It began with a death. The world died. Jerry
blinked, and in the brief darkness of that blink, the world ceased to
exist. When he opened his eyes, there was nothing. Nothing except
Elena. Jerry was much given to exaggerations of this kind. But it was
in solipsistic annihilations of this sort which Jerry found his
greatest satisfactions. Standing there among the X-rays of Elena's
skull, he searched for the foundations of her beauty. He imagined
himself lost in the caverns and archways of her skull as he studied
one X-ray after another. Then he would compare a certain X-ray that
sparked in him an indefinable sorrow, which he equated with beauty,
to a feature of Elena's actual face as she lay on the surgical table.
Jerry searched for an epiphany of form in which he might finally
lodge his obsession and so rest from its exertions. Other methods of
exploration had long since failed.
For Elena, the experience differed in several ways. First, a crystal goblet remained suspended before her, slightly tilted, poised as if it waited for her to drink. This goblet existed only in her mind, the result of an anomaly in the visual cortex of her brain caused by the mixture of drugs used to secure her anesthesia. Second, Elena felt only a kind of nausea in her blood as the anesthetic slowly waned. This interfered with her otherwise natural empathy for the predicament of the goblet, but heightened her fascination. A distinct humming could also be heard, but she could not decide if it originated from the inside or outside of her head. Finally, Elena suffered from a curious type of amnesia in which only memories of unpleasant occurrences were absent. This amnesia, further, extended into the present so that no memories of current unpleasant happenings could be formed.
Jerry traced the veins and arteries of his body with a scalpel. He scraped the blade lightly along the skin, leaving a red line, and at times drew blood. This was yet another example of his melancholic romanticism. The occasional blood and sting only strengthened his mood. It also provided the vertiginous illusion of some kind of progress in his investigation. The circulatory system provided a schematic of his emotions, he concluded, and attended even closer to his work, noting connections and relationships that might yield up important revelations. He was down to tracing, with the aid of a magnifying mirror, the capillaries in his left eye when the situation took an unexpected turn. Elena began to speak. Jerry listened, leaning closer to hear, but he could not understand what Elena was saying. Her speech did not sound foreign, yet no word seemed familiar to him.
On Elena's part, the effort toward speech and communication was genuine but complicated by her peculiar form of amnesia. Since no word did not for her contain some unpleasant association, her only recourse was to speak those words she had never before heard. However, Jerry was not the object of her speech. Rather, she spoke to the crystal goblet in search of some words to coax it to tilt toward her lips. It remained motionless.
Perhaps Elena's imploring tone led Jerry to believe that she spoke to him, though his natural predisposition probably would have lead him to make such an inference in any case. Certainly the words, or sounds, seemed pleasant even though they were ultimately enigmatic to him. Jerry spent several minutes listening to the syncopated rhythms of her words. His own mind began to work to imagine meanings for the words: extravagant fantasies of promises, endearments, and whole narratives. But as he listened, the words began to change. He had already noted that there seemed to be no repetition in her speech, which he realized made deciphering impossible. But as the speech progressed, the words got harsher, utilizing wild, improbable sounds in their construction.
Again, Elena labored with genuine intentions, but her amnesia made it impossible for her to reuse a word once it had been spoken. The situation had some elements of unpleasantness, despite, or perhaps because of, the after effects of the anesthetic. And thus each word as it emerged was polluted with some shade of this unpleasantness, this discomfort. Immediately each word vanished from her memory and possibility. Thus it became necessary to use odd sounds, phonemes from other languages and, in the last stages of her effort, nearly inhuman sounds. Finally, after one last effort at producing her last and most chilling of words, there was nothing left to do but fall silent again.
Jerry's romantic proclivities read hostility into those final words, and he became disconsolate when Elena ended her speech with a kind of contorted scream. The silence that followed weighed heavy on him so that he wept bitterly at his failings. A brief moment interposed in this desolation in which his soul soared in an ecstatic episode of euphoric melancholy. He seemed nearly to grasp the obscure happiness at the burning core of beauty he had sought for what seemed lifetimes. Such intense emotion could not be sustained, and he soon lapsed back into bitter weeping. After a time, an insensate calm possessed him, and he began once more to trace the intricacies of his circulatory system, but with more violence than his previous explorations. Before long, he succeeded in opening a vertical gash in one of his carotid arteries. He died a moment later.
Elena felt the spray of Jerry's blood over her and concluded that her beloved crystal goblet had somehow tilted forward as she had wished and spilled its longed for contents. Though her vision indicated the goblet had not moved, as indeed such a situation was impossible, she nevertheless believed the goblet was responsible for the warm rain that refreshed her. Elena experienced a moment of complete happiness. This proved to be her one and only memory, and apart from it, nothing at all had ever happened.