The Pulse: Paris

Les Mouches

Ultralight Beam

Kenneth remembered being lifted several hundred meters from the ground while the city beneath him was strafed with millions of orange beams, some the diameter of a human, others the diameter of a city block. 

He saw a dense point of orange light below him, emanating from the auditorium where he gave his incoherent lecture. The point had spokes of orange light — about 40 or 50 of them — beaming upward and outward toward locations that were from several metres to several kilometres away. He remembered seeing a man with orange hair in the audience as he was trying to say something about the probability of predicting the future. He now saw that the spokes of light emanated from this man’s head.

After about ten seconds, Ken’s body fell softly toward the river. He landed in a river boat. Without paying the embarkation fee, he had become a tourist on a bateau mouche.

Photo by Jean-noël Lafargue, Wikimedia Commons (cropped and coloured by RYC)


Photo by Jean-noël Lafargue, Wikimedia Commons (cropped and coloured by RYC)


Le Pont Notre-Dame

Madame Dupont remembered being a human. And being old. She remembered once standing high above the Seine. She remembered standing on le Pont Notre-Dame, listening to the deep sound of bells that reverberated through the air from the massive bell-towers of la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. It was Sunday morning and she had just come from Mass with her mother at the Cathedral. Her father had died three weeks earlier. She looked up at her mother, who was holding her hand. But her mother was gone.

She remembered that she was deeply in love. She looked over at her husband Conrad, who had just said something witty about Voltaire’s Clockmaker God. He heard him ask, I wonder if Voltaire really knew what time it was? She squeezed his hand but all she made was a fist. All that was left of him was the reverberation of the bell sounding in the clouds, drifting outward from the Earth into Pascal’s Void. She saw orange beams all over the city, and other orange beams reaching up in every direction into the sky.

She remembered thinking that at one time you could stand on the bridge and see the cathedral. But it was hidden now by buildings, by time, and by the existential brutality of Sartre. She thought about his play, Les Mouches, and wondered what it meant in a context where the old gods of Greece and Rome hadn’t managed to save anyone. Who knows where his hero Oreste was now, having left Argos and having freed himself from the tyranny of Zeus? She wondered if the flies remained, and if the cattle still resented them.

She also wondered if Conrad had been beamed up somehow, somewhere. Yet she knew this couldn’t be, since she had seen his rugged face looking blankly upward from its coffin. In the orange light between worlds she told him that she didn’t want to live anymore. Not without him. She swore that she would never frown at churchlight again. Desperate for an ultralight beam, she prayed to Jesus: Lift me from this Vale of Tears. Lift me up into the Sky, so that I can be once again in the arms of my husband. I’m tired of hanging on the cross of this world!

But the orange beam suspending her brought her back down to what the priests would have called The Fallen World. Ce bas monde. Ah, she said out loud, que c’est fatiguant!

She was once again standing half-way across the Bridge of Notre-Dame, the oldest bridge in Paris.

From Wikipedia, “Pont Notre-Dame”

From Wikipedia, “Pont Notre-Dame”

pont 2.jpeg

The Bridge was destroyed by the Normans and rebuilt numerous times, reaching its final form in 1914, after blocking river traffic so badly that it was nick-named the Devil’s Bridge.

La joute des mariniers, entre le pont Notre-Dame et le Pont-au-Change (1756) Peinture de Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet Musée Carnavalet (Wikimedia Commons)

La joute des mariniers, entre le pont Notre-Dame et le Pont-au-Change (1756) Peinture de Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet Musée Carnavalet (Wikimedia Commons)

Pont Notre-Dame - Paris IV, by Mbzt (cropped by RYC), Wikimedia Commons

Pont Notre-Dame - Paris IV, by Mbzt (cropped by RYC), Wikimedia Commons

On the arches she saw the stoned heads of Dionysus, but she wondered what good he would do them against a power that could beam people up and down like flies. This reflection recalled to her mind one of Conrad’s favourite quotes from King Lear: We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys; they kill us for their sport.

She thought to herself, The Devil knows what’s really happened to her city and to the place called la France.

———

Next: En Route to the Old Cafe

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