I shivered and Mira looked downwards.
“What am I?” I asked softly.
Mira shrugged. “What can you be? You have no ultimate fate, no place of belonging…what is there to define you?”
“I suppose…having no fate is itself a fate. No place could itself be considered a place.”
She nodded. “I suppose so. But the population there must be very small indeed.”
“It must be only one.”
“Yes. Otherwise it would not be ‘no fate’ or ‘no place.’ Tell me, do you know how you were born?”
“How I was–? What? No. I know nothing of the matter.”
“Perhaps you weren’t!” she breathed
“What are you saying?! I must have been born!”
“Yes, of course,” she shook her head. “Please, you should pay no mind to half the things that I say. As I told you, I am a dreamer, and my fancies come over me so that sometimes they seem real enough to speak of them. I’m sorry.”
“That’s alright. They are…interesting to me. They sound of nonsense, yet ring of truth…Oh look at me, I’m sounding just like you now.”
She smiled. “We all start sounding alike once we get talking to one another. Haven’t you noticed? It is unavoidable here.”
“But who was the first to sound this way, then?”
She grinned broadly at the question. “Now that I have never wondered about. Was it one of our ancestors that spoke so? Or is it dictated by the Mind of the Wheel?” Her eyebrow raised. “Perhaps it was me who dictated it all along, reaching through the past for generations to set my people in harmony for when I came!”
I smiled. “It’s a lovely thought, but I don’t think so. Just listen to yourself speaking right now, it’s an entirely different voice! You fall back into that weightless, refined way of talking that everyone else has from time-to-time, but then you have these moments of eyes flashing and expressions of wonder! And I think that that is the genuine you. It the moments where you scrape your identity back from the pull of the masses.”
She laughed. “You truly do know yourself so well, and me even better than I know myself! You are so grounded, which is strange for one who has no fate. And I float so freely, when my fate is the most grounded of them all. But perhaps that is how these things work. You stand apart from the spinning of our world upon its axis, and thus can see so clearly what is only a blur to us pinned upon it. I know what you are now. You are a phantom, a ghost that momentarily lays at a tangent to our world. Would you…would you hold my hand?”
She held out her palm and I gladly took it.
“Oh, it’s so cold!” she exclaimed.
“Sorry,” I said and tried to pull my hand back, but she seized upon it all the more earnestly.
“No, it’s alright. Just let me hold it, and I’ll have you warmed up in no time!”
“But your hands are so small,” I smiled.
“So? Don’t you be underestimating me now!” She eagerly rubbed her thumbs over the back of my hand, and indeed I felt a refreshing heat starting to spread throughout my fingers. “There, you see? You thought unfairly of me. Though I suppose it’s only natural when you have been marked separately from the rest of us. That must make you assume that there is nothing we transient folk can offer you?”
“Hmm…I suppose that I have always had a sense of not being able to rely upon another.”
“And you are right. None of us will be able to follow you on your journey for very long. We can only walk a short distance with you, and you must do very much alone. But that doesn’t mean we cannot help you in the moment. You do not have to deny what simple things we can and do offer. Never forget that, Graye.”
“Thank you.” We were silent for a moment. “My hands are very rough, as well, aren’t they?”
“Yes, very,” she laughed. “You are accustomed to hard labor? Of course you are. Tell me, what is your work like?”
“Nothing of note. It is a menial labor, and with no purpose such as your people have here. I carry things that people need from one place to another, that is all. We travel far, we see many things, we lift and pull and sweat all day.”
“But you chose this work? That is correct, isn’t it, that people choose their work out in the greater world?”
“Some of them do. Some of them have it chosen for them. Some, like me, made their own choice, but from very few options. It was either this or work the fields.”
“Ah, so a very isolated choice, but still a choice! And why did you not work the fields?”
“I don’t know. It wasn’t right for me.”
“Working a field feels too much like belonging,” she suggested and I nodded. “You weren’t born to make deliveries either, but you were born to wander, and the vocation you chose brought you nearer to that.”
“And you were born to belong?”
“Yes. I belong here more than any other.”
“You keep saying things like that, but then why are you so different from anyone else that I’ve met here? You hardly seem a part of them at all.”
“I belong here, but not to them. These people–they are surveyors, they are measurers, they are outsiders come to delve into the Void. But I? I belong to the Void!”
I gasped, though I knew not why. I could not even fathom what such a statement like that even meant.
“Yes,” she continued. “They are the strangers and I am the native. They are stewards, but mine is the crown.”
“What does–? How does–? In what way–?” I wondered to myself how she could claim to belong to the Void, an entity so empty and blank, yet she was so full of life that it seemed to burst from every tip of her hair.
“But that is the evidence that I am of the Void,” her eyes flashed as she read my mind. “It is like a magnet, all negative on one side, but all positive on the other. The very fact that the Void is so empty and hollow within requires it me to be so vivacious and exuberant without. I am all life, Graye! I am all passion!”
Her voice was raising almost to a shout and her fingers were frantically clutching at and releasing my own hand. A deep flush was rising from the base of her neck and into her cheeks, and her eyes opened wide and refused to blink.
