The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Month: March, 2013

A Moon-lit Dune

Aurès I rarely think of those years, what Melissa calls my “lost years”.  Those times are immersed in a dusty landscape, tainted ochre like the small walls hiding death, a place where I missed her more than life, and my days were a long, uninterrupted, bloody nightmare.  Behind me then were the golden years of a happy childhood, her love, her hand in mine, the little town with the old library, and its staircase.  In front, around me, everywhere, was war.  Not the neat little war of cavalry charges: the dirty war of the djebel, where friends were foes, where death struck in the shape of a small child, where women were fighting, got butchered, dismembered, like the rest of us.  At night we – the leopards –  talked of girls, and homes, of all the memories we were fast losing, of our disappearing childhood.  In winter we crawled in the snow, in the sand tainted by the blood of our comrades.  We fought with knives, with rocks, with the deadly hand-grenades that sometimes “they” threw back at us, smiling of the devilish smile of the victors.

But those memories are deep buried, and I want to keep them buried.  I remember more about the “return” to civilian life, the despair, the chaos, and then the orgies.  For a while we met at our vet association, but leopards age badly. Many of us took to drink and worse.  I did not.  After a while I decided for myself that life was, after all, worth living. And I forgot her, Melissa.  In time I made money, and met you, my love.  There is no shadow anymore, just the neat certainty of a  happy life and marriage, writing, the mountains, and my sister.

But last night I dreamed of the dune.  It may have been just looking at the night sky too much the evening before.  It came back to me with invincible clarity.  It was a month or so before we left: the last operation in the Aurès.  My patrol had got separated from the main group.  The enemy was nearby, silent, deadly.  The night was clear, icy, and the moon was full.  I told my men to stop and I moved alone towards the top of the hill to take a position (no sat-nav in those days!) The hill was crowned with a sand and rocks dune, and it was lit by the moon that gave it a silver hue.  Silently I climbed to the edge, and in one fraction of second I saw her: she was lying flat against a small rock, her sniper rifle steady aimed at me. Her blond hair was bound under the small cap, reflecting the moon light.  I knew I was dead meat: I kept still, waiting for the bullet.  Nothing happened, she did not move, or at least I did not see her moving.  I closed my eyes: death could not be that easy. But then, she was gone: the blond warrior had disappeared.  I took the position with the little sextant and went back to the men.  “You took your time sergeant, we were beginning to worry”.  I smiled. I had seen Death, and She had spared me.

As I woke up this morning I could still see the lying shape, the dark green uniform, the moon light, the dark barrel of that rifle…  So long ago: where is that woman now?  Did she, like me, survived the war?  I have no idea why this came back to me now.  I did not say anything to Sarah, got up, and went to my desk.  Memories are strange constructs, with a life of their own, independent from us.  I know what they say about synapses and the complexity of the brain.  In the peace of my study, as I type these words, I am thinking of Elga, and of what Sarah told me about her: that she is a collective mind, an association of perhaps millions of individuals who pool their thoughts.  Is this our future too?  And is Melissa part of them?  Is this the message of my dream: we have been spared, but the way forward is to belong, to surrender our individual being, to mesh?  Those thoughts trouble me: is Melissa showing us the way, the abolition of death, the abandonment of homo sapiens for something else, as distant from him as he was from the Neanderthals?

I leave these thoughts to concentrate on the letter to my publisher: the first draft is nearly completed, perhaps in a couple of months I will ask my editor to proceed.  She’s very busy – and very competent – and I have to give her due notice.  And I would like Sarah to read through too.  She has read abstracts, she likes this version.  Yesterday she told me about Shikoku, Kafka, and Shimamoto, the eighty eight temples…  The shore… a moon-lit shore?

The phone rings, it’s Jane, she’s coming to dinner and she’s bringing the wine.  Sarah picks up the upstairs handset.  I leave the two of them chatting away.  As I said, I am a lucky man.  I finish my letter and mail it.  Then I pick up where I left last night in the novel: Susan is now Paul’s lover, the two of them have crossed the border…

Les leopards

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A Perfect Thread

Destiny So their destiny, thread by thread, unravels: the studious alien, the old flame reborn young, the passionate sister, the beautiful wife, and the writer, bounded by the century of his birth, submerged in his memories.  Of all of them only Jane, Julian’s “lil sis”, has suspicions, not of her friends, not of her brother, but of herself.  Has she contributed to her brother’s buying Melissa’s story stock and barrel?  Yet she, Jane, and Sarah, are living the perfect adventure, and, yes, Melissa, old-style, statuesque, her big eyes fixed on the future, her full lips half-open, adds something indispensable to their love.  So the five of them live in three magic triangles, an alchemy of illusions, and perhaps, still, appearances: Julian – Sarah – Jane, husband and wife, and two lovers, Sarah – Jane – Melissa, three lovers, Gabrielle – Melissa – Jane, a fragile alliance.  Jane knows that Elga – the ultimate mistress of their destinies – observes, her collective awareness surrounding every second of their lives, and more in-between.  For Jane knows that the Coven exists, despite doubting that it exists anywhere but on Earth: she has her own interpretation, which she has so far not shared with anyone other than Sarah.  Sarah does not want to disrupt Julian’s dream, events, she thinks, will do that in due time, there is no need to precipitate a crisis.

