The Red String
Tied by a cord
Well, he was tired. After all that time, all that searching, where was he? How many times could you be wrong, how many emotional cul-de-sacs could you run down, and smack into a blank wall? It must be his fault; too many expectations, or perhaps not enough. He began to see fine red threads everywhere, and thought for sure that they must be some optical fault or illusion: a bit like floaters perhaps, lolling in and out of his field of vision, vitiating its clarity. Was this how it started, the big sleep? Did the fault begin at the back of the retina? Or at the fingertips?
He looked closely at the red threads. He stretched out his hands and pulled one, and to his great surprise, it seemed corporal enough. It was short, maybe four inches long. There were others, some as small as an inch, some six inches long. For lack of anything better to do, he collected some of the longer ones and plaited them together, winding them around his wrist. They looked pretty enough, rather like those friendship bands that young people wore. Or the devotees of a cult. That last thought made him uncomfortable.
Longer and longer threads began to appear. He followed them, pulled them sometimes. Often, as it turned out, they were part of a piece of fabric. If he tugged them, they showed their place in the warp and weft of the cloth: it puckered, and the integrity of the garment was spoiled. And then one day he pulled one and found it had been used to sew together the pages of a book, in the old-fashioned way. The book fell open at a picture, and a face peered out from the page. Its gaze was intent. Well, he thought, that is one face I will not forget.
Then one day the long red string did lead somewhere. It seemed miles and miles long: through the forest, over the mountain. He followed it. Was it his imagination, or had some kind of perfume accrued to it at last? Because it did smell sweet. And had it learned to make a sound? Because there was a faint humming, in a minor key.
He pushed through the undergrowth, panting a little now, bleeding from the thorns, hanging on to the red string for dear life. He broke through into a clearing. There was another person there, with the red thread around their wrist. The face was the same as in the book he had seen so long ago. Ah, he thought, so that’s it. I am home. I am home at last.