HH’s-Ambition-To-Prove-Not-All-Life-Is-Horrendous-And-Cruel, Mark III.
I made another cup of tea ready for this one, just in case the nature of book three matched its two predecessors. A fresh cuppa is a suitable, if not always successful, response to one’s faith in existence disintegrating. It’s the stereotypical English coping mechanism, for a nationality whose first response to their world falling apart is a gentle tut.
Anyway. I began to read…
The new man had nothing…
I wasn’t exactly shitting optimism.
~ * ~
The new man had nothing but the ruined clothes on his back. No occupation, no other belongings, not even a name to his wounded, agonised form. Everything about him, his past, his personality and even his vessel had ceased where he had not. His ship was the last to go. Its crash landing had thrown him from the wreckage and onto a world as finished and forgotten as the sole inhabitant dragging himself along its surface.
His fingers hooked into the soft, fine, white sands, lodging more beneath his fingernails with each heave forwards. He moved thoughtlessly, as if on automatic or – more accurately – by instinct. Amnesia or not, a crashed spaceship meant the same to everyone and was certainly something which required a lot of distance. The lonely desert he sluggishly navigated was more populated than the realms of the man’s mind. Everything had been crudely snatched from him like someone had torn down a wall hanging; his internal thoughts smarted like a fresh wound, covering a void that seemed tinged with remorse and – somehow – deep, raging anger. Neither made sense, indeed nothing made sense apart from getting away from the accident.
Had the man understood the words “a fugue state” he might have attributed it to his current condition. He would also be incorrect. There was no medical definition or previous recorded instance for what had happened. He was the first, a medical and psychological phenomenon, a unique 1 in an almost infinite line of zeroes. The question escaping him was not how to get his memories back, but what – or who –had happened to them? This however was an internal consideration well beyond his damaged mental capabilities, far superior to his current fixation on hauling himself about.
The desert horizon rippled, unnoticed by the traveller making slow progress towards it. Someone new had arrived on the forgotten world, giving the planet its highest population in history. Their arrival went totally unnoticed by the traveller, partially due to distance, partially due to the newcomer’s choice of attire which blended into the bright landscape.
~ * ~
“I admit it, this is a less immoral narrative but there is a trade-off of boredom.” I hefted the book in my hands, taking care not to read the name on the front, same courtesy as the previous two. It was lighter than my own, so in their shorter space of time it would hopefully give way to more enthralling – but positive – events.
Typical, first you don’t want murder and mayhem, now you’re disinterested. Has your idea of a perfect universe been superseded by a preference for bloodshed?
“No,” I replied, throwing as much venom into the word as possible. “This may well be the story to prove my point, though I can do without the Wanderer in the Desert bit.” Countless volumes, endless tomes and several religions have already done that to death*.
How does it go, ‘tragedy equals comedy, plus time’?
“Then why am I not laughing?”
Keep reading. Try the next chapter.
I raised an eyebrow. “The last time I trusted you to make a choice, you gave me an excellent reason not to do so again. Besides, I said I would read this one from the beginning.”
Then read it from the beginning of the next chapter. It’s precisely what you need.
The lone eyebrow stayed up. If I were a cat, Curiosity would be standing over me with a hatchet and a murderous glint. The hatchet swings. I located the next chapter. For some reason it was numbered 8.
~ * ~
It had just reached eight in the morning, local time. The room had not survived the process. The exterior wall was all but gone, a newly formed hole looked out over the cliffs and rough island waters far below. Chains previously secured to the wall had melted, the prison bed had erupted into flames and burned away into the piles of ash and debris littering the floor. A charred straightjacket, now little more than a blackened rag with a belt attached, lay in the centre like a failed attempt to surrender.
The new man was not fully naked, his modesty was covered by a pair of underwear worn under the straightjacket for too long a period of time. He had simply seen an opportunity to remove the restraint and taken it. It was hardly his fault if he couldn’t spread his arms. Free from all restrictions, he considered the room with mild amusement. With a clean hand, he felt around the wall’s new edge he had created and knocked a few loose bricks free, for good measure. They tumbled end over end into the roiling sea. His gaze dropped. It would be foolish to jump, especially so soon into the newest form. Instead he turned 180 degrees, faced the steel door and began to wait.
