I flick my wrist and watch as the flat pebble slices its way through the air. The distinct arc of its flight is mirrored in the calm, silvery water of the pond. It’s like I’m seeing two pebbles on parallel journeys, or two mirrored pebbles on collision trajectory.
Their first skimmed contact is fleeting, but magical. A stunning clash of physics and chance, which leaves the surface of the water alive, dancing with a radiant glimmer of circular waves. Waves which sparkle as they flow outward, spreading the jubilation of the pebble’s encounter.
I watch as the pebble rises again, as if it has been elated by the water’s touch, and not simply spinning onward in accordance with Newton’s third law. It resumes flight, but its course has been deviated, the direction of its journey forever altered.
It again sails high above its mirrored self, seemingly unaware, or uncaring that its flight is on a new vector. It leaves the ripples caused by the contact far behind, although it is obvious that the energetic promise of its early flight has been dampened, obvious that its momentum has been slowed by its dalliance with the surface, obvious too that it will fall to skim again.
The second contact is slower, firmer, almost more deliberate. It seems as though either the reflection clings longer to the pebble, or maybe the pebble seeks to immerse itself further into the cool mystery of the pond.
And once again its onward path is deviated, subtly changed by the experience of contact. The pebble skims upward, but its motion has now become laboured, as if it is fighting against the physics which force it away, or as though it has become suddenly confused by the new tangent of its journey.
Then three, four, five contacts in rapid succession. Each more inevitable than the last. Each reaffirming the growing familiarity, between pebble and reflection, each seeming to cause the pebble to question the purpose of its onward flight. So that after every fleeting caress the pebble struggles harder to break free, to return to its journey, although the direction of its original path is now long forgotten.
I watch in those final, frantic moments, as distinctions are blurred, as the pebble and its reflection succumb to the inevitable. The ripples caused by those rapid collisions are close together, intermingled. No longer a jubilant wave but a chaotic weave of shimmering distortions which are impossible to ignore, and which scar the surface of the pond long after the pebble has fallen into the water’s final embrace.
After the pebble is lost I stand and watch the undulations as they heave and clash, waiting, anxious for the surface of the pond to realign, to return to its former tranquil, mirror state. Waiting for all to become placid and calm, for it to recover from the chaotic ripples caused by the erratic flight of the pebble.
Berating the interference of the wind, I stand and watch because I need to see, need to witness the pond’s surface finally settle. I need to know, that life has not been permanently marred by those magical collisions of physics and chance, of pebble and reflection, of you and me.
James Coates lives in Bournemouth, Dorset. He has been writing for about a year. One of his stories was recently featured in American flash fiction magazine ‘Stanley the Whale’.