around the room, drink in hand, collecting canapés, and meets himself
coming back the other way.
"Evening," he says,
"Is it?" he asks
himself, comparing his own plate of canapés, now half eaten, with his
"Oh yes," he
replies. "And morning, afternoon, night, and all stages in between."
They laugh, the pair
of them, as they continue to snake around the room. At least three, maybe four,
maybe an infinite number, of their other selves join in.
"You can't beat the
old ones, can you?" asks a passing self.
says the self with the freshest plate of canapés, whilst picking up the
plate, whilst entering the room, whilst being born and dying all at the same
moment. "Or the new ones, the ancient ones, or the yet to be thought of
"Like the glint in
the milkman's eye, you mean," says another Ourobrous, cleaning up after the
party and with Henry Hoover in hand.
"Steady now, we
won't be having any of that smut here," says the perhaps first, perhaps last,
They rest for a
moment to watch the party, as they rest for a moment to watch the dying of the
last embers of the final suns at the heat death of the universe.
They agree that this
is, all things considered, really rather beautiful.
Which troubles them
a little, all of them, because beauty is the most fleeting of all fleeting
concepts and they have, all of them, spent an eternity and a fortnight
attempting to find a definition for the term. Which leads them to think, all at
once, of one particular party guest and yes there she is,
standing alone in the corner of the room with her thoughts, and they know they
are going to have to say something.
"I think it's my
turn," says the first, perhaps last, perhaps always Ouroboros.
"Be my guest," say
the others, as they contemplate the arrival of a new bottle of champers into
the room and the instant mummification of the waiter carrying it.
"Penny for them?"
Ouroboros asks the young lady in the corner.
This would be cheap
at half the price, he thinks.
Or would that be
several times the price.
She has so many
And he thought he
And shallow. And
every single point in between.
Which was kind of
his job description, wasn't it?
before," she says, with the wry look and the eyebrow raise. "And afterwards,
and inbetween times."
"I know," says
Ourobrous, his customary shiver and wriggle not disconcerting her one jot
because she isn't the type to be disconcerted by theoretical constructs at New
Year's Eve and End of the Universe and Birth of All Creation parties. "I'm
asking again. And for the first time."
She sighs. "I just
feel..." she says, and she looks at him, and he manages to stay in that
picosecond, that svedberg, that jiffy for at least the time necessary to
accommodate what he believes, at least, to be her essential beauty.
It is a few thousand
years, then, before she finishes her sentence.
yottasecond or three.
The Henry Hoover
drones away in the background.
"I just feel, when
I'm here," she continues, now she can, "with these people, the ones who know me
Ouroboros knows the
ones she means. He looks over at them, the middle-aged and older versions of
them, standing with their own plates and drinks. One or two of them regarding
the young woman and looking as if they know her, all of her. Something
Ouroboros knows to be entirely impossible to the point of almost finding them
charmingly naive. If he wasn't also a tad irritated with their certainties.
"I see them,"
Ouroboros says, not telling her how he sees them, fixed as they are to the
start of the gossamer timeline he can see stretching from the centre of the
soul to the furthest reaches of her lifespan.
And, of course,
beyond, but to say more would be to give away far too many secrets to her about
the truth of all things.
Not that he doesn't
suspect she already knows.
"I just feel like...
I'm regressing, you know. I'm that person again... They see me as the child and
that's all I am, and everything everything I have been since is
Her eyes are deeper
even than Ouroboros' concept of eternity. He falls into them for a moment.
Orbits them for a galactic year. It is still not long enough to contemplate
"You see yourself as
they see you at that age, and you find it hard to remind yourself of everything
you have been since, is that it?" Ouroboros gets it, he thinks, in one.
Although they have had this conversation many times before, and since, and each
time he has tried a different spin on the idea that time pulls her back, even
when she is so far away from these people. Even when she has grown.
"How is it going?"
asks a passing Ouroboros, freshly arrived with party invitation and paper
"I've got this, I
think," the first and perhaps last Ouroboros says. "For now, anyway," he adds,
waving away any attempt from any of his other selves to define "now" when there
is no definition, and neither will there ever be.
right," the young woman says. "Maybe that is who I am, always." The eyes are at
one and the same time sad and sparkling. She looks both sage and desperate for
She is, Ouroboros
wants to tell her, entirely perfect in her contradictions.
It is those who try
to fix themselves in time, in place, in state who have it wrong.
He wants to tell her
He picks at his vol
au vents and he tunes in and out of the background radiation of the chatter in
the room as he determines that perhaps he needs to tell her this.
And then, as is so
often the case, he is whisked away plate and canapés and all
by himself rushing back towards him from ahead and above and
there is another him standing there in front of the young woman.
And he has something
else to tell her.
The creature who
exists at all times, all at once and never at all, has something else she needs
"It is who you
always are," he says. "And, to a degree, they're right," he tells her. And then
he looks at the thread that stretches away from her into the future and all she
is now and all she will be. "I mean, look at me," he says. "You are always that
person," he says, "just as you are always these people, too..." He plucks
playfully in the direction of the thread that he would not dare disturb, for
she has been, always will be, always will have been, far too precious to
The young woman
turns to look at the thread she cannot quite see. She meets the eyes of the
hypothetical entity she cannot see, either.
And he tries to give
her a reassuring smile, an empathetic nod, a succession of gestures and
emotions that encompass everything he is. And everything he feels for her.
And, because she is
who she is, and she stands where she is in relation to the room, she sees those
And she hears his
explanation of eternalism and fundamental attribution errors and beauty and
love and capability and everything, everything he knows her to be. To have
always been. Because how can she be here if she hasnt always been that
Ouroboros asks, arriving in the room and spying the first of the proferred
"Why not?" the young
woman replies, arriving herself, again, and with only the most passing of nods
to the self she sees standing in the corner.