Sunday, 30 December 2012

Z is for Zero-year

As the walls began to fall around me I concentrated harder than ever on removing my thoughts. I didn’t know what it would do but it felt like the right thing. As the rocks fell their journeys echoed around the chamber like long-buried thunder, deep and rich. As I pushed harder on my thoughts, forcing them from me, the sound lessened until it was inaudible. I was completely within my own mind and I had removed from it all of my thoughts. I had had no reason to fear the void — I was the void. It had no colour; not even solid black or white as neither of those colours existed anymore. It was not silent either, but instead devoid of all noise including silence. It was removed from all of the senses. It was eternity and it was a micro-second. It was everything and nothing.
In a moment the natural order returned and the vacuum was filled with a flood of images, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings. Like a surfer battling the roof of a wave I felt myself suddenly deluged. But just as the void had pushed my sanity to the limit so too did the rush of information. I was overwhelmed to the point of instant exhaustion — my mind torn to shreds by trying to follow so many different sources at once. I felt pressure pushing me out, causing me to grow so that I could accommodate all of this data. When finally it seemed as though I could take no more and that my mind and body would explode under the pressure it all stopped. It was still in me but it wasn’t jostling to be seen, heard or experienced. Instead it waited to be selected just like any other memory.
I finally opened my eyes and looked down at the oval through which Death spoke but it was gone. The void had transferred from inside of me to the outside. Somehow, the entire world had been eliminated. I hovered in the air, above and below nothing, and felt tears come to my eyes. Until that moment I wasn’t aware that I could cry but when I did it felt amazing. It felt as though I was crying out all of the data that I had collected. It was like a relief valve had been activated and I could remove them from me. The weight had near destroyed me and now it would go. I would be free.
I felt a tear wander down my face and onto one of my tentacles, leaving behind it a line of cold clarity in a place where heat and crowd had been the norm. I felt the tear leave me, jumping down toward the nothing that surrounded me. I was fascinated by the concept of unending nothing so I watched the droplet fall away with interest. It hovered a few feet away, stopped by absolutely nothing, and then it started to spread. It bloomed across the nothing and created real versions of the thoughts that had rushed into my head. I was rebuilding a world of tears.
I want you to know now that the yonder-realm is here and it is open to you should you need it. Welcome to the birth of an entire universe — year zero.

Y is for Yonder-realm

I remained frozen, hovering above the glowing disc with its mysterious inscription: Xicalcoa. I wondered if it was an Incan or Mayan word. The moment I puzzled over it the word changed to a sentence: eXecutioner In Chief And Last Court Of Appeal. The words pulsed for a moment before changing to the single word: yes. I had just that moment wondered if that was the name of ‘Death’. It seemed that the words were not only answering me but that they were very sensitively tuned to my thoughts - the vaguest flicker of an idea caused a response. So, Death was already in my head and, worst, there seemed to be no corner of my thoughts which Death couldn’t reach. I was more bonded with another being than ever before but I was more alone too.
I had to think of a way out but as soon as I did Death would know what I was thinking. It was like playing poker with the cards facing out. I needed time to figure out how to change the situation. I needed time and space, but as I had Death in my head space wasn’t something I could count on. Time, however, I could get.
Once again I concentrated on the creek with the leaves in it. Once again I sent all of my thoughts downstream.   If I couldn’t beat Death, the least I could do is give it no more ammunition. It was much more difficult this time than it had been; my mind was so crowded with questions that it took a long time to get them to leave. Then, once they had left, many of them returned and had to be sent away again. There was one question, however, that just refused to be banished. I couldn’t keep it at bay: ‘Are you Wisp?’ Below me the answer lit up but I was so scared of the response that I didn’t look for a moment, preferring one last second of innocence. Then I did look down and when I did the sorrow I felt seemed to initiate an avalanche from above. Amongst the rocks tumbling down the tube from which I had entered I could see the glowing truth: I am the one you call Wisp.

