On most days life is good, or mundane, or somewhat bad, or just plain ordinary. Then there’s the day when life is just unspeakably terrible. Fortunately, the latter will happen to most people just once, maybe more if you’re really unlucky, or really special. Somebody thought it was cute to call a day like this a “black swan event.” I beg to differ. A swan of any colour can and will have one of these days, be that swan black or white.
“Aaargh!” he screamed.
“Did you hear a scream?” I asked as the piercing sound jolted me from the depths of a pleasant but already forgotten dream.
“No,” she yelled. “Go back to sleep.”
I could hear the disguised annoyance in her voice and knew I had awoken her.
“I’m sure I heard someone scream,” I insisted.
“You worry too much,” she said, with that hint of annoyance I had detected earlier.
“It’s probably just cats fighting. Go back to sleep,” she hissed. I heard the ‘whoosh’ sound of displaced air as she plopped herself back down on the soft pillows.
“I’m going to check,” I said. “Someone might need help.”
“Stay inside,” she hissed. “Don’t go out in the dark. You don’t know what’s lurking out there.”
I felt her fear as her voice trailed off. It hit me like a low electric charge.
Something happened to me then. I felt the fear hit me in my navel and suddenly I was somewhere else. It was mostly green at first, but I could see other colours too: yellows and purples, vivid shades of violet and, in the corner of my eye, a flash of red.
The old lady held her hand aloft and looked at the dazed traveler. She smiled an enigmatic, toothless smile. The red sweater that she had been knitting dangled from her gnarled fingers. She unfurled those twisted knobs one by one until her grip could no longer retain the scarlet wool.
“I wonder how she managed to knit so complex a pattern with fingers so riddled with arthritis?” the young woman wondered out loud, speaking to herself in a dreamlike tone. Her male companion uttered a pained sigh and pulled her along.
Tears streamed down the man’s cheeks. The old lady paid them no attention. The young woman kept her eyes on the old woman’s knotty hands, ignoring her partner’s silent tears as the pair slowly disappeared down a green path that seemed to lead to infinity.
“Fare well, young traveler,” the old lady croaked. Her voice was even older than her face, which loomed large above me in the hazy twilight.
I tried to speak, but the sweater fell on me and drowned me in a sea of red. I could taste rich red beans stewed in spicy coconut milk, just the way I’d always loved it as a child. My mind felt utterly unfettered and free. I was happy.
Then the fear returned and I was back in that dark room again with my toes tingling from the cold of those bare tiles.
“I’ll be okay,” I said in an attempt to placate her, but even as I got out of bed and planted my bare feet on the cold floor I could feel a chill run through my body and it wasn’t coming from the tiles this time.
I found him a few feet outside my door. He was experiencing one of those black swan events for sure. My eyes locked on his and for a moment I saw into his soul. I knew I was about to have a black swan sort of day too.