‘So it wasn’t what you expected.’
‘It wasn’t even what I wanted.’
‘Was it what you feared?’
‘Was it what you desired?’
‘I desired it more than I wanted it.’
‘Was it what you dreamt of?’
‘Only when I was awake.’
‘Tell me this. Was it what you sought?’
‘On a subconscious level, I suppose. Otherwise it wouldn’t have happened.’
‘Don’t go quoting Beowulf again.’
‘There isn’t a whole lot about the subconscious in Beowulf.’
‘There you go again. Always with the Beowulf.’
‘You brought it up.’
‘Brought what up?’
‘For the love of Old English epic verse would you stop mentioning Beowulf?’
They sat for a while in silence. Then a voice arose from nowhere, although technically from one of them.
‘I feel like sometimes we have trouble understanding each other.’
‘Who, you and me?’
‘No, myself and the wife.’
A longer silence this time.
‘That was sarcasm just then.’
‘About me and the wife. I was being sarcastic. What I meant was that you and I have trouble understanding each other. Then you conveniently proved my point.’
‘I’m not sure I follow.’
‘I’m sick of this.’
They relapsed into silence. The monotony of their thoughts was broken only by the sound of one of them gnawing absentmindedly on their knee.
‘Gnaw absentmindedly on my knee?’
‘It’s a compulsion. Like avoiding cracks in the pavement or eating too much when you have a good day at work.’
‘Don’t you mean eating too much when you have a BAD day at work?’
‘YOUR compulsion would be correcting people when they make a forgivable error of fact. A depressing little fixation that I find dull and somewhat demotivating. I always feel more motivated before you do it than after you do it.’
‘Yeah? More motivated to do what exactly?’
‘Why, come up with clever ways to escape this hellish captivity.’
‘Let me see if I have this straight. When I’m being annoying you’re LESS likely to think of ways of getting away from me than you are when I’m not being annoying.’
‘It should tell you something that at this particular moment in time my motivation is at an all-time low.’
‘I don’t particularly want to get out of here anyway. What is there for us out there? Besides sunlight, sensuality, good company, gainful employment, mountains to climb, rivers to swim, hearty food, strong drink and the possibility of a life devoted to self-betterment and the service of others?’
The two sat for a long, long time contemplating the wisdom of what had just been said. They couldn’t find any.
‘I suppose we can do a lot of self-bettering even in here.’
‘Yeah. You’d think we’d have got round to some of that by now.’
A gloom descended over them, and they sat in stony silence until the sun finally went down. Not that they could see or even sense the sun from where they were sitting and not that they didn’t continue to sit in silence for a long time after the sun went down, but stories, like lives, must come to an end.