There was this girl. She was my age. She was sitting in a chair at the very top of a tall building. It is nearing sunset, and though the skies are cloudy, the heat is intense. It is a miasma of suffocating warmth coming from the highways below, borne up by the sounds of revving engines and blaring horns of vehicles. It is only slightly windy. Everything is in slow-motion. Her long black hair is waving gently, like the tentacles of jellyfish or some other underwater sea creature. She says, this is the first time she has been out of her apartment in months. She says, this is the first time in months that she’s had a cigarette. She looks unkempt, like she does not take care of herself. Is she eating well? Is she alright out here sitting, looking at the sky?
She says she’s somewhat happy, or at least not as miserable as before. It’s the wide open spaces she loves, the vast empty stretches where there are no people to be seen. The problem with the world, she continues, is people. There are too many of them. There are too many of us. Imagine there would be a catastrophe, and only a few people would be left. The cities would be empty. There would be no blaring of horns, no more revving of loud engines of cars and motorcycles. No loud music coming from huge speakers about Christmas, the joy of Christmas, the happiness it would bring into all our lives. No more loud televisions broadcasting the voices of the famous and what the world has labelled beautiful or enticing or charismatic. It would be just people sitting around the campfire at night, talking.
She says, we need stories. Real stories. Not the empty, emotionally and intellectually bankrupt scenes they show on television every night. This world is suffering from a lack of imagination. So full, yet so lacking in the things that really matter. I remember, she continues, about this story, I think it was by Plato. He said that there are only a limited number of souls in the universe. They probably float around just waiting for their assigned bodies to be born, and then they merge with that body. The body lives and feels and hates and loves and just be all engaged with the world for a time, and then the body dies. The soul is released back into the aether where it floats with all the other souls once more. The problem, she says, is that there are more people now than there are souls. The industrial revolution has made mass production, especially in the realm of agriculture, possible. The scientific method has improved the medical arts so effectively that humans generally live longer now. A child born now has a higher chance of living than those born centuries ago. We are mass-producing people, we are making empty containers. There are soulless people walking around. This is the cause of the misery of the world.
She finishes her cigarette. She exhales the smoke. The smoke rises up towards the sky and merges with the clouds. It looks like it’s going to rain. I can hear the low rumbling, the pressure building, of the thunder waiting to be released. She looks at me with the cigarette stub clipped between her fingers. There are dark rings under her eyes. She looks tired and worn-out. The light makes her appear paler than she really is. She’s wearing jeans and flip-flops and a white baggy t-shirt with a few tiny holes in it. She leans over, forearms on her knees, and looks down. She lets go of the cigarette butt and crushes it under her left heel. She asks me: how do we make souls? How can we make this world a less miserable place?
It was just the two of us at the top of the building. I was sitting cross-legged on a piece of cardboard on the floor, about twenty or more steps in front of her. From where I am, she looked like a giant statue. She looked tired, like her words were her strength, and by speaking at length, she has lost a lot of energy. She does not move, she looks heavy, like she’s made of granite. I wondered whether the cement would crack under her feet if she stands up and takes a step.
As if hearing my thoughts, she raises her head and looks at me. She stands up, and the cement holds her weight. She stands up, slowly, and I thought I could see the dust that accumulated through centuries slide down from her onto the floor. I look at her as she walks towards me.
Just then the clouds parted, opening up a vast portion of the sky. It revealed a very bright light that covered the entire world. I could not see. All I managed was a glimpse of her feet as she started to float. Her flip-flops slipped off as I started to crawl towards her. The light had weight and was bearing down on me. My limbs felt heavy, it was hard to breathe. I thought I would lose consciousness. Then the light vanished as quickly as it appeared. My eyes took a long time to adjust back so I could see. When I looked around she was no longer there. The only things left were her flip-flops, the cigarette butt which she has crushed earlier, and the empty chair.