The beam of sunlight slips through my dry eyelids like a half-dull razor slitting my brain. My head feels like it's being torn in half. Waking up is the worst part of any day. If I remember my dreams their sweetness makes the waking world seem bitter. If I have nightmares they make me feel disturbed; of course not in a childish way but because I know that everything I've swept under my mental carpet is about to come out. When I don't remember my dreams it leaves me empty. Today I don't remember my dreams, just that they were a nightmare. So I get to feel disturbed, empty, and ill prepared for the psychic backlash about to hit me. The pain in my head is just an accent, something to add life and vibrancy to the subtle suffering I'm experiencing right now. I know I have to move, I don't want to though. Everything in me is fighting this exit from my state.
Opening my eyes is a slow process of prying my lids apart. Each millimeter I fight against the pain of light. Each millimeter I slowly adjust to the pain of the light. Eventually I get my eyes open and wish that the sun came with a dimmer.
Looking for a reason to exist I scan my surroundings and there is nothing familiar. This is probably the plainest room I have ever seen. I wonder how I got here; a rare problem for me but not unheard of. This room is ten by ten and my first impression is that it is a prison cell. I laugh at that notion since I'm sure that I'm only projecting my life upon this room. One door, one window, a book shelf, and a nearly bare desk.
I have to figure out where I am. Since this place doesn't even have a bathroom I can't shower before I get to work. There isn't even a clock in this room.
The lack of clock makes me feel both a sense of panic and relief. Panic since I have a job and relief since I hate clocks and work. Like as if somehow not seeing the time makes it disappear.
I throw the window shades open and the sun is so bright it makes me stagger. Its gross incandescence blots everything else out. For a second I actually believe that the sun is closer than I could ever imagine. Of course that is insane.
Touching the doorknob I remember a fragment of last night's dream. In the dream I fought and fought to open this very door. I even tried to kick it down with all my might. I tried and tried as I kicked and kicked more rapidly and wildly. I collapsed into a ball on the floor from exhaustion and despair. A voice from outside of the walls gentle yet booming stated, "The key to this door you will not find yet. If ever, though, you will have forever to try."
After remembering the dream I barely try to turn the knob. I know that dreams are true. The door does not yield.
I sit down and sigh. I guess I'll just have to wait. Somehow I realize that not only will it take a very long time but that my mind will twist the time into an eternity. I wait.
I've waited for what I estimate to be a week by my cycle of wake and sleep. After my third night (?) I have trouble telling if I'm awake or asleep since the only thing I have dreamed of is this room. Even now I do not know if I'm awake or asleep.
"What is the difference between dreaming and waking?" the same voice I had heard before intoned with a cold factual indifference.
I speak my first instinct, "When I dream you may be here and when I'm awake I'm alone."
The bodiless (?) voice laughs the laugh of someone who has seen too much and felt too much to ever again be that surprised by anything and says, "I'm as real as you if not far more real than you'll ever be. No, that is not it, and there is but one difference between the worlds of the dreamer and the world of waking."
My first thought is how odd it is that a wake is something we hold for the dead. I remember how numb I felt at my mother's wake. I thought then that sorrow would consume me. Instead I only thought that this means nothing in its inevitability. That is a wake and awake is when we are not sleeping.
I remember the question and I jump into thinking about it since it is some mental exercise and some interaction of any sort. A something in this sea of nothing.
Nothing I think yields satisfaction as an answer. My mind keeps wandering over random wonderings. Somehow my mind slips into thinking about how funny it is when a movie has inconsistencies from one scene to the next. Often little things like a shirt button undone then redone during a single conversation. They call these continuity issues.
My next thought is that Dali once claimed movies were the most fertile of arts for surrealism since both used the language of dreams. I forgot how he put it but that is the gist of it.
I have no idea what mental gymnastics conspired to put the two thoughts together and form the next thought which I exclaimed out loud as if yelling to someone about a danger like a car speeding towards them. I screamed, "Continuity, that's it - nothing else is truly different!"
The laughter of the voice while terrifying and immense laughed a genuine laugh, a hearty laugh, a laugh that hit my ears as validation from a lion who sits hungry.
Thus it spoke that dreadfully even voice, "How nearly correct you are, but you forgot one key word. Illusion."
Ah the illusion of continuity. This revelation made my chest feel as if it glowed with the light of revelation. A warmth not physical but somehow more real.
Briefly I felt alone but in a way I never had in my life. I felt the loneliness of a star, as if the intensity of which I shone made me impenetrable and untouchable by all. As if my being permeated everything subtlety but irrefutably. And I ran to the window throwing open the curtain and I looked directly into the sun and felt a kinship as I knew at that moment that I too was a star. I fell to my knees and exposed my chest, the energy I felt radiating from it into the sun. My body gently seized with waves of energy that I found indescribable and which coursed through my whole body.
The curtains fell back into place. I felt normal again - no, not normal. I felt as a blind man who had his vision restored but for only moments. I wept with no embarrassment and with no self-consciousness. I cried out of pity for myself and as I pitied myself I felt even greater pity for my pity. I wept myself into sleep.
Much time had passed before anything of note had happened again. In my terrible loneliness I thought of that horrid voice. I ached to hear it again for another living being of any order. I longed for even a roach to talk with just to share life and being with. I thought on the voice. I remembered the word "continuity". I remembered that every single book on the bookshelf remained empty with no marks of any sort. I know because I had checked them again and again looking for anything to provide stimulation. I would kill even for a children's book. Continuity, I realized. I could check my dreams and my waking if I marked the books.
I grabbed the book that looked most promising to me and went to the desk. I opened to the first page, the first empty page. Its infinite possibility smiled back at me with glorious abundance. And the possibility froze me.
