Thought as matter, divisible by number, rendered my beliefs obsolete. Meaning, my existential promise, dissolved. Seeking solitude, I faced the enigma of its purpose. As my body rested, receptive to a message, recognition crept along my spine—a tingle, a gentle stroke. Warmth emanated between my shoulder blades, its source unknown. Who or what called out through my nervous system?
This new ignorance emerged strangely. Recognition came with assigned meanings, without my consent. Could it be forgotten knowledge, buried beneath layers of thought? Deep within, destiny lay hidden beneath the façade of matter. I felt it. Whether an ancient bone or a mere abstraction, it pointed away from thought.
I lit a cigarette and approached the window. The sky cleared, sweeping away thunderclouds with the afternoon breeze. What was the call resonating in my secret emptiness? “Bones surely don’t shape destiny,” I exclaimed. Perhaps destiny was too grand a word. My skin warmed, and I closed my eyes, focusing on the image of a candle flame. A childhood ritual before slumber. I felt the air entering and leaving my nostrils. Deep within my chest, the flame burned steadily. Gentle smoke filled the crevices of my skull. My hands and feet became extensions of an invisible stranger, employing flesh and bone as a gardener wields a spade.
A snake slithered through the air, its presence a silent hiss, brushing against a wall. Gazing upon my hand resting on the window sill, I recognized the snake coiled in gold around my ring finger—the Holy Ghost finger, adorned with a gift from a long-lost friend.
“Babylon is burning at the end of your cigarette,” she spoke. Appearing before me, she held a pitcher of water and a glass. The air crackled around us. She whispered, “Tell me, what is a man? A swirl of windblown dust, caught in the cone of events, swinging across the arc of his life like a pendulum?” Her gaze captured me.
“I take refuge in my beliefs…” I repeated in my mind, a merry-go-round mantra. Doubt’s guns clicked and fired in Russian roulette timing: silent movies, frozen expectations, remnants of a fading life, pantomime gestures. Bang! Frame by frame, each movement posed a question mark in the animation of humanity, subtitled, “I think, therefore I am.” The soundtrack repeated endlessly, “I take refuge in my beliefs.”
Placing the pitcher on the table, she took a sip from the half-empty glass. “You think the true heart lies within your chest, that pumping organ. You are gravely mistaken.”
Flicking hair away from her eyes, she spread the feathers of one wing. Each feather bore inscriptions, shifting from Cyrillic to Chinese, with hints of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek. Though their meaning eluded me, I pondered if they formed an alphabet of feathers, with “wing” as a verb. Perhaps subject and object were not separated in this language—I was illiterate in the realm of angels. Entranced, I fixated on the area of her wing, left of her elbow. The patterns resembled hieroglyphs, or so I believed. A mystery unfolded—how can something be itself yet point to another for identity?
“Now is not the time to dwell on this,” she interrupted. “The three-dimensional world perceived by your five senses is an illusion. If you could slow this holographic movie to a near standstill, you would discover that flesh and blood are but one step removed from your true body—the imperishable one. The same applies to your mind. You believe you think, establishing perceptual and conceptual boundaries, claiming ownership of the images and ideas in that psychological space. They are as synthetic as your heart.”
She paused, her index finger caressing the glass rim. A low hum resonated, breaking the silence. Continuing in a slightly louder whisper, she revealed, “In truth, your thoughts are those of another, passing through your mind. You are but a vessel. Thoughts cruise and soar within you, unrelated to your volition. They enter, stay, and depart, sometimes lingering against their will. The mind, a cube—an arena and corridor, a cage and voyeuristic peephole through senses.”
Her countenance began to fracture and crumble, fragments merging with the window. Like salt dissolving in water, she seeped through the glass, becoming the orange-streaked twilight dusk.
A snail glides across the dome of historical memory. Echoes of wailing prophets, a curling shell—a cochlea. Earth. I heard the calling, intent unknown.