The Face in the Pebble

She came from a pet rock that has been sitting on my desk for many years. I used the egg-shaped stone to weigh down notes and papers set aside for necessary action on my behalf. Its base had a flat area and suited its task perfectly, besides it had a sculptural quality to it and reminded me of a work by Hans Arp. I never thought much about it, used ii as a necessary tool. But at the end of a working day, when most papers below its handy shape had been dealt with, it appealed to me in a different light. It must have been the sudden process of the change from light to dark in Southern Africa that made it appear different to me at that early evening, when darkness progressed entirely within an hour’s time. I took it into the palm of my hand and it felt smooth like a woman’s knee. Besides, i being a piece of art sculpted by nature, its age might be millions of years.

Her voice surprised me, as it came from within the smooth pebble, my pet rock. it sounded like the voice of a woman I once knew. At first I rubbed my eyes having worked all day hard and that also meant that my tested mind played tricks on me. However my curiosity with all mystical matters of the spirit and soul made me stop what I was doing and I listened, concentrating on the piece of stone in my hand. This is impossible I murmured, as a woman like an elf appeared in the transparency of my pet rock. I held my stone steady, afraid if I would move the slightest, the illusion might disappear. The pictures that changed were a magical display of high art.

The pebble sat in my hand like an egg, still warm from the afternoon sun that had touched it, or was it my imagination that her voice created such a warm feeling in me? The moment her face appeared on the shaped surface, the spark of initial warmth spread from my belly to my torso. I felt elated, stirred by this tiny face with geometrically shaped brown hair and a soft glow across her symmetrical face. It reminded me of an Art-Noveau design with the stylised flowing lines of body, face and hair. Like a jewellery box, I murmured and the face moved its lips talking back.

Initially in the shock of surprise, we talked a lot about our way of living. My mind said: If life is an illusion, when make it worthwhile, painting beautiful pictures.

“Are you a spirit of my late wife?” She paused.

“I am a geologist,” she said in a low tone, as if this would not be self-explanatory, living in the realm of stones and crystals.

“But how come you are here in this pebble?” I replied, my curiosity at its height.

“It is a long story,” she said.

“What is your name?” I regrouped my thoughts.

“Elena,” she said, I noticed her intelligence oozing into me from her eyes.

“That is like Helena, Helen, the Belle Helene,” I carried on murmuring. She smiled.

“Thank you she,” a slight rosy expression rushed across her face. I had not noticed how time passed. A pink dusk had settled over the courtyard outside. The noisy warble of the Hadedas-Ibis called for the end of light in the high plains of the capital in Gauteng province. Another day settled into the air-polluted evening, which announced itself with lower temperatures and snowfall in the Cape Province.

“So where do you originate from?” I wished to know more about Elena.

“I am from the Ural,” she replied, enclosed since millions of years in rock. If I am lucky I will become gold and when a new life will await me.” I swallowed, recalling the furnace that liquefied rock from which the yellow metal would flow.

“But then you would be -”

“- be burned to death?” she completed the sentence. I shuddered, what is all this about?

“I rather have you here with me like this,” I replied. “You look so pretty.”

“Egoist!” She shouted, “don’t you have any compassion?” I cringed, doubting my sanity. I wanted to call it quit.

“It’s all a dream,” I put the answer off. “Or what?” I recalled my favourite pastime, when at the beach in Monemvassia in Greece, collecting pebbles with interesting shapes, moulded smooth by the millions of years rolling at the beaches in the surf of the sea, battered against other storms like in a shake-box by torrid storms. Observing the pebbles for a while, I became engrossed with my imagination, seeing imprints of faces and figures. I started collecting some and painted their faces and figures and body parts on them, just as my inner flow of consciousness lead me on to do it. I followed a Greek tradition of artists who have done ot before me and who still do it today.

I had a bad time during my last stay at the coastal village of Porto Rafti, an hour’s drive from Athens toward the eastern part of the sea. Having collected regularly pebbles that seemed to lead my mind on to work on their shapes, I created a set of faces and bodies together as I worked on them and soon enough they started to talk to me, like in a play. To keep them apart and avoid infighting between them I had to act decisively. But when I did, Mrs Aleta, my protagonist died and she rolled down the hill from the marble terrace, shouting at me what in the wide world had I done” to her. “You don’t love me any longer?” I protested and tried to catch her, but I missed to grab her in time and she had rolled into the flow of an angry sea and disappeared forever into Poseidon’s domain. I stood mesmerized with a deep anger rising from my belly. “You ungrateful woman, I respected you and your antics, your beautiful words of poetry and your story telling. I loved you and you used me to satisfy your sexual needs -” The rising wind swallowed my words.

“I cannot hear you,” her voice said, “but cast a wish of what kind of companion I should send you -”

“An intelligent woman,” I shouted intuitively into the breeze as the scurrying clouds shaped into her beautiful body, now claimed by a greater force. I heard her sarcastic gasp and giggle, time’s up a dark voice hollered in me. I turned and left, moving slowly uphill with my head bent down.

“I will never be able to write my play,” I mumbled. Who will ever want to see a play like this one? I remembered Elena in the pebble and having placed her into my pocket as she had suddenly disappeared. I removed her from my pocket and faced her again.

“I had never compassion,” I admitted to Elena. Her face ingrained into the  crystalline pebble that sparkled like a diamond, I ran my hands over it and felt close to her. My fingers played with her head and I felt her nose. I placed her closer to my eyes and my fingers stroked her nose and ran their tips across her eyes. She felt like skin and the natural warmth from having her in my pocket, enticed my fantasy, resurrecting my illusion. But I saw her face in the crystalline pebble, embedded in the rock, pale and as if it would be resting on a cushion, eyes closed as in a peaceful sleep. I slipped her back into my pocket, hoping she would come to life later, perhaps she would be curious about my life and how I looked with my clothes off, as I put my pyjamas on. I smiled, my mind carried on painting pictures and from now on she had taken the place of Aneta, all of a sudden. Has Aneta kept her promise?


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