In the lab, bent over graphs in search for some values, I overheard a fascinating conversation from the distance. Actually it was more of a debate than a conversation. It was argumentative, quarrelsome, and at times even violent. Although their actions did not necessarily affirm this, it seemed that both parties were convinced in their righteousness. Moreover, apparently the only reason for their disagreement was for the sake of the truth, which obviously each of them thought was with them.
The interlocutors could not have been more different to each other in appearance. On the one side was a – mostly – smiling old man (though I couldn’t tell whether the smile was genuine or fake), his head bear and bold and a heavy pair of spectacles resting on his nose. In his one hand was a book, to which he kept on referring to make his arguments, whilst his other hand was incessantly being directed towards his long, free-flowing beard, as if receiving from it some mysterious inspiration.
His rival, a young woman, her hair tied up in a neat pony-tail behind her head, was busying herself with a piece of equipment, which seemed to be a telescope directed upwards to the skies, although it was difficult to tell due to the many blood stains that were covering it from all angles. I couldn’t help but notice that the girl did not seem to be bothered by the excess of blood and was just concerned with the set up of the instrument, which she seemed to want to use to win the old man. Could she be used to bloodshed, poor girl? She looked so young, but on her face were deep signs of trauma.
I did not feel bad at all for listening in to the debate, because it seemed to be quite public. Multitudes of people were present, passionately supporting either of the sides, though very few seemed to be interested in what was actually being said. Whilst no words were heard from the interlocutors themselves, which I later found out was due to the fact that they did not speak the same language, it appeared that the very existence of the girl was threatening the old man, to the point where he was actually shivering in fear. But this was a mystery to me, for the man seemed to have a much louder and noisier crowd than the woman who seemed to be content with her equipment and a few bones, although she did have some supporters too.
I instinctively sided with the old man. I wasn’t entirely sure whether it was because of what he was saying, his book, or perhaps because of his smile. To be fair, he was an old and experienced man, and he seemed to have seen a lot and done a lot in his lifetime. It was reasonable to assume that he knew what he was talking about. His followers also seemed to be really devoted to his position, unlike the girl’s supporters who seemed to be just getting on with their lives. Once again I couldn’t tell if this was due to the people’s genuine belief in the correctness of the man’s position, or because of some other unidentifiable reason.
As I was being drawn to the man’s position more and more and moving away from the girl, the lines and numbers on my graph were becoming blurry. At first I could still make out some rough figures and sketches, but to my horror I realised that increasingly they are fading away completely. The ruler I was holding to help me with the measurements was beginning to bend and the lines drawn using it no longer came out straight, but distorted and curved.
I looked around and realised that all of the followers of the old man were holding these distorted rulers, but I could not understand what use they could possibly have. I looked back to the counter in front of me, and on the paper that until recently contained my graph, letters started to appear. They were not the type of letters I would use in physics to calculate the values of my graph, but letters of a different kind altogether. Instead of the sharp, crisp letters I was used to until now, these letters were quite fuzzy, vague and blurry, which I actually found to be quite exciting, as it gave me lots of flexibility and movement to use them as I pleased.
I turned my attention towards the girl, and I was surprised at her beauty. I did not recall her being as gorgeous when I looked at her earlier. Could she have changed so drastically in such a short period of time? I keep on staring at her and notice that she is growing more and more beautiful with every passing second. I look towards her equipment and notice that the blood has gone from the telescope. It doesn’t take me long to spot them on the bones. Oh my! The bones were covered in blood! There was the old blood from the telescope, but plenty of fresh blood, flowing all over. Wherever there was a bone, there was blood and it would not seem to stop. I could not figure out where the blood was coming from.
My ruler is still in my hand, bent and twisted as it is, but I feel movement on it. Someone is playing around with my ruler, tugging it and pulling it in different directions. I lower my eyes to see what is going on, and I see the letters – the ones which I so loved, the fluffy and fuzzy ones – grabbing hold of my ruler to bend it and twist it even more. “Stop!” I shout out to them, “Is my ruler not twisted enough? Why are you making it worse?”
“My Son,” I hear the old man’s voice coming in my direction, “They are not distorting your ruler, but making it straight!”
I calm down. I am not entirely convinced, but there isn’t much I could do about it anyway. The girl catches my attention again. There she is, beautiful as never before, but she is not satisfied. I watch her as she keeps on discarding her possessions, one by one. Often she would work on something for a long time, only to discard it later in favour of something new. I couldn’t wrap my head around this strange behaviour, but I noticed that it is when she throws something out that her face grows more beautiful and fresh. The more she discards, the more the glow on her face brightens.
The old man and his followers also seem to notice the girls behaviour, but they take it as a failure of her’s, not noticing the glow it adds to her features. They derisively point their fingers at the discarded items as if saying, ‘look what a failure you are; you can’t even keep your possessions for more than a while!’ I look at the old man’s book, and indeed, it is really old. He does not seem to suffer from the girls problem, but on the other hand, neither is his face glowing as is the girl’s.
The story with the blood still mystifies me and I am determined to find out what’s their source. It does not take me long to make the shocking discovery: it is the rulers that we are holding that are shedding the blood! I am absolutely in shock. My ruler! My beloved ruler, the one who in the past has helped me draw graphs and geometric shapes has now become a murderer?! What have the letters done to it?
Realising what I’ve done, I run over to the girl. I kiss her, embrace her and help her wipe off the blood. As I apologise to her and pledge to be with her from now on, I can see movement on my counter once again. I watch in ecstasy as my graph comes back and my ruler straightens out. I ask the girl if I can offer her any help. She tells me that she is looking for a string. With combined effort it doesn’t take long to find it and as we emerge with the string in our hands, we realise that the old man and his group had vanished, disappeared forever.