The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Waves

Mirror on the Wall

Lilya CorneliAs they walk through the entrance of the apartment, the wide mirror on the left of the doorway reflects their image: Julian and his elegant wife Sarah, coming home from a late evening in town. On the opposite side he recognises the Toulouse Lautrec, as Sarah walks in and drops her cape on the back of a leather chair. He touches a switch and the side lighting comes to life, so soft it reveals the features of the apartment only slowly, as if reluctantly.

Everything is so familiar, shrouded in the comfort of an intimate space: their space. A thought filters through his mind: he knows this place, he knows where everything is, the furniture they chose, the art they collected, and yet it is not their home. He walks to the bar, next to the long balcony, and mixes two martinis. Sarah is at the concert piano, facing the large bay window, and has started playing. To his left he sees their bedroom door, and he knows what the room looks like, the queen-size bed, the portrait above it.

He walks to the piano and sets Sarah’s glass on a low table next to her seat. She offers a radiant smile back at him: she’s never been so striking, and he so much in love. A melody of Schubert fills the air. Now, he opens the balcony double door: it is late and the city’s sounds reach him, muffled. The Berlin night is cool and full of the promises of youth. But he, Julian, feels ancient, as ancient as the steps to the Dom. There are few revellers left on the square but the lights are still on. The Deutscher Dom seems to shine in the moonlight, as a reminder of past glories. Clouds briefly mask the moon. But can it be be right: the geometry is improbable, the Dom is at the other end of Gendarmenmarkt…

He walks out to the balcony: mementoes of their lives are everywhere, photographs, paintings they bought all over the world. “They”? Julian feels now deeply troubled, as if he had intruded into someone’s life, someone he may have known, perhaps intimately, in another time. There is a photo of two women, one, older, wearing a pair of old-fashion spectacles, a teacher sort of character, with a benevolent look on her peaceful face. He should remember their names, the names of the two women on the picture. The younger woman is red-haired with sensual lips, and she seems to be looking straight at him. Her sight feels painful to Julian. Julian looks down to the street: Jägerstraße runs past the Französicher Dom, and across Friedrichstraße. He knows the geography of the city so well.

Through the bay window, he sees his wife playing, her face now partly hidden by a statue that stands in front of the piano: a replica of the wounded gladiator. Slowly, he walks along the balcony to the other end. On a low table stand more pictures, and a vase full of fresh carnations. He sees a photo of two women dancing: here on this balcony, where he stands. This time he recognises them: Sarah and his sister Jane. A younger Jane, perhaps even before she became a fashion star.

His unease grows, and as he turns round to walk back to the lounge, he senses a figure standing near the door: a tall hooded shape. He can no longer hear Schubert, but instead, the low murmur of small waves running ashore.  The shape fades into nothingness, he walks back through the door. Although he cannot hear the notes, his wife is still playing. The lights in the lounge appear dimmer. Sarah turns round towards him: she’s not Sarah. Julian sees a woman face with features he thinks he recognises: the jet-black hair, the blue on blue pupils. Helga is looking at him, unsmiling, perhaps even a little threatening.

Julian feels a small tremor. The image dissolves.

Melissa is sitting on the floor of the studio, looking at old pictures. The notes of Schubert float through the calm air of the Eylauer straße. He is lying on the couch, and must have fallen asleep. Melissa looks at him, and blows a kiss. “Now you’re awake, I’ll start cooking,” she says with a teasing smile.

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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.

So vast is the Universe

Elga There is a bright wood fire on the beach with low seats around it. We make ourselves comfortable and listen to Elga. We can hear the sound of the waves and the crackling of the fire: I feel time moving extremely slowly and wonder once again at the science who brought us together here. Elga says:

“Let me explain first some of the things you need to know about us beyond what Gabrielle has already told you. Like you we are individuals organised in societies. Since we have been science-based – I think this is the right description –  for much longer than you have, we started contributing – perhaps the right word is influencing – our evolution a long time ago, say, back several tens of thousands of your millennia. We now live in collectives, what you would possibly call covens, although as individuals we still have autonomy. For example Gabrielle – not one but a cluster of us – is nearly on her own in your world, but all of us can follow and are aware of her actions and interactions on Earth. This way of life has led us early to take an interest in other societies and other intelligent species.” As Elga speaks I observe my companions: Sarah and Jane are listening intensely, Melissa’s looking at Sarah, smiling. Gabrielle appears deep in thought, eyes closed behind her thick glasses, and I guess she may be communicating with others in the coven.

