They appeared in the night. On Friday the world went to sleep. On Saturday morning they appeared. Billions of them. As many as there are people. It’s on the news, it’s in the papers, on the radio and on-line. Everywhere. If you’re not hearing about them you see them. Everywhere you go. Lines. Clear like water. Soft as air. They don’t knot. They don’t tangle. They just flow. Through buildings, cars, walls, prisons, trees and bodies. You can’t touch them. Your hand will pass right on through. The only thing we know about them is where they start and where they end. Always from a person and ending at another person.
I look down at my own. It pours out of my neck and slips across the room and disappears through the wall. I wonder where it goes. I feel it pulling me and the curiosity aches. So many have followed theirs but always to heartbreak. Always disappointment at the end of the line. A total stranger. Or someone you never dreamed of.
The theory is, the line is sort of your soul stretching. It gets shorter and fatter the closer you get to the end. The closer you get to the other person. When the two ends touch, it disappears. When the two ends separate again, it stretches the line thin.
My line is skinny. Like everything else about me. All bones and bumps. The other end must be hundreds of miles away. In another country. I push the thought from my mind. I have my wife’s hands in my own. She’s staring at my line. She’s been crying since it appeared. We’ve been together since school. First loves and only loves and all that. I’ve never cheated on her. Never lied to her. Only white lies. The ‘sure you look great in leopard print’ kind of lies.
Now here it is. The biggest lie of them all, flowing from my neck and out of the wall, out of the house when it should be aiming straight for her.
You don’t love me, she says. Our lives have been a lie. I make a pact with her. I tell her I love her and that I don’t care what the lines say. I tell her we’ll ignore them. I tell her we’ve been happy so far and that’s not a lie. She looks down at her line. It’s thinner than mine. She says I’m right. She tells me we’ll get away, make the line so thin it’ll disappear.
We travel west. We don’t even save money, we just go. By the time we get to Germany both our lines are no more than a cotton thread.
We live this way for a while. Hand to mouth. I get work. She gets work. We watch the telly. It shows us soul-mates uniting. Happiness. Strangers becoming lovers.
We sell the telly. It does us no good. I check my line everyday and in the privacy of the bathroom, I know she checks hers.
We carry on. Until my wife comes to my office. I get a call from reception. She sounds panicky. Nervous. I go down to see her and she shows me her line. It’s getting fatter. It’s growing, thickening, expanding before me. With every millimetre she catches her breath.
They must be on an aeroplane, the other person, she says. They must be getting really close, really fast. I sit on the floor. The coldness of the tiles crawls up my back. It’s almost four inches thick, she says.
By the time evening comes her line is a metre wide. I inspect its growth like it’s a tumour. She paces the living room. By ten o’clock the line has doubled in thickness. I start doing stupid things like try to cut at it with a kitchen knife. I tell her we can leave. We could get on a train and go. But she tells me the line will always be there. A map leading straight to her, wherever she is. I beg her. She cries. I cry. But she cries less. Under the pale skin of her cheeks is a flush of pink. She’s excited. She’s nervous too, but not because of me.
She goes to the bathroom. When she comes out, she’s fixed her hair. She smells of perfume and mints. She sits on the settee and bites her nails as her line fills the length of her body. She breathes. In. Out. I breathe. In. Out.
There is a knock at the door.
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