So, Julian writes his book, meets his editor, writes to his publisher.  He plans to finish in the autumn and then go on a long holiday, with his wife.  He wakes before dawn and starts working.  Despite the atrocious weather that Spring, he is getting fitter.  Sarah looks at her man with pride and some gentle irony.  Being Jane’s lover has made her closer to him: she now sees his true nature, through Jane’s absolute femaleness she sees her husband machismo as through a prism: two beautiful souls she is lucky to love and be loved by in return.  Besides, Jane is totally devoted to her brother, for her, loving his wife is a way to give herself to him… Sarah’s business is thriving, her gift for subtle mathematics, in this age of markets dislocation, has placed her top of the pack – and she knows how to take advantage of the incompetence of the “specialists”.  She agrees with Julian about the holiday. Once the book is out there they will go away.  The only question in her mind is about Jane.  The logistics of the three of them going away together is of course problematic…  As for the destination, she has already decided: they will visit Japan, and specifically Shikoku, the island of the 88 temples.  There, in Tokushima, they will pay their respect to Kafka, and walk, hand in hand, on the shore.  Sarah would like to have Jane with them then: South of the Border, West of the Sun.

Sarah has no secret for Melissa, who reads her friend as an open book.  Melissa knows of Sarah’s and Jane’s love, and shares their most intimate moments.  Her only goal is to protect Julian, to ensure he is not hurt, and, in that, she and Sarah are allies.  At present she is waiting from Gabrielle a sign that she can meet Elga.  Elga, the collective mind who appeared as the beautiful red-skin, dark-haired woman to Sarah and Julian, appreciates Melissa’s attention to detail, seriousness and timeliness.  Melissa has worked hard, under Gabrielle’s supervision, to learn and understand the Coven’s rules of engagement.  Later she is expected to teach the same to her friends, a task she is uniquely qualified to undertake.  Melissa knows the meteorite that fell in the lake in the Urals was no accident: the myriads of small probes released by the explosion, have by now collected a mass of information on Gaia’s atmosphere, her evolving weather patterns, her changing temperature, as well as an astonishing archive of telecommunication across the small world.  As a consequence Elga is well armed, and the Coven’s decision, when it comes, will be founded on scientific evidence.  In the little old house where her body rests in its human form, Melissa sleeps, dreams, and converses with her own kind, under the benevolent protection of her teacher, Gabrielle.

Voyager

Voyager 1: message I am reconciled: what Melissa told me is the plain truth, and those facts I cannot comprehend will be, one day, clarified.  Sarah is very apt at clarifying the mysteries of life for me, and so is my beloved sister, Jane.  So it is that I won’t go back to the little town soon, unless Sarah insists, rather we will wait for beautiful Elga to contact us.  As she said herself, Melissa is our “mediator”, the one who knows how to communicate with them, and the coven.

There is another change, and I am aware of being happier about it: Sarah appears to be less “into” the other two women in my life, and closer again to me.  Not that she went away, far from it.  Simply I notice Jane’s scent a little less often in our house, and, well, my wife is now friendlier than ever.  It’s not that I don’t like my sister’s visits: I never have enough of Jane… I hear you smile: but this is true, I felt for a while neglected, or at least not loved as I deserved!   Sarah said it was all in my mind, there had been no change, and Jane and her have always been close.  I accept that.  So last Saturday we went to Coven Garden and watched Tosca.  We both love Puccini, and for me he is the absolute artist, the essence of Italian opera, the successor of Verdi.  For a few hours we forgot about the stars and doomed mankind, and worried only for Tosca.

Since I met Melissa at Foyles I have been busy, going back to my writing, more engaged now with my publisher who was about to despair. The book is doing well, and I hope to have a first draft for my editor next month.  Sarah has commented positively, in marked difference from her view a year ago when she said she disliked both the plot and the way I had set the characters.  Jane has promised to comment too. I have also returned to my routine, gym and running, that was interrupted that day when I walked in the Apple store.  Only six months have gone, but what events!

The three of us have agreed to wait until we can talk with Elga again before taking any initiative.  Nonetheless we know what our roles may be: Jane has access to the fashion channels and some of the magazines in her business with influence here and the US, but also Japan, Russia, India and China.  Sarah has the market contacts to push some articles in the financial press.  As a reasonably successful writer, I will probably be in a position to talk to the “intelligent” press and TV.  Today we heard the news of Voyager 1 leaving the edge of the solar system.  We were moved by the news: the small spacecraft may never get much further, but it is a historical moment.

