92 Something To Fit the Furniture

92 Something To Fit the Furniture

Divorce didn’t suit Sasha. Some people were naturals at it but he wasn’t. He hadn’t had the wit to miss out on the marriage and just go for the divorce - something that with hindsight would have saved a lot of time and money. So, here he was where he was, surrounded by a reality he wasn’t designed for.

Josephine had said she was leaving him and he’d been the one who had burst into tears.

At least he would have something to confuse South Korean hotel staff with when they asked him the question about whether he was married and did he have children? - information they needed to know for talking to him correctly within the six levels of formality - a single sixty-five year old without children being a child. Someone twice divorced with four grown up children, two from each marriage, would really throw them into a spin. All he needed to do now was spend a week in South Korea to get the benefit of being in the situation.

But what he really needed was a device that could safely hold what he thought about things - the way a very powerful electro-magnetic torque might hold the one million degrees Centigrade temperatures plus needed to convert hydrogen into helium and release fusion energy.

His friend Daphne called around to see how he was getting on not coping. The first time she saw him without Josephine she had to admit she was a little shocked - the way he was barely under-control, a danger to himself and others, like an oil tanker that had run aground and was seeping oil onto a coastline of outstanding natural beauty. Such a sight made her instinctively blanch. Someone else might have back tracked. But Sasha’s arrow of genuine distress hit the tight red bulls eye of her sympathy and she stayed. 

The universe expanded and the galaxy circled - even the local star group was going in some direction or other. Compared to such movements, and with Daphne’s help, Sasha reminded himself of those things that were much more important than his own single seventy year attempt. Sasha got to looking at the stars on a more regular basis. Contemplating the bigger picture was a help to him. 

It was while he was reading about the astronomer Kepler, in support of his new interest that he came across how in Prague in the early seventeenth century, the Hapsburg Emperor Rudolph the Second had built a unicorn enclosure for when he got a unicorn to add to his menagerie. 

This got Sasha thinking about how he needed something that was more than a pet but less than a lover - the kind of animal that was just short of, or else slightly more than human - something not yet known, from an age when what was unknown and what was fabulous in its mix of rumour and invention had no distinction - just like it had been in the time of Rudolph II, back when a wish for the unusual might quite naturally become an interest in the abnormal. And on this basis Sasha set to work adapting the en-suite extension for what he wasn’t sure of.

The project he had in mind was relatively simple - he’d make alterations to the guest annex above the garage across from the central upstairs landing for what he imagined might be needed, while at the same time developing up further ideas for what he didn’t know anything about.

He showed Daphne how far he’d got with what he thought he was after.

‘What’s this?’ she asked, pointing at a random set of objects she couldn’t see the use of, arranged in a pattern that looked to be no pattern at all.

‘It’s a game I don’t know how to play yet,’ said Sasha.

‘Right,’ said Daphne, relieved that so far nothing made any sense.

‘I’m thinking of getting a unicorn,’ Sasha blurted out.

‘They don’t exist,’ said Daphne.

‘Something like a unicorn.’

It was difficult for him to explain what he couldn’t explain.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked.

‘What I mean is, I don’t know what I mean,’ said Sasha.

What Sasha didn’t know what he meant went something like this - He wanted to put together a contraption of space, time, feeling and repose that could be lived in, something to help with what might be called sleep but wasn’t quite the same thing as sleep. 

Having got to know roughly what was and wasn’t going on, Daphne didn’t give whatever it was a second thought.

Sasha started to build the furniture a creature, such as the one he had in mind might use. He took a best guess at what was its centre of gravity and made a stab at a set of physical assumptions for something along the lines of ‘Strange News from another Star.’ To put it simply it looked like he was building a staircase for a horse.

He prepared plaster walls with size, and papered them with a flying saucer patterned wall paper as dense in design as something by William Morris. Then Sasha thought - what if the creature doesn’t sleep with its eyes shut? 

Daphne, without being exactly discouraging, told Sasha she was pretty much certain nothing was going to appear. After all, gryphons, basilisks, ampisbaena - the serpent with two heads, dragons, unicorns and such like, were all popular errors and legends, fabled creatures that had never existed.

To start with Sasha checked the en-suite everyday, then every other day before it slipped to once a week. Soon enough there came a point where he wasn’t even looking for whatever it was he imagined might be in there. His eyes worked but they didn’t see anything. 

After a couple of months his visits dropped to once a week. By the end of the quarter they became intermittent. After sixth months they’d stopped entirely. What had seemed very important before didn’t occur to him any more.

With Daphne one thing led to another. She came to his place and he went to hers. In this way they didn’t live together but alternated between. Without the need for further use of metaphor, they rotated around each other like a binary star system that dimmed and brightened in turn. 

As Daphne spent more and more time at Sasha’s place, she got an increasing feeling of, not exactly unease, but awareness - something that appealed to one of those extra senses no-one had yet managed to pin down. She got the sense of being in a large dark interior, with an uncertain figure golden and glittering at its far end, lit up only by guttering torches, which was usually when she switched the light on.

It was Daphne who brought up what Sasha had long since stopped thinking about.

‘How’s the Unicorn enclosure coming along?’ she asked.

‘What Unicorn enclosure?’ said Sasha.

‘The one you’ve built for when you get a Unicorn.’

‘It’s not a Unicorn enclosure.’

‘What is it then?’

‘I don’t rightly know.’

‘I thought you were keeping an eye on it?’

‘I’d completely forgotten about it until you brought the subject up.’

There was silence. Then Sasha said, ‘I suppose I’m going to have to check if it’s arrived now.’

‘I’m looking forward to seeing something that isn’t there,’ said Daphne.

‘Then what are we waiting for?’

‘I’m waiting for you?’

‘Come on then!’ 

Sasha took the key out of the box he kept it in and they climbed up the staircase to a landing that had several doors around it, giving a sense of the first floor being a lot bigger than the ground floor, which it wasn’t. 

Neither of them was exactly concentrating as they opened the rooms up and went through.

Inside, astride its piece of furniture, to say it was sat wasn’t the right word for what it was doing, was something that wasn’t right.

To say it stared back at them with a look less than human but more than animal, from eyes touched with a burning yellow was also wrong.

Sasha needn’t have bothered about the wallpaper because it had tentacles for eyes.

Daphne turned to Sasha, but he was gazing at the new arrival with a delighted look, the type of look a psychopath, flicking through photographs of bunny rabbits has on his face, when he turns the page and sees a decapitated bunny rabbit. 

Sasha stepped forward. Daphne stepped back, closed the door and quickly left the building.


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