A picture of Stonehenge adorned the wall in a hallway of my friend’s mother’s house. It stood out amongst the family portraits, graduation photos and vacation shots along some sunny beach. It just hung there, inexplicable. A monolith, a mystery. She told us she had never been to England, though she was well-travelled, never had she beheld the white cliffs of Dover. This, of course, only deepened the mystery.
The picture itself was not large, nor small, but it occupied a central and immediately noticeable place on the wall. It had the grainy quality of a photograph from the Sixties or Seventies, not a print and not a picture from a magazine. No, this picture was taken by someone who had been there. The stones themselves were backlit, not sure if by dawn or dusk, but they were silhouetted sharply by the yellow/orange light of the setting, or rising Sun. My friend told me once, that his mother never gave a consistent answer when asked about the photographer. It was always a cousin, and uncle, a friend who had snapped the shot, or maybe she had bought the frame in an auction and the picture was already inside and liking the picture well enough, she had hung it on the wall as it was. Those great standing stones, awash in golden sunlight.
The odd thing was, no one ever questioned why such an anonymous picture held such a place of distinction in the hall. It was almost universally understood by all who looked at it, on their way to and from the bathroom, that though there were no people in the picture, just old stones bathed in golden sun, the photographer had undoubtedly captured some significant event. It was as if only through the lens of that particular camera, at that particular moment, we were seeing some dramatically important scene playing out before our eyes. Guests to the house, often taken by the picture, asked of the compelling subject in the plain, if well made, wooden frame. “Was it the Summer Solstice? A rare planetary alignment? Some arcane druidic festival? It was certainly not just a Tuesday! ” they would exclaim. Of course, my friend’s mother never answered. She would politely defer the questions and offer more tea, or coffee and perhaps a small snack.
Many years went by and on the morning of the day that my friend and I were set to graduate from university, we were visiting his mother, as he made sure she was prepared to attend the graduation ceremony that afternoon. After using the bathroom, I was standing in the hall, trying to avoid wiping my damp hands on my new dress shirt. The picture of Stonehenge remained unmoved in its prominent place on the hallway wall, oddly central to the many family photos; like the Sun in a diagram of our solar system. The morning light was finding its way through the curtains of the living room widow and a small break was allowing a slim blade of sunlight to shine down the hall, directly on the picture of those standing stones.
I didn’t see it at first. I was fixing my tie and thinking about graduation day and the ceremony and my parents being there and how proud they were that I had completed my studies. I almost missed the tiniest bit of movement, but somehow, it caught the corner of my eye. In a second that seemed to last forever, I turned to look again at the picture of Stonehenge, but what I saw was a scene alive with color and movement and light. I could feel a breeze on my face and I could smell fields of flowers and the warmth of that golden Sun. The sky was alight with a billion stars, visible in the golden light and I beheld them with my naked eye.
Then, from throughout the henge small spheres of colored light appeared, moving amongst the stones. They glowed with subdued hues of blue and pink and green and yellow. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, until their combined light rivalled that of the Sun, sitting low now on the horizon and their number approached that of the stars in the heavens. The orbs of colored light began to move together, flowing faster and faster in a clockwise rotation, through and amongst the stones. They seemed to have no mass, but they could sing and the sound as their speed around the inside of the henge increased, became one singular note, sung by a chorus of millions of voices.
Far above the circle of standing stones, which now glowed brilliantly from within with a chorus of light and sound; the stars began to move. From their positions in the heavens they coalesced together, like billions of grains of glowing sand, moved by some celestial surf. Their motion drawing in more and more, until all the stars in the sky swirled together in a counter-clockwise spiral that filled the sky above. From the midst of this celestial confluence, a single note, of every voice that has ever sung, a harmony of every voice becoming one, in a single note, in perfect pitch and harmony.
The orbs of colored light, now moved with such speed within the stones, that it was impossible to pick out a single one. They began to rise, first to the top of the stones and then beyond, rising into a column of colored light, swirling clockwise as it emerged. Likewise, the brilliant confluence of white stars in the heavens began to descend in a graceful and silvery counter-clockwise spiral, describing a delicate swirling line down from the gleaming, white spiral above.
For a moment, my rational mind knew that it was beholding something altogether alien and greater in scope than I had ever thought possible. As the column of colored light rose to meet the descending, finger-like point of glowing silver that spiralled down in a delicate ribbon, the choral notes that each before had rung in single harmonic clarity began to blend together into a new note, ringing, rising, filling the universe. From the farthest point where light has reached, down unto the very spaces between atoms, the harmonic vibration of this new, single chorus was felt everywhere. A Hosanna and a salutation to the universe and all of creation and upon reaching its crescendo, that I thought might break the very standing stones themselves, the column of colored light met with the spiral of brilliant silver and the universe and all my senses were awash in white light. It was pure and unblemished white. Calm, loving and peaceful, I knew it for but one wonderful and sorrowful second, before everything went black.
I woke, laying on the floor in the hallway of my friend’s mother’s house. My friend was crouched beside me and was holding my head, saying my name over and over. His mother stood at my feet, a look of concern on her handsome face; a look that melted away quickly when my eyes met hers. I sat up and assured my friend that I was well and had merely been overcome with the stress and excitement of graduation day.
His mother, no longer looking concerned, had a smile in her eyes as she sent her son into the kitchen to get me a glass of water. I regained my feet and she stepped in close to me, taking my hand in hers and placing her other hand on my shoulder. She leaned in closer and I could see a familiar, colored light in her eyes; the same shining, ethereal glow that I knew my own eyes now possessed. She pulled me down to her slightly, close enough that I could smell her breath, which reminded me of fields of flowers and she whispered in my ear.
“You saw it, didn’t you? The meeting of the spirits of the Heaven and the spirits of Earth? You have heard their song and now you know that there are greater things in Heaven and Earth than we can ever imagine. You were chosen to see this today, chosen to have this knowledge. Your life will not be an ordinary one – you are special.”
She stepped back and took her hand from mine, just as my friend returned with a glass of water and two child’s aspirin. I popped the aspirin into my mouth and drank the water without thinking, handing back the empty glass. My friend reminded me that we had little time to get to the auditorium to get ready for our graduation ceremony.
As we walked down the path to the driveway, I paused and turned to look back at the house that held the hall that held the picture that changed my life and saw my friend’s mother standing in the front window. She smiled and waved and I saw, for what l somehow knew would be the last time, the light in her eyes. I would never return to this house and never see my friend’s mother again, but I knew that we shared a rare and cosmic kinship that transcended this world.
We got into my car and as I turned off the quiet street onto the main road, my friend turned to me excitedly.
“Dude, can you believe were graduating today? Today is the first day of the rest of our lives, my friend! Nothing is going to be the same after today!”
I just nodded and drove on, turning up the radio and in between the notes of every song, I heard one familiar, ringing tone.
No, nothing was going to be the same at all.
HG – 2016
2 thoughts on “The Picture in The Hall”
OK, just so we are clear, this was a writing exercise inspired by a picture on the side of an empty tissue box. Why Stonehenge is on the side of a tissue box is a mystery for another day.
I love this story, I am so pleased you wrote it. I cannot wait to read the next story you write Dave.