Another one from the archives. 2008, to be exact.
The fact that the whole of humanity had lived for this did not trouble him in the slightest. All of thought and philosophy, all of art, everything, including warfare and religion, had gone in to the construction of this one place, this hallowed, magnificent building where he would remain, living a life of idyllic bounty in an environment of absolute perfection. It wasn’t luck, nor was it heaven : it was the result of every virtuous thought there had ever been, and he, as the most perfect human who had ever existed, had been allowed to reside within its walls.
The whole place was spotlessly white, and painted so as to appear almost clinical in the equatorial sun. Yet there was a rosy hue which permeated everything, and a smell of jasmine which lifted into the air much like the smell of a summer garden after the rain. The corridors were decorated with classical statues, finely sculpted evocations of masculine beauty and workmanship which, bathed either in the sun or in the shadows which, thrown down by the angles of the building, hide within them the joy which comes from beholding without malice the achievements of a master. The floor is tiled, pleasantly. In the centre of the building there is a courtyard garden where soft fountains sprinkle water which, in the sun, cast rainbows and prisms of light, while the foliage is home to such wondrous birds of paradise as to mesmerise the casual viewer. Cushions and seats are provided, that the scene may be contemplated from whichever angle suits him best. Through two doors at the southern end of the courtyard is the library, an old, oak affair with a running balcony and a sliding ladder on wheels, where the greatest works of literature may be read or studied. In the centre of the library are desks with brass lamps and a leather armchair angled at such a degree as to facilitate unforced comprehension. There is an art gallery further on, and a small museum. The whole place is perfect.
He, too, is perfect. He has led a life of virtuous study and concern for his fellow man. In all of his relationships and dealings with other people he has been the most trustworthy and honest character, and yet he has been careful not to appear as too pious or pompous. He has never felt the need to bury himself within a certain political or religious organisation – (he sees, quite rightly, that to do so is to cede control of his character to a pre-conceived set of ideals or beliefs) – nor has he ever been overtly charitable – (for he is not one of those who prefers, rather than doing good, to be seen as doing good). He has always dressed smartly, and yet not too smart. He has never associated himself with one particular economic group, or racial group, or artistic group, or political convention. He has never felt malice towards anyone, and he tries all the time to see both sides of an argument before speaking his mind on any subject. He has never wanted to hurt anyone. In such a way he, too, is the ideal of perfection, the culmination of humanity.
He feels no guilt at living in the house, nor does he feel any guilt at having felt no guilt. At the same time he is conscious that guilt might have been a factor in his residing there. He wanders from room to room and fills himself with the ideals of perfection with which he has been identified. The food is perfect and it is textured just so, that he might relish each mouth-full without indulging. The temperature is well-maintained and there is hardly any noise at all save for the fountain, the birds in the courtyard, perhaps some soft jazz which emanates, at night, from somewhere ethereal. He has never felt happier.
It is especially gratifying to realise that the human race has existed just for this. So many philosophies and movements in both art and design have culminated in the perfect existence. Psychologists have toiled for centuries in the hope of discovering the most perfect, well-balanced way of spending one’s time. Artists have toiled, writers have written, in order only that the libraries and galleries of the house remain stocked with the finest of their achievements. And when he becomes bored of the house, there are sandy beaches and coves in which to wander, tropical islands, luscious, dense forests in which to wander. Nor is he alone. There are people nearby, friendly individuals, learned types, amiable fellows, beautiful men and women with whom he might converse or even fall in love with, people who care for him and want the best for him. Some nights he throws parties and entertains them, and they all drink and eat and they are very merry indeed, and they dance in the moonlight, under the stars, to the soft jazz or to whatever music might suit the occasion. Everything – it bears repeating – everything is perfect.
One day he went for a walk along one of the wings of the house. He stopped for a while to admire a classical statue, and he could hardly see the marks left by the sculptor on the marble from which it was cast. Likewise, the paintings in the gallery seemed hardly touched by human hands, even though they were signed and catalogued. How wonderful the human race could be, he thought to himself. And the house itself – each angle was carefully considered that the play of light and shadow be worked in unison with something else, some mental approximation of fine living. He walked slowly. He walked, taking in the atmosphere. He could feel time itself stretching, becoming null and void. That afternoon he would sit and write haiku, he decided, and then he might call some friends and they would come round, and they would eat spaghetti Bolognese. At the end of the corridor he sat for a while on a stone bench and he closed his eyes, allowing the sun to stream in through his eyelids. It was warm, it was beautiful, it reminded him of something distant. Perfect, he said to himself. Absolutely perfect.
Very faintly, he heard a soft, stifled belch.