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You Cannot See Colours In Moonlight

Photograph by Anton Kusters, Story by Sarah Jasmon

Dog_AK - Sarah Jasmon's story.jpg

The dog goes past the window at the usual time. I say the usual time, but that’s an unforgivably inexact statement, considering. Anyway, there he goes, a black shadow with a black shadow, crossing the patch of grass which is whitened by the moon. It seems to me that there’s always moonlight whitening the grass outside of the window, but that can’t be true. Even were we to accept the possibility of an endless stretch of cloudless nights, there would be the waxing and waning to take into account. 

            To begin with, I kept an exact reckoning of what went on in that space with no edges. I was alert, those first few weeks. Each evening, I’d arrive to find a clean sheet of paper on the table, a freshly sharpened pencil lined up along its top edge. I would sit upright in the chair, checking my watch before noting down the time of the dog’s arrival. 01.43am. 01.40. 01.39. There were other things to record as well. Sounds. A car passing somewhere in the distance, behind me, travelling from left to right. On that particular night I may have gone further, making the suggestion that the vehicle had passed in an easterly direction. I’m sure I used to make those judgements but it’s hard to tell now. And the papers always disappear between my visits, so there’s no way I can go back through to compare, to double check.

            The dog only ever moves in one direction. He – and I say he for no verifiable reason, other than the undeniably male angle to his head as he stops to regard me – appears from the darkness on the far side of the grass, heading directly for my window. Head on, so that his black head is absorbed by his black body. I find it fascinating, how the actual dog seems headless whilst the shadow dog is complete, if in a somewhat distorted sense. I can’t see where he comes from. The margins of this place extend into invisibility. There may be a fence hidden in the darkness, in which case the dog must squeeze his way through a hole or a gap. I have considered every possibility, pictured chain links, wooden posts, metal sidings, impenetrable hedge. Or there is nothing to bound the perimeter, and the dog crosses as he will, where he wills.

            I’ve lost track of how many nights have passed since I stopped keeping a record of the time. I’d already stopped expecting anything to happen, though this didn’t entirely take the tautness of expectation away. I was here for a purpose, or so I assumed, so at some point, it followed, something must happen. I still expect something to happen. Sort of. It’s possible that whatever it is will happen when I least expect it. That it’s waiting until I have given up. The thought that I have agency in this is, sporadically, comforting.

            I am brought here, every evening, in the back of a darkened car. The car is driven by a man who doesn’t speak. He doesn’t leave the car but waits for me to go through the door before turning to drive away. I, in turn, walk down the short passageway to the room with the window. Part of the initial contact involved the instruction that I was not to enter any other room. The words on pain of death were not actually used, but I took them to be implied. I am not, in any case, blessed with that particular kind of curiosity. Bluebeard would’ve been safe with me. I do what I’m paid to do, no more, no less. I sit at the window and I watch out for the dog. Sometimes I wonder who comes into the room when I am not present. There must be someone, because every night the paper has changed, my sparse markings exchanged for fresh blankness. The only living creature I see, though, is the dog.

            We’ve had conversations. I used to address him directly, hey, Nero, you’re late tonight. What have you been up to? Bitches giving you trouble again? Yes, I gave him a name. Wouldn’t you? And yes, it amused me to say bitch like that, correctly, with no possibility of being pulled up for unacceptable bias, or whatever the shit you used to say. Because it’s hard, you know, changing the habits of a lifetime. You never understood that.

            Last week, or maybe the week before, my watch stopped working. I’d been staring out at where Nero had been, half-wondering where he went to after our mutual stare, quarter-wondering why he only ever went one way, when I realised I’d forgotten to check his time. And when I looked at my watch, it said 11.53. And it stayed at 11.53. I watched it for long enough to be certain. I could have taken it back with me, had a new battery put in. Instead, I left it there, on the table, stretched out alongside the long edge of the paper. The next night, it had gone.

            I’ve come without my glasses tonight, so everything beyond my hand is a blur. Dark shapes, light patches. When the dog comes towards me, his edges are fuzzy. I raise a hand in acknowledgement and he pauses, walks away to the left.

            Do you remember that day we ran off and took ourselves away to the top of that hill? That day when we still thought everything was possible? You lay there as the sun went down, counting the colours as they appeared in the sky, making up names for the different shades of yellow. You laughed because I’d never seen green in the sky before then. And you told me about a squid. Or a shrimp. Something, anyway. How they could see colours we didn’t know existed. I think of that, here, in this room, where everything is a shade of grey. I wonder if the dog sees colour. I wonder if he cares. 

Sarah Jasmon lives on a boat on the Leeds/Liverpool canal in Lancashire, which is also the setting for her first novel The Summer of Secrets(Black Swan, 2015) (“An evocative and atmospheric coming-of-age story” – Carys Bray). Her short stories have been published in numerous journals and magazines, and she is an Associate Tutor in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. You can find her here - @sarahontheboat

Anton Kusters is a multidisciplinary visual artist who uses a documentary approach to explore the limits of understanding, the difficulties of representing trauma, loss of the experience of place, and the act of commemoration. Using primarily abstracted and deconstructed photographic and visual representation, his focus lies on investigating other ways of seeing, the mechanisms of memory and remembrance, and the significance of viewer placement and subject-position. Find him here - @antonkusters

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