In the late morning, in the course of routing hundreds of phone calls at the reception desk, Raven is hit by a phone call of such vile, vicious, sadistic rudeness that as soon as she has put the phone down afterwards, her eyes start welling up. This happens to be followed by a rare spell of several minutes uninterrupted by any calls. During this, she first succeeds in just about conquering her incipient tears, and then just sits there in the cubicle, immobile, her eyes still closed, aware of the simple sensation of sitting in an upright chair and those constant, bland office sounds filtering indistinctly down the corridor to her…
This closure of her eyes reminds her of the unexpected white rabbit’s slowly-closing eyes this morning in that enclosed space between the mirroring curves of the two bodies underneath the sunny tent of clean white sheet. She lets the peaceful magic of this picture settle over her, while distantly aware that it cannot be long before the phone will ring again, whereupon the rabbit will of course be put from her mind and the telephone will rule her once more.
Sitting there chewing her sandwich, she finds herself instead picturing how she might look to a camera that was somehow able to see her from outside this angular Shard of glass and light, hidden deep within its angles, in this small antiseptic conference room, gazing through unknown partition walls and steel and glass towards the lens she’s imagining. This camera zooms in to a close-up of her unfocused, thousand-metre stare, and then zooms back out again to embrace a wider shot including her as just one little detail among a myriad other bodies and objects stuffed into this glass tower. But she frowns, for the tower now looks different from how it did before the zoom-in a moment ago … in fact, it looks like a different tower, and an altogether more monstrous one.
Yes: from the middle of Dubai the tallest building in the world shoots up through the harsh dry heat, to the sky. It is the vaunting, inhuman-scaled Burj Khalifa. Visible from scores of kilometres away beyond the dunes or across the Arabian Gulf, it’s an elegantly complex, telescoping spike, of a stunning, otherworldly fabulosity—its beauty cool, mineral and icy in the undulating shimmer of the desert.
And there she is inside it, just behind the glass, staring west from a window in her 63rd-Level apartment. Or rather, there is a woman whose face is just like Raven’s face, but whose long straight hair is a beautiful chocolate colour instead of raven-black; and without consciously choosing the name, Raven straightaway thinks of this woman as the Chocolate Raven.
For yes, experiencing all of the Burj Khalifa’s terraces happens to be one of the Chocolate Raven’s goals, albeit one that she knows better than to admit to—
“Well there’s a lofty ambition, I’m sure,” sniffs Raven in her Shard conference room. “Most inspiring, I don’t think.”
But it’s no good Raven’s pretending such disdain, for she can sense that this unexpected Chocolate Raven woman is, despite her seeming shallows, a VIP guest within the residence of Raven’s own mind, and must be treated as such. What’s more, Raven is, frankly, rather hooked on her already. Hooked on her flashy surroundings, on her chocolaty hair, on her all-around chocolatiness—on the exoticness of her version of Ravenity, in contrast with Raven’s own. She knows little about this woman yet. But she’s hooked nonetheless, because this lustrously edible-coloured version of herself is standing high up in the most beautiful building in the world, not getting abused down the phone behind a reception desk, but instead surveying the geometry of an entire city as if it belonged to her, and pronouncing blithe, bitchy judgements on most of its inhabitants…
Really, what is there not to like in that scenario, from this windowless vantage point on a Monday morning?
This beautiful Chocolate Raven woman clearly has an altogether different life from Raven’s own. A life of comparative ease and pleasure. She has the manner of an authoritative, well-paid, popular, sybaritic party-animal, who lives in the fabulous Burj Khalifa in the desert kingdom of Dubai.
“And d’you know what?” says Raven aloud to herself, giving her mug of decaff instant coffee a stir. “That’s just what she is. And really, she is so like me.”
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