It was inevitable that he would find himself in another location like this one: barred windows, three restricted meals a day and a fraction more human interaction than being dead – believed to be the “best thing” for insanity, since forever. The last incarceration had ended due to impossible, unexpected circumstances, and while the entertainment which followed had been enjoyable, a reoccurrence seemed doubtful. His previous emancipator from captivity would be unlikely to repeat the act of kindness. It had already taken two acts of kindness to get him this far. He was alone in the universe once again, and would meet it with open arms.
The cell door burst open, allowing entrance to three armed guards. With inhuman strength, the new man leapt forward, met them with open arms and strangled all three simultaneously. From their lifeless bodies, he took one uniform and all three guns.
Before the ninth hour chimed, the new man had slaughtered every occupant of the asylum: its staff and its inmates alike. Straightjacketed prisoners had fallen, defenceless and arms folded back, like poisoned insects. White tiled floors ran with blood, peppered with bullet holes. All alarms had deactivated as soon as he’d reached reception. The asylum was quiet.
Not entirely silent. Since finishing his baptism after rebirth, the man sat in a reception desk chair, feet up, balancing between both hands a slinky spring he had found. Its metallic trills rang out across the large reception area. He watched it tilt, back and forth, more on one hand and then the other. His expression hadn’t changed, not once, during the entire release.
The main entrance was a pair of double glass doors, lit by the morning sunshine and filling the polished floor of reception to a bright, white glare. The atmosphere in front of the doors shimmered; the new man knew what was happening without needing to look up. In his upper peripherals, the shimmer became solid and the newcomer returned for the third time, stepping out of the light towards him, no change made between now and the desert.
“You’re too late. I freed myself this time.”
The newcomer made no noise upon the floor as he strode towards the main desk, his coat flowing behind in his wake. As he brought himself to a standing stop, his arms folded. The disappointment radiating off him was completed by the galactic glare fired from his aged eyes.
“Whatever happens next, you brought upon yourself,” said FutureHH.
Eighth Self grinned like a shark. “I couldn’t have put it better myself.”
~ * ~
“That was unnecessary.”
That was appropriate.
I downed my lukewarm cup of tea. For a second time too soon, I heard my own voice being played back at me:
“Would anyone want to think they were just left on a shelf?” Time to answer: how would you feel if someone else were reading that story?
I scoffed. “Somebody already is.” I trawled back through the pages to the “definitive” beginning I’d been reading a few minutes ago. Instead of a 1, the first chapter was numbered 7. Hundreds of pages to the left of it appeared to have been torn out, leaving behind thin remains in the margin, their edges crudely severed like scar tissue. I flipped the lid, read my own name. Guardian’s, crossed out or not, was nowhere to be seen.
A fourth book dropped into my lap. It was almost brand new. Embossed on the front cover was the word I spent several lifetimes trying to forget.
“Guardian has his own book.”
Guardian has his own body.
It made sense, or as much sense as there is available for these sort of situations, in which I try to make understanding of something which has never happened before**. I let Guardian’s book go and it made the return journey, no longer to the H’s but the section before it. I watched it go without properly looking, preoccupied wandering my own internal library of thought and trying not to admit defeat, despite the unforgiving evidence.
Not all lives are cruel, but every life belongs to someone and it is their discretion how much others may be permitted to know. This is not my library to browse, but life’s library to preserve. I cannot explore this collection but can still be the respectful librarian, the neutral minder, the…
In truth, there are only two books in the Library of Life I should ever read: to better understand the man I am, and the man he wasn’t.
It doesn’t work that way.
“Perhaps not, but I see no harm in trying.”
I found my place in chapter eight and continued to read.
*Plus several resurrections.
** In short, a typical working day.
Thus HH brings in a New Year, not setting resolutions for the coming days but revisiting his own which cannot be resolved. Those who look backwards will always walk into the same mistakes.
Perhaps 2017 will be when that changes……