A group of soldiers are in the room; not noticing the one man who was staring out the window.
He was old, not in body, but in mind. Two years in a never ending war will do that to you; the images of the dead and the smell of blood, of decay and death, will ravage your brain, show up in your sleep, and conquer your dreams, until you are a beaten soul, overpowered by your very thoughts. While his physical form was robust and young and strong, his eyes were as ancient as the crumbling pyramids of Egypt.
The soldier would spend his days gazing out of the window, stationary, and unmoving. While the other recruits (his age, yet so much younger than him) would talk and laugh and socialize, he sat alone, and away. Sometimes, a Rubik’s Cube would occupy his hands, but he never played with it, never even glanced at it. Instead, his brain was filled with thoughts about the universe. For war, with all its death and ironic glory, made you stop, and really, truly think. Many philosophers have puzzled about the key to the universe, but none were as close to the truth as the ones who had killed for their country, who had seen people blown to bits and eradicated within seconds.
He thought about the world, even as he fought on the battlefield; even when blood saturated the ground and seeped into the holes in his boots. It was the only thing that kept him sane, although in a way, he was already crazed. When he was young, he was outgoing and kind and sociable; now, he was cagey and crafty, his movements jerky and quick and furtive. Sometimes, when he put his Cube down, his hands would twitch and wriggle and squirm as he thought and thought and thought.
The other soldiers would stare and point at him, talking behind his back, but he didn’t mind. For him, they did not exist any longer. They were simply the others, not important, not even substantial. In fact, all humankind had ceased to exist, and in his mind, there was only him, and the universe danced before his eyes, even while he slept.
One day, a new soldier walked up to him. He talked for a bit, but the man just stared at him dumbly, for his thoughts were beyond mere words and sentences and communication. Finally the other
(for that was all he was, an other
) pointed at the Rubik’s Cube, and the man stared at the toy in amazement, as if he were seeing it for the first time. Then, his war-wizened hands closed over it, pulling it towards himself, protecting it from the other.
As soon as the other had walked away, the man pulled out the Cube immediately, his eyes bright and shiny and feverish with an unknown light. His hands moved, as if possessed, and he slowly and surly twisted and turned the interlocking pieces of the Cube. Little by little, the colors matched with each other, until he sat, stunned, with a completed Rubik’s Cube in his hands.
He stared at it for a moment, his mind working quickly. And suddenly, he understood. This, this, was the key to the universe! Yes, the universe was exactly like the Cube! The universe was a brightly colored object, and it was for someone else’s amusement. It was a toy, yes, of different pieces, ever changing, never truly matching, every square a different shade.
It all made sense to him for a moment, and then it didn’t. And then he understood, and then he couldn’t possibly explain it. And he laughed and laughed and laughed, laughing at the universe and at death and then lights danced before his old, old eyes, and he was laughing as he embraced them, laughing, and laughing….
A group of soldiers are in the room; not noticing as the one man who understood the universe simply… disappeared.