This week's sentence was taken from William Burroughs 'Cities Of The Red Night.'
The sentence was:
'He was passing a huge marble snail, a bronze frog and a beaver.'
Apologies in advance for the strange ending of this one. As I was writing it and wondering just who Hans might be and what was happening I got the idea for the ending. Unfortunatley, to write the whole thing properly would have taken about another 1,000 words, so I copped out and cut it down to 500 by writing a kind of precis of my idea for where the story was going.
Hey ho. I'm as confused as you are …
What Happens When We Choose
Hans had been walking for ages when something snapped him out of his reverie. He glanced at his surroundings, trying to get some bearings. Often on his wanderings he wound up in the oddest places and today seemed no exception. He was passing a huge marble snail, a bronze frog and a beaver.
'Either I’m in a museum,' he thought, 'or the drugs are kicking in.'
Cautiously he watched the animals for a few seconds. When none of them moved or spoke to him he concluded, with a slight air of disappointment, that he was not hallucinating.
It turned out to be the window of an art gallery; one of many such places that sprung up out of the ground like mushrooms in this part of the city and just as suddenly disappeared again.
On a whim he pushed open the door, to be greeted by the blank gazes of the inanimate animals and a frosty stare from a startlingly attractive girl standing awkwardly by what appeared to have been a tragic accident involving some hideously uncomfortable and garishly coloured sofas.
With a superhuman effort he managed to avoid opening with 'Nice beaver,' instead simply shifting his weight from one hip to the other and grinning a little sheepishly.
'Where the hell have you been?' the girl snapped at him. 'I was supposed to go to lunch twenty minutes ago.'
Despite the fact that he had never before seen either girl or shop, Hans felt it safer to play along, in the hope that things might become clearer later.
'Sorry,' he mumbled. 'You'd better take a long lunch to make up for it.'
'You're damned right I will.'
She flounced out in high dudgeon, shoving him aside and leaving him alone with the mad menagerie, the furniture catastrophe and his perplexity.
Avoiding the sofas he perched instead on the snail and tried to come to some conclusion based on the information available.
It appeared he was Hans, owner of a chic yet pointless art gallery and employer of the startlingly attractive and very angry girl who had left a bruise on his upper arm.
He stared at the beaver.
'I have no idea who I am.' He said.
Hans was also unaware:
• That before he took his walk he had been Peter, arriving at a business meeting with no inkling of where he was or why, yet somehow coping reasonably well.
• That when he left here he would be somebody else yet would retain no memory of any previous life.
• That every choice a person makes in life leaves an alternative life unlived.
• That these unlived lives linger, littering the universe.
• That he was dead.
This is what happens to dead people. Our souls become lost, un-anchored, set helplessly adrift among those countless abandoned lives that the living leave lying around, to be lit into consciousness only for the short time it takes such paths to cross, before moving on; perplexed, bereft, eternal.
The soul that was currently Hans stared at the beaver.