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… You don’t understand the depth of my love. Love, you see, has little to do with the one being loved, and everything to do with the one who loves.It does not matter who or what you are, it does not change my love for you, and nothing is likely to make me stop loving you, just as you are.It is my constant companion, bearer of my pain and solitude, its source and salvation, all in one.

From The Book of Unfinished Stories

©aother

Art by Aubrey Beardsley

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The Collector of Silences

She took fragments of silence and patched them into a soft cloak in which to wrap herself. She collected the quiet moments, some with a tiny flutter of butterfly wings woven into it, others pure, pristine, like a canvas for thoughts; collected them quietly.

There was the silence between musical notes, and the silence that linked gusts of wind, there was the silence that resided in echoes, the magical silence of flowers before they are touched by the sun, and the most beautiful silence of all – the silence between breaths.

It was her secret. These fragments were precious to her alone. How can you show silence to someone?

It wasn’t always an easy task. A silence would begin, and she would start to imagine its continuation, sometimes even its precise place in the web, and then a sound would tear the delicate fabric, and she would have to throw it away.

In time she learned to gauge the danger, the possibility of this happening, and would snap the moment just before a disruption. This sophistication called for a touch of cruelty, and it always hurt her to break off a morsel of silence, to pare it away before its time. It was almost like wrenching a pearl from its vulnerable bed, but when she pondered it later, free from distraction, its silence exposed… it was beautiful.

Soon she was able to refine the silence almost perfectly, and her quest became harder and harder. Not even the slightest breath could mar the fragments of silence she sought, not a hint of a whisper, and no, not even a butterfly’s touch.

Wherever she was, whatever she did, she was constantly alert. Listening. And she knew the silence was there, in the deluge of sound, in the cracks… silence.

©aother

Art: Painting by Khosro Berahmandi

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The television set hissed nervously. She turned her head and noticed the Black Spot for the first time.  It was sitting there on her pale satin cushion. She tried not to look at it but finally, with hesitation, she extended her hand towards it. She felt the cool surface of the fabric. Nothing more. It had vanished. Turning back to the television set, she switched her mind off.

She woke up in the dark. The meagre light seeping through the blinds seemed dirty. It was one of those horrible mornings when the night lingers on, trailing behind it the soiled veil of suffering. She stretched painfully, her thin arms yellow in the reluctant light of the dawn. On her left palm she noticed a net of opal veins, tiny streams labouring towards the fingernails. With a sigh, she sat up and her glance fell on the worn rug by the bed. The Black Spot was balancing on the edge. Carefully avoiding stepping on it, she shuffled to the bathroom and stared into the mirror for a long time, seeking consolation.

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Outside, the park was empty at this hour. She had the choice of fairly clean benches. The hard wood seemed uninviting though, and she slowly lowered herself onto a crispy pile of autumn leaves. The aroma of wet grass enveloped her and the mist rose around her. She opened her book and allowed the letters a moment to arrange themselves into sentences, her mind ready to discern their meaning. The dot over the ‘i’ looked out of proportion and in panic her mind got all entangled. She closed her eyes and fell into the leafy carpet.

In the phone booth, she searched impatiently for a coin. Her purse seemed bottomless and filled with completely useless objects. Finally she felt the tiny metal disc and pulled it out carefully. There was dust under her fingernails.

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They met in the Café. They sat there trying not to give in to the impersonal atmosphere. Their poses suggested nonchalant complacency with only the occasional flutter of strained muscles betraying them. She threaded words carefully at first; then letting them form their own pattern, she listened to the sound of her voice.

The hot liquid in her throat, the hum of voices, the friendly person sitting opposite her, all this made her feel warm, safe, even though she was aware of the superficiality of the situation. The tiny speck on the napkin changed shape just as she was lifting it to her lips. With resignation she placed it back on the table and looked a the Black Spot. Then they paid and left.

Until now, the Black Spot had been appearing unexpectedly, surprising her. She could still ignore it, change her frame of mind, close her eyes, laugh aloud. She woke up innocently, wandered through the rooms lightly, sat in her chair with a familiar stoop. She lived her life. But recently the long corridors of her castle looked ominous, the half-closed doors frightened her, and the white walls had dust on them. Were there flies in winter?

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She was washing her long dresses in the bathtub, watching her reddened hands part the soapy water and disappear under the lather. The Black Spot was sitting in the soap dish, and every time she bent down to dip in the wash, her face would come very close to it.

In the kitchen the floor tiles were ornamented with a net of cracks. When she squinted her eyes, she could imagine it was a design. She lit a match and blue gas drew a ring of flame around the kettle. The warm smell of bread brought back memories that shielded her. They caressed her eyelids, and sometimes brought tears.

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She went about without looking. If she did, she would see it. She knew. Sometimes she wouldn’t light the lamps, watching the evening draw out the colours, uncovering the black background of sight. Or she would bring out the old chandeliers and light them all, with the flames reflected in her eyes. It took a long time and tired her to brighten up all the rooms. The vibrating light from the candles filled her head. Half-blinded, she opened her eyes wide, knowing it would not be there. She still had the strength to fight.

When the brightness tired her, she went out. She dressed warmly, the big scarf hiding most of her face. Someone bumped into her and she suddenly became aware of her body. Folding her arms on her chest, she turned into the familiar street.

The doorbell rang somewhere inside the house and for a moment she regretted coming here. The Black Spot was palpitating near her left foot and with a dose of relief she saw the door open.

It was difficult to talk. She had hoped that her diffused eyes and nervous hands would speak for her, but the faces just stared back at her, meaningless morals cascading from their mouths. She wanted to cry, to put her head on a warm back and just cry in peace. But the backs that turned on her were rigid and awkward. Some she even wanted to console but suddenly felt tired, and wrapping the scarf around her, walked out and closed the door.

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The Black Spot hid under the dry leaves, glided in the wind, tripped her footsteps. She tried catching it, but her hands fluttered feebly and something resembling anger rose up in her throat.

When she woke up it had spread over the walls. They were oppressive, ready to crush her. In the bathroom she gave up taking a shower. The Black Spot hovering near the drain made her nauseous. The blue flame in the kitchen gave off no heat and the tea was tasteless.

Standing on the balcony, she followed the dark clouds with tired eyes. Her hair slapped against her cheeks, loose strands getting entangled in her earrings. It was bitterly cold and she relished the sensation, allowing the shivers to rack her body. The Black Spot, wrapped around the doorknob, waited for her in the hallway. She could not see past it, and her foot found no ground.  With a mixture of fear and curiosity, she stepped in.

©aother 2012

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Art by Piotr Lichwierowicz