Permanent Sign – Philip Berry [Fiction]

Permanent Sign

Just here, it was. A yellow sign confirms the time and the place. I think I passed just a few minutes before the accident. I don’t recall any noise, commotion, sirens. Guess I was way down the road, walking home, protected from the world by music.

I pause by the sign, look into the road. The great river at my back flows seaward.

The light of the street undergoes a prismatic split through the window of a bus, and a fraction, just to the left of ultra-violet, settles around a young woman. A commuter. Her head is dipped, and her attention is held by words on the page. She is unaware of the phenomenon.

She looks up, unimpressed by the behaviour of two young men up front. The aura moves with her, separated from but sympathetic to the unity that is her volume in space. The bus rolls forward, its electric engine almost silent. Only the sigh of a closing door and the low-level suck of its wheels on the wet road alerts nearby pedestrians. The angle between us is narrowed, the distance is stretched. The aura intensifies, fights physics for a moment, and is torn away. Her profile enters shadow.

She does not know that for a moment she was all powerful; she could have harnessed that light, consumed it, condensed it between her two palms, caressing it like a child forming soap bubbles in the bath, ready to send it out into the world, a sprite, a mood… A permanent mark.

I move on, homeward, two steps, three, before movement tugs at the corner of my vision and calls me back to the road. In the place where she sat, isolated now without the surrounding vehicle, her shape hovers. She straightens from the seated position in which she first attracted the light. She holds my gaze, and follows me, her eyes twinkling with character and potential. Then she walks towards me. One foot touches the kerb, the other remains on the road. A black car rushes up, passes through her, but she does not flinch, or break, or fade. Surprise flashes across her previously serene expression, and is then pushes aside by calm. Nothing can harm her now.

She has nowhere else to go. Her line through life was cut right here. Just here.

Only when I close my eyes does she leave.


By Philip Berry

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