Proelium. Contentio. Conatum. Conflictus. (Latin)
Jihad. Alnidal. Sirae. (Arabic)
Contendunt. Contendo. Affecto. Nitor. Annitor. Adnitor. Enitor. Obnitor. Adfector. (Latin)
Jahad. Kafih. Aistabsil. (Arabic)
Streben. Suchen. Trachten. Eifern. (German)
Nǔlì. Fèndòu. Lìtú. Miǎn. (Chinese)
He stood upon a transparent plane. There was no land below; he was surrounded in all directions by clouds blooming vermillion, lavender, and rose hues, lit by a perpetual sunset.
The world appeared as in rainbows. Pixels of colors no human could see, spectral emissions of radiation invisible to human eyes lined the entire breadth of his vision. It was as though the veil of reality had at last been removed and he could witness the complete truth in its full glory.
With his hands, he scratched and peeled at the skin covering from his legs up through his torso to his skull and face, sloppily sloughing and ripping off the garb of his humanity. As his humanity came away, there was his true self, naked musculature dripping crimson. In living, he was constantly dying. In death, would he be constantly living?
A knife fashioned with a glazed mahogany handle materialized in his right hand. He tightened the grip on the knife, clenching his teeth, his body encompassed in a tingling that ought to have been pain but was pleasurable. The knife was double-edged, its point fine and glinting iridescent in the sunlight. The hilt felt sturdy. He took it and placed it at the corner of his right eye as he stared into the sun, then plunged it in, and gouged out his right eyeball.
There was no pain. If anything, a sense of contentedness, that this was meant to be. As his eyeball hung from its optical cords, still detecting light, he held it soft in his free palm and slowly squashed it, pulling the remainder of optical cord out of his eye-socket, feeling the fluids of his former eye flow through his fingertips. He took the knife up to his second eye.
It seemed unoriginal to repeat the same methodology. This time, he brought the tip, bloodied and dripping, until he felt it against the center of his left eye. There was a satisfying tinge as he pushed all the way through with a grin of satisfaction. It was a grin of absolute comfort. He was unsure whether it was love or hate that he felt: in his love, he began to hate; in his hate, he found love. He turned the knife in his left socket, blood squirting out. Then he pulled it out, and used is other hand to reach into the socket and pull out the dismembered remnants of his eyeball. He tossed them away.
There was no need to for eyes to see. He could see that now in vision far more clear than his eyes had ever granted him. Before him materialized an oak table atop which stood an empty wine glass. Blood streamed down his face from where his eyes once were. One could say he was… crying tears of blood.
He laughed. He laughed maniacally, as though told a joke of great hilarity. His alacrity refreshed him. Taking the wine glass in hand, he positioned the knife carefully… there, where the beat was strongest. A little above his heart, pointed at the largest artery. He pushed the knife between his ribs, slicing his aorta, as he held the wine glass up below it, ready to catch the blood which began to gush as he pulled the knife out. The glass filled up in but a second.
Still chuckling, he lifted the wine glass to his nostrils and smelled the blood like one might whiff wine. It smelled metallic, caustic. He took a sip. It left a dryness in the back of his throat with the taste of a bloodied nose, leaving pulpy clots of residue. Taking his knife, he now sliced through his esophagus. He gulped the entire glass of blood, feeling it flow down and out of the slit in his throat.
As he stood standing, his vision floated beyond his body, and he saw his gruesome visage. As he looked upon himself, his sight gradually became occluded by a darkness blacker than anything in reality. He’d seen it a number of times before. A darkness that grew darker the more he looked into it; a darkness that stared back. A darkness wherein could be seen the shadows of countless nonhuman beings.
He was not afraid. He reached towards the darkness, towards them; he wanted to explore its true depths, but he knew… that he had to go on living. He recited Those Words as he always had.
He breathed, and it felt as though it were his first breath in an eon. The darkness rapidly receded, his wounds undoing themselves, atoms literally flying back into place. It was as though time were going in reverse, yet he moved freely forward in time, pouring the remainder of his blood out of his glass. The blood he poured was compelled by some invisible force and pulled by inescapable gravity back into his body.
This was the manifestation of the Will to Live, for he was Immortal. The darkness would wait until another day.
As he pulled at his hair from both sides, his scalp split open down the middle with a sickening noise. He felt no pain at this; actually, it felt quite good, like getting at an itch that had been bothering one for a long time. He kept going, tearing his skin in half like a suit or a cocoon, exposing the muscle and fat beneath.
Around mid-abdomen, he stopped and his arms strangely came out easily, like he were sliding out of a shirt. He pulled the remainder of his skin off his legs, and tossed it. It had a mass and consistency that made it feel like texturized rubber.
Truly naked, he stood upon that cliffside, then sat as he’d often sat before: right leg hanging over the edge, dangling, left leg upright at a steep angle, digging in to support the remainder of his partly floating body. Blood dripped from his exposed flesh and muscle into the ravine below.
He imagined how horrid he would appear to most onlookers in his naked musculature. He scratched behind his ear, then began to pick away at layers of fat he no longer needed. Sometimes he would stop and simply admire his muscles themselves. As he did this, the distance began to glow blood orange then a crimson vermilion. It was sunset.
