the Third Day
It was the third day, I think—it has been so long, you see, I have almost forgotten. This forgetfulness comes from habit, I suppose—days numbered to the umpteenth power ratcheting one to the next, the turning of the mechanism grown monotonous, something simply there but scarcely noticed. Not like at first, when each day seemed miraculous, when each day was truly new, like a painting that abruptly catches your attention (no matter how often you think you saw it), grabs your glance so suddenly that you stand in front of it for hours or minutes, scouring it with your eyes, lifting away each brush stroke, the minutest variation in color, the texture of the canvas and the splintered gilt on the frame, stealing it away to keep in your most private collection. As I said, it was a long time ago, and you must forgive me if I’ve forgotten the exact order; my memory for these things is not what it was. A grudge I can remember, but the order of those early days… not so well as I used to.
So it was the third day and everything was still; no cattle crushed the grasses of the hillside, no dogs trotted along the sidewalks tugging or dawdling at the lead, no birds perched in the branches, no fishes disturbed the sea, not an insect moved. I am trying to remember that sound. It is not what we now think of as silence, that sterile stillness which yet contains the buzzing of florescent lamps, or the muffled rasp of our own frightened breathing, or the slow settling of walls and floors and rafters. No, it was not silence at all. Nor was it truly noise, because if it were noise, then it could cease, and that cessation of sound would be silence. I think it was at that moment, that instant just after I had noticed land on the horizon, land covered in grass and trees and more things than even I could have imagined, it was just then, I think, that I noticed the air had a sound of its own. The gales dashing over the waters when water was all there was, for those years, or months, or days, or hours had yet been unproductive of sound, because there was nothing but the wind and the waves; there was no distinction, no differentiation, hence no need to notice. But when I saw the land… I’m not sure how to explain it. I was suddenly aware of the breezes rustling the grasses, tossing the branches of the trees to and fro, dashing the leaves against each other. It was not startling; there was no din, no clatter, nothing to frighten or astound, because the sound had always been there—I simply hadn’t noticed it.
It’s an odd thing to think about, that sound. But I’ve been reminiscing—it’s not as though there’s been much call for me in recent years or I could be of any real use. Anyway. Even though it seems funny now, looking back on it, I recall wondering at the time if the land was some mistake, an error conjured out of the waters, a primeval garden of folly. Of course, it didn’t have a hermit then, it being only the third day. It was certainly accidental; I certainly did not mean to start anything. It might have been an error. Even now, I can admit that it all might have been a mistake. Now, of course, no one will believe me. They have other things on their minds—those grudges I mentioned, for one; but let’s not begin all that again. No, let’s not start that at all—we only end up going in circles, arguing causation and shifting the blame, going round and round like the soundless hurricanes on the surface of those waters so many, many years ago.