The Undiscovered Country, Apparently
The martini glass was suddenly upended. The room full of partygoers stopped what they were doing, pausing mid-conversation, and turned to watch it fall.
The glass fell very slowly. It was top-heavy, having recently been filled. In the first forty-five seconds, during which it moved a full eight inches towards the floor, the glass rotated from its vertical position and tilted at a perilous angle. The placid surface of the pale, green-tinted vodka elongated to a wide oval as the arc of the glass lip began to slide away beneath it. The olive within wobbled nervously. When the fluid finally trespassed over the edge of the glass, it was thrown into the open-air in a sideways-cascade of floating pearls. The olive - still speared through its red heart with a toothpick - followed the beaded stream of liquid like a miniature Sputnik tumbling through outer space.
By the time a full minute had passed, the glass had fallen an entire twelve inches, and most of the liquid had vacated it. Some of the assembled guests began to speculate, out loud, as to what steps they might take.
An elegant, copper-haired woman, tragically holding her hand to her throat (or rather the silken blue-and-silver scarf which encircled her throat like a small membrane torn from the midday sky), remarked, "My God! And in the process, turning so as to empty itself! Not just falling, but turning and falling, and thereby becoming empty!" The rings on her fingers held fat stones, which clambered like beetles beneath her chin.
The man who stood by her side promptly placed his own drink (scotch on the rocks) on the mantle over the fireplace. He scratched his white beard and ran his hand over his bald head. "There he goes again. The pious bastard! Asking us to look at things that have never happened before!" His anger seemed righteous and true to all present, though many were unsure as to whom he referred.
From the back of the room, an Englishman spoke.
"If, in fact, it does make it all the way down, I mean, if it actually goes all the way down and hits the floor - what then?"
This, then, was the question for their time, and it was greeted with numerous, indistinct mumbles and susurrations from all corners of the room. The voices intoned cautiously, seeking assurance in the cacophony of simultaneous speech that they would all be spared the responsibility of singular, widespread intelligibility.
As the mumblings receded, a man in the shape of a corduroy pear with a bristled, learned face stepped forward and pointed towards the slowly falling object, his thick finger perilously close to the stem of the glass.
"Okay...worst-case scenario...the vodka, we can deal with that. It will be painful, at first, to watch it irretrievably disperse, but it will eventually disappear into the fabric of things. But the glass, the glass will break! We can't allow that to happen here."
Another woman, somewhat younger than the rest, emerged from behind the pear-man, her thin frame set in a question-mark slouch. "Perhaps," she said, "we can coax it out the window before it falls completely. You know, by blowing on it or something."
Voices, freshly churned to hopefulness, rumbled in accord.
"Quick! Hand me a newspaper!" cried a grey-haired woman near the fruit-cup ziggurat that had been carefully assembled hours before on the dining room table. "I can use it as a fan!"
A flurry of activity ensued. Something dry and unkempt was handed about the crowd. Fractured sentences pressed against one another in crass juxtapositions.
"We must act fast! At the rate it's falling, we only have a few more minutes!"
There was a thunderous, violent rending noise as the window facing the city street was hoisted open. Over the course of the next ninety seconds, the glass was painstakingly coaxed by several volunteers who had procured magazines, newspapers, and credit-card offers in the mail with which they paddled the air like panicked, flightless birds. The resulting wind caused the glass to slowly but steadily arc towards the open window. Even though the first full gyration had emptied the glass of nearly all its fluid, a fine scattering of miniature jewels, like glinting shards of silicate on a fine, empty beach, spiraled out from the lip of the glass as it spun. Next to the window, a man and a woman - already uncomfortable as the unlikely guests at a party thrown by relative strangers - were pressed into the corner with their limp wrists helplessly cowering at their chests. The man, observing the steady progress of the insurgent moisture advancing towards him, swatted angrily at the air to deflect it. It was a pyrrhic victory; the beads of liquor were indeed deflected, but the breeze from his hand caused the glass to spin more rapidly and spray him again. At the touch of the cool rain on his skin, he lurched away, knowing then that he'd been irrevocably marked. The woman who was with him, anxious mere moments before at having placed a dollop of blue-cheese on her lapel thanks to a crudités which, in the heat of the moment, had been sorely mishandled, now relaxed, knowing that her own humiliation had been bested.
At long last the glass exited through the open window, and drifted out into the unwashed city air above the surging uptown traffic. The sun, reflected in miniature on the rotating glass surface (which had, indeed, been cleaned with immense care), zigzagged from cup, to stem, to base, and up again, in the irregular systolic pulsations of a diseased and angry heart.
"There it goes. Yes, yes, there it goes..."
The glass drifted out over the thoroughfare, falling even more slowly than before, until its westward trajectory took it past the sidewalk edge. Upon crossing directly over a public mailbox, and catching hold of the relentless upwelling breeze created by the street traffic, the glass, as if dislodged from an unseen shelf, suddenly lurched upwards about six inches, and then rapidly plummeted from view. A moment later, an icy crash echoed from the pavement below, followed by a thunderous detonation that rocked the building. Through the open window came the sound of rent metal debris impacting and scattering on concrete. A dozen car alarms erupted in a simultaneous wail of discord. Somewhere, a man's voice screamed "Oh, God. Oh my God, no! Somebody please help!" A black mushroom of smoke billowed into view like a giant, bushy-haired specter.
"For God's sake, close the window!"
The window slammed shut. A hand retreated from the edge of the frame in a surreptitious blur.
For a moment, the room was silent, and then the mellifluous voice of the hostess could be heard.
"Right, um, that wasn't from any of us, now, was it? The glass, I mean, if indeed there ever was a glass."
A roomful of heads shook, spectacles and earrings glinting.
"Perish the thought!" Came a man's voice from the back of the crowd.
"What thought? Whatever are you talking about?" The hostess, tossing her head back, burst into nervous laughter, her teeth radiant and sharp, and the guests responded in kind. The laughter continued, until someone shrieked from the vicinity of the cheese-tray. "Oh, Gods! The olive!"
There was a moment of intense light and heat, followed by a kind of ethereal weightlessness, in which the flesh and spirit became unified.
Following demolition, the land where the building had stood was re-developed for a community center. It was inaugurated in a brief but tasteful ceremony, in which the eyes of the deputy mayor were seen to gently moisten.
About the author:
Andrew S. Taylor is the Associate Editor of the online literary magazine Menda City Review. His short stories and essays have appeared in various publications, both online and in print, including two previous appearances in Pindeldyboz ("The Node" and "The Paper Fable"). Other publication credits include Ellery Queen, The Brooklyn Rail, Mad Hatter's Review, Cafe Irreal, Peridot Books, American Book Review, Cyrano's Journal, and Anime Insider. He has a fascinating day job involving customer service for a non-profit arts organization. His author blog can be found at http://fablesandriddles.blogspot.com/. He still lives in Brooklyn.