Here, the sun seemed as though in an oil-on-canvas painting, high-energy waves that stuck out more or less clearly like paintbrush strokes with depth. It was a painting that kept painting itself over and over in the most interesting ways. He could get lost staring at the sun and clouds for hours on end, absorbed completely by the sight of them.
He liked it here. There was life and nature all around him, but no humans. The world was alive, yet everything seemed still. There was nowhere to go and nowhere to be. There was no need that needed to be fulfilled. It was a garden that was its own gardener.
He awoke lying on a bed. It was nighttime and insects were chirping audibly through the window. A nearly full moon shone through the window, attracting his gaze for a good several minutes.
As he stared into the moon, his mind was overcome with the discomfort and curiosity of not knowing anything about who he was or his past. He had a troublesome internal stress in not knowing these things. It felt like knowing a word but being unable to remember it, except much worse. He was able to recall feelings, sensations, instincts, knowledge, and everything related to actual experience save the experiences themselves.
He felt haunted, he realized. Tormented by memories of people who felt significant and whom he seemed to instinctively feel close and attached to. Part of him felt like these people could even be imagined, yet another part of him could not give up on such people existing.
He sighed. It all felt so damn troublesome. This was the whole irksome problem of being human, these damn emotions he could never be rid of. It didn’t matter if his memories or those people were real or imagined. It didn’t matter how or why he knew the things he did. Whether real or fabricated, it was all he had to go on, and that was all that mattered now and going forward.
That was right. There really was only the present. He had no choice but to accept whatever he’d been given in the form of knowledge and experience. Instinctively, his memories held a weight that led him to have faith in whatever they contained.
As pleasant dream and nightmare alike was displaced by consciousness, he found himself in that void once more. Here where there was nothing, not even a physical body for him to inhabit: a place where the stillness was both stifling and exciting while the tranquility remained placating.
Imagination was reality here, for there was no other reality to contend with. Why did he imagine the things he did, even here when there were no external stimuli, not even a physical brain? Nothing he experienced made any sense to him, but that didn’t stop it from being real.
Here, it seemed as though time no longer held any meaning. Often, he would find himself at the tail-end of a remarkable amount of thought that he would trace back with perfect recollect, realizing that the level of human time it would take for an individual to think the same amount was… beyond incalculable. Not only that, but his memory too: few humans if any possessed memory like that, he knew.
Internally, he had no sense of time. It made sense to say he had always known the things he thought. It also made sense to say it had taken him a day, a week, or countless years to think any one thing.
Time went beyond simply seeming variable and inconsistent. Often, he had this sneaking perception that everything had already happened, and he merely observed it in a certain manner as governed by… whatever it was that allowed his existence here.
None of this bothered him. He found all of it interesting and significant considering its relevance to this universe and state he found himself in. Existing naturally made him curious about the nature of his existence.
However, there was infuriatingly little he could concretely determine when there was nothing physical. Everything could only remain theory or hypothesis or, at best, be taken as axiomatic. If he had hair, he knew he would have been pulling it out.
His curiosity aside, he found the blackness wholly pleasant and would usually lose himself in contemplation until sleep would overtake him.
He awoke, floating once more in empty space. There was no light so he could not perceive his body or anything else in any direction. He could feel his body, but the absence of air and all stimuli caused him to “feel” things that weren’t there and have a distorted sense of his limbs. There was no sound, so his ears “heard” things. Eventually, his eyes began “seeing” things.
All of this he was well-adjusted to. He let his mind paint his senses in an endless mirage that morphed constantly between scenes that were never completely familiar and never entirely new. Absorbed completely in this world of his own making, he was ever encased in dream and never confident of his reality.
He did not know who he was, where he was, when it was, and most significantly, why any of it was. He dreamed constantly, when he was conscious and awake and when he was unconscious in sleep. Usually he would fall asleep without knowing it, passing seamlessly and indistinguishably from waking dream to sleeping dream.
I floated in what seemed like empty space. There was nothing as far as any of my senses could perceive. My eyes would hallucinate things in that dark, my ears would hear things in that silence, and I would feel sensations in the absence of all stimuli. I would dream awake and in sleep alike, unsure if what I experienced was a memory, a past, a reality, or an imagining composed of any or all of these things. It seemed to me like what I experienced could be associated to anything. I could have been alive, but I doubted this; I could well have been dead, but I doubted this too. I was both and neither; a metastable paradox caught in the grays between black and white.
Here, time had no meaning. I could not distinguish between minutes and millennia. There was no clear temporal connection between what I saw, no obvious chronology. I would spend years in reveries, observing an endless sunset beneath a vanilla sky; then I would be wisped away by a kaleidoscope of tormented and nightmarish visions that offered some strange catharsis for a darkness that lay deep inside. I would always re-emerge back in that dark world-between-worlds, never with any clear notion of how much time had passed.
What is real and what is not?
Something I wonder quite a lot;
“Who is right and who is wrong?”
Has long been a wearied song;
What once was, is no more:
This I know, to the core;
What is today is not in stone,
Even if you’re all alone;
What comes tomorrow, come it may,
Lest I die, let my struggle
Not fade away.