An excerpt from the novel “Checking Out of the Hotel Euthanasia” by Gerard Graham due to be published in early 2017.
Angela at this point, recognising that Zeca was moving into his story-telling mode, powered down to a state of hibernation as she had become accustomed to doing while waiting for one of her boss’s tales to take its course.
Zeca proceeded. “There was once a young man called Luis who decided to spend some time on the beautiful beach of Porto De Mos in the south of the country. This beach had soft clean sand and pure salt water and was bordered by falesias, (high rock cliffs), which had been eroded over many years by the bleaching sun, the south westerly winds and the winter Atlantic ocean. The beach was also famous for the various sizes of rocks that toppled from the cliffs to the sand below. On one particular quiet area of the beach visitors would, for diversion from the sun, the sea and the sand, balance rocks one upon the other to form various conical towers of increasingly smaller rocks rising to the smallest at the top. The more artistic visitors to the beach would form small statuesque effigies that looked like miniature human figurines, two to three feet high, sitting still looking out to sea. For example, there would be a large stone to represent the legs with a slightly smaller stone balanced on top that represented the torso and on top of that, a smaller stone to represent the head, this one selected for its features that approximated the representation of a human face with the indications of eyes, a nose and a mouth. Just like a little man made of rock. Some of the better ones were very realistic indeed. So Luis liked to sunbathe at this spot where the large rock cliff, weathered and sea beaten, had formed crevices and natural shelves and ledges on which the rows and terraces of conical towers and little sculptures were displayed and which Luis appreciated very much.
Now, a most unusual happening occurred on the beach every 534,000 years when the fallen rocks on this beach would wake up and come to life. When I say come to life, what I mean is that they woke from the long meditations that are in the nature of rock forms and were able to speak just for one day only.
Luis was lying back enjoying the sun when he heard a voice, “Desculpe, excuse me?”
Luis raised himself up on his elbows and looked around for the person who had said this. He looked right to left, then up and down; looked at the rows and terraces of towers and figurines; but could not see anyone. That is strange, he thought to himself, I could swear someone just spoke to me, as he lay down again to sunbathe thinking that maybe it was a call of a gull or perhaps the wind that had deceived his hearing.
“Desculpe, excuse me?” he heard again.
Sitting up now, certain that he had not misheard the wind or perhaps a gull, he looked around but there was still no one to be seen.
“Desculpe, sorry Senhor?”
This time Luis was sitting up and could determine the direction and proximity of the voice, which was coming inexplicably from behind a little rock figurine of a man three feet tall. The head of this little figure had a spectacularly realistic, full-featured face, obviously from a stone selected for this purpose by one of the more creative sculptors. It also had a little flat stone on top of its head with a cylindrical one on top of that giving the impression of a little man wearing a ‘pork pie’ hat. Luis, wondering how someone could be hiding behind the small statue, stood up and walked over and around the figure but there was no one there.
“Boa Tarde, good afternoon. Desculpe, excuse me?” was uttered again and, because he was standing right in front of the sculpture, Luis could only admit to himself that this was where the voice was coming from. Someone must have hidden a speaker in the rock for a joke, he thought, as he inspected the little figurine, listing through his friends he had told he was visiting the beach today that could potentially come up with such a ruse.
“Can I ask you a question?” the rock said.
Luis entering into the joke replied, “Yes, but where is the speaker hidden and where are you watching me from? Is that you Bruno up to one of your jokes again?”
“I don’t know what you mean Senhor, as it is I who am speaking to you.”
“I don’t understand,” replied the bemused and, not to be fooled by a practical joke, Luis.
“I can explain,” said the rock. “We, rocks at the foot of the cliffs, are able to speak today and only today as this is the time we awake from our meditations. I am pleased that you have passed by at this moment, as I wanted to ask you a question that I could perhaps meditate on for the next 534,000 years.”
Luis thought to himself that this was a good trick and the person operating the speaker must be watching him from a secret location laughing to himself but he thought he would enter into the joke anyway. “Okay, what is your question little rock?”
“Obrigado, thank you Senhor. As I have explained, we rocks spend a long time meditating. We have been here for millions of years long before you humans appeared on the scene. We spent our time meditating on the sea, the wind and the air contemplating deep and profound thoughts. Then, when we are eroded and fall from the cliff as rocks, we meditate on the purpose of erosion as we roll about in the waves, rubbing together and then turn to sand. I particularly like to mediate on how such a soft little substance as a drop of water can erode the strongest mightiest cliff or mountain range over time. That thought has entertained me for many millions of years now. Desculpe, sorry, I am not getting to my question, please forgive me. So, for millions of years we have reflected and meditated before there was life on earth, when there were creatures in the sea, when they crawled onto the land and when birds made their home in our cliff faces. However, now we have been presented with a new phenomenon that has appeared in the last six million years. It is your type Senhor, humans. You first started to wander on the beaches moving up the coasts, settling further and further around the coastlines until the present day. We hear from the wind and the sea that you are present now in every part of this planet. Nowadays visitors like yourselves come to the beach and we have noticed that you formulate the stones into shapes some of which, in a peculiar way, simulate yourselves. As you can see, I am a strange representation of a little human with the large stone representing the legs, the next large stone the torso and the smaller one, I am speaking from, the head of a human. So this is my question. Every year humans come and form us and every year the winter storms and the tides and the winds knock us down only for the humans to return the following year and build us again. My question is: Why do you do this? I would like to meditate on this issue for the next 534,000 years and would be extremely grateful for your thoughts on this.”
Luis had become engrossed in the speech from the rock to the extent that the remarkable nature of the event had predisposed him now to believe the rock was transporting him to a reality where rocks came to life and spoke. With this sentiment he felt compelled to answer the rock, forgetting his previous skepticism that the occurrence was a hoax. So to the best of his ability Luis tried to answer the rock’s question.
“We human beings, other than paleontologists of course, generally think nothing of the timescale of rocks or cliffs that you say meditate for hundreds of thousands of years on a single issue and our time on this earth is short by comparison with yourselves. The reason we create images of ourselves such as the figurine you have been formulated into, is because we just want to leave some impression of our passing. It entertains us to see little figurines of ourselves or to see rough nature tamed into a familiar shape or pattern that our mind takes geometric or mathematical pleasure from, such as a cone. The winter storms are like our deaths that return us to our basic state which are the chaotic components scattered randomly on a wild beach.”
“In some respects we are very similar,” responded the rock, “My brothers, the mountains, also like conical shapes and our own cliffs which have formed into caves take great pleasure from the sea dancing in and out to the rhythm of the tides. However, where we are different is that for the cliffs, their final incarnation, if you like, is after we have been released from the cliffs as rocks and then when we have been ground together for millions of years by the waves and tides to become sand. We then become one with the sea travelling up and down the coast, making distant journeys to other continents and dancing in the deep. When we are in this state, we are at the pinnacle of our evolution by being split apart into our smallest component whereas if you were reduced to dust you feel this is a diminution of your existence.”
Luis now convinced of the authenticity of the rock was taken with this thought that being broken down into your component parts may not be a death but just another form of existence. He thanked the little man for his revelation and peacefully returned to sunbathe on the sand and as he lay there for the first of many future times in his long and fulfilled life, meditated with a renewed appreciation on each grain of sand under his body.
“It is a good story, is it not?” Zeca said as his eyes sparkled quizzically. “Angela, can you explain the meaning of the story to Mark?”
“Yes, Zeca. It is clear that the man would have been better to sunbathe further away from the rocks and then he would not have had his sunbathing time interrupted.”
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