On the weight of living, or the end of the sun

Illustration par Emile Parent

01 juillet 2021 — Anaïs Medouni

The milieu was urban and a west wind blew. The atmosphere was thick and hard to breathe. The office was empty: the Assembly was not here today. 

It is said that the Assembly came about at a time unknown to human history, a time of unrecorded chaos or of peace, unrecorded nonetheless. The Assembly had a role to play. Over the hills that drew the horizon west, where the wind originated and came to us in a timely manner, at an unrecorded period of history, they came about in barren land, dried soil. So it was said. Their task was simple: blow the wind, march eastward, make the mills turn. It was said that from the haze of the golden sun they drew out children, and from the children, they drew out a populace. The people of the west wind, west sun, lived over the hills that drew out the western horizon. 

Every day, the sun would rise from a different place, taking on a different course. The only constant was that it never set west. The wind kept it away, deflected its trajectory. The land over the hills must’ve been a cold place. 

The office was empty and the air was thick, like every other day. Warm and humid. The windows were open, allowing the wind to come in and out as it pleased, lightly lifting the almost transparent curtains in its way. Although the place was deserted, the desks showed all signs of being occupied with supplies lying about and papers with writings scribbled all over pinned to the board. The chairs were displaced as if they had been occupied only moments ago, although they were well empty. The air felt heavy of its presence. It replaced the missing bodies, sat at the desks, so very weighty, flowing and alive. The air was body itself, was alive. I sensed it pressing on my every side while I remained in my seat, gazing at what lay in front of me all but too distracted to really see. Everyone had headed out; it was time for me to do the same. I got up, walked over to the long windows lining the office walls to close them, making my way between the rows of desks. Then I headed to the kitchen, tidied up, made sure the cups were clean and dried, made sure there was enough ground coffee for the next day. Once everything had been neatly placed where it belonged, I proceeded to head out. The Assembly will be very pleased, I thought, when they will come the next day. Hopefully, they will. 

In the street, the air was less penetrating than it had been in the office, oddly enough. The sun was a little past its zenith, more than halfway through with its course. It had risen from the East and was gradually heading westward. Nothing quite unusual about it, as it would often do so then later change its course. I proceeded down the street, the hot wind blowing my hair back and plastering my shirt to my chest. I thought I might stop for some flowers, but the shop showed no sign of life. It was open, but the shopkeeper was nowhere to be seen. I called, looked around. Hello? Nothing. He must be out, I thought, he certainly will come back to take care of his shop soon. Hopefully, he will. 

Flowerless but still eager to enjoy the rest of my day, I continued walking around town. An entire afternoon I spent walking. Right turn, then left, three blocks straight ahead then right again. I encountered nobody on my way, only shadows. The air alone kept me company, held me tight although its hold was weakening. Like the arms of the sickly, slowly but surely going lifeless, a withering petal of a soon-to-be breathless corpse, the wind was weakening. Indeed, it felt considerably lighter than it had hours prior. Yes, I had not noticed. When I looked up at the sky, I realized the sun was almost setting. The atmosphere that lay before me had its tints turn reddish, warmer colouring than usual. At this time of the sun’s course, it was to be a deep purple going pitch black. Strange. But the strangest thing of all had to be the sun, which, close to be setting, had still not diverted from its linear course. It kept moving forward, as it was this morning at the peaks of dawn, towards the hills. West, the horizon. What was to happen? At that rate, there was no way for it to significantly change its course. What would the Assembly do? What was there to be done? They would know how to handle this, certainly they would. But the Assembly was not here. I was scared, and agitated. My lungs, accustomed to breathing the thick and slimy air, ached. The atmosphere was too cold, too thin, cutting and slicing through my nose its way into my trachea. Thin, sharp, a dying breath.  

The shadows had grown more numerous and darkened. They were everywhere, not limiting themselves to the pavement any longer but growing three-dimensional, pitch black and taking the shapes of languid creatures. Faceless, but almost human. Their heights and shapes varied, some walked alone while others would go astray from another’s side. Some moved around more swiftly while others barely so much as advanced. I kept moving forward as I was breathless, and panic had taken over me. Pressed from every side, this time I did not feel held but utterly isolated and violated, almost, menaced at the very least. Who could I turn to, what was I to do? I started thinking about the Assembly, because who else could I think of? My fate had been most atrocious. I had been abandoned and, loneliness, a sword unsheathed, had cut through my flesh and soul mercilessly in the hands of the Master Time. And at the tip of its blade I bled and I bled.  

This town has been deserted for so long and I paid it no mind, I thought the wind and the air were enough company, as if their warmth could mimic that of real beings of body. And it did, for mimicking was the only thing it could do while the shadows grew bigger and darker and I waited and waited. An hour or a century had it been, that I could not tell, since the Assembly had left, leaving for me but a longing feeling, of hope and of despair, that they would someday return. An hour or a century had it been since the barren land over the hills westward had flourished, since the Assembly had drawn out children from the golden haze of the sun and from those children they had drawn out a populace. An hour, a century or a thousand had it been since the shadows have been roaming, since I have been grinding the coffee for no one to drink, since the flower shop had been left for good. The flowers were long gone; only dust remained, and it had been swept away by the unaltered, unfazed wind till there was nothing left. 

 A thousand years had it been since there was no one left and nothing left but me, and I was lonely. I headed home. 

The one thing that struck me when I entered my apartment was the extreme lightness of the air. Mundane acts, weightless in the grand scheme of the day and gone in an instant, carried by the wind bore such depth, such a meaningful flux which coursed and pierced right through my very being. Like the roots of an ancient tree, running deeper and deeper in the steep and dark soil, the air at that moment came to flow through my veins the way thick and rich sap runs through the tree. Anchored, I felt, and so very light, alive. As I peeled a tangerine I had picked from a bowl nearby, I looked out the window. Over the peaks of the urban structures, deserted roofs and isolated trees rising in between the narrow streets, the sun set over the hills today, farther west, like it had never done before. The hills remained unchanging, unwavering as they always were. A scarlet red glow came to light them as their outline met that of the sun. Soon enough, it came to spread, pouring down the hills, glistening and its colour deep as ever. Blood. The sun was merging, emptying itself.  

The milieu was urban. The sky shone a pink and red gradient, clouds passing by scarcely. The air was still, thin, unmoving. I could not feel it on my skin. The streets and blocks displayed a red façade, too. 

I took a seat and ate my tangerine. With great care, I savoured each quarter, pulled it apart from its likes, brought it to my mouth and felt its sweetness, soft and tangy, fill it. I had nothing left to do. 

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