Friday, 28 December 2012

X is for Xicalcoa

The very moment that I wondered why Wisp was searching my mind was the same in which Wisp knew I was aware of the fact. What followed was an awkward minute where Wisp froze inside my thoughts while I puzzled over what to do. The kicker was that anything I thought of no longer belonged exclusively to me and I had a feeling that I shouldn’t trust Wisp as I had before.
In my previous life I had worked in a high stress environment and I had learned to clear my head. It was a necessity if I wanted to get any sleep as I had long had the habit of keeping my work in mind long after my shift was over. I now began that process. I imagined a stream, clear with ribbons of white, rushing over rocks of deep earth tones. A fallen tree bridged the stream and I sat on it as my human form. My legs kicked the air just above the water and I felt the dappled sunlight and shade on my skin. Beneath me a golden autumn leaf traveled along the stream. When it came out from under the log I tossed a word onto it. The word ‘Wisp’ floated away down the creek on the leaf. I repeated this, throwing all of my thoughts downstream until none remained. Some had to be thrown numerous times but all made it to the end. As usual I was left with just an image of myself sitting on the log over the creek. I felt calm and peaceful as I heard imagined birdsong and the rustle of the leaves in the wind.
The quiet was suddenly broken by a sharp crack, a single clap of sound which reverberated off the surrounding trees and followed me as the log on which I sat broke and I was dropped down, not onto the creek-bed, but into a dark-deep chasm which had split the earth below.
Before I hit the bottom of the fissure I was arrested in mid air. I could faintly make out the crags of rocks which lined the tear down which I had fallen. At the bottom, about ten metres from where I stopped, there was an arena like the ancient greek amphitheatres with benches of rock stretching ever higher around a central, oval disc. On that disc was a single word etched in light: Xicalcoa.

W is for Wisp

Wisp floated in the corner, having assured us that there was nothing we could do. We had asked Wisp about Death but Wisp had only told us that Death could not be summoned. According to Wisp there was no need to do anything more as once you had the idea to see Death, then Death would come. But there was something odd about Wisp’s words. As I have previously mentioned ‘talking’ in spirit form was done by images — you thought of the words you wanted to say and the words would appear to the person you sent them to. The font, colour and size would change according to the person ‘speaking’ or the mood of the speaker at the time. Wisp’s words appeared in a light, feathery handwriting just as they had before but now there were bold words beneath the messages. The large letters were faint, though, and try as I did I couldn’t make them out.
I puzzled away at this in the corner while I absent-mindedly flexed and relaxed my tentacles. I desperately wanted to see if I could pick things up but I didn’t want to show my abilities to Death before Death arrived. If I were an oddity in this world then I might be able to use that to distract Death.
‘Do you think Death can see into our heads before it meets us?’ I asked both Wisp and Jonathan. Wisp’s reply came through first, again in that strange double-talk.
‘Of course not. Why would everyone be afraid of having Death in their head if Death could do it before they meet?’
This time I managed to make out a couple of the bold words behind Wisp’s message: ‘TIME COME’. I tried to forget them as soon as I thought of them. It felt as though someone was crawling through my mind, prehensile feathers were tickling out the thoughts I wanted hidden. It was the worst betrayal, the most invasive horror that I had ever experienced. The touch of the being was gentle, so soft that I couldn’t be sure when it had started but I could feel who it was. The question that burned through me so brightly that it was very visible to my new inhabitant, the question that hurt with its fire, was ‘Why is Wisp searching my mind?’

Thursday, 27 December 2012

V is for Voyage

 ‘Okay,’ I continued, ‘so we’ve got a plan. Now how do we find death.’
‘You don’t.’ Wisp replied.
Both Jonathan and I looked to Wisp in astonishment. Wisp couldn’t remember their past life and wasn’t exactly knowledgeable on the afterlife either. Wisp looked back without embarrassment; an almost naive surprise was present instead. It was as though Wisp saw no reason why we would be surprised.
‘What do you mean ‘you don’t’?’ I asked.
‘Death finds you. That’s Death’s job. Oh, and ‘Death’ is not the right name either.’
‘How do you know all this?’
‘I used to know another spirit who knew the one you call Death.’
Jonathan and I both looked at Wisp expectedly; waiting to be told the rest but Wisp just stared benignly. The green velveteen beneath me began to scratch against me. Itching was such a weird phenomenon. I hadn’t felt anything since I had died. It felt as though sparkles of static electricity were climbing and falling all over me. I felt the ghost of my hands twitch as the overwhelming need to scratch overcame me. That’s when something strange happened to me; another sensation joined the itch, a rubbing sensation. It wasn’t overly useful for satisfying the itch but it was better than doing nothing. I had to look to realise what had happened. One of the radiating spikes which seemed to make up my body, a body which was now solid, had curled around and rubbed the source of the itch. As it was the area that I was sitting on I guess you could call it the beyond the grave version of scratching your arse but it felt great. I stopped scratching, my itch more forgotten than satisfied, while I flexed and released the shard which I now thought of as a tentacle. It curled in and out, rusty at first but more graceful the more I did it. I looked at another tentacle and concentrated; it didn’t move but one nearby did. Clearly I would have to get the hang of my new body; my solid form. With a little practice I felt I might be physically ready for a great voyage. But where to go?

