Tuesday 21 September 2021

Dark Fiction: The Dust Mote Collector

Dark Fiction: The Dust Mote Collector

By Casey Douglass

There was a man who came to the realisation that his time was worth less than anyone else’s. No matter what he tried to cultivate or create in his life, to give others, or to take pleasure in, the returns on his temporal investment were either zero or negative.

The society around him was full of overly simplistic platitudes that only served to wind up the springs of his dissatisfaction engine. Fluffy ideas, such as the one about how working hard pays off, or the one about how finding your passion leads to a worthy life. It was nothing less than motivational porn with no happy ending.

The man reasoned that, as his life and his time seemed to be worth so little, he might as well spend it doing the most meaningless activity that he could think of. One without hope or pressure, one that grabbed his attention, one that had no end point, something that he could do until the day that he died.

The man walked to his cutlery drawer, rummaged amongst the smallest spoons and lifted out the one that seemed to feel the most balanced as it straddled his palm. He moved to a room in which the afternoon sun shone brightly. His hand pulled the curtains almost closed with the quiet rattling of plastic runners. A two inch gap was left in the middle of the join, for the sunlight to breach the shadows of the room.

The man stood just to the side of the sun-beam, his eyes taking a moment to adjust to the light conditions. A small darting movement at the edge of his vision caught his attention. He turned to look more closely but lost it. Another flitted by. He lost that one too. And so his life as a Dust Mote Collector began.

The early days were filled with him trying to track the motes. They acted like the tiny fish you might see on a wildlife documentary, shooting away as his small spoon approached them. The man got better though. He learned to move slowly, to hold his breath, to anticipate, and to stay perfectly still when it was needed.

The first mote that he collected glowed as it fell. Once it reached the shiny metal of the spoon, it appeared to vanish into thin air. The man knew that he’d caught it, even though the spoon felt no heavier. He caught the next one soon after. It danced and floated near him for some time before he successfully brought the spoon beneath it, giving it a secure, safe home.

As the weeks and months went on, the man sometimes found that he slipped into a pleasing reverie as he captured his targets. Sometimes the motes seemed like twinkling stars in the night sky, his hand becoming some kind of roaming black hole. At other times, he fancied he was some giant spiritual being, catching and ferrying the souls of the dead to the afterlife.

The spoon dazzled him when it caught the sunlight, his hand often trembled, and his body ached all over. His mind was largely free of thoughts, but the peace or tranquillity described as often coming with this state by spiritual or New Age literature, proved to be just more propaganda that didn’t apply to him. He wasn’t particularly surprised. Not thinking was reward enough.

He’s in his darkened room right now, standing in the shadows, his small spoon flashing in the light as he captures another intangible with its metal. His clothes rustle gently as he lifts the spoon closer to his eyes, searching for something in its shining bowl. Maybe one day, he’ll see it.