My eyes fly open. I had dreamed that I was flying. And for one moment, I think I was.
I was on a mountain. To be more accurate, I was standing on the edge of a mountaintop, looking out at the impending sunrise, red and angry and looking all of threatening to pop like an overripe pimple. It must be around 5AM, I thought. I had no way of knowing for sure, since my watch was nowhere to be found. Chucked it somewhere on the way here, probably. In the city, the sun won’t be showing signs of waking until around 6. Even then, you couldn’t be sure if it was already up, because you can’t see it on account of all the damn buildings that housed thousands of white-collar and blue-collar and no-collar employees. An employee orphanage.
The air here is nice and fresh, nothing like the dank smog the industrial capitals of the world pass off as air. They probably market it as “the breath of progress”. I swallowed a lungful of the mountain air. It was cold, like how you’d imagine it would feel if ocean water invaded your nostrils and lungs. My head immediately filled with images of falling from somewhere in the sky and hitting water that felt like solid pavement but became liquid nitrogen the moment it entered your nose and soaked your cheap clothes. How could you have afforded to get on a plane? I wondered. Must have swindled your way past the stewardess, who was totally your type, admit it.
Huh. I flew off mentally again. Recently I’ve been drifting away more and more often. It was probably good that I quit my job, then. It was no use for both sides involved, anyway. It wasn’t a very productive job, and I wasn’t being very productive. Desk jobs choke free spirits and imprison open minds, blah blah blah, said every desk job worker ever. Or none, if you think of the human race that way.
The sun had begun to rear its bright forehead. The red tint of the sky had been a fair enough warning: the sun itself was a vicious scarlet, the colour of a fever-raged child’s face. Beneath, the clouds have begun to rise from their settled sleep, like a river stirring to life. It was amazing; the clouds foamed and rushed and flowed between the rock peaks, and it looked exactly like a river. Throw in a few jumping salmon and you’re set. I swear I could have heard it roar. I stood quietly by the edge of the cliff, hands in pockets, rocking on the balls of my heels, admiring everything.
It was then that I noticed that I could feel the ground beneath my feet. Literally. I wiggled my toes and felt moist grass and rocky ground between them. As if I had to, I looked down to check if I had shoes on. I didn’t. My stupidity sometimes manages to amaze even me. I let it slide, and tried instead to remember where my shoes had gone. And my watch was missing as well. Had I been mugged on the way here? My face screwed up in concentration as I tried to recall events prior to standing here. How did I get here in the first place? Did I take the bus? I don’t even know what this place is. How do people even get to these kinds of places? I get lost trying to find the CR in any building and all of a sudden I’m a mountain climber? With no climbing gear? The plot thickens, someone in my head says. It sounds like a detective from those 50s pulp crime movies.
I peered over the edge. I had no idea how many meters from sea level this was, but to me it seemed like a million. Or a billion. At that moment there was no discernible difference between the two for me. I was so high up, God could have given me a low-five if he wanted to. Jesus fucking H. Christ. I felt my knees buckle. I staggered and fell—backwards, thankfully. The cold on my back would have been pleasing if my back hadn’t been too afraid, along with the rest of me. I remained sprawled and stone-faced for a long while, not thinking. The sky above me was a dull pinkish orange, tufted with somber grays where the sun’s sinister rays could not reach just yet. My mind felt like it would have been of the same colour. For a moment I wished I could crack my head open and find out for myself.
Once my pulse subsided, I felt around my body for my wallet, or at least my phone. It was instinctive; those two things grounded me, bound me to my material existence as a consumer in a capitalist world. I didn’t find either. I found, however, that I had not a few wounds that have partially healed, the origins of which were a mystery to me. There was a pronounced bump on the back of my head that was cracked, and a few minor swellings by my forehead, which I guessed were bruising. My shirt was caked with blood in some areas, and my tie was torn badly. So was one of my pant legs. Inspection of a long tear showed dried blood in the form of a long gash. A quick check revealed that there was a long gash. There wasn’t a lot of pain, however. I tried to think, but my mind drew a blank. I gave up then and there, without even bothering to get up. I was a pretty weak person.
The sky was still an offensive neon red, and the sun had now revealed a quarter of its face. Not half an hour has passed, probably. Or not. I remembered that I knew jack shit about these things, since I never really saw the sun rise back when I was existing as a generic lifeless bug in the city. A firefly with a dead lamp, among the hundreds of thousands of others just like it; a parade march of dead dreams and futures, trudging sluggishly along artificially-lit streets. How’s that for irony.
