Fiber Optic

Bex took several steps forward and drew from his pocket an oval mirror which he held above the young Negro's lips... no mist clouded the shining surface. Then, placing his hand over the patient's heart, he made a negative sign to indicate the absence of any beat. After a few seconds passed in silence, he quietly withdrew leaving the ground clear around the cot. Immediately the lamp lit up, directing an electric beam of dazzling brilliance straight down towards the earth.
The white plant, which curved to form a canopy over the bed, received the full blast of this intense light that seemed to have been directed at it. Because of its transparency, we could see in the overhanging vegetable substance a delicate picture which was yet both clear and vigorous. The general effect was of a stained glass window, but remarkably smooth and unbroken.
The diaphanous picture represented a scene in the Orient. Under a clear sky lay a splendid garden full of exotic flowers. In the centre of a marble basin, a fountain of water spouting from a jade cylinder gracefully traced its slender curve. Beside it rose the walls of a sumptuous palace. Where, beneath a window not far from the marble basin, stood a young man with curly hair who sung an elegy of his own composition into a speaking tube of dull silvery metal.
Then a molecular alteration took place in the fibers of the luminous plant which caused the atoms to vibrate at once, as if endeavoring to rearrange themselves according to some other inevitable grouping. Presently, a second scene rose similarly embodied in the delicate and transparent vegetable structure. This time, a high dune of golden tone retained on its arid slope the marks of several footsteps. The poet of the first picture, kneeling on the crumbling soil, gently put his lips to the deep imprint of a tiny, graceful foot.
Suddenly, that scene was dramatically replaced by the portrait of a wolf with blazing eyes. The animal's body alone took up as much space as any of the preceding sketches; underneath in large capitals was this description in Latin: 'LUPUS'. Each strange phase of the plant lasted the same length of time; as one after another the series of pictures faded on the overhead screen...

- excerpt from “Impressions d’Afrique” (1910)
by Raymond Roussel

(collage: Fred Tomaselli)

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