Reading Time: 5 minutes
An enigmatic short story, by Michele, as a tribute to Tagore, a Special Feature, exclusively for Different Truths.
“I really cannot understand,” her fingers pounded out on the keypad, “why you do not understand why, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the ultimate answer to the ultimate question has to be, as was so clearly offered, ’42.’ …101010 in binary code …the refraction of light rainbowed through water. What else could it be? Really?”
“I still don’t understand,” he typed, “what does that mean?”
“Forty-two!!! Four plus two is six. Hell, endlessly cycling until all that ails unsticks. Half of 42 is 21 which is three times seven. Science, love, and faith, and God in Heaven, three times over. Six times seven is getting stung by a bee when you’re rolling in clover. It’s life, where man is born, lives, dies, endlessly seeking the ultimate answer to the ultimate question as comprehended through the limited intellectual and emotional capacity of human hearts and brains… hearts versus reason, getting loved to death, dying for lack of love, two-score-plus-two, a human pregnancy two weeks overdue, forty-two!!! It is obvious.
“Forty-two!!! Sunshine in the rain, with rainbows you can never reach. Incoming tides and the perfect wave, as darkness cloaks the deserted beach. Forty-two!!! You, and me, and time zones of insulation between us, words on a lighted screen, that you can turn off whenever you choose, unlike the seething exploitation, and hunger, the disease, and poverty, the overcrowding and under-appreciation and cultural separatism of the peoples who share this world. Forty-two.”
“Oh,” he wrote. “I see. So we are all just adrift, moving through the world on separate voyages of discovery, hope, adoration, and neglect, abuse, or worse — because while men do die, the questions which we ponder, it seems, never will. So, then, what is the fragile link which binds us, to ourselves, to each other, to the distance where time and experience reunite and coalesce for yet another life?”
“I do not know,” her fingers paused, “how is it that we speak, like this, at all?”
“Forty-two,” he responded, “so many meanings. ‘Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in a boat, only thou and I, and never a soul in the world would know of this our pilgrimage to no country and to no end…’ ” And he waited, to see how she would reply.
He could almost feel her smiling, a smile flashing quick, then shy, first plumbing of depths unmentioned, to any she’d met, in her wanderings.
“Also forty-two,” spelled out, rapid-fire, the letters on his screen, “’You smiled and talked to me of nothing and I felt that for this I had been waiting long.’ But, you know, as one stray bird to another, I also very much like the next — and you remember, four-plus-three is seven…”
She lifted her fingers, and he paused before typing, not wishing, perhaps, to weigh down her wings with his words, and, instead, sent her an emoji: “: ) “
And so she began, again, “ ’…But Man has in him the silence of the sea, the noise of the earth, and the music of the air.’ Forty-two, plus one. Six, plus one, seven — forty-three.”
“Quit changing the rules and the measure of ‘the ultimate answer’,” he chided, in jest. “The challenge as you chose to define it is: Forty-two!”
Catching her lip between her teeth, she stilled her breath, then found inspiration, “ ‘I touch God in my song as the hill touches the far-away sea with its waterfall’ … a fitting verse for the short-lived, hopeful firefly, don’t you think?”
“I don’t, not really.” She sighed, and felt that rush of pain that is regret for the losses of another. “But it seems they can lose hope. Did you know scientists say that if a field where fireflies live, have lived for generations, is paved over, they will not migrate to another field, but will disappear forever?”
“I don’t know,” she slowly typed. “It may just be that the larvae are buried, unable to emerge through the pavement, and the adults have no more eggs to produce… but, ” she looked back at the verse she had quoted, “maybe they find another way, like the river, flowing to the unseen sea.”
“And so they seem to disappear, one way or another, finding no place to turn, and no one to hold a space for them. Another forty-two,” he continued, “from Poems. ‘It may be that your loved ones will forsake you, but mind it not, my heart.”
The cursor paused, he had stopped writing. She waited, but he did not resume. After a minute, her fingers searched out the final sentences of the verse he had begun.
“ ‘The walls are of stones, the doors barred.’ “she typed. “ ‘It may be that you will knock oft and again, yet it will not open, but mind it not, my heart.’ “ Her fingers slowed, as she contemplated the words, then sped back up, again, “and yet so many of us think of our journeys as carrying us away from, or back to home.”
“Do you think it strange, that we write, almost as in a game, of these ideas, by which a view of life might have been, might be, defined?”
She watched the lengthening rays of the sun entice rainbows from the shining green needles of breeze-tossed pine branches. The scents of pine and of the day wafted towards her, and she closed her eyes, to taste more of the moment.
“I think it strange,” she paused, fitting words to her thoughts, “to want to be here, writing, thinking, talking with you… and to want to be outside, running, just me, and the wind, and the birds and the world, through the day… and to want,” her fingers stilled again,
“…to want so many things, not least, to move beyond, and to see what is next, or, at least, understand what had transpired, behind. I want to wait, and be sure those I love are happy, and well. But I want, so much, to go where there is not so much time lost to conflict, to doubts, to hatred, to war.”
“A wheel, spinning,” he returned, after a time. “…spinning, and, in its own time, to begin; to wonder, to reach… to touch, what we can, of life, here, now. Spinning does not require anyone to think,” he added.
“…but experiencing, enduring, finding, moving from being so separate, isolated, suspicious, alone … these do,” she rejoined.
“I suspect,” as she stopped writing, his words appeared rapidly across the screen, “I think, don’t you? …that it is across more than mere time zones that we have journeyed, to find ourselves in this particular conversation. And that, in itself, is another mystery, which you may, one day, follow, if you wish.”
She watched the blinking cursor resume its path, as letters filled the screen.
“It is likely we will find our way together, to bridge this space with our words, once, or perhaps often, again. Meanwhile, good night. Persist, and try to persevere, with your hopes, and your dreams.”
And, with that, the firefly-green light by his avatar flickered off, though the words would remain where she could revisit them, all, again.
Pictures from the Internet.
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