“I feel so much!” she exclaimed. “I am overcome by wonder and amazement everywhere! I find all this world so fascinating, but I find you even more. You and I, Graye, we are each one of a kind, but in such opposite ways. I am the Void, and thus the foundation beneath this entire world. I am the single, null dimension upon which all has been established, and through which all new reality is about to burst. But you, you are a drifter and a shadow, phasing past this world, having little to do with these people, and nothing to do with me. You have paused here very briefly, to make contact, but now I shall retract into infinite nothingness, while you expand to fill infinite everything. And then, when we are perfectly nothing and perfectly everything, then at last we might be together.”
Her voice was so shrill, her face so manic, that I felt a genuine fear of her. A strange thing for one so small and slight as she. No sooner did the unease enter my mind, though, then she blinked rapidly, and slowly the trance pulled away from her eyes, and once more I felt that I looked into the eyes of Mira. She looked away, then back to me sadly.
“I’m sorry, Graye. Please forgive me. These things are in me…I don’t understand them…”
I gave half a smile. “These are strange times we live in. Only promise me one thing. Whatever other voices that clamor within you, promise me that there will always remain something of Mira. Something of Mira forever?”
She grimaced. “Oh you poor boy.” She said it kindly, and with sincere sorrow. “Don’t you know that it is the sweetest things that are the most transitory? The quickest to bloom are the first to fade away forever. The brighter I burn, the sooner I expire.”
“No,” I blinked back tears. “Don’t say that!”
“Don’t weep for what must be temporary,” she sighed, touching her hand to my face. “This is why you are remiss to accept kindness from us fleeting souls, isn’t it? It is a hard thing for the unending to accept ends. The sweetness of my moment will fill me to the end, but never can fill you.”
“Never,” I wept.
She wrapped her arms around my head and pulled it down to rest in the crook of her neck. “But a moment is infinite in its own way, Graye. In its time it never expires.”
“That…doesn’t make sense.”
“If you stretch yourself to infinity then all moments become literally nothing, occupying no space whatsoever. But if you shrink yourself down into a moment, slow down time until you possess nothing more than a single tick, then that moment is everything, it is the entire infinite. There is no difference between living in a moment and living forever. They are two paths to the same.”
“Then…when I am infinite moments…will I be able to enter your single infinite moment?”
She drew back and looked me in my tear-stained eyes. “I hope so, Graye. How I hope so. But come now. I have something to show you.”
Of course I required no persuading. She turned and began to walk off towards the hole in the wall that led back to the city and I followed. But no sooner did we set out than we realized how we had whiled away the hours during our conversation. It seemed impossible for a whole day to have passed, but somehow it had. The sun was already lowering to the horizon, and night would soon be upon us.
And we, unwittingly, had spent much of our conversations idly pacing around in a circle, no doubt moved by the wheel to expire our quota of steps before the day came to its close. And so it was, while we were yet twenty paces from the wall, our feet grew so heavy that it seemed impossible to take another step. There simply was no other option but to set down right where we were, and make our night upon the cool stones.
And so I lay down there, and Mira lay down six steps ahead of me. We turned to look at one another, longing and sorrow in our eyes. I extended my hand out to touch her and she held out hers for me. But we were out of reach.
On Monday I spoke about characters that become immortal in our minds. Some figures make such a strong impression that they become the very embodiment of an idea, and thus are forever brought to the foreground whenever that idea comes up. For example, who can hear of terms like tragic love and shattered youthfulness without thinking of characters like Romeo and Juliet?
Trying to accomplish such an impact in my own story is no small feat. Indeed, I would say that my chances of success are always very slim. Even in the hands of the most skilled writers, the majority of their characters will slip into the forgotten. Still, I endeavored to do what I could, by writing out scenes for Mira and Graye that were extremely expressive and full of wonder. If there were any concepts for these characters to stake their claim on, I wanted it to be that of awe for the infinite, and for the tragedy of would-be-lovers whose lines run parallel, and thus are forever destined to be close, yet never intersect.
Of course there is still more that I intend to do in this story to try and make these characters immortal. I am still leading up to my climatic scene of destruction, which will sever these two from each other in a particularly somber way.
Obviously that somber ending will hardly come as a surprise, the story has been moving towards such a conclusion for quite a long while now. I imagine that even if I had not started the tale by detailing what was would transpire at the end, that I could still pause here, ask the audience what they thought would happen, and every person would have more or less an accurate idea of what would follow.
Readers understand that where there is tension there must be release, where there desire there must be opportunity, and where there is betrayal there must be a reckoning. They are able to see the shape of the story as it shifts from one scene into the next, and by that induce how the story will now shift into the next.
Or at least they can if the story is well-formed. For there are stories that do not follow this convention, and they tend to feel feels random and inconsistent. But let’s take some time to examine this notion in greater detail. In my next post we will consider some famous examples of stories with clearly defined trajectories, and the reasons why they feel so satisfying to us when we read them.