he took towards her, golden string burst out from between her breasts and embedded themselves into his body, but these threads were painless and welcome. He fell on top of her, naked as well, and in a few minutes neither could tell where they stopped and the other began.
There was a field of flowers, yellow, and they were walking together holding hands that glowed with the golden thread. A well-trod path wound up and down the rows and rows of flowers, but they could see no-one else in any direction. She would stop and study a flower and show it to him, in each one was the face of a baby, girl or boy, dark haired or fair, strong or weak, there was no rhyme or reason to her choices, from what he could discern, but all were beautiful. He shook his head at each one, never completely pleased with the face staring back, and with each rejection she became more frustrated until finally she ran off the track without him.
He wandered the field of faces, up in the sky were patches of bright clear blue as though it were Spring and in other places dark steely grey where it was raining, and every type of weather in between. As he walked, sometimes it was night and sometimes it was day and he was never quite sure what his name was.
She returned after two hundred and seventy day and nights with a flower behind her back, he could see the petals peeking up over her shoulder and curling around her arm in a floral hug, but was unable to make out the face on it. She would not show him no matter how he asked and could not bring himself to hurt her just to find out.
In the house there was one bright yellow flower, tall, without a face but it held memories. A few smaller blue flowers were scattered about, none were in pots but instead planted into the wooden floorboards, they looked healthy and hadn't been watered in years. Each blue flower leaned into the yellow one and they were all connected with string, mostly red. He was sitting there and she was beside him, and the gold threads were fewer but glowed more brightly than when there were thousands connecting them. A few golden threads connected them to the flowers, but none to the sky.
Sometimes one of the blue flowers would get up and leave the house but it always returned, sometimes a little larger, but never yellow. Threads grew and thickened and made their way outside, out the window or the door and only a few stayed and connected to either him or her. This was sad but he knew it would happen; he had to find comfort in the gold between her breasts, now and always.
He sat up and his body was inside a wooden box and all around him, but mostly in front, seated, were men and women, some with flowers, some without, but all in black. He looked about for her, and there she was, without any flowers at all, and crying, and there was not a thread between them. Up above, nestled in the roof, was a huge glowing golden mass and little bits sprinkled gently down, touching the seated men and woman, but not him and he did not know why.
He stood up out of the box and climbed down the stairs. Suddenly everyone got up and began applauding him, watching as he walked, and the gold fell onto them with a thud that nobody heard and, just like that, he opened the door, walked out into the sunshine and closed it softly behind.
Glow by Damian Kelleher
Fiction » General Rated: K, English, Words: 2k+, Published: 3/21/2004