Yet in time again the light. Bursting over rock and crevice, stabbing darkness in streams and streams until the figures come forth in slow deliverance. Mother and child. Muted colors at this hour. Streaks of lampblack, russet. The child is knelt in prayer or pain: the small body is cringed. Her elbows rest midway on her thighs, the hands clutched and touch her mouth, her forehead hovers above the ground not far from the knees. Black hair covers the face. The back is bowed tight and splotched with umber and lampblack, spotted like the throat of an elder. If the light is strong enough, granules of dried blood can be seen at the center of the splotches. But the light is not strong enough. There are imperfections elsewhere, everywhere. On top of the child's back rest the hands of the other figure, the mother. She is seated behind the child touching the discolorations; she is almost transparent. (Whether this is actual or a result of the light cannot be determined now.) The head is tilted down in an angle of concern. Black hair also covers the face. Her breasts are crying chalky tears that dribble down her stomach, which is creased lengthwise across the middle, giving the impression that she, too, is slumped forward. There is this and only this. The contrast of the figures is stark, made starker as time moves on. Smeary, in truth. As if deliberately smudged by a thumb. Three hours pass. The light reveals more. The child has aged into adolescence, unfurled breasts of her own; she is small no longer. Her legs are folded under her weight. The rest of her body is slanted forward, drawn to, yearning towards, the figure that is the mother. This where before it was uncertain—forward, to, towards—only now in fact: the arms confirm this. Wrapped around the waist of the mother. Face obscured again by black hair, although swipes of face which the hair does not cover is shadowed over with burnt sienna. The rest of the body is the tone of light on rock, lighter than the face, indicating an emotion. The emotion cannot be determined yet. The head of the child is buried between the mother's breasts. The mother, who in time has faded to almost nothing, an outline, has one arm around the child, nestling the child against her side like a spider its prey. Her face is shrouded by her hair—black and thick—and partly by the black hair of the child. Her faint body is seated upright, in a posture accepting the child's embrace but not given to it as one would expect. Indeed, the mother's head is turned away. The other arm is reaching in the opposite direction, forward to towards a third figure, reaching but not quite touching. Here the technique shifts to chiaroscuro. The powdered gradations of white against the natural blemishes in the wall lend a rippling effect to the scene. Gray where the light cannot reach—gray or black. Streaks and smears to signify something beyond. Where outstretched arm meets outstretched arm, a space of nothing, but more than nothing as a result, perhaps more than what is visible. These two reaching figures are identical in size and shape; the third figure, as it turns out, is the exact inverse of the mother figure. Her face is obscured by white hair. Her white body is seated upright, the posture the same, face turned towards the second figure. But she is not transparent, or not intended to be: at least not all of her. Her body reflects the same attitude as the second figure, but where a child is expected to cling there clings only darkness, black. (This is not a failing of light, or the murk of the cave.) The arm with no child is obliterated to gray, then black. The colors are tangled, enmeshed. This raises a question. Is the third figure embracing the darkness, or is the darkness embracing her? If it is the first case, the arm outstretched indicates a farewell, an attachment to the past in the face of something new, something already accepted. She is calm, and has to calm the other. If it is the second case, reluctance suffuses the scene, a struggle with the darkness, and the figure is reaching out to the other for help. She is frightened, unwilling. In either case, the emotion in the first figure—the child's face—is now unmistakable. The light moves forward, deeper, revealing more black. Five hours pass before the final figure can be seen. At this point the light is bronzed and falling fast. The figure, let there be no doubt, is alone. The colors and textures suggest that this is the child of the previous two scenes. There is little time left. She is lying facedown with her arms about her head. The face is hidden by the arms and the black hair, which cascades over most of the upper body in sharp black rivers. The lower body is loose, at ease, legs stretched out with the ankles crossed. There are no folds, no creases, no signs of tension on the body; the child—or woman, now—is resting all over. At last. The artist has stroked her with serenity. Now the light is folding shut, closing in upon itself, closing upon the resting woman and her past. At this point only darkness can reveal more.
At this point only darkness can reveal more.
To be reenacted again the following day—this for a season, hidden for another two. Only darkness can reveal further details.
After a thousand seasons the lines are disordered, fractured, blurred, have lost themselves to the surface of the rock.
And the sun roams elsewhere.
Only darkness can reveal further details.
Outside the sun roams elsewhere.
After a thousand seasons the lines become disordered, fractured, blurred, have lost themselves to wind and rock.
Outside the sun roams elsewhere.
After a hundred seasons the lines become disordered, fractured, blurred, have lost themselves to wind and rock.
And the sun roams elsewhere.
After a hundred seasons the lines become disordered, fractured, blurred, have lost themselves to wind and rock. The
sun rises the sun rises the sun rises.
After a thousand seasons the lines are disordered, fractured, blurred, have lost themselves to the surface of the rock. It cannot be determined whether this was done by hand, or by nature. Outside the sun roams without memory.
All things in life come back to you, Mother.
The sun is fading. The grass has instances of light on it.
The words are disordered, fractured, blurred, have lost their meaning.
This is the only way I can speak to you after I have gone.
The sun rises. The sun rises the sun rises the sun rises.
Only the most discerning eye can make out one last detail. Given the right intensity of light, or an altogether different kind of luminosity—torchlight, for example—a fissure can be seen just barely
Given the right intensity of light, or an altogether different kind of luminosity—torchlight, for example—a single strand of hair can be seen just barely. Etched on the back of the final resting woman, the child. The color of the strand is either black or white, depending on the angle.
Edward Kim lives in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in 5_Trope and Impossible Object.