“Hyperboloids of wondrous Light
Rolling for aye through Space and Time
Harbour those Waves which somehow Might
Play out God’s holy pantomime.”
His favourite story: Snow white and the way the witch in disguise handed her the poisoned apple. He fills the syringe with cyanide and injects it through the apple’s perfect skin, then lies down on the bed and places the fruit on the cabinet, ready to eat. Then closes his eyes and thinks. Wonders if he can go through with it. Decides on balance in the end that he will. The apple of knowledge from the forbidden tree, knowledge of both good and evil. That painting by Magritte: The Son of Man. The poem by Tessimond: The Man In The Bowler Hat. The anonymous suburban desk clerk in his tweed suit: face obscured by the apple, negated by his own desire. The commuter man, erased by history. Emasculated by injection. Every day another bite, hard to swallow. The face obscured by the flying dove. Imprisoned by his thoughts of freedom. He reaches out his hand and lifts the apple, feeling its coolness in his hand.
And takes the first sweet bite.
Colossus. The huge machines roll into action. Like tanks and planes overhead, sirens sounding. The frenetic clicking, shaking of the ground beneath the feet. Dials whirring and engaging in a hundred thousand permutations. The veins, the brain, the heart and lungs. Corpuscles, neurons and electrons. Flashing of electric sparks. So many connections being made and broken. Will anyone miss him? The friendships, acquaintances, might-have-beens and near-misses. Touch of hand and look of eye. Connections. Lines jammed. Chaos down at the old exchange. Hands whirring. Nowhere to hide. The bombe dials turning. Just a matter of time until they find you out, little mouse. Hidden message. We’ll get there in the end. Too late to go back. Colossus. The fabled statue astride the harbour of Rhodes. Giant man of iron built to thank the Gods for a city spared by war, by siege. Wonder of the ancient world that only stood for twelve years. Earthquake. Then fall to fragments beneath the waves. Like Ozymandias. That poem. King of Kings. King for a day. It all comes to dust.
He takes the second bite, then the third. A little sourer.
Colossus. Countdown. Time running thin. Whirring dials and shaking walls. The bombes. The bombers overhead. He sees the clouds parting, unrolling. Melancholic Italian afternoon skies. Like Titian, Tintoretto, Georgione, Canaletto. The giants step down, their gleaming silver feet coming first. Their white Grecian togas all cloud and mystery and grandeur. They lift him up, offering their hands, to take the air and catch the view, the alta vista. And down there the world turns over in its sleep, in its blissful ignorance. Official Secrets. The innocent sleep of children -Who have not yet bitten the apple, nor listened to the serpent’s whispered insidious insinuations. Lord Haw-Haw on the radio. He glimpses the giant hands of Churchill moving over blotting paper, signing orders. Ships sinking, others safe. But the clouds clear and he sees the new armies: arrays of machines, reaching and multiplying into the future. The music of calculation, mathematics sprouting like wondrous trees, knowledge flowering, marching across parched plains. The whole earth transforms beneath the gaze, beneath the feet –Into the twin hemispheres of one vast brain. Cerebrum. Parietal operculum. Lateral sulcus. Calculus. Flickering of electricity like lightning storms. Firing of neural-synapses. Folds of tissue like mountain ranges. Frontal lobe. Dial-up. Fax Modem. Computation. Giga-bytes whirring down at the old exchange.
Hand shaking now, he reaches out. Just makes it. Another bite.
The last taste perhaps. Suave, suave transeo. In trutina. Suspended between love and chastity, I take upon myself the sweet yoke. Surprising fruit, exploding in the mouth with richness. Late flowering of flavour. The sweet angels whisper in the ear of Bach and celestial order. The stars, trajectories, calculations beyond the wit of man. Mastered by machines. The hum of electricity. Great benign numb giants. Dumb, wordless, emotionless, knowing only beauty, like the stars themselves. Eternal effulgence of light into matter. Matter into light. To make Man better. Colossus. Completing ourselves with invention, extension. Inversion of the ubermensch the Nazis groped for in their blindfold dark. The foot of Man steps down on distant worlds. The angels touch down, their brass feet turning into gold, returning him to Terra Firma. Statues. And plaques and colleges. And scholarships. School pupils and students and professors. The faces raised, mouths open. Singing voices. All carrying his name. Trumpets blaring. Towards the final goal. Attainment. Accomplishment. The orchestra reaches its crescendo. Fortissimo. Pianissimo. Glissando. Then the bow and the applause.
The apple core on the bedside table turns brown then black.
The breathing stops, and time stands still. The dials are all aligned. -Have found the perfect combination. The current cut. The Safe Door springs open. The treasure is released. Is free for taking. Decoded. The divine message, ultimate puzzle, is clear as day at last. But who to tell? And who will listen? Mother. It was nothing. Just an apple. An accident, if you prefer. Knowledge, after all, can be denied. The fruit unbitten. Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. Let us all curl up like smoke, or snakes. May the bombe never drop. Waiting to be born. Meniscus. Surface-tension. Poised inside a single teardrop.