Monday, 24 December 2012

U is for Ultimatum

When I started this journey I never expected to have death in the palm of my hand. Then again, I never expected to be dead either. It’s been three days. Three days during which I died, grieved for family and friends forever lost to me, met new friends, searched for Wisp’s family and nearly destroyed my own brother. So you could say I’ve been a bit busy. Oh, and then I found out I was dying again.
Jonathan, Wisp, and I sat in silence after Jonathan announced that we were all destined for the void. I searched deep within my mind and discovered that my initial reaction was accurate: I’d rather be dead. I’d rather be so dead that I was non-existent. If it came to it I’d take hell over the void. I’d take any of them because anything is better than nothing. If you doubt that then you haven’t experienced true nothing. Endless, unforgiving nothing. Not black, not white; nothing. It is the stuff of utter insanity.
‘So, what can we do?’ I asked Jonathan and then repeated to Wisp. I waited for a moment until both came into my head and scrambled each other’s messages as though someone had written statements over each other on a whiteboard. Wisp had started first so the fine, feathered writing Wisp projected was overwritten by Jonathan’s bold copperplate which reminded me of old German newspaper.
‘There is one thing we could do. It rarely works but we could try.’
‘I’m willing to try anything. What do we have to do?’
‘Before we discuss what we will do we should assess the ramifications. Both of you need to understand that our only way out of the void may not be any more palatable than the place we are leaving—‘
‘Surely anything—‘ I interrupted only to be interrupted again.
‘Sssh! Let Jonathan speak.’ Wisp implored.
‘We could challenge Death.’
‘Death? As in the guy from Bill and Ted?’ I asked.
‘No. Death, as in the one who decides our fate.’
‘Well, the worst he could do is send us to the void and we’re already destined for that.’
‘No, that is not the worst. With Death you get two options and, you must understand that neither are good. You can either submit yourself to the eternal void or allow Death to look into your mind. That is the ultimatum.’

T is for Triptych

‘Sleep-fire? What is it?’
‘Well, according to Fanny Gibson, she’s a dear you know, passed away in 1895 and loves a chat about textiles—‘
‘Jonathan,’ Wisp interrupted, ‘Sleep-fire.’
‘Oh, yes. Well, Fanny told me that sleep-fire is passed between us when we communicate. I suspect a good way to think about it would be like a flu for spirits. Because all of the never-roam are linked we now all have it. I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you for much longer.’
‘Why? It’s not like you can die?’ Wisp asked. I didn’t want to speak as I had a dreadful feeling what was coming.
‘Yes, we can die. That is, we can be lost to the void. It’s a kind of death and, in a way, it’s much worse than a mortal death. You see, we’re here on a stopover. No one’s really sure why we’ve been stuck here while others get through but we are here. The point is that after a while we should be heralded off to the real afterlife.’
‘Is there a time limit on being sent to the next afterlife?’ I asked.
‘Not that I am aware of. One of the never-roam was here for more than five hundred years before heading off to the next afterlife. He used his last thought on this realm to tell all of us that he was moving on. He was lucky. Now that we have sleep-fire we won’t be around for long. None of us.’
‘And because you’ve spoken to us … ‘ I added with dawning realisation.
‘I’m afraid so. You and Wisp are both infected. I couldn’t have prevented it as I didn’t know I had it until now. As one of our number has gone it means that we were first subjected to the virus as long as a month ago. You never had a chance. As a result, here we are; a triptych of death.’