pixelnyx asterisk

Futility


Painter, tradesperson. Own tools and transport. Long-term applicants only.

As I met each criteria, I responded promptly, professed my reliability, then noted down the name, address, and inquired as to the work involved.

Crackling with distance, the voice said, 'It's a wall.'

'A wall.'

'Yep.'

'Just one wall?'

'Just one wall.'

At which discovery, the requirement for long-term applicants seemed rather arbitrary. 'Nothing else?'

'Just wait until you see it,' said the voice.

'It's a big wall, is it?'

'Nope. Quite small, actually. Just infinite.'

When I arrived at the end of the universe, I discovered myself already there, painting a white wall red.

I was taken aback.

'Not to worry,' I said, 'it's just a gimmick.'

I recognised my voice from the call. 'A gimmick?'

'Yeah. Nose art.'

'Nose art?'

'You know,' I gestured with my paintbrush, 'a trademark quirk that makes the end of the universe really stand out. Else no one would know they were here instead of there, would they?'

'It's probably something to do with time-space distortion and the, the lack of gravity this far out from the center, or something,' I stammered.

'Yeah,' I said, eyeing me quizzically, 'right. Senior physicist, are you?'

'No,' desperately, I grinned, 'a painter.'

'Good at swinging the hairy stick, you are. But nothing else, eh?' I shook my head in disgust. 'Look, just don't think about it. You're not being paid to think. Only to paint.'

Not thinking about it certainly seemed easier than thinking about it. 'Alright.'

'Anyway, this is the wall. There is your paintbucket. You can start in half an hour.'

'But—'

I looked at me, just a little exasperated with myself.

'The wall's white, and you're painting it red...'

'Yes,' I said, patiently.

'But the paint in this bucket is white.'

'Of course it is,' I said. 'Someone's got to paint it white if I'm going to paint it red, don't they? Or else...'

I prompted hopefully, 'Else...?'

'Else we'd be really fucking with the fabric of the universe, wouldn't we. Painting a white wall red when the wall's not white to begin with.' Admonishing, I shook a finger at me. 'I told you not to think about it, didn't I?'

In half an hour, I had painted my way far enough along the wall that I could no longer see myself. Promptly, I picked up my bucket of white paint and began to paint the red wall white. Elsewhere along the infinite curve, I had no doubt that I was applying the hairy end of the stick as diligently as I was, painting the white wall red. Just so that I could paint a red wall white.

Paradox duly avoided, I painted until I found myself a bit peckish, and stopped for lunch.

August 2010


send a review