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 his legs. It came away easily, like latex rubber. He sheared it off violently, layer after layer, making his way past his loins, up through his torso, beyond his neck, and finally to his skull and face, sloppily sloughing and ripping off the garb of his humanity. As his humanity peeled away, his true self remained: naked musculature dripping crimson. His body was encompassed in a tingling from ripping off his skin, a sensation that ought to have been pain but was pleasurable.
In living, he was constantly dying. In death, would he be constantly living?
A knife fashioned with a glazed mahogany handle materialized to his right. He grasped it, then tightened his grip into a vice that could break bones. The hilt felt sturdy while the knife was double-edged, its edge and point fine, glinting iridescent in the sunlight. He took the point and placed it at the corner of his right eye as he stared into the sun. Goosebumps bombarded the back of his head with the forethought of what he was about to do.
Then he plunged the knife 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 gently in his free palm and slowly squashed it, pulling the remainder of optical cord out of his eye-socket. As he did this, he felt 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, which he articulated with a mad grin of satisfaction. He was unsure whether it was love or hate that he felt: in life, his love had always led to hate; in dispelling that venomous hate, he found only love.
He turned the knife in his left eye socket, blood squirting out. Then he pulled the knife out and used his 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 here. 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, like tears of joy.
He laughed manically, as though told a joke of great hilarity. His alacrity refreshed him. Walking across that transparent plane to the table, he took the wine glass in his free hand, then positioned the knife carefully… there, where the beat of his heart was strongest. He adjusted the point to jus a bit above his heart, where he was certain to find his aorta. With practiced precision, he pushed the knife between his ribs, slicing his artery 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, then overflowed, brimming with his essence.
Laughing, 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 in his mouth. Taking his knife, he now sliced through his esophagus, leaving his windpipe intact and still able to breathe. 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, his vision gradually became occluded by a darkness blacker than anything in reality. He’d seen it a number of times before, lying alone with his eyes closed as he peered into the deepest depths of his soul. A darkness that grew darker the more he looked into it; a darkness that stared back. Therein 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 instantly 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 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.
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.
Imagination was reality here, for there was no other reality to contend with. Why did he imagine the things he did, even 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 possessed no metric 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. Perhaps it was God who held him here, for it felt like there was something alive out there, an intelligence far greater and more encompassing than his own. But then he wondered if it perhaps it was a mirage, that what he called God was but a reflection of his own will, and it was that will which imprisoned him.
None of this bothered him. He found all of it interesting and significant considering its relevance to this universe and the state he found himself in. He was naturally curious about the nature of his existence.
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, but in that petrifying silence, his ears “heard” things. Echoes of voices that seemed familiar and alien all at once. Eventually, his eyes too 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.
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.