Entreaties into unbreakable solitude
He sat by the window in a frayed old armchair, plaid and wooden trim visible through the holes in the throw, lit from behind by a single bare bulb. The table bore, as always, the newspaper for the day (it was The Times today) and a cup of cocoa. The second hand on the clock rocked back and forth: 5 to 6, 5 to 6, 5 to 6.
A tapping at the door, and the jolly call that followed couldn’t register beyond the mechanical periphery of auditory sense. The visitor grew more insistent – there is work to be done, he proclaimed, important work, can you not remember, my friend, the day’s great task that we so meticulously planned?
The armchair offered no reply. Its occupant sat unmoved. Somewhere in the darker recesses of his mind, it occurred to him that there was indeed work to be done, important work upon which many things might hinge tomorrow, and the day thereafter, and the day after that. But the work had to wait. He let the visitor leave frustrated, dimly aware that it was not as though anything else was realistically possible.
Though expected, the second visitor still startled him, without causing the meanest twitch in his muscles. Merely someone else attempting to draw him away from more pressing matters. Skin and bone rapped upon the sturdy oak of the door, expectantly. A pause followed, then another rhythmic sequence tapped out upon the wood – a summoner’s code, distantly acknowledged, but unbroken. From the chair, he could dimly perceive the increasingly insistent hammering of the formless shape beyond the whorls of the frosted glass that fortune had set within the door. It knocked again upon wood, then attempted glass, and finally experimented with lifting the letterbox , an awkward clackety-clack that raised a smile upon his face. As the shape pushed a piece of paper through and onto the mat, his mind turned to consider why such a simple thing might seem humourous. No answer was forthcoming.
His gaze was permitted to fall upon the leaping flames of the fire, red and orange, enclosed by the brass of the guard and the cold marble of the mantle. As time continued to drain away, he rested both beyond its fatal reach and acutely aware of its passing. There was nothing that could be done, no path to be taken, no reason to stir, no meaning. There was merely the constant awareness, both immeasurably distant and achingly near, of the fall into oblivion of each second that passed, a constant flow that none of the many traditional metaphors could truly account for.
Again came a knock upon the door, firmer this time – perhaps the handle of a stick or an umbrella, used to spare the bruises of its wielder. Again the chair gave no answer, its occupant imprisoned within a cell of concepts and propositions. A voice implored entry, announced that it had come (as arranged) to sit by the hearth and bask in his renowned wisdom. Naturally, its pleas received no response.
The fog of his mind itself made some attempt to communicate with him, yet still he could find no response. He pictured a moor, clouded by a thick miasma in shades of grey. Light played in the distance, far beyond the limits of his perception , at times drawing near, at times moving away. On occasion, he could almost reach out to grasp what he sought, yet it would drift beyond his reach once again, propelled by his own uneasy sense of frustration that lay coupled with an acute, niggling awareness of the inevitability of his continued failure.
A shape drifted into the room, and spent an indeterminate amount of time passing a yellow rag over many of the surfaces set within the walls. The shape knew better than to attempt to disturb the chair and its occupant, who barely perceived the occasional hiss of polish or the cyclonic drone of the vacuum cleaner. It was, as always, quite fruitless to attempt to act upon any physical intrusion into the room.
The sunlight was fading now, its constant attempts at intrusion increasingly foiled by the dusty, smeared window. Still he sat, unmoved and unmoving. The intruder departed, dragging after it a bucket and mop, which scraped along with a high-pitched squeal which might have been somewhat painful to hear, had he been able to take any particular level of notice. The door closed behind it, a resigned but quite evidently irritated slam managing to register at some vague, peripheral level.
The evening drew on, and his hand drifted to his cocoa to find the cup empty, unreplenished. He found himself unsure how it came to be that way, yet dimly aware of the inevitability of this situation, one of many ways in which the passage of time had changed his surroundings as he sat. His hand instead found its way to the light switch and, as some part of his mind noted the blanket which seemed to have been conjured upon him, the room fell into darkness.
As his mind began to drift beyond his reality, a different manner of intrusion became ever more obvious. Slipping away, clarity and purpose pounded upon the portal to his soul. This time there were no distractions. Finally, sleep came, and gave release.
The maelstrom of his thoughts and emotions, unleashed as the night closed in around him, flooded into the eye of his sleeping mind. For a while, he conversed with the greatest philosophers, debated with the wisest sages, brought to bear a sure and certain challenge against the paradigm of his world. Thoughts scavenged around the subconscious, seeking in dreams what proved elusive in reality, finding fragments and clues, creating hypotheses which might shatter the brittle glass walls of the reality inhabited by he and all his kind. His deliberations and deductions reached out towards the greatest breakthrough imaginable in the history of thought.
Then it was gone. He was abruptly pulled back to consciousness by the first rays of light through the misted window before him. The clock remained set, its futile attempts at progress thwarted. The veil returned, and the man noted the door close behind some departing figure. A cup of cocoa sat beside the newspaper (a copy of The Guardian, something of a change) that lay on the table by his chair. The blanket was neatly folded at his feet. He settled back and resigned himself to continuing his quest.