The breeze drifted through the silent night. The woman walked home as it past from behind her and carried on to the oaks that lined both sides of her street. The oaks touched high above, forming a giant tunnel, one which even streetlights found difficult to penetrate. Although the breeze disturbed the woman’s clothing, the oaks remained still as though they were frozen in time. The woman increased her pace. She was only two houses away from her own, but the breeze brought back memories long forgotten and difficult to recall.
The woman reached her door, walked through it and quickly closed it behind her without even a quick glance back. She hurried to the first door on the right, which led to the living room where she expected her family to be. Husband, son and daughter sat smiling on the couch watching TV. Their smiles set permanently on their motionless faces.
The TV shone bright with a single frame offering no flicker of changing light.
A quick glance at the unmoving analogue clock confirmed what the woman had suspected it the street; one just like her was calling.
She was enjoying her human experience, but when another of her like called, one must go. She knew what she was, but her memories were dulled by her human form and always just out of reach.
She looked at her frozen family and was overcome with grief at the loss she was about to experience. She did love them, even though they were such limited beings, but one of her like only called when they were fading.
She took her family in her arms, then stepped back and took them in for one last moment as an impossible archway presented itself behind her. Her family did not move or notice it. From the arch showered numberless specks of gold and silver filling every empty space within the arches’ borders. She turned around without looking back and stepped through the sands of time. For a fleeting moment the grains were euphoric to her human skin and then…
…the sky was cloudless and showed no blue. It was endless night with the stars, planets and galaxies magnified, almost close enough to touch. She took a step onto the ageless dunes and began walking. The dunes were made of the same numberless sands of gold and silver; with more pouring out of countless other archways like the one she had just left. All led somewhere, to other experiences, but none led to the way back. Back before experience to the one who was calling.
She walked for an epoch.
Then she walked some more.
She walked past others of her like, but they never acknowledged each other. They wandered across the ageless dunes, in and out of the sands of time, almost aimlessly, just seeking experience. Many wore forms familiar to the woman. Forms that inspired fables and fairy tales common to most sentient beings. Many wore forms that most fables and fairy tales would never be able to imagine, for they are not graspable by mind, time or dimension. And many wore forms she was yet to experience.
She continued to walk.
Although time was nonlinear here, her human form had grown ancient and decrepit. Her skin peeled and rotted off and she felt the constant torment of it all. For her body still adhered to the time of which it came from. With her feet worn nearly past the bone she desperately sought liberation from this form. A liberation she would need if she were to get all the way back.
She walked some more.
The water was silver and reflected almost all the stars, planets and galaxies strewn across the sky. Though, the reflections were not identical. Some things were present in the reflections that were not present above. And some things were not reflected despite the clarity in which they could be seen.
She faltered at the edge of the abiding lake; nothing but a skeletal form held together by will alone. It looked as though its depth had no bounds.
On all fours she inched her bones across the sands and into the lake. It took her with force, dragging her deep. She could not see the surface of the lake or tell what direction it could be in. But that did not matter for the silver liquid tore her form atom by atom.
A searing agony of a thousand suns manifested inside of her and took all of her awareness.
The loss of a thousand loved ones imposed itself upon her.
The emptiness of never having experiences swept over her.
There was no transcending this pain.
There was no escape.
The end of experience demanded its fee and it took it in the form of pain, every form of pain; and then, she no longer was.
Time might have passed. It could have been a split second, or an eternity; there was no frame of reference. Then it existed here, in a place of endlessness. There was beyond blackness but it felt no fear. There was no sensation of any kind. It was before anything and after everything. It was formless, shapeless; it was what consciousness could be if it was not limited by form – it just was.
“I Am.” it understood.
“You Are.” came an understanding from somewhere separate from itself, but equally here. Its attention, if that’s what it can be called, became focussed on the other that had called it here. Aeons had separated them, and despite this, the understanding that the other was fading filled it with a thousand oceans of sorrow, deeper than time. Within moments they became one in the ether; nothing had changed. They were new again, now understanding they will always be the same.
Story by Samuel Bensberg.