An enchanted circle

Bene Tleilax My sister’s letter precipitated events. Through Sarah – evidently my only way to her – I contacted Melissa. Finally we met, not in the old house, not in a dream, not on Andromeda: more practically at the coffee shop at Foyle’s bookshop on Charing Cross Road.

Jane is right: my friend is perfect, not a blemish, all sober clothes and a smile which is still troubling, and incredibly seductive. What a beautiful woman Melissa is. Jane’s confession has left me in a state of jealousy: the women in my life are all good buddies, and more, and I feel bypassed. I told Melissa how I felt. We drank delicious coffee, looked at each other, and I remembered our first contact, her page, her meeting with Jane: was this reality? Nothing could be more real than us, talking, looking at the passersby in the street, here in London. She smiled and suddenly I wondered, and I asked her, since I could no longer hide my doubts. “Are you real? Or are you an artefact they – whoever they are – have created to confuse us?”

There was a pause. She was observing me, then took my hand: hers was warm, and I felt the contact of her hand as it was before, in the little town: a strong woman’s hand, the hand of a lover. “No, she said,” her smile now a sad reflection of what it had been a minute ago, “there is no artefact, I have just been lucky to meet Gabrielle”. And she added: “and I thought you were too…” I felt ashamed, and took her other hand, and replied: “Please pardon me, it has all been a lot to absorb. Since we met Elga I have felt overwhelmed. Then Jane told me about the two of you, and I felt encircled. The three of you, Sarah, Jane and you, Melissa, get on well, and I should be happy to have you as my friend.” Slowly Melissa came closer and kissed me, a light kiss on the forehead. “I know Julian. You should stop worrying. I am not here to intrude on your family. And I am no alien object. I am of flesh and blood. Your sister and me are very close, and we both adore you.” I thought of this enchanted circle: the beautiful wife, the loving sister, and the long-lost friend. The subject of a love story. I smiled to Melissa: “Thank you: I used to be a troubled young man, and now I am a just as troubled old one!” We laughed – the green eyes were probing me. Through Melissa’s gaze I felt many eyes were on me. I remembered the story – in Dune – of the Tleilaxu magicians who replaced Duncan Idaho’s lost eyes.

Then Melissa asked: “Did Jane tell you that Elga would be visiting us soon?” I replied she had. And I was wondering if Elga would appear to us as she did when we met on her planet. “Yes, said Melissa, Elga is as you met her: a beautiful woman, and an academic.”

I could hear the sound of waves rolling on the thin grey sand under a violet sky and three moons.

Dear, so dear brother… (sisterly #love)

Jane I am ever so pleased to see you Julian: you look well, you have left behind the worried eyebrows you wore for some time. I know Melissa and you are reconciled. I can tell from your look and hers. And I know what you think: she’s perfect isn’t she? She’s no ghost from the past that young woman, but someone who cares for you, who admires your work, who follows your progress. She reads what you write, she’s made comments on her page: have you visited her page Julian? She’d follow you everywhere if you were alone. I’m smiling as I say this. She cannot and would not compete with Sarah: they also love each other very much… But I know you know that too.

I now think that the past matters very little. Yes of course you have your memories: but you live in the present, don’t you? At best those images – for that is what they are – are a mere backdrop, perhaps material for your writing, an inspiration for some short story, or maybe even your next novel… Your life is now. Sarah says what you learnt from Gabrielle and Elga has made you think again. I am glad. Hopefully this will find its way in your writing too: not a remembrance of things past, but our futures, our future, yours, Sarah’s, Melissa’s and mine. I feel that we are now inseparable. You know that Melissa and I are lovers. Looking back at our first meeting on Chi, it was inevitable. She cannot love you as she no doubt wanted, so there is me, your sister (I sense your puzzlement). This way she won’t trouble you. And I must say, I don’t regret anything: she’s a wonderful companion, she loves Sarah, and, yes, she still think of you as the unattainable young man she, or whoever preceded her, knew long ago.

But let’s not stir the nostalgia: we enjoy our relationship, Melissa and me, and we love you deeply, brother. Melissa says that Elga was impressed by Sarah and you, the way you listened. I understand that she – Melissa – and Elga are often corresponding. She also said that to understand the science the coven has at their disposal, you need to think of nanotechnology, the art of molecule-level engineering. They are working at the pico level, a millionth time smaller in scale, making engines from particles, building new assemblies with those electrons and pions our physicists are still struggling with. You know the recent asteroid, the one that crashed in the Urals breaking a lot of glass? Melissa said that, while she could not be sure, she thought the coven uses asteroids to spread planets with small “observers”, tiny recording devices that feed back all sorts of measurements, not only in the visible light spectrum, to their labs… Amazing isn’t it? I can see that Melissa admires them, with reason. By the way, Elga will pay a visit here soon. Mel will let us know when and where. I love you.

Your sister, Jane.