The Hourglass

I’m looking out the window when a hand rests on my shoulder. I turn slowly. Holding a candle, my sister Lucia steps back.   

‘There’s something you should see,’ she says.

Again, I stare out the window, into the darkness. As the eldest, and because my eyes are the strongest, I keep watch. Since last the sun was seen, I’ve kept time for 365 nights, marked in the absence of daylight by the vigilant turning of the hourglass. While alone, I pass the time sketching the dancing shadows on the walls around me. Faceless figures trapped in the narrow space between the glass bulbs.

I glance up at Lucia, attempt to discern her expression in the flickering light. When first the sun died, everything seemed cast in the mood of a Rembrandt painting. There was romance in it. But soon I longed for brightness. The reds, yellows, purples that didn’t appear washed-out in coffee. Those blues and greens which are now a memory, or dreams that one wakes from knowing they will never appear again. I keep my eyes on the sand seeping into the bottom half. I remember how my father used the same apparatus to time my geography lessons: how the sand rushed, running out before I could finish. Never enough time. How my perceptions have changed. My point of orientation had always been colour, so now in the near darkness I feel lost. If not for time. There are moments when I find myself counting each grain, the slow fall of endless time. Not immortality, but slow death.

‘I shouldn’t leave,’ I say.

‘Please,’ she says, ‘it will only take a minute.’

‘Only a minute?’ I smile.

She runs to the door, rests her hand on the doorknob, hesitant. Then she opens it.

Down the passage, from the kitchen window, shines a light. Red, unwavering, bright.

Again, Lucia’s hand rests on my shoulder. ‘It’s real’, she says. ‘That’s east.’