The first thing is the moonlight, bright and startling to the eye. The second is the frame of the deck, old hardwood washed white, cutouts entwined by creeping leaves. The third thing is the table, a long, banquet affair covered by a once-white cloth, silverware and white porcelain crockery and glasses strewn all over. The carcasses of fruit mingle with used napkins, the juice of pomegranates and plums, cherries and chinese gooseberries blotted like the blood of plants on the cloths. In the moonlight, it looks like a perfect scene; but the fourth thing is that some of the plates are broken, some of the glasses chipped. The food has not been cleared; the serving dishes not stacked; this table has been left in a hurry.
And so the fifth thing is this: in the centre of the table, framed by moonlight framed by the deck, is something that catches the light and throws it out, dazzling the eye in such a way that one must wonder why it is the fifth thing and not the first, the most, the only. It is glass, or crystal maybe, the kind that resonates with a deep, echoing note somewhere in one’s chest, and it is all edges and planes, not flat, but sculpted, some sides rough and natural, some silky smooth. It’s twined around with the same plant that frills the deck posts, which, looking closer, is covered with tiny, white stars. Their fragrance underlies the sharp, sweet smell of fruit – something warm, and spicy; summer in a flower. It might even be jasmine, in much the same way that a lion might even be a cat.
Looking closer still, one can see that the flowers themselves are glowing; not merely reflecting the light, though there is plenty of it. No. They glow from deep within their silvered throats, some pulsing softly, some dim and fading.
And the sixth thing: the crystal, which stands as tall as a man’s forearm on a platform of moulded, polished silver, is pulsing too, breathing something in, and exhaling light. Perhaps it is the moon’s own rays that the crystal imbibes, transforming it into a light softer and more silver.
But the flowers are fading, wilting, and upon closer reflection it seems that the tableware is not randomly strewn after all. It is scattered, interrupted, to be sure; but the interruption is not random. The glasses all lean outwards; only the plates nearest the crystal are shattered. And glancing at the floor, it almost seems as though some explosion has occurred, for though chairs and places remain, the floor in the centre has been swept clean, and dust has gathered in rings growing outward from the middle of the table.
In fact, this is the seventh thing: the dust. There is lots of it. More than there should be for a party this fine, in a house this grand. Surely someone would have swept the deck beforehand. And even this many guests could not tromp this much dirt up from the yard. And dust is not really dirt, anyway. Dust is mostly skin, they say: dead skin, old cells sloughed off, no longer needed.
There is lots of dust. Enough for all the guests.
The last of the flowers pulses, withers, and without a sound breaks free from its sepal and falls, drifting down in slow motion to the table. The crystal breathes in, and this time, there is no exhale.