I had no idea what time it was. Boy Scouts would have come in handy right now, but I screwed it midway. When you’re in grade school, you think you can become a hero by being a bad boy. I thought I was making a difference by rebelling against the school’s mandatory Boy Scouts training. I showed up to meetings not wearing my uniform, and messed up when it was my turn to recite the oath, or pledge, or whatever it was called. The Principal summoned me, and gave me a week’s suspension. I went home and cried, and told my mom. That was the end of my career as an activist.
Snapping out of my reverie, I noticed that there was red everywhere. It was overwhelming. It permeated every corner of my vision, and I had a feeling it was also entering through my other orifices; I could almost feel it sliding into my lungs, beating against my eardrums, snaking around my neck and choking me until my face was the same colour as it, until my body was the same hue, before turning into purple, then blue, then nothing. I squinted. Nothing so dramatic a gesture. The sun was half up, apparently. Still no idea what time it was.
But the sun, so suddenly, was enchanting. As my eyes fell upon it I am reminded of the feeling one gets when falling in love for the first time with a long-time friend, or neighbour, or classmate; that feeling of seeing something beautiful for the first time where there had once been nothing. I stared, without fear of burnt retinas or whatever it was that gets burned when you stare at the sun too long. The cloud river was a raging flow of gossamer; light and heavy all at once, delicate and ravaging, passing through the occasional black peaks of mountain rock as if these had no right to be in the way. It was an image of gentleness, and at the same time of power. The cloud river, so suddenly, was enchanting.
I sat up. I had lost all feeling in my upper body. What mystery surrounds this, I have neither inclination to find out nor to solve. My only concern was the roiling river of white smoke, substantial yet ephemeral, and the three-quarters of the sun that was now visible from the horizon. The sky was now slated with oranges and yellows and pinks, like mutant blood. I let the red and white aura of everything enter me everywhere; it flooded my lungs, rushed and roared into my eardrums, and coiled around my chest, tightening until I felt I would be crushed in half. My senses were going into overdrive.
I was dissolved. I had left humanity behind. Who I had been is no longer in existence. Who I am is no longer definable.
Suddenly, I am destroyed. And in the same breath, alive.
I stood, closer to being bent over double than to actually standing, but with eyes ablaze. Back turned against the image of the sun and the clouds, I shuffled forward, towards the area where the ground began to taper and where mountaineers probably climbed up and down from. I got near the sloping ground, stood upright, stretched my tired limbs a little, and faced forward again. I started walking back towards the mountain edge where I first found myself, where all of this began.
I started running.
It wasn’t much of a head start, since it was only a short distance, but it had to do for the task at hand. I had no idea why I was doing this; I only knew that this is what I’m here for, this is why I’m here. It felt indubitably right, and no law in the knowable universe could question my purpose, and even if it tried it simply couldn’t be questioned. This is my end, and this is my beginning. I don’t know how, or why, but this is it. My destruction, and my rebirth—or birth, since looking back on what I had considered to be my life, I was hardly alive for most of it. This is my here and now, and my forever. My telos, my nirvana, and what other terms of enlightenment have you.
I leaped off the edge.
At the back of my conscious mind I was kind of hoping that I looked like a marvelous gazelle. I hoped I glimmered in the sun. I pictured that I had a silver outline. Silly, silly consumer me, always so worried about the packaging.
The wind hit my face the way the ocean would if you fell from a plane: penetrable concrete. It tore mercilessly at my entirety. Such a rush, such a beautiful, mind-numbing rush. I could have cried copious tears of joy. I probably did, but my eyes streamed and dried in the same blink. Everything flew past in a blur: the horizon, the sky, my tattered cornflower blue necktie. This was sanity, I thought. This was salvation.
In my visceral cavity, a blender was having a party with my internal organs. Everything in my mouth chattered and shook, and my ears were filled with endless roaring oceans. The rest of my face refused to cooperate. Yet my heart was strangely calm in the midst of it all, like it knew a secret that none of my other vital organs did. At the end of it all, I remembered this feeling. It made perfect sense.
I opened my eyes just in time to see the roaring river of pure white clouds a short distance in front of me. I could have died happy in that moment, if God had decided to take my breath away at that precise instant, with my eyes open and never to close. My arms spread out on their own accord. I never thought I’d live to see the day that my useless mortal body would dive into a river of perfect gossamer clouds. My eyes were open when I hit the clouds’ surface, and my vision was flooded with white. My entire body felt a surge of cold, and in a split second, I broke through to the other side. My clothes were wet when I came out from the mist, as if I had plunged into a river and burst right past the bottom surface, through sand and rocks and river plants, and out onto an endless open sky. The chill of the rushing air froze my body for a few seconds. Long after I had thawed out, my eyes stood open, unblinking.
