When Andromeda arrives, crown of green copper melded into her helmet of hair, surrounded by a visible perfume of purple wisps of fog which leak from her pores, her glance at once piercing and obscured (she sees all, or as much as she wants to see- we see nothing of her, or nothing important) time stops for a second.
In the beginning- we backtrack, look for a start to the story, but we were no longer able to find it. No, we didn’t look for the start, to be honest, we looked for the fairytale. We looked back, towards the time when we could still believe in order and happy endings. The start stared at us all the time, inscrutiable. It was, it just was. But that wasn’t an answer.
I only saw her that one time. I don’t know what I cared about before that, I don’t know what I felt. Distantly I remember langour, the smell of leaves under my foot, the caress of afternoon sun on my skin. I remember feeling pleasure in small moments. I remember trying, I remember caring when I failed at some insignificant goal I had set for myself. All that is a faint memory.
Andromeda tore my world apart. I tried so hard to protect myself, my identity, to be accepted by those I feared, to be true to those I loved, to be fair to those I trusted. Keeping the galaxies from colliding, and trying still to be- believing I still was- essentially honest and good. On whose side do you fight? I asked myself the question I had already prefaced with the ready answer, fully believing. I fight on the side of right, for the ultimate triumph of good over evil in the universe. I lie to prevent a bigger lie from realising itself, I hide to avoid being consumed by the shadows and keep the light safe somewhere even deep inside, I hurt to prevent greater unjust pain from occurring. No, we are not made of flesh and blood, we are not exhaustible. We do not merely go through a cycle. My armour is brilliant and unspoilt, and it is my true skin. It is the form that I choose to go through life in.
I was a knight. I was also a boy. Identity is more than circumstance. Who was I, who hid my incontinent mother disabled from an accident years ago? Who pointed to the house on the corner when the manager dropped me off, not my own, down the lane dilapidated and if you were to step inside, steeped with the stench of urine? Who felt justified when I was promoted a week later? Who burned that same house down when everyone was out two years later, because the insurance money would, and did, get us a better house and life? Who treasured the pride of his grandparents, and found my protection from their public connection to myself to be just as important? Who watched my skinny brother those years ago, awkward and hurt from rejection that the smell of neglect and poverty brought, and vowed both to give him a better life one day, and also to never be like him? And yes I stabbed people in the back to get ahead, and I pushed them out of the way, and I betrayed them. Always in the right way, so that they wouldn’t know, and never could do anything about it, so that I would escape blameless. Accepted, then praised. Competent, then successful. Time passed, a great deal of time. And then, there I was. Twenty-five years of my life had gone by. Fifteen as myself, ten as somebody else, anybody else who I had wanted to be.
Did I feel a lie? Never, I felt lazy and peaceful when I was alone. I felt recognized, seen when I was around others, recognized for who I really was and should have been. Conflict was solved with distance. Everybody knew part of the story. Nobody knew the whole thing.
And then there was Andromeda. How coldly she cut through me. On what was prepared to be one of the greatest nights of my life. As I rose to accept the award, there she swept up on her feet in front of me. I say I only saw her once, and this is true. I never noticed her before. And I stood stunned as the words tumbled out of her mouth, accusing me of taking her work, of dismissing her team’s ideas from my position then sweeping in and taking credit for their research and work. My feet would not move, as three names came up that belonged to three people who should never hear of each other and put together their story, three all fired because of me, two of whom I directly took over the position. Gravity was heavier, nothing would move, everything was frozen. Andromeda did that, there was only her voice in the room, only her presence filling it up. There had been a little rustle as she had first interrupted the ceremony, as if the instinct had been to remove her, but that moment was already far, far in the past. She held the room spellbound. Her mouth moved slowly. Jaws seemed to drop. My ears could not believe what they were hearing. I begged them to reconsider, to listen again to what they had just heard. My fake qualifications. She had done that much research.
My life became a lie that day. To me, every moment of my life, my first kiss with Amelia who believed I was in a regularly performing band when I wasn’t, my teen friendship with Ben who I traded stories about girls who didn’t exist, my badminton friends who I hadn’t told a single lie to I could remember but who I’d never told enough about myself either, all changed from experiences or moments or things I had done, but just different lies. All these things Andromeda didn’t and couldn’t have known about. But at the same time, she knew everything.
Andromeda tore apart my world. I could have, and did, easily get another job that was almost as good, that I could easily work my way up from and achieve as much as or more than I would have otherwise. I could make new friends, and many that I already had never heard of that incident. But Andromeda is out there somewhere, and I believe she is waiting for me. In whatever form she next appears, no matter how much time passes, I know that she is always watching and will come back any time she pleases.