An essay by Venijamin Trayan, as provided by Kaitlin Moore
Art by Errow Collins
When one wasn’t looking directly at it, the Window was completely invisible.
The fine seam between worlds vanished to an edge sharp enough to draw blood. Tomas the Watchmaker had been tinkering in his workshop when he brushed his hand against the abrasion. He had nearly lost his fingers. Tomas called a Cleaner after that. He called me.
The blood was still fresh when I stepped into the basement. Scarlet peppered the floor and stained the Window, each drop ingrained into the surface like a thumbprint, or a puff of breath fogging cold glass in the winter. The twilight sun streamed across palls of dust and splintered in the Window, throwing a spectrum of color across the room.
When Isaac Newton first broke light through a prism in search of the essence of God, I couldn’t help but wonder if this had been what the physicist was looking for.
I knelt on the floor, felt the grainy stone through the knees of my pants. The air was cold, and I shivered. The last Window I had cleaned had barely spanned the width of my thumb, a keyhole imprinted in the shadows of the world. The Window in the basement of the watch shop was as tall as the ceiling and wider than my wingspan, but no thicker than a sheet of paper. The collimated light shimmered at the edge of my sight, teasing me with magic and mirages that vanished when I tried to trap them with my eyes.
I set my equipment––a picoscope and nonsolitonic adhesive––on the floor and looked through the Window. The borders creased the smoothness of the air, the lines between worlds blurring like oil in rainwater. Across the threshold, I saw the back wall of the basement, tools spilling out of toolboxes, cannibalized gears and pinions scattered across a workbench.
Then I shifted to the side, peered into the Window at an oblique angle. I studied it with a trained eye. The Window became a corridor of infinity mirrors; through every one, there was another room, another table, another set of tools. A world that was, and was not, my own. The iterations reflected back into the Window, in recursion, creating smaller and smaller apertures that appeared to recede into the infinite distance.
I gazed into the cascade of universes and felt a headache pulsing behind my eyes. Cleaners are well accustomed to the sight, but familiarity doesn’t make the sensation any less unpleasant. I believe there are some things we’re just not meant to see––the skin of the world peeled away, the soft undersides exposed. A gateway to something so brutally beautiful it drove men mad.
I sat on the floor, ghosted my palms along the Window’s edges. Motes of dust glittered in the sunbeams; I wondered how many specks had danced in another sunset, diffused across the threshold of another time and place. I held up my hand and blotted out the light. I thought the eclipse of my palm would make me feel big. Instead, it made me feel very small.
I brought my face close to the Window, until the basement faded away in my peripheries. The pirouetting dust seemed to slow, until the streaming sun froze in glowing fractals in the air. The cascade became a constantly changing sequence of color and sound, the walls a mosaic of iterations and images and broken glass. Each shard was a new Window, and the Windows were cracking. Through the splinters, a spectrum of worlds scintillated against the darkness. I thought I recognized a face, grinning back at me from across the threshold––a person I had once known, but had chosen to forget. A person I had never known. A person I would love, and a stranger who would pass through my life like smoke. And when the stranger stepped forward, I reached out to touch her. My fingers feathered across the charged air, and the shadow with my face evanesced into filaments of light.
I shook my head. I never liked seeing the ghosts; they reminded me of choices unrealized, made me nostalgic for lives I would never live. I set to work, and in my concentration, the world behind the Window resolved itself back into the arcane mathematics of parallels and possibilities, an entire universe of separation contained in the space of inches.
I pinched the air on either side of the Window and brought the edges close, drawing the veil across the cascade once again.
No, I thought, smoothing the seam with my fingertips, there are some things I am not meant to see.
Venijamin Trayan has been a Window cleaner for a number of years and is pleased by the positive reception the accounts of his work have so far received. This is his first published story, although he dabbles in writing cookbooks for a hundred different things to do with airplane peanuts. He is not married, has no children, and does not live in New York.
Kaitlin Moore is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying creative writing and physics and how the two disciplines have anything remotely to do with each other. Her works of short fiction and poetry have appeared in Tinge Magazine, Blue Door Quarterly, Supplement v.1, Stylus, and more. She believes Schrödinger’s cat is still alive and to never trust a person not carrying a pen, a book, or an abacus.
Errow is a comic artist and illustrator with a predilection towards the surreal and the familiar. She pays her time to developing worlds not quite like our own with her artist fiancee and pushing the queer agenda. She probably left a candle burning somewhere. More of her work can be found at errowcollins.wix.com/portfolio.
“The Window Cleaner” is © 2017 Kaitlin Moore
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Errow Collins