I did not think human eyes could open any wider than mine had been a few seconds ago. I was wrong. I, a mere mortal, was diving face-forward into a forest that must have been millions of years old, throbbing with life and power and secrets that not one human in the world could ever comprehend. Whatever I did to deserve this, I would do it all over again, with a dash of wasabi, with a mouthful of nails, with a snort of coke. Words that could do this image justice will forever elude me. The forest was still a long way off, considering that I had just leapt off a million-or-billion-meters-from-sea-level mountain edge. I had time to look my fill. It felt like I was privy to a perfect creature that no other mortal would ever lay eyes on, like I was violating a law of nature. Every moment of it was sheer, perverse pleasure.
My arms and eyes remained open for the rest of the flight, or dive. In my heart I felt neither fear, nor any kind of uncertainty. Moments of such clarity are rare in a person’s life as a zombie. I am beginning to believe the old saying that, in death, all of life’s questions are answered. I have never felt this calm and beautiful in all of my waking existence. And though the end is so close I can smell and taste and hear and feel it in my bones, I knew I would be alright. This was not the end, not really. I was sure of it.
Hold on, not really the end? Wha—
My face connects with a sharp branch and breaks it without so much as a prelude. A leaf slaps my open eye, endless twigs snag my shirt. Needles and tree barks rip and rile at my arms, my cheeks, and anything on me they manage to grab. The wind is still fierce and roaring in my ears; I must still be far off from the ground. The trees and the leaves are a dead giveaway of what had so suddenly happened, though: I’ve hit the forest.
Arms flailing and legs jerking, I fight my way through the free-fall. The momentum from my mountain leap sent me flying into and through the forest like a bullet, and in turn, every single leaf and branch that makes contact with my skin feel like gunshots. I’ve never actually been shot in my life, but I assume this is how being shot at with an automatic rifle feels like. Soon the small branches thin out, and my stomach is given an uppercut by a branch—the term feels diminutive in context—about the size of my thigh. In a few moments I am tossed and volleyed between the huge branches of the same tree. I must have looked comical, like a rag doll being thrown around by a grumpy child with ADHD.
Suddenly the branches stop beating me up, and for a few seconds I have the sensation that I am flying through the gossamer river again: my insides go cold, and my limbs freeze. But this time, everything is slowing down. The realization hits me the same moment that the side of my head slams down on a fallen log: I am in the process of hitting ground.
A shrill ringing starts in my right ear and echoes endlessly inside my head. My torso connects with what feels like a rock. I can feel it, though strangely muted, as the rock slices against my internal organs and rips them open, breaking a few of my ribs in the process. The pain is distant; inflicted on my body but the feeling is happening somewhere far away, where I can’t see it. I hear a crunch somewhere, and I feel my shoulder and pelvis pop out from their sockets. All my other joints join in on the divorce trend. Every single part of my body is creaking and cracking and feeling every bit as if it had been thrown off a cliff, which was fact.
All of a sudden, I was tired. The raging energy that ran through my body and lit up each of my nerves as I flew was now gone, every single drop of it. I felt like an overused mop. Just like that, I was a mortal again: weary, broken, foolish. Billions of scared and soulless sacks of shit, and I became one of them; twice in my lifetime, now. In the shortest eternity I will ever know I had been given immortality by the flight of my own insanity, and in the space of a heartbeat I was flung back into the realm of uncertain life & certain death. Leaping off a mountain and slamming onto a forest floor would have been an apt metaphor, had it not been reality at the moment.
Where I lay broken, I opened my eyes. I had no recollection of having closed them during the ride, but despite my little mind speech on immortality I was still human, all five-foot-eleven of me, built with the fear instinct. It was of my nature to close my eyes before something which I feared. In my periphery, mighty trees of unfathomable wisdom looked down with unassuming interest on the silly human who thought he was god. I felt humbled by their presence, and their haughty leers. I was in the presence of gods, and I would have feared them had I been in the right mind. But right minds don’t end up splattered on the floor in the middle of a forest with an ego larger than itself—or at least, not often. Forcibly keeping my eyes open, I surveyed the forest floor from my contorted position.
The first thing I saw was my watch.
It was a cheap digital affair, ugly in its plastic-clad bulk. It had served me well, though. Even in the sordid state of things, I could see its face, blinking brightly in the forest dark, green and alien. It lay a few steps away from my face. The watch said 6:46 AM, dated a day after the last one that I could remember. I had no idea how long ago that was. The sun was now up and just barely streaming through the dense trees. Time has been passing my
Yes, person, that is where page 5 of the story ends. This story is still unfinished, and will likely remain so for a long time.. Unless the images come back. Which they never do, so fuck me and douse me in bleach, I don’t give a shit anymore. Read it and tell me what you think. Story started on May 5, ended on May 10. Imagery inspired by Sigur Ros’ “Ny Batteri”.