Image: © Blanche Darbord
Author: Blanche Darbord
Forty stories. Only forty stories are below him. Really? From here, height falls down into a deep grey pit of concrete. Pedestrians walk below: a sea of people chattering by, waves streaming the sidewalks, indifferent. A little jump would be all it would take to join their carefree lives, albeit from the other side, the blissful side.
It should be so easy. It should be so simple. Just a little jump. A little is all it takes. And then, then his problems will no longer be.
Matthew Grant, old before his age, stares down at the sunlit street. How drastically a life can change with only one small jump, only one step and then the capitulation to gravity, a force no one can escape. How drastically life can end.
His sunken eyes – surrounded by cracked mines, caves of wrinkled worry – stare at the escape route. The escape route from shame, from the agony of a wasted life. Yes, the waste of it is what strikes him the most, choking his savor for life. How could he have been so foolish?
His frame swims in his suit; his white hair shivers in the breeze. Long fingers pry the window open. The air enters, carrying the cars’ tepid smoke. The sunshine hits his face then, his pale, yellow face behind which destiny is being played. Yet, the pieces have been set long ago. It is just a matter of time.
In fact, the first piece was put in place decades ago. It has been a long time. Too long perhaps, or too short. Always too short. Time’s mighty pendulum can strike with its robotic, unvarying beat; Mathew Grant knows that each passing second is never the same, each one of a varying length from the next and all ensuing dongs. How absurd humans are, wanting to measure the immeasurable, control the uncontrollable.
Time can decide to stand still, yet in our happiness it seldom lingers to offer more than a flash, a glimpse. And then, all is gone. All one has aspired to is gone. Gone… How ephemeral is success; how inane is hope.
No, really, jumping is the only option. If only he had had more time… But the books are closed now. Closed on a life’s work whose only recompense is to be dust and oblivion.
A lifetime ago, a young boy had stood at that window, looking up at the sky, contemplating its immensity and wishing to explain the world. Now, the round cheeks of bubbling dreams have been carved away by failures, by callous critics. As vultures, their talons have grasped his flesh, devoured the thick, round letters on manuscripts’ pages.
Over the years, Mathew Grant’s letters have become elongated, sharp on the ends as if to strike the prying eyes that would tear his writing apart; tear it as if it were impersonal, devoid of an author’s sentiments. The ink has run down the pages, the words have become acrimonious, tainted by the sourness of the author’s calligraphy.
And the hungry critics carried on, devouring his works, reducing them to the carcasses of what they were in his mind. The noble stories slouched in shameful defeat, their characters snuffed as their world dissolved into dust.
There is nothing left. Only various, nonsensical words deemed unworthy of honor; only towers of forgotten pages, the leaves shivering from an external breeze.
Strangers have ripped apart the author’s defenses, pecking away at his weary heart. His life was composed of dreams, which he had so laboriously put into words. Nothing remains besides the debris of delusions. Yet, even these are fading away. Inexorably.
His last manuscript has not even been deemed worthy of a reply. Of course, why waste the time to write out another negative response? Why waste the time on a pathetic author whose name will never be remembered? Life is too short for wasted words.
Mathew Grant shivers. His work is neglected, his words wasted. He looks down once more at the ground below. Only forty stories. Simple.
It is cold outside, cold like the presence of old stones.
A scream echoes on the street; a last word is pronounced and smashed on the stained pavement, shattering into wasted shards.
A phone rings within an abandoned apartment.
Dring! Dring! … …
Nobody picks up. The voicemail reverberates on empty walls.
“Good morning Mr. Grant. How are you doing? I have read your manuscript. It has taken me a long time, the writing being so rich. (A pause) Sir, you are a talented writer whose words will prevail long after your death. Let me assure you that it shall be published in no time. Wasn’t I right to tell you to keep writing? I’ve had every faith in you…”
Dong! The message is interrupted by the imposing sound of the clock tower striking the inevitable, passing hours. Twelve strikes. Midday.