In the morning, the silent one gathered with the others by the gate, to receive a punishment if there was one to be had and to hear instructions and curses. Throughout the day, the slave repaired the carriage wheels, swept out the stables, and was ever ready to be berated or whipped. When the shadows lengthened, he meditated on the laws and the sawdust and the spikes and wounds and the laughter of the laundress. In the evenings, the stars shimmered above the olives and cypresses as he wandered amongst their cool leaves, whispering to himself and the great world exclusively in gerundives.
The gate which would never be closed would never really open. It was the lone vigil over the nights of the sleepwalkers. A machine of cast iron and wood, it would draw in and drive astray. It would demarcate one fatal day. The dead end into which it leaned, where life assembled itself to rust, gathered the ash of all the dark houses. Though its hinges would not scream of steel, its silence screamed what a tunnel must—that both sides of the threshold only held dust.
It was in the other land on another planet. An island washed by green oceans, with rusted mountains of snowy peaks, ash-gray fields and great mesas of red sand. For a long time, the shadow stared into the sea through the open window. Sometimes, he painted the walls. At other times, he stopped, holding a paint brush or a box with both hands, staring at the window again. The sky and sea called; the wind called. Something infinite was missing. And he almost remembered. The shadow went downstairs and out the door, crunching his way through the gray and red sand. Night was falling. It always seemed to have been falling forever when it fell, and yet distant and impossible when it had not yet fallen. The shadow was barely distinguishable from the darkness now. In the middle of the great field, he began to shovel up the ash and sand until he found his own skeleton. After digging it out, he ran his hands over the bones, brushing off the dust until the skeleton awoke. The skeleton whispered and tried to stand, but was too weak. The shadow carried him on his back. The lights from the house by the shore guided them. I should have brought some dust, the skeleton whispered. Then the world might return. Do not worry, said the shadow. He carried him into the house and up the stairs to the bedroom, laying him on the clean white mattress on the iron-frame bed. A lamp with a broken shade sat on the floor of the almost empty room, pouring too much light onto the ceiling and walls, radiant with their moist new coat of blue paint. It’s like a real sky or a robin’s egg, the happy skeleton exclaimed. The shadow was pleased. What now? the skeleton asked, but the shadow had fallen into a trance again, staring through the window, waiting for something–perhaps the sea, the sky, or only the wind.
It was not a good analogy, but it was the first thing that came to the mind of the worn out teacher leaning over an astronomical globe and atlas with the young girl. There were blackholes and galaxies. There were new stars and there was emptiness. It was like filling, overflowing and draining countless bathtubs of bubbles and sparkling water. The bell rang and the young girl gathered her textbooks and notebooks into her bag, and stepped out into the afternoon. She surveyed the old street with its abandoned buildings, closed shops, automotive garages, empty lots of weeds and rusted cans, and small humming factories. Coffee cream splashes of a dying sun fell on cracks, dust, stains, warped wood, corrugated steel, tarnish, rust and ash. The world really was dirty, she thought. And yet, who could be taking all those baths up there in the night sky where the stars were so clean, shiny and fresh?