I screamed in agony "What do I do, what do I write, what shall I create?!"
The voice came again sounding somewhat sarcastic to me, "I don't know, whatever you want. But I have heard that some people believe it is best to write what you know."
I do not know if my scorn was projected into that voice but I felt like a child again. I remembered times that as a child I was scolded for things of which I had no way of knowing that I had transgressed the rules of the stupid adults. I remembered how it had turned to guilt with the repetition of such events. I felt that guilt I had always swallowed into the depths of my subconscious.
I realized the only way to deal was to get it out. So I wrote and wrote about my guilt and how foolish it was. How it has all come about because of the ignorance of man. How little he knows about himself and what his nature is.
I laughed not a happy laugh, not a joyful laugh, not a life affirming laugh, but a dismissive laugh that barely graduated from a snort.
I felt righteous indignation, I felt hate for everyone I knew. I thought about how crippled they all were and how they only felt safe when everyone else was as crippled as they were. My eyes turned into hateful slits. I thought, 'I'm lucky I never have to deal with any of these fuckers again.' It also became apparent that the eyes of hatred and murder weren't there to alert the target of anger. At least not as much so as it was so that the rage did not have to be distracted from any vision of anything else. I wrote how much I wanted to destroy everything and everyone I knew. How I wanted it to happen, how I wanted it to be justice and poetry, how I wanted it to be gruesome and horrible, and how I wanted it to be clear that it was fate.
At that moment I felt as if some immaterial invisible part of my body had fallen away from the rest of my body. I remembered something that I'd felt guilt for since it happened. It was not a lot of guilt. It was small and petty. I got away with it because I had always been so innocent. The thing is that I have done worse things than this, I have hurt people worse who did not deserve it. That's not why it was guilt. I knew before I did it that it was the wrong thing to do. Unlike the times I've broken hearts. Unlike the people I have attacked and made feel tiny. Although I may have regretted these transgressions, I knew in my heart that each time I did what I thought was right. I often belabored how to make everything best for as many people as I could. That one time, that one time I knew. Then I felt my same invisible immaterial body as before and felt that it was the largest part of my body and that a wound had been opened in it. At the same time I realized that I was lying to myself - it wasn't that one time. I just got better at fabricating excuses for my sadisms, which had grown much since my first transgression.
I wrote about all of my guilt for hours on end. I felt the proverbial weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I slept more calmly than I had in years.
When I woke up I felt rejuvenated. I went to the book I had written in. It was in the same place. I opened it because I felt the courage in my soul to look at my sins and say yes I've committed each and every one of these. I had new eyes. And my new eyes only saw blank paper that had never been written on in the whole of their existence. All the rage I had came back and I threw the book against the window pane with all of my might. In fact with more might than I knew I possessed.
The corner of the book's spine hit the window making a dull thud. The window was fine. The book exploded ejecting empty pages into the air. It reminded me of seeing a bird shot at close range with a shotgun. I don't know if it was my loneliness or what, but I felt like a murderer. I held what was left of the binding and I tried to shove the pages back into the book. I cried as if I was holding a dying pet. I never knew that sadness could be so complete, either. It felt as if the tears were flowing from the very base of my spine, as if my tailbone was crying. This was the first time that I had ever wanted to be alone. Truly alone. It felt good for once to know that I may never see anyone again. I may have felt this way before but not because I did not want to see anyone, but because I did not want to inflict myself upon anyone. Even my kind words and generous actions were cruel, they taught you to keep your guard down and to trust me. I'm nothing but a beast, a clever beast; one that has learned how to play the games of men. I was not one of them and I never had been. It was only in my slim ability to play their games and follow their rules that I tricked myself into seeing myself as one of them. I'm sure they could tell as much as they could tell the difference between a bus driver and a monkey in a bus driver's uniform.
Again I felt o.k. I was a beast, not a man. Of course I couldn't be trusted, I was essentially feral when it really came down to it. After all, when I threw that book it was a living creature to me. I don't know why I saw it like that but I did. It was a living creature that had done nothing more than in its purity mocked my arrogance by proving my new pride unfounded. I felt lower than I ever had; not emotionally but as best I can put it "I feel low evolutionarily or more accurately as a life form." I felt proud that something that was nothing more than and quite possibly less than a weak chimpanzee could do the things I had. Being as weak and frail morally and emotionally as I was, I could feel pride in even being.
This was the next thing the voice said. "You are right it is amazing with your limitations you have done what you have. You're the only human I've ever met that knew what it was".
Part of my mind wanted to protest. I would not have it that I knew the voice was right. Instead of any feeling of pride or superiority I felt tired, weary, and confused. It would take a long time before I would be accustomed to what I knew.
I have no idea how long I had taken. If it was hours or minutes. And as I drifted off into to sleep I wondered if I was already sleeping and dreaming or if I was awake. I didn't really care. Neither was any more real or any less surreal.
When I woke up and saw the book on the table I had to see what it had in it. It was blank. I wondered if I had a false awakening. A false awaking is when you think you've woken up but are still dreaming. I used to have this happen a lot. Then the thought crossed into my mind as if it literally had floated in on an etheric breeze. The thought that maybe where I was time was as flexible as it is in dreams. Maybe it's our minds that keep the world together the way we think it should be; that things actually happen in order. Maybe I had written in this book and I had killed it too, but time wasn't being taped down by clocks and schedules. And since time can flow in any direction if we don't force it to, it didn't mean this was a dream - just that it was actually earlier than when I had written in this book.
And then infinity broke as did I.
© Copyright 2017 Robert Owen. All rights reserved.
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