Sharp Into Focus
Rodge Glass (Creative Writing: University of Glasgow)
Quite suddenly, Ruth was rejected by her lover, who had fed, clothed and housed her for ten years. She found herself with no money and no home. Still beautiful, but no longer young, she was frightened, alone, betrayed.
It was a Sunday. Ruth was shivering from the cold, she had been doing so for days, and it had been a few more than that since she had eaten a proper meal. She was desperately hungry, her stomach felt like a void. But really she just wanted a glass of water, to splash her throat, which was sticky. A great big glass, of clear, clean water, more like a bowl, that she might need two hands to hold. She refused to beg, though, even to cure her thirst. Ruth tried to shake off the dizziness. It was late; she began to search for somewhere to close by to sleep.
Just then, as she tried to cross the road, she found she was being held back slightly. A piece of thread tugged at her flesh. She peered at it, seeing that it ran right through her stomach and out of the other side. Then, a man appeared in front of her, crouching. He realised the thread went through Ruth, and so walked round her and continued on his way. David was crawling on the pavement, letting thread pass through his fingers.
"What are you doing?" said Ruth, her voice shaking nervously, as she stood on the street, paralysed. "I am following this". David turned, looked up and showed her the tightly woven material, which went off into the distance in one direction, and through Ruth on the other. "It's going to lead me to my true love". She was dripping wet from the rain, miserable, lonely: she fell for him instantly.
Ruth was mesmerised. And she wanted him to be mesmerised too. She stood behind him on 129th Street, and when he started moving, tottered after him. She wondered about the curious material that entered her belly button and exited at the base of her back, and she hoped to attract David's attention. But David pressed on, unperturbed, focussed.
She followed for a long time, holding the white thread delicately between her tiny fingers and hugging the air her companion left behind, warmer when he had just stepped out of it. She tried to keep up with his ferocious pace. Time passed. Sometimes, she opened her eyes and saw her feet trampling in snow, sometimes on clay. Sometimes it was hard to tell which. Yet, she continued to follow, in hope. Every so often they slept for a while, and then rose again to press on to wherever it was. Slept and walked, slept and walked. When they lay down, she tried to nestle up to him, but not once could she catch his eye. David almost ignored her, concentrating entirely on the job in hand. Though she grew weaker with the journey, he did nothing to help, yet she could not bring herself to be angry at him.
The pair became exhausted. Even David's energies seemed to be drying up, though Ruth was much worse, close to collapse. Then, just as things were getting desperate, they came across a fork in the road in front of them. The thread split too, running down both roads. "What shall we do?" he said to Ruth, looking at her blankly. But Ruth was too weak to speak. At that moment, she fell down, feebly reaching for his hand, though he did not manage to catch her. She faded into the ground, into the soil, gone forever. Her hand pointed backwards as she lay there, but he did not notice. He was too busy thinking about which path to take.
"Well then, I must choose on my own" he said. So he did, choosing left, leaving her behind. And then, when the next fork came, choosing left again. David continued to choose the left fork, a hundred, maybe a thousand times; the thread got thinner and thinner, until he could hardly feel it at all. He came to the final fork, and thought he heard Ruth call him from the sky, telling him to turn around. But he took a left turn again, ignoring her, following his instincts. And at the end of that road he found a silver coin, with the word "LOSE" printed on both sides. David's legs buckled beneath him and he fell to the forest floor, arms crumpled underneath. Unable to move, he saw right in front of his eyes a lake, which showed him the mirror of his own petrified face. "You found me", he heard the reflection say.
eSharp issue: autumn 2003. © Rodge Glass 2003. All rights reserved. ISSN 1742-4542.