Ear pressed onto soothing heat, it contracts like a flexed rubber bowl. Black oily tulip petals widen, a stretched, yielding funnel to the depth of her throat. A thread of saliva turns from the corner of her mouth, she wipes it away distractedly in semi wakefulness. Faces flash through her mind in a dream, each one distorted. She opens her eyes.
Looking around the room, darkness as dust, evenly settled. A black circle before her eyes, the glare from her lamp stays. Moving her head, many more circles cluster – they move with her eyes, creating new compositions. These blackened tones bring relief, separating the material things into abstractions, geometric connecting forms. Corner to corner, line to line.
In the network of rooms and passageways of this vast block echoes a faraway tapping sound. Lying to rest, the sound begins to penetrate her open ear, a distracting new rhythm. She rises, wandering, past the objects of everyday; assorted rectangles, dark leaves and zigzag frame, her drying draped over it, corners spilling down.
She stands at the low window, feeling the clean cold through glass. Frost seals the windows of cars and attic roofs, and light cast from a street lamp makes flat things shiny. She reaches for them, unsure of what they are. Things known in lucid wakefulness, turned intriguing and strange by night. She looks out onto the facing houses, higher and low roofs stepped along a railway verge. Tall firs climb in shadow obscuring smaller shapes below. Cut outs and hidden enclaves. There is a white rectangular plain resting on a concrete plateau, beneath the shadow of softly draping branches. On mornings before the main light comes, Maria watches its oily liquid top catching the light, which slides over as pages turning. Above it hovers a glittering shape, one she must close an eye to focus on but cannot make out – only in certain changes of the light.
Waiting, she stares into the tunnelling of windows through windows, powdered darkness loosely compressed between them. The darkest forms arrive more vividly through glass, entering with quickened immediacy inside. A smaller image hangs in space, with lines and spaces drawn. Darkness brings the distance closer.
Maria nods to the moon, and to the fluorescent bleed of a bulb reflected beside it. Many animated squares at this quiet time. In the flat matt frost, it is hard to tell whether lights are on inside or streaming from surfaces.
Tap, tap. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. It penetrates her ear and deeper, aching and possessing. She climbs for it, wandering and finding more to this sprawling block than the space within which she has remained. All is vast and empty at 5am. The shuffle of bare soles on cold stairwell tiles, she treads the floors and staircases, past pot plants thriving on sills in vacant corridors and vestibules. Hand sweeping over rails that wind upwards, rough with heavy layered gloss and cool under her palms. White iron struts that fall away beneath her bare legs. Time, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. She follows it into the eaves, treading the beveled rungs of a loft ladder.
A clear magnificent boulder, only partially seen, is slowly reducing. Droplets hit the stairwell floor and resonate in her ear. She reaches for its slippy wet, stroking its sliding underside as its voyaging opaline melt trickles down her arms, winding where they taper out and wrapping behind the fold of her elbows. She is still, held by an alluring wain, wanting to encapsulate it as time slowly takes it. She pushes against the ice until it dislodges from where it has been plugging a small hole.
She climbs through this opening onto the roof, to be next to it, wet and glistening. She looks back, over her shoulder, across to the hilltops one way and to the white structure ahead. Lines form triangles in the air, as though with a cursor drawn. She can walk along its slope, leaning into the gradient.
Air borne, she carries that ice in her nightshirt, dripping down her wrists and sides. Mist falls around the roofs just before the darkness breaks, the hills behind cut away showing only white beyond. The tapping becomes a thin flow. Tap tap. Plink plink, trickle, at the edges of the dam, the ice seeping in, shrinking and merging. She wants to go in after it. Wading into the freezing dam, she returns the ice to the water, raised above the hills, amongst the turbines.