Three can keep a secret. Shadowy and undefined, hunched over,
perhaps slightly deformed. Some folk in the streets whispered in hushed
tones the words, "mutation," "freaks," or "accident
of nature," but all in speculation, or more aptly in desperation
to explain that which cannot be.
Around these three was the distinct air of the unreal, a strange difference
in atmosphere that was just out of grasp. It was like the words on
the tip of the tongue, the straining to retain that waking thought.
Chronologically it seemed they were out of sync. Their movements somewhat
disjointed and in features always slightly unfocused. Much of the
time these three seemed mostly unaware of the reality that curved
around them, going about their ways, such as they were or appeared
to be, as if in an obliquely divergent dimension, which for some reason
encroached into here. Other times they seemed to notice this world,
and would look up from their doings glancing briefly as though observing
a distraction passing a window.
No one could particularly recall when this parallel vista had intruded
upon the shadowy courtyards of the old part of our city. Some say
it began as shadows, cast from the high-rise peaks that blotted the
sun, leaving mournful streets of depressing grey. Others say it was
always there, but overlooked, how they couldn't say. Most who passed
on by did so with heads slightly down, eyes averted, as though willing
themselves no to see that which could not be perhaps all to aware
that they looked into the soul of the city, unwilling to face their
None did stop to stare, not even the children, although stories nonetheless
abound, about those bogeymen and what they allegedly did to those
who didn't sleep at night. Alternatively it was these three who were
credited with the nightmare that some suffered, awakening with a start,
a scream, drenched in the cold night sweat.
There were even names bestowed, by whom originally it is not known.
Snake-eyes, Eightball and Thirteen. Nor was it remembered why they
had been so called, for none could claim to have clearly seen the
features to so label them. Perhaps it was more in reference to the
foreboding doom they seemed to portend to those who tried to ignore.
Then one day there came a man, a stranger to our city. He came to
observe these three; although how he was aware of their presence here
it was not known. It was assumed that none but our city folk knew
of such, that the stories had not escaped these streets. He would
come and stand and stare, mostly by day and seldom at night. None
dared speak to him, choosing to ignore him too, least they be forced
to acknowledge the real existence of those three.
Some believed him a madman, for he seemed a little queer. He never
approached those three, no notes on paper written nor photographs
taken. Nor did he ever interact with anyone who passed him by, oblivious
to the fact he was not alone on these lonely streets. He just stood
and stared, not always in the same place, sometimes from within the
shadows, other times from the doorway of a building. Mostly just in
the open, though no one ever saw him arrive or depart and it was unknown
where he may reside when not in the process of observing.
Some began to talk, about the observer and his relation to the observed.
Some did feel he was responsible for them being there, that the observed
required an observer. They proffered that he had been here all along,
and that he was the cause, while others claimed he was merely responsible
for keeping the ghastly affair going. Get rid of the observer and
then there is nothing to observe. Believing, they, that all was a
bizarre experiment in which the observer is intricately a part.
Some did gather, to take it upon themselves, to decide upon an end
to the matter. The solution they did decide was to ask the man to
leave, to tell him he was not welcome, and that his observations would
no longer be tolerated. A spokesman was appointed to talk to the observer,
and so it was set in motion. This group which numbered many, did approach
this man who again stood observing. They did form around him a circle,
aiming to obstruct his view. And the spokesman stood before him, clearing
his throat in mock-importance he'd taken upon himself. But the attention
he sought was not gained, the observer unmoved. It was as though he
looked right through them, with eyes still focused upon the three.
There was a murmur within the crowd that this was perhaps a weird
joke and he who stood before them was a blind, deaf, mute, who actually
was aware of nothing that may be going on around, lost instead in
deep contemplation on matters known only to him.
Without attention gained, the spokesman started anyway, to explain
what had been decided, and that it was requested that the observer
take his leave. All through this speech, which lasted several minutes,
no indication was given that what was said was heard. The observer's
eyes never wavered from whence they watched, nor did his breathing
change, if he did indeed breath, if he as in fact alive and not some
lifelike mannequin so-placed and moved about by some unseen mad trickster.
There was a long silence, of many minutes so it seemed. Then without
warning the eyes of the observer changed focus, just perceptively
and came to stare now deep into the eyes and soul of the spokesman.
A slight gasp in unison was head from those forming the circle, while
the jaw of the spokesman dropped, his face a mask of fear. It was
as though he had seen deep inside himself some would say.
Then as they stood in shocked silence, the observer for the only time
spoke, "I came to observe;" the words slow and emphatic,
although virtually no change in tone. With those words said he suddenly
moved, walking slowly and deliberately towards the three, his gaze
again fixed upon them.
The circle parted to let him pass, curiosity making them forget their
demands. No one, as far as is known, had ever gone so close to the
space occupied by the three. But now this observer approached closer,
step-by-step. When he was as close as he seemingly could be without
crossing the boundary he stopped and turned to face the crowd.
The corners of his mouth appeared to hint in a slight smile, that
he knew something they did not. Those gathered there waited in anticipation,
for the observer seemed about to speak. Some perhaps though he would
enlighten them, let them in on the secret, to which he surely knew.
Some moments they did wait, in silence. Then they all became observers
to something, which to this day has never been explained. The observer
began to fall backwards, but as he did he disappeared from view, an
impossible perspective. Confusion and murmuring did ensue, but all
agreed that the observer was no longer there, although not trusting
their eyes as to what they all witnessed.
With the passing of the observer a time of change was marked. Over
the next few weeks people became aware that the three were becoming
two. It was as though one was merging somehow with the other two,
although no one could express what it was they saw. And after that
transition was complete, the next phase began. The two remaining slowly
started to assimilate until there remained just one.
The change complete the passers-by did notice, that now things were
focused, no longer ill defined, and the remaining one was now familiar,
for it was the observer. Many months rolled by and the observer did
stand and stare. Now observing the city from the vantage point of
the three. And as the time rolled by the streets and buildings seemed
to grow dim. The greys of shadow darkened until it seemed an endless
night was about to descend.
But something more sinister it seemed was unfolding, for everything
seemed to grow less defined, unfocus, and lose sync, save for the
space where the observer now stood. Then at last, once the time was
at hand, the observer turned his back on the city, which was no longer
there. Satisfied that the outcome was as it should have been he shut
his eyes, and finally he too ceased to exist.
© by Graeme Wilson
courtesy by the author