I sit down for a while to catch my breath. It’s been a long time since I ran as hard as I just did, and my throat stings as cold air rushes in. It would hurt less if I slowed down, breathed through my nose, but I need the air too badly so I put up with the pain. My skin and my clothes look so much more vivid than they were before. In this place, colour is something that I bring with me.
I find it easier to think out here. There are lots of distractions, it’s true, but in a way they help me to take my mind off the details of life that get in the way so often when I’m below. They’re always the problems that never end, the ones that subdivide and extrapolate and grow bigger and bigger just when you think you’ve got your head around them. Out here, the distractions are so huge that you can’t even process them properly.
I look straight ahead and I see the surface extending forever, featureless and glowing white. The horizon is perfectly flat, even though I know it can’t be more than six hundred metres away. That’s just how things work here. Above the surface, the sky is nearly a perfect black. I can look up, if I want to, and see it slowly speckled with white. Metis once told me that I’d see blue if I looked at the zenith of the sky, but I look now and all I see is white growing denser and denser against the black. I don’t know why.
It does help me, though. Out here I feel like my mind has room to stretch out until it meets the end of the universe and buts up against itself coming from the other side. My thoughts have time to finish that way. Half the time I can’t remember half of the things I dream up once I go back inside, but it still clears my mind in a way I’ve never been able to replicate elsewhere.
I like coming here. Themis has always told me that I ought not to, that it’s unsafe, but I never liked her reasons. I told her that I didn’t mind being unsafe and that safety wasn’t worth the clarity I’d lose if I couldn’t be here. She smiled at me when I said that, but I knew she wasn’t going to let me go. She’s never really tried to stop me, though; I think she assumes that I agree with her whenever I look at the floor and say yes. Sometimes I think Themis isn’t very smart.
There are different kinds of smart, though. Themis may not be able to see through my lies, but she probably understands the horizon better than I do. I don’t need to understand it, though; the freedom it gives me is all that matters. Freedom, now there’s a funny thing. Nobody really has it, of course – I only get what I can steal, and the others have even less. I never understood that part. I always get what I want taken away because Themis says it’s unsafe or irresponsible, and people do as Themis says – even me, most of the time. But even though she’s in charge, she doesn’t seem to have much freedom herself. If people did what I said, I’d spend a lot more time relaxing than Themis does, for sure.
All of a sudden I hear my name, and I know I’m out of time. The other one is standing behind me, far sooner than I had expected. I’d hoped it would be Metis sent to retrieve me – that I’d at least get an interesting story as I walked back inside – but this time Themis must have decided that I ought to be punished. I turn around and see silver and my heart falls as I see that my guess was right. This one doesn’t ask why I come out here. She doesn’t care.
Anger bursts up inside me, but this time I try to ignore it. I know now that it won’t do me any good – none of the weapons I’ve used against Themis and Metis work on this one. My pleading was ignored, my curiosity was rebuffed, and my attempt at defiance was crushed. I know, with more certainty than I’ve ever had about anything before in my life, that I am going to be returning inside.
I turn around to get a last look before I go under; she may not allow defiance, but she’s at least willing to indulge me in ways that don’t delay my return. I stare at the horizon, stark white set against absolute black, and try to impress it into my mind before I’m once again confined by walls and work and people. I wouldn’t mind going back in if I could just take the space with me.
I actually sort of stole the title from this, and spent the most productive part of the writing listening to Kimmo Pohjonen’s Womadelaide 2012 concert (it’s the third video, especially from 30:00 in). Kimmo Pohjonen is pretty rad! I’d had the idea for this one kicking around since the concert, so I’m glad to have gotten it done. Not sure whether I’ll be doing more accordion-fuelled abstract SF or if the next one will be back to fantasy politicians sassing each other. I’m sure I’ll be excited when I find out, anyway!