Eric’s consciousness came alive in a gloom so profound, so all-encompassing, so vast as if to call every other darkness he’d encountered before, the source of all light… and yet despite this he could see clearly. Though what he was doing could hardly be called ‘seeing’. Rather than see, or hear, or smell or feel anything with his senses, he was simply aware in every sense of the word. With no eyes to speak of he could sense in every direction simultaneously, there was no front, no back, no side – there was awareness in the nothingness and what could be called direction, even though in a place like this, a place completely void of matter, the word felt clunky and ill-fitting.
He tried to look down at himself and mentally laughed at his own thoughts, inadvertently blocking the effort to view his form.
What was gender or sex in this place? Still, for now, it fit his mind well enough and he chose to hold onto the phrasing to describe his person.
He tried to look down again and once more felt the word he mentally used to define a direction was strange and inadequate, like using the word ‘hot’ when describing the immense temperature of the sun. It wasn’t wrong, it was just that all his words, his concepts associated with language, were inadequate to the task of measuring distance, space and—he suspected—time in this, in his, otherness. Despite this, there certainly was ‘distance’, ‘space’ and even ‘time’ here—just none of it as he knew those things before now.
Again he returned his will to the idea of looking down at himself and ‘saw’ nothing.
He did not panic.
He did not fear.
He felt, amused.
Why would he have a body in this place? What purpose could such a clunky and useless vessel have in here?
He reached out with his awareness to where his body might have been and very clearly did feel a sense of self. He was absolutely an entity in this place and though there was no physical shell he very definitely had a beginning and end to his conscious self, a form that could be described as his whole that separated him from everything around him, and more than that, there were ‘others’ here with him.
His sense of not being alone was like waking from a deep sleep, to discover the roar of the ocean in his ears. At first startling, even frightening, but once he understood it; those feelings quickly passed and instead became a calming background din. Where a moment ago he was standing on the beach of that ocean, he suddenly felt himself within that ocean—a soft, warm, water built of the consciousness, of the others that encompassed him on every side, in every direction, that bobbed him up and down in the soft embrace of never-ending life.
Again the concepts of time felt awkward and wrong—he’d always been in this ocean. He just hadn’t allowed himself to sense it yet.
Part of him knew the concept of time as he thought of it