We are alive, we know it to be true. We can hear our heart beating, we know it to be true. We can breathe, we know it to be true. And the blood in our veins never ceases to pulse in our temples. We are locked up, we are a self-contained prison, a cage of flesh and entrails. We slowly realize we’re the last of a long line, a link in the unbroken human chain. We remember we are but one of the constitutive elements of a great throng. And others exist, as well: before, after, elsewhere, imprisoned in the same flesh, being born and evolving until they disappear, over and over and over. Residual memory, buried deep within us for a thousand years, has awakened. We remember we exist. We remember we are the warm core of a multifaceted universe teeming with roaring, seeping life, a single particle in an unstable universe. Beneath the surface lie innumerable intricacies of a vast, ever changing world. Beyond our night sky, ancient stars roll by in the ether. The world, where the perpetual drama of our existence takes place, has opened its gates before me.
I know nothing of that place, I do not understand what is being done to me. I was thrown into the womb of the world, the walls of silence have collapsed: I am an innocent who suddenly learns all the shameful secrets of the world, a lamb of God devoured by wolves with human voices.
Inside me a battle is raging. Screaming for help, struggling and begging to be sacrificed on the surgical altar. But my body is like lead and I am barely able to move. I am in pain, relentlessly crushed by the tumult of the ever-turning world. I can feel my belly rising in cadence, my fingers clawing at the brown sheets, my eyes rolling beneath my closed lids. Me, my blood burning in my veins, my bones heavy with the load of throbbing organs, my shivering shroud of skin. My throat is obstructed by a cannula, like an abnormal outgrowth in my trachea. A cluster of flies around my eyes, dried blood and dust, this is my new reality. The dawn has broken on a day that will never end.
I perceive some agitation around the operating table I am lying on, I feel hands running all over me, needles piercing my skin, without being able to see anything beyond a blurry mass haloed in white light. Whispered fragments of sentences, I don’t understand, every shred of meaning is drowned in a cacophony of machine noises, respiration, footsteps. I cannot breathe and I am afraid. Nothing will ever be the same. Black shapes are moving above me, I realize someone is talking to me, everything is happening against my will. I can sense the extent of the burden placed upon my shoulders, the pain, the hunger, the crippling doubt.
I try to retreat from the world, locked away inside my own body. I seek isolation from the avalanche of unintelligible sensations that assaults me. To make it all go away and be at peace. I want them to disappear, to be swallowed by the earth and be no more. I want to embrace the empty night. But this grace is denied to me.
Hours pass. The procedure has shattered my defenses and smothered my fire. The contingencies of an imperfect organism, like the myriad of minor pains, tension in the joints and general fatigue, appear. The weight of the air in my chest, the eyes so tired they are stinging. I feel I am exhausted, yet unable to sleep. My fingers grip the buckles of my loose straps. Who detached me? My thin arms barely lift my carcass, my feet slip on the wet floor as I try and get up. My legs give out under my own weight and I fall down. My forehead pressed against the floor, my mouth gasping for air. My mind extends far beyond the frail boundaries of flesh and bone that encase it, so I keep trying. If I fall again, I will rise again.
The darkness is full of the sound of water and uncertain eddies. I walk along shattered walls, my bare feet cut up by the rubble and bleeding. I was abandoned in this closed up dormitory, alone with five sleepers lying on iron beds. I can find no exit, as if our cell had closed up on us, an airtight bubble in the womb of the world. At first, in a panic, I had tried to dig a hole in a wall to get out, but I stopped when I realized it was healing rapidly, like a scar. So I calmed down. My intravenous drips are connected to the duct pipes and thus never run out. I could live a thousand years in this isolation, until my body crumbles to dust, scattered by the ventilation system. I gently run my hand on the pipes that snake along the walls. These are my many nurses. Their outline is barely visible in the dim light. My hands flat on the surface of these ancient beasts, I am obsessed with the idea that they might lead nowhere, that nothing exists beyond these walls. But I already know that nothing and no-one is autonomous here, and that the world will not disappear because I refuse to see it. It is still out there.
Hours pass and I am turning in circles, going through the same repetitive tasks, providing hazardous care to the five sleepers. I have difficulties distinguishing them from me, for my sense of self is dulled, as if out of focus. I stroll about the rusted cots, adjusting the drips, performing bleedings and awkward sutures. The bandages are black with blood but I have nothing to change them, so I simply undo them and tie them again. The blades are corroded, syringes are strewn about dirty trays. In my clumsiness, I have sent surgical instruments rolling across the floor, broken drips, and wounded a few patients. When I have nothing else to do, I operate on a sleeper. I haphazardly clamp veins, or remove an organ, whatever takes my fancy. The blood that flows from the incisions is akin to the black water that runs in rivulets along the walls, thus I understand we are at one with the world.
Unable to live, unable to die, unable to live, unable to die. To be conscious is punishment, the retribution of every traitor on the planet. There is nothing I hate more than having a destiny, an existence. I want to be barred from the lists, to be forgotten by all. If there is a heaven, it is dark and full of silence. If there is a heaven, one only enters there with their eyes closed, to sleep until the end of times. This is hell, the hell of want and hunger, of cold and pain. I wish this world would keep turning without me: I have nothing to do and nothing to live down there.
Inside me, beneath the warm surface, I feel the machine is malfunctioning. My hands lie flat on my abdomen, one on each side of my stitches. No sign of activity. My skin remains opaque, but I can see what lies beneath: there, my bowels aggregated in a compact pile. Dry tissues, empty organs.
I whisper long litanies, meaningless prayers in the ear of my patients, killing them slowly, with obsessive care. Hours come and hours go and I am losing control. I see the walls pulsing with life. Not only are they healing, they are developing metastases and spewing out chunks of masonry in my cell. I know it is an act of aggression towards me, an instinctive rejection. The structure resents my presence, it is trying to crush me under tons of concrete.
Everything is going to hell. I am turning in circles in my tiny cell, and I don’t know which way to turn, as things try and get inside me. I must fight. The walls pull away from me again, I am going insane, I can’t take it anymore.
As soon as I finally manage to catch my breath a thousand souls emerge out of the shadows and throw themselves at me. A voice whispers my serial number, over and over, in a canticle to my hallowed individuality. I fall to the ground, going fetal, prostrate, and close my eyes. Violent, burning hallucinations invade my field of view as the clangour of the world is slowly getting louder and louder.
And so my blades open fresh gashes in the walls, breaking the tiles and stitching the fissures, and the sleepers writhe in their beds, their gaunt limbs thrashing to shake off their shackles. They, too, started to dream, they have caught the disease. They are like me. The living and the dead in perfect unison, facing upward, hanging on every pathogenic word.
… let our obsessive voice pierce the walls of the graves and reach those who were willingly immured, beyond the thousand bulwarks around them 60:44 you, mute SLAVES, catatonic inmates, children and servants of GOD, hear our plea 57:74 rise up today and behold the black sun ascending over the barren plains of the extinguished skies 00:19 for your END is nigh, and the END of your age 69:68 and nothing could prevent it 31:12…
Down in a dark chasm divided into thousands of cells, at the center of countless concentric circles of inter-linked structures, at the heart of a swarm of enslaved sleepers, I almost collapse and choose oblivion. Then I see the concrete skies open. And I join my hands together in awe of the terrifying grace, cheered on by thousands of lamenting souls.