The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes

With Every Brushstroke, Disintegration
Steve Bush

We dedicate our journal to Time, in the knowledge it will be broken down, immediately or inevitably. We’re marking time by decline, our words as tombstones - it’s either in abundance, and thus ignored, or being chipped away, slowly eroded in increments small enough we decide they should be; cast aside for there are plenty more. It was only one second.

 59. What then was one grain of sand on a beach? One grain could be all the world if you were nowhere near the sea! Only a second, but you’ve already spent one to get to this point. It has no true value, we said. We don’t know value, we said later. We pay in coin or in kind alone.
58. Our lives an unbreakable hourglass and there is no drill to intrude through the surface, no hole with which to replenish sand which has turned grey, spiralled slower, shrivelled and dropped from the upper bulb through the dead centre. No value, because it’s used to define value. We hated Time. It gave us a purpose, or its idea.
57. Thus, Time was our enemy; Time was always the enemy. Every memory was a memory of that memory, every past a rewrite in the present, every reunion a resurrection. We spent time to tell you of Time, but it was spent wisely: Time demands a toll; we give up ourselves, recoup our witherings with wisdom, with brevity.
56. We are Time’s captive; we dictate this aloud - cannot trust words to stay on the page, nor in the form we give them. Words here are just sounds, erupt into the air and explode, their carcasses swim through ears; a journey with no return. One thought in one second; but the value of that second changes.
55. It is the rule of this place - the countdown clock has begun and all our breaths have numbers now, every heartbeat a war drum to sound the battle with our ending. Disintegration: first there’s fracturing, then grinding down; disintegration - a totality - follows consequently. Time, as always, to assess value without time, the purpose of here.
54. Here. As defined by there. Yes, we think so; yes, we're certain! We forget what the outside world looked like; there are no doors - this is the observation above all prying eyes - no doors, thus no distinction; nor any separation of there from here. Why, we think - in time - do we presuppose a there?
53. We’re thinking; maybe, we’re thinking. Or maybe we’re thinking? Our body options are limited in here. We're in a sealed room, but that infers it's the building block of, perhaps, a block-shaped building - we know of no larger, so why do we constrain ourselves? We're not in a room, we're in... white? Yes.
52. We know there’s a countdown working, but you deserve a description, a basis, something to build on. All this journal would otherwise be is a minute’s fractured thoughts, and fracturing is stage one; we fight it. You can’t time a thought. Stop the clock and shut the brain, but it’s still there.
51. They’re just getting smaller, as present day everythings fade, painted over by the future - when the future arrives to take the present’s place - with Time’s brush, using the same shade paint for all: age, cracks and lines. We’ll still think until the end; we’ll tell you our whys before we go.
50. All things in heaven and earth; indeed, all that which resides within this room, and there are some - there - would say we’re mad, conversing to the air for it’s the only thing to hear us. That would be grinding down, stage two, but we are rational and no longer lonely.
49. We only met one other, and that was Time, who wore humanity as a cloak and a human face like a mask. He was standing in the room - featureless, white, a blank - over us when we first woke. He then spoke; we slept, when we awoke, he had gone.
48. We don’t know how long we’ve been here. We don’t know how Time got in the room, how he got out, or if we shall see him again. When we wake, there are plates of food. We don’t know how they got in either. There are no doors.
47. This room is a blank. We think it would be like a canvas, unspoiled but in three dimensions. The wall may be the floor may be the ceiling. We examined all seals and joins; we found it easy for there were none. We’re living in a cube.
46. We made one corner our nesting area, one corner for body functions. Our relaxation area was in the centre, where we would talk. We would hang our belt or make homely decorations, but our only interactions could be to sit or lean. The room wasn’t friendly.
45. Yet, we found our room warm and spacious; well lit from behind those walls with gentle evanescence, for there were no bulbs. No breeze to bother us; nothing in nor any thing out, but it didn’t grow stale; it was plain but it was functional.
44. The canvas of Time was plain at first, but his subject - and there were many - would paint their own lives onto it; Time would edit, with his one brush and one pot of paint for all. His studio was a horizon, everyone’s lifetime long.
43. Time is compelled to revise all work annually. He’ll never put a canvas on display, merely cover it but keep it in his studio. He was a one brush painter. "You," he told us that one time, "Are my trial attempt at sculpture."
42. "Death is that one note song, forever. Fate is a one horse race. I am a one colour painter. Do you see? I apologise for your loneliness, but I deal with all things and must restrict myself to one for this experiment."
41. "I’ll leave you shortly; the experiment shall miscarry should there be outside interaction. In truth, I tire as a painter. I wish to sculpt and examine you, for time affects all, and in this, I’m simply testing new methods of work."
40. "I’ve made the preliminary models, now that I’ve observed you in depth. I’ll begin shortly. It shouldn’t prove discomforting. I’ll add a year, not much; my hands don’t caress but remould, yes? You shall sleep first. The clay shouldn‘t wriggle."
39. And so we waited. We passed the time by thinking of Time, but we are sure he did not notice. We had an approximation of what he was doing at present, or his motive. We were flesh to age.
38. We, when younger, would artificially stain paper with tea bags and tan colouring, for school. "It’s ancient parchment!" we said. Something modern made to look old, but it would end up like that anyway. We knew that now.
37. We woke with limbs as putty, joints grossly malleable, skin slaking as onions. We were withering. "It’s not working!" snapped Time. We swore he was not here before. "Sculpture is inadequate; your form is just too soft."
36. "I only meant to add a year, define your forehead furrows and sweep back the hairline a tiny fraction." He mused savagely. "I cannot work with such materials!" Frustration. "My paintings, at least, are indirect. Hmm."
35. He turned to us. "At least I don’t have to advance your mind to senility," he quipped. "I apologise; I’ve made you prematurely your grandfather. Your skin is as prunes! I‘ll correct that, start again."
34. When we woke, we were made of clay. Shoring up the borders of the skin, buffers and barriers and a cage to keep the organs in. We were solid again, until the next time.
33. "I’ve been thinking," he said, and we swear he was not there a second ago. "In what manner must I work effectively, when I’m always everyone’s editor and so very personal a concept?"
32. "The world moves through me, past me as I reach to affect it. What am I, then, to you or to people? A tyrant or a workman? Life’s toll booth? The reason?"
31. "For my toll is an expensive one, but you pay it and I give your lives meaning! Through me I let you know that change is happening; you’ll live better, assuredly."
30. We said, how can we live better? We said, we cannot leave here. He said, life is in the viewpoint not the place. He said, it’s knowledge that you’ll die.
29. "Nobody can choose not to pay the toll! Suppose you did, suppose somebody opted that way - they wouldn’t age but then wouldn’t care; wouldn’t die but consequently couldn’t live."
28. "All my work is poignant, but never for me! It’s the tear I paint on leathery face below age-blind eyes, it’s gravestone moss masking a dead lover’s sentence."
27. "Even you have meaning," he said. "Even my failed work speaks with clear voice, but not clear mind. You’re quite the statue, the most fluid of solids."
26. "And therein I find my solutions!" Hands play an empyrean harp, drawing strings from still air, making motion. "A puzzle that completes itself… I’ll merely guide."
25. "The sculptor provides action, but I’ll try guidance, prod and nudge the materials, never force, they’ll fall into place of their own accord!" We sleep.
24. We wake to anger and fingers an implosion of skin, shrivelled tight to pull against stitching and expose contents. Tightness of breath. We sleep.
23. "It fails!" Thundering without echo. "It fails!" Footfalls speak of absolutes. "One day, one hour, a simple second eludes me!" We worry. Quiver.
22. "I cannot change you with subtlety. Yet, can I change you at all? Can’t I alter my methods? Can I not improve?"
21. "Sculpture doesn’t work because I cannot change! This, yes, this is Time. This is what I do, thus, what I am."
20. We sleep, wake; he’s gone. Who is he to come here? We have our life in walls, him our guest.
19. He’s gone. Sleep. Wake. No changes... Sleep. Changes there may be, but subtle ones. Sleep. Wake. The days change!
18. "Good morning," he said. "I’ve no need for sculpture. I’ve accepted." Displays an easel. "You’ve need of me."
17. "I give you change, but you give me being. Quid pro quo, I’m sure." Frowns. We think.
16. Grasps brush. "You give me a task, but you never gave me an ending!" Wields brush.
15. "With every brushstroke, disintegration. With this paint, withering. I’m everyone’s editor, but nobody changes me."
14. "I am cursed to paint! Damn you!" Who he was damning, we didn’t know.
13. "I am that which defines change, but I cannot change myself. Such sorrow."
12. We croak with elderly tongue, "Why?" Our journal suffers with heaped arthritis.
11. We failed copying down his answer in full. We tried, however.
10. "I’ve made you so very crumbling. I’ll start again. Apologies."
9. "This was a failure. You weren’t. You did well."
8. Erase, and begin again, aging anew. He said.
7. We’ll miss him. He’s mad, but motivated.
6. Time steps up to his easel.
5. Time has only one paint.
4. Time just can’t stop.
3. A present, modified.
2. My canvas.
1. Tarred.

© Steve Bush October 2006

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