A place where there are no stars

Excerpt from Chapter 10:

He had travelled so far from his homeland in the South African veld to this godforsaken city, where the blerrie clocks, church bells and gargoyles mocked and taunted outsiders, only to discover that his boyhood dreams were a fallacy: if you look at stars from outer space, they do not twinkle or glitter at all. The enchantment that had captivated him since he was an eight-year-old boy came solely from the earth’s atmosphere refracting millions of light particles raining down upon us from the rays of a dying sun. He remembered his Oupa’s words of long ago, which suddenly made sense after all these years: real magic is to be found here on earth. He had found it many summers ago, sitting inside the hollowed out trunk of his 1,000-year-old baobab tree.

And then in the light reflected in her kaffir eyes, he glimpsed what the universe and life truly were: the totality of the universe was just infinite light spheres blowing in and out of existence like ephemeral soap bubbles, each sphere having a different size but no total volume. Even when the spheres were compressed, this totality remained infinite. To try to catch it would be like catching infinity.

He gazed heavenwards, and up there, the sword of Orion blazed one last time in the afternoon Oxford skies, piercing the shimmering, iridescent moon.

“Catch the moon, my dear Professor,” Alice said. She watched the play of shadows across his face intently. “Let go of your stars.”


Photo: Fontvieille, April 2017


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