Wednesday 2 March 2011

The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes: 2 Days to Go

I would like to claim credit for originality in writing 1st person plural but I'll acknowledge my debt - as so often - to Murakami. I think the first person plural Eri Asai passages in After Dark are just masterful. They made me want to write in a similar tone. What I have tried to do with that voice, though, is much more like the complicity in the film Man Bites Dog.

Chapter 2

We can see her clearly. She’s sitting with her legs folded underneath her, gripping the phone with both hands. It takes a moment for us to register things are wrong with this image. We have to blink several times, but still our eyes don’t feel right. We look closer, and then we see that although she is sitting on her legs, her legs aren’t on anything.
She’s not floating. Nor is she in a darkened room, lit only by an infinitely precise light. We don’t even have noticeably tunnelled vision. It’s just that we only see her.
Sometimes when we stare at a flecked carpet in summer we sense that something is amiss. Then we notice a movement. A few seconds later we see an ant scurry through the fibres, and suddenly our optic nerve turns on a switch and we see that the whole floor is a teeming sea of ants.
In the same sickening way we see all at once: this is Emma, and she is still 14 years old, the age she was when she disappeared; but the telephone she clutches like a parachute rip-cord is an iPhone; her skin and clothes are blurred. It’s not our eyes. We see the iPhone perfectly well. It’s her.
She is blurred.
She turns. Her eyes make us seasick. Instead of colour there’s a soup of grey strobing and fuzzing. “Where am I?” she asks.
She sounds sad. Or maybe we just imagine that she must be sad, because through the white noise in the pits where her eyes should be it’s impossible to say if she’s crying or not.
“I don’t know,” we reply. “How long have you been there?”
“I don’t know. No, that’s wrong. I’ve been here a day. Only this day seems to happen again and again and again. I don’t know how many times. It feels like someone’s caught it on tape and they keep playing it over and over and over, and the tape’s wearing thin in places. What will happen if they play it too many times and the tape snaps?”
She’s speaking quickly, like she only has one lungful of air and she has to get everything out in that single breath. We daren’t interrupt, even if we could answer her questions, in case she goes silent for ever.
“I’m scared. I don’t understand what’s happening. Would it be better if they stopped the tape and left it in an archive somewhere it could never be played again? Does that make any sense?”
“Tell Dad,” she begins but whatever the connection was, it’s cut. We blink several times. Everything is sharp again. We stare at our computer screens, and Emma exists only in the words we see there.

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