By David Simpson
The moon is irrefutably beautiful. No one could look at the moon and argue that it was not beautiful, or if they did it would be a futile task and furthermore people would be confused about why anyone would want to say such a thing, even if they hadn’t thought about the beautiful moon before. The word beautiful was first used to describe the moon, I am sure, the two things go hand-in-hand, and even though we now use the word to describe mundane, earthly things like men, women, children, cars, buildings and paintings, I am sure that it was a word early human beings used to describe distant, untouchable things far removed from their tired and ugly struggle to survive. I think I should keep this moon a secret from you, though. It hangs impossibly low in the sky, appearing as large as it is possible for a celestial body to appear to the human eye. At first I think that its size and its odd, brownish colour is something to do with the fact that at this very moment people are taking down the street lights and packing them away, but this is not the case. Though I expect to think of you when I look at the moon, this time I do not feel your hand in mine, your cheek on my shoulder, your words in my ear, instead my only thought is that everyone is going to die.
As though in answer to my thoughts the moon turns to look at me and it is not a moon at all, but a giant, unblinking owl, whose contemplation of infinity has come to a sudden, unexpected end. Seeing no reason to continue its watch, the owl extends its wings and flies away. If ever it could have been said that we had a moon, we do not have one any longer and even though people have finished packing away the streetlights and have now moved on to dismantling the buildings, I am sure that the reason I will never see you again is because we now live in a world that has lost its primary co-ordinate for beauty.
I rush to the end of the road, but I am too late, your street has already gone and the children are using scraping tools to peel away the pavement, under which I see there is nothing, absolutely nothing. It occurs to me that even though I have lived in this city my entire life, even though thoughts of you have consumed me for as long as I can remember, I don’t think we have ever met.
A crowd of my fellow citizens are running down a street. I have never seen them before, either, and at first I am reluctant to join in because they are not running out of fear, which would seem to me to be the natural response to this state of affairs, but instead seem to be excited. Behind me they are folding up the buildings and arranging them into boxes in the most space efficient way that they can manage and I see that there is very little choice other than join the people running towards the edge of the city.
We pass two men who are inspecting something that I cannot make out. One of the men leans forward and begins to pick at this invisible thing, apparently drawing it out of the very air itself, and I realise that he is unthreading blue, teasing it out of the places where it has always lived, so that it can be wound onto a spool. Though he approaches his task diligently, carefully, bits of turquoise and purple become disjointed because they have become so tangled up in the blue. It is his companion who deals with this problem, using a hook to separate the colours that are trying to leave before their appointed hour.
For the first time in my life I see the city limits. The city ends only a short distance from the place where I stood contemplating the moon and I wonder why it had never occurred to me to come here before. The answer arrives immediately: it had never occurred to me to do anything other than to stand in contemplation of the moon, whilst considering my love for you; it is not simply that I have never left the city, I have never done anything.
We walk up the mountain where people are already sitting on the cliff edge watching the apocalypse. These others are all like me, I know, all limited in experience and memory, though perhaps one of them experienced more, the one for whom all this was created, the one who saw and experienced everything that was. Perhaps that was you, if you even existed outside of my thoughts. As I get closer to the top I see that the view is not a view at all, but a blur, and the people who are seated watching this blur gradually become blurs themselves as the next group approaches them and takes their place. The reason for this becomes clear when I see that the others are being asked to hand over their words. Apparently we cannot take language with us and without language we become indistinct.
I will give them my words, though their fate disturbs me. After being handed over they are taken to a marquee across the way where huge tables have been set up around which stands a group of people in protective clothing, equipped with tools that are to be employed in the destruction of the city’s vocabulary. A powdery dust forms around the tent as these people go about their work. Words, it seems, are brittle and hollow, incapable of withstanding the scrutiny of hammers.