This is the story of a man who heard a ringing in his ear that would not go away. The only way to control the ringing was by sitting at his desk to write. He found that if he wrote a sentence or two the sound might fade almost completely. So he sat at his desk one day and began to write a story about a fireplace with a blazing fire burning within it. If you looked deeply into this fire, you might begin to see the vapours that rise from the burning wood and wisp up the chimney like streams flowing uphill. But if you tried to look more closely you would find only smoke, with no hint of the stream remaining. Only with an unfocussed gaze could you barely discern the rising path.
At this point, the writer tried to get up from his chair to prepare dinner, but the ringing returned even stronger than before and forced him back down on his seat, holding his head in pain, before subsiding somewhat. Writing calmed the ringing as before, so he continued, this time about a still pond at the top of a mountain. In the pond were little silvery fish, whose glimmering movements you could catch out of the corner of your eye. If you reached in to try to touch one, they would scatter and disappear under the ripples. Looking again, it would appear as though there was no life in the pool at all, as though the fish were simply an illusion. The air at the mountain top was still and cold. Beyond the small weeds at your feet, there could be nothing living there at all. All around you, wherever you looked, seemed empty and lifeless.
And he wrote another story: this time, he pictured himself standing at the top of a tall tower in the middle off a city, looking down into the crowd. He was looking for his friend but he couldn’t find him among the multitude of heads. He knew he was down there. He wanted to spot him, capture his attention, and smile and wave, saying, look! I’m here. I climbed this tower. I made it to the top. He looked and looked, but he couldn’t find him. The heads moved like waves, if the tower was a buoy floating off the shore. One head must belong to his friend, but from this distance, they could just as well be all the same. But if he stared at one…they were certainly all different. The right one was all he needed, but that one was the one he couldn’t find.
He was growing hungry. He hated the idea of leaving his desk. The dot at the end of his story was in the wrong place. He knew that and tried to move it, but it had curled itself into a ball and would not budge. He knew why. He knew that the dot knew, and that the dot knew that he knew too: there is no right place for it. The more he wrote, the farther it seemed to move. Both he and it were searching for the perfect spot, and failing to find it. He folded his paper carefully to bring the dot closer to where he wanted it…and it was still wrong. And his paper became crumpled. So he had to unfold it and smooth it out.
Once when he was younger, he was so hungry but had nothing to eat in the house. At the time, he’d sat next to his bed with a book in his hand, trying simultaneously to read his hunger away, and let himself be nourished by words. Neither worked. In the end, he went to bed after drinking three glasses of water, woke the next day and went to the store for food. He’d bought two cans of soup, a loaf of bread, a sausage, and a bottle of milk. After eating nearly all of it, he sat at his table, feeling full but slightly ill. He wished he never had to eat ever again, and wrote this story (perhaps the first story he ever wrote):
These days, five dollars could buy you a little bit. It might be enough for a small meal, but you’d have spent it if you went with your friends to the bar the night before and left it as a tip for the bartender. If I never had to eat ever again, I could have kept the money, and (what would I do with it?) I’d have bought myself a simple flute, and amused myself with the sounds it made as I blew air into it, and the notes floated away from me across the breeze. Although I suppose that if I never had to eat, I might miss eating sometimes. I’d miss some things, like warm bread and sausages. If I liked them only for feeling full, maybe I wouldn’t miss them after all. I don’t know.
…He felt even his hunger subside. But while thinking of his story in his head, he’d managed to shuffle into his kitchen and prepare two sandwiches to bring to his desk. With a small pile of sandwiches, he’d never have to get up again, except to go to the bathroom.
The creases were still visible on his paper, so he decided to start with that. KkllhvklfnnklkkkmKKxmesk started on the lateral plane, and dragged a line across the desert sand so that it separated two halves of the world: one where turmoil would never cease, and storms would rage on forever; the other where peace would reign supreme, but the sky never filled with clouds and never shed rain, and crops died dried to their roots before they could bear fruit. The only place where things would grow was right on the edge of both halves, right on the line. All the plants grew slanted towards the sun on that line, with their roots pointed towards the edge of chaos, their leaves facing out towards the peaceful land. This is how the people lived: they built their houses in peace but ventured over for their food and water. Everyone thought that was how the world was, until the line in the sand blew away and order was lost. Now, everything grows everywhere and cannot be contained except through an extraordinary concentrated effort.
The ringing was almost gone. He could feel it. The dot seemed closer. It was hard. How many more words would he need to write? He didn’t know and he couldn’t guess. There was this other story which he tried not to think about, but he was running out of ideas. It went like this:
Why is it that when you aim to say something the words don’t come and you can never quite grasp what you’re aiming for? It’s like trying to trap a fly in the palm of your hand. There was once a bee that landed right on his outstretched hand and, without any provocation, stung him with a slow and deliberate action, leaving the sting deeply embedded within his flesh, which swelled to the size of a large river stone, even though the sting was hastily removed. That was his writing hand. He could not write a single word for weeks, or what felt like weeks. After that incident, his hand would not stop writing, for fear of losing the ability again. The bee probably died. Or maybe it still looks for its missing sting, flying in circles above his ears with a frantic, maniacal beating of wings.