“So it was, continues Elga, that some of us became specialised in space exploration. By this I mean not only geographical space exploration, but also the physics of space time, and the complex engineering techniques that eventually led us to what we can now achieve: near instantaneous transportation. We made many mistakes at the beginning: we lost people in ill-planned premature adventures, we got frustrated at not meeting anyone “out-there”, a feeling that some of your own scientists know well. After several millennia we understood that time was the issue: intelligent life is plentiful in the universe, but synchronicity – the wide enough overlap between two civilisations to permit communication and meaningful exchange is only a small probability. Again some Earth scientists have come to that conclusion too, but the consequences have not been drawn yet. So the project was born, and we called it the Search… We had to acquire the ability to travel through the entire space time continuum in order to meet others. At that point we influenced our biology again, and this led us to virtual immortality, although we no longer see it that way. This allowed us to colonise our own galaxy over about three millions of your years, and took us to yours, the Milky Way. Relatively recently we came to your world, to Earth. Sol and her system was noted for its relative friendliness to intelligent life. So when you finally appeared, we were not that surprised.” Elga paused, as she and Gabrielle appeared to be both somewhat absent. Minutes passed. Then Gabrielle appears to wake up. And Elga resumes her story: “The project has several aims, the most important is to support and observe – as innocuously as possible – civilisations with good prospects for lifespan. By this we mean societies that are capable of technological and scientific development with low risks, or manageable risks, of ruining their environment or sinking in warfare, and thus are probable candidates for some synchronicity. Another is the protection of our own species and our allies’ against any malevolent species that could become a danger to advanced intelligence, the “high risks” cases. There is third one, which is to prospect for past civilisations that may have perished, and research the reasons for their disappearance, what you would call cosmic archeology.” I am looking at Elga and she is looking at me, a direct gaze that signals to me that she, or “they”, is searching my mind. “I understand, I say, what you meant by “special roles”… You meant that we are to help you, maybe provide evidence, for the Search to assess whether we are in that category of potential risk to you…” There is another pause. Sarah and Jane are now looking towards me, and so is Melissa. Elga appears to be thinking, her classical face suddenly showing a range of feelings. It is Gabrielle who answers me: “Yes, Julian, you are witnesses, and also part of the evidence we need”.

A view from afar

Mesmerized I know we are now far away from our world: I say “we” because I can see Sarah and Melissa standing a few steps from me, looking up at the sky. There is a structure, and I am guessing we are inside it: it is enormous, and as I try to trace its shape I am beginning to see that we must be inside the pyramid Gabrielle showed me a few weeks past, when I was at her place. Outside is the infinite blackness of space, alien stars glitter, bright and silent, I know that this is not our galaxy: it must be Andromeda, Gabrielle’s home.

I turn towards my lovers: they are so beautiful, talking in low voices and looking at me. I get closer to them, Melissa smiles at me, a hand on Sarah’s shoulder. “Gabrielle has asked we wait here for  little while. She will be with us shortly.” Her voice reaches me clear as crystal and as she speaks I realise how incredible is our presence here, if we are really here.

The apex of the pyramid must be several kilometres high above us. The immense structure appears to be stationary, at least relative to the stars we can see. The gravity is evidently identical to what we know on earth. Sarah must be reading my mind, as she says: “This station is kept as a historical relic, and also to welcome visitors such as us. The nearest planet is visible only when the station comes nearer to its orbit, but this happens only once every ten of our years”. I assume Sarah has learnt these facts from Melissa. Soon I am aware of another presence: Gabrielle has joined us and is walking towards us. “Thanks for waiting for me”, she says with a gracious smile, “Have you found the trip comfortable?” she asks mischievously. “We guessed the teleport must be close to the statue of the saint”, says Sarah, “it’s just instantaneous isn’t it?” “Not quite”, replies our teacher, “you lost a few milliseconds, partly due to the very cautious way we have engineered the teleport”. I see more mischief in Gabrielle’s eyes, and I reflect that if this is an illusion it is just perfectly designed. Gabrielle signals us to follow her and the four of us start walking in the direction of a small platform that seems to have materialised in front of us. “You are going to meet a friend of mine” Gabrielle says in a calm voice. “In your terms I would call her the head of my faculty” she adds addressing herself to Sarah. I am thinking of what Gabrielle could mean by “faculty”. Is this a reference to her historical studies? Or does she mean the faculty of galactic colonisation?

Soon the four of us stand on the platform. Gabrielle has conjured up a little crystalline sphere which hovers a few meters above us and appears to be communicating with it. After a few minutes she says: “Elga will appear to you in the shape she is most comfortable with talking to beings such as you. Her mastery of your language is not perfect, and you may have to be a little patient when she thinks between sentences…” I am aware of the little tension rising in the three of us, even Melissa. Sarah looks at me and sighs. Who’s Elga?

We are waiting silently. Gabrielle is immobile, surrounded by a pale halo around her very human silhouette. Then the light is suddenly dimmer around us, and what resembles the sound of waves can be heard, faint but vivid. I can now see a beach: the waters are dark violet with beautiful strikes of gold, the small waves licking the soft sand: the four of us are now standing on the beach, and it must be evening tide. I look up and see three moons, high above the dunes. As I turn back towards Gabrielle I see her:  a tall woman standing at the water edge, red-skinned and black hair falling in cascades over her beautiful shoulders, who is wearing a white toga. “I am Elga, and I am honoured by your visit” says the stranger in a melodious voice. “I hope Gabrielle has explained that I am not totally fluent in your language”. The three of us are stunned, me by Elga’s beauty and the strangeness of her apparition. I reflect that we must have teleported again, this time to Elga’s place. Gabrielle is nowhere to be seen. Sarah, calm and smiling, is introducing the three of us, describing who we are and how we are related, expressing our pleasure to meet Elga. I am watching, paralysed, as Elga hugs the other two and turns to me: “Gabrielle has told me about the three of you. I was eager to meet you, and tell you how important it is now for you to help my friend in her work. What Gabrielle has started, her project as you would say, is important for both our people.” Elga holds me looking straight at me: “And you Julian have a special role, you and Melissa, and of course Sarah your companion, have special roles in the project.” We start walking along the beach. The little waves are fringed with silver. Gabrielle is back with us and walking next to Elga.

Then Elga tells us about the project.

Her World

two-facesIn her world there is no real peace, only the struggle for awareness, her refusal to fall back into nothingness, into the total darkness which is worse than dying, the obliteration of her soul.

She does not mean harm to any of them, neither to the girl Jane – ah! how Jane reminds her of herself, the young Melissa, no longer the child, and yet for most, a full woman, but she knew how little of that was true – nor to Julian, whose boyhood she had sought to protect, against himself, against the jealous others, and, maybe, though she would not have admitted it at the time, against herself, her smothering love.

Nor does she wish any harm to the woman, to the woman Sarah, who owns Julian, who dominates his life, the guardian of his body, and of his soul. But she knows: Sarah is the enemy, perhaps a reincarnation of the girl she once saw, walking next to Julian, once, and, yes, how painful that memory is, even now… And how sharp was the pain of jealousy when she saw them. She said nothing, but wears the deep open wound in her heart.

What she hopes, is to see him, to see his face, to tell him, perhaps, in her own words, that she has forgiven, that if, for her, time stopped then, as he stepped out of her life, she understands that his life is his. Could he make a little place for her, for the wraith that used to be Melissa? She does not need much space, she lives in between, in the unreality of her memories – and his.

She does not know how to achieve this. Finding him took so much pain, a journey she could not describe, only evoke in fragments, pictures she somehow rescued from the wreckage, and things she finds on those waves that Julian appears keen to surf…

Chi… this is what she has to do, try again to attract him there, perhaps early morning, before its beaches are invaded by the young people who love its sand, their beautiful bodies, and the waves… The girl Jane will help her…

Wax VanitasJulian ~ I am still very affected by what we saw on Melissa’s page, despite Sarah’s continuing doubts about its authenticity. Can it be an hoax? Is there even any correlation at all between the page and Jane’s encounter on the island, or just a weird coincidence? I am confused, but the one thing I do not doubt is Melissa’s death, so long ago. Worse still is the fact that memories I had wanted buried for ever in the deepest cellars of my mind, have come back to me, intact, in the sombre colours of nightmares. The years when Melissa and I walked those streets, in the old town, are happy years for me, at least by comparison with what followed: that time of loneliness and horror I wanted to forget for ever.

Yet, some of the posts on the page are incorrect. I did notice some errors of names  of streets or buildings, and some photographs have just been lifted from current sites on the web. For example the picture of Chi is not original work, such as the screenshots Jane took, but an existing view from one of the Second Life web sites. Other material is manifestly genuine, including the pictures of me and my class. So it may well be that someone – someone alive now, who may have known Melissa, has in some way got possession of some of her photographs and of her biography, and constructed that page. But for what purpose, and why attracting my attention to it?

Could it be some relation? I cannot recall if Melissa had siblings. Some facts have escaped my memories completely. But others are clearly engraved, as if it was yesterday…

So I am counterattacking, determined not to let myself be depressed: I am exercising ferociously, have cut down on booze, and I am running ten kilometres twice a week. Jane calls frequently, making sure I am not hiding in my corner, and also to chat with Sarah.

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