To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
by William Blake, Auguries of Innocence.
Written for Writing Challenge Contest of July, 2009.
It is winter.
You can't remember when it began or if there was anything that ever existed otherwise. The memory they called 'summer' is no more than lore, and gone are the timetables of 'months' – December or July entail no difference. The glittering white fluff they call snow stretches on for miles in every direction, the grass underneath in eternal dormancy.
You find yourself sitting on a bench on the side of a park. The empty playground sounds a lonely whine as the swing set creaks in the gentle wind. The same wind comes and brushes by your numb face, and you dig your gloved hands deeper into your coat pockets. A scarf is pulled tightly over your face, but the frigid air continues to penetrate your skin no matter how many layers you happen to put on. But by now, the endless winter has ceased to concern you since your feelings had frozen over long ago.
Standing up, you let your feet wander and you walk past the rest of the frozen playground and into the field beyond. Your eyes follow the movement of your feet and your thoughts are eerily silent. Not that it matters, really; there hasn't been anything to be concerned about in years.
There is a glimmer out of the corner of your eye, and your first instinct is to ignore it – which you do. The glimmer then grows into an object that you suddenly find at your feet. You stare at the bright round object, an odd feeling of warmth resonates on your face and in your fingers. You decide 'bright' is the wrong word and remember from somewhere in the depths of your brain that it is a vivid color – what was it now? – Red.
Recalling the name of a color jumpstarts your mind into activity, and you suddenly remember more things. The object is a ball, and you used to play with one as a child. You can't remember what might have happened to it once you grew up – perhaps it deflated in your parent's garage – but you know that you had one.
You look around to see if you might possibly find an owner of the ball at your feet, but there is no one. Just endless snow and the playground behind you. Looking back at the ball, you realize just how much of a contrast there is between the bland white and the red, making you a bit dizzy. You reach down and pick it up, turning it over in your hands. You slowly recognize a black symbol on the underside, and you recognize it as your initials, written in your childish handwriting.
This is your ball, preserved in eternity.
Staring at the priceless piece of time in your hands, you feel the warmth that was in your fingers a moment ago start to spread up your arms. You also begin to feel light, and the numbing cold of the infinite snow has begun to disappear. The heat has travelled through your shoulders now, then down through your torso, your legs, and the ends of your toes. Finally the warmth has travelled up and through the rest of your face, even to the tip of your nose.
You remove the scarf from your face. The ball in your hands seems to be so vibrant that the life is leaking out of it and into the surrounding area. You turn back to the playground, and the pieces regain their color as if they were being painted by an invisible paintbrush. The bulky slide turns to be yellow, like a field of fresh dandelions, and the monkey bars are a beautiful blue, like the iridescent head of a peacock. Looking back down at the ball, you notice a dull green beneath your feet. The grass is not as vibrant as you first thought, but it will do.
A sudden feeling of glee overcomes you, and you decide to go for a spin. Literally. You close your eyes and feel your feet leave the ground, and for a fleeting, carefree moment, you are flying. You imagine the sun on your face and the wind through your hair, too long been covered by a hood. You feel gravity begin to pull you back down, and…
Instead of landing perfectly as you had thought you might, your balance teeters and you find yourself face down in a small mound of snow. It is frightfully cold, and you sit up quickly and reapply the scarf to your face. Looking back at the playground, you see that the colors have disappeared. You glance around for the red ball that had restored a moment of life, but there is only a dull rock at your side.
Your feelings of happiness ebb away as you stand up, walking back to the playground. The warmth leaves your body, and you dig your hands deeper into your coat pockets once again. You cling on to the last thoughts about your ball and the warmth before your feelings ice over, and you sit back down onto the bench.
And before you slip into complete oblivion, you are satisfied to know that you held the universe in your hand if but for a moment.