The Stone: Part One.

by | Sep 24, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The tide was out and it was on top, not that it could tell.

It’s so cramped here, it thought, because it could think. Sometimes it was on the surface, but mostly it was buried beneath hundreds or even thousands of its peers.

It could perceive that, even though every sense was absent, something of which it often thought. Yes, it could think, it had a consciousness.

Sometimes a curse, others tolerable.

Using this sensibility, the stone was able to recall every incarnation, using each one as a template for it’s current situation. For example, now, deep in the accumulation of fellow pebbles.

The young man struggled for breath in the crush at the Stoning of the Devil during the Hajj of 1990.

The Indonesian man, with whom he had shared lunch in Riyadh, lost his footing, causing the crush. Body upon body, forced by the masses behind. Those at the bottom, including himself, having the life squeezed out of them by tonnes of fellow humanity. This scene played over, again and again, as the twice daily tide agitated the stones on the beach.

*

He sat in his usual spot, in the window of the tiny pub. It was busy and noisy, usual for a Saturday evening. Two separate stag parties had entered and left, swelling the population and din.

He tried to concentrate on the words in front of him but was constantly drawn into the moronic monologue of the man behind him.

He didn’t want to hear about the features and benefits of the new electric Kia SUV, or the parking problems of Monkseaton’s school run. He suspected the man’s companion was of the same view.

Immersing himself in the Hotel Metropol in 1922, he became Count Rostov again, beguiled by the nine year old Princess Nina. He took a sip of his beer, savouring the hoppy bitterness. A good book could always take him to exactly where he wanted to be.

“Marks and Spencers do a perfectly good Moussaka. I don’t know why anyone would attempt to make one from scratch,” the bore declared, pulling him back from early twentieth century Russia. He considered putting in his ear buds and using the white noise app. Why was he even there? He could be at home, devouring each chapter in peace? Yes, the home they’d shared, as man and wife. The place he couldn’t bear to be.

He stared at the empty stool beside him and prayed it would remain so. He could think of half a dozen folks who could occupy it tonight, none of whom he relished. At that moment, there was a tap on his shoulder and he turned around.

*

The tide was out and it was on top, not that it could tell. The stone used a previous life to recollect the feeling of the warming sun. It was a spring morning in Jalalabad. Jasmine was throwing its perfume across the forecourt of the young man’s home.

A beautiful woman was drawing water from the well. Something stirred deep down in the youth’s gut when he observed her graceful movement. She turned the simple utilitarian task into an exotic dance.

A wave crashed up the beach and the pebbles sang in unity, like a murmuration of starlings in the sky. The scene was gone. It could be weeks before it would return, replaced by the tangled mass of bodies in that hot Saudi sunlight.

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