The Moment

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu  1/23/15
The alarm blared on the bedside table. It was a cheap electric clock, which produced a loud irritating noise akin to a bleating sheep in heat. Half asleep, he reached over and swatted the clock’s button to stop the racket. Through bleary eyes he saw the red numerals 5:30. A glance at the window confirmed it was still pitch black outside.

He lay still for a few minutes with no desire to rise. Not a morning person, he was drifting back to sleep when an inner voice commanded, “Get up! You have a flight to catch.” This roused him from the bed since, if he didn’t move, he might be stuck in the miserable place for another day.

Throwing back the sheets, he switched on the bedside lamp. The harsh light hurt his eyes. Closing them quickly, he covered his face with a pillow to block the glare. After a few seconds, he lifted the pillow slightly, and re-opened his eyes letting them adjust to the light. Conceding defeat, he tossed the pillow onto a chair and sat up. The room was freezing, which further confirmed his experience that every building in the tropics was either an ice box or a sauna.

Stumbling out of bed, he walked to the balcony door, opened it and stepped outside. It was humid, but not yet hot, a relief from the ice box inside. A light breeze stirred the air. He looked down over a small inlet where fishermen and amateur sailors moored their small vessels. Since there was no moon, it was too dark to see the boats clearly, but he could make out their mooring lights. The tide, washing gently against the shore, rocked the boats, causing their bells to softly clang out an odd sort of gamelan song. Their lights, moved back and forth, in rhythm with the bells.

He left the balcony and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and shave. This took about fifteen minutes. Now fully awake, he went back outside to have a cigarette. The sky was no longer black, but it was still too dusky to see anything in the distance. He could, however, make out the outline of boats anchored in the cove. Swaying back and forth they brought to mind cradles. The thought made him smile. Warm air carried up the smell of the ocean mixed with a tropical perfume, part frangipani. He leaned back and enjoyed the quiet.

After a couple of puffs, he put out the cigarette and went back into the room to shower and pack. It took less than twenty minutes to finish both, so he still had thirty minutes before he had to catch a taxi for the airport.  Once again, he was drawn to the balcony.

He stepped out at that moment, just before the dawn, when the sky is neither dark nor light. He could see clearly, but the harsh outlines encountered during daytime were muted. The effect reminded him of silk-screening as seen in films.

Looking up from the water, he gazed out toward the East and was awed by the sight before him. Directly across from his balcony loomed the silhouetted of a gigantic mountain. Only twenty minutes earlier it had been too dark to notice, but now the contrast between the brightening sky and the black monolith was stunning. Although he had seen it before, this was the first time he had truly studied the mount. It was an almost perfect cone soaring into the heavens. Jagged fingers jutted out around the top giving it the look of a crown. Twenty or thirty miles distant, it seemed close enough for him to touch. He wondered what trick of optics was at work.

Out of nowhere, he felt an electric, yet, calming sensation spread throughout his body. This was followed by a sense of peace and well being, such as he had never experienced. It engulfed him like a wave. The view of his mind’s eye narrowed, framing in sharp focus only the moment and place. The usual cacophony of plans worries and ideas, which normally cluttered his mind, disappeared. No single sense or perception overpowered another, all functioned together in perfect balance.

The muted view of the mountain, the gentle wind caressing his face, the fragrance of the flowers and ocean, the music of the surf and ships’ bells were no longer discrete phenomena. All coalesced into a unified whole and he was part of it. He didn’t act. He didn’t think; about past or future, how or why, the meaning of life. It simply was.

Almost imperceptibly, a distant sound began to intrude upon this bliss. The dissonance steadily grew and finally a loud ringing broke the spell. Brought back to world, he blinked several times before realizing it was the telephone.

Reluctantly, he stepped back into his room, picked up the receiver and said, “Yes? No I’m up. I’ll be down in a minute or two.” Hanging up, he walked back and stared, wistfully, out the balcony door. The sun was up and the day would be a bright one. Across the cove, he could hear people, most likely fishermen, yelling at each other as if they were in different cities instead of three feet from one another. Things were back to normal.

Gazing at the mountain, he sighed. He tried to understand what had happened, find some rational explanation, but couldn’t. The experience had been real but fragile, like a wisp of smoke in a breeze. Impossible to grasp.

Turning his back on the scene outside, he picked up his bags, walked into the hall and closed the door behind him. • (991 views)

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10 Responses to The Moment

  1. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    The fictional short-short has become more popular in recent years, but it remains very difficult to say anything in 1500 words or less (you’re probably around the 1000-word mark here), and I think you deserve some applause, KFZ, for having made the attempt. “The Moment” reminds me just a little of Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” although it’s a little more focused (as I remember it, the Hemingway story was considerably longer, having a longer “moment” as it were).

    I don’t know how much experience you have at fiction-writing, but I would encourage you to try something a little longer if you have not already done so. The longer the story the more difficult the sale as editors seem to hate anything over 5000 words, but as I said before, it’s very hard to really say anything in fiction when you don’t have the space for more than one incident or even more than one brief scene.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Anyone interested in a writer of short-shorts would be well recommended to try the short science fiction of Fredric Brown. He had a large variety of very short pieces, of which the most famous is probably “The Answer”, about the results when all the computers in the world were linked together into a single entity, capable of answering any question.

      • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

        I’m somewhat familiar with Brown, who as I remember it wrote both mysteries and sci-fi, but not “The Answer”. I hope I can find the time to look it up – it doesn’t sound like it would take long to read.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          It appeared in the excellent collection Angels and Spaceships, and can also be found in an omnibus edition of his short stories.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Thanks Nic. I do not have much experience writing short stories. But this story is not really about writing short stories, per se. It’s more like an entry in a diary.

      This is a personal experience which I tried to get down in words which approximate the actual occurrence. It was very difficult to write as the thing which I experienced is really beyond verbal description.

      I wrote it in third person as what happened almost seemed as if I were observing myself.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I figured it was something like that. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can really get across exactly how you felt in a situation like that.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          From a young age, I have always known that a word is not the thing. But after having experiences like the above, the truth of that fact became very personal and no longer abstract.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Nic, I will have to read the Hemingway story and get back to you.

      I cut back this story to the barest possible number of words, because I wanted to be true to the actual thing and didn’t want to clutter the reader’s mind with extraneous information. The experience was very stark and simple.

      It is probably not something I would publish anywhere else, because I am not sure it is something for a wider audience. But I have a certain respect for ST and those who take part here. This is not the ESPN or Huffington Post crowd.

  2. Anniel says:

    I still took this story as very personal, even though Master Kung Fu did not write it in the first person. I suspect he has had many such “moments.”

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      You are correct Anniel. The story is as it happened. I didn’t want to add anything to it just to make it sound fancier or better.

      I have had similar experiences, which have occurred in situations and places as varied as standing on a beach or sitting on a curb next to a parking lot. But none were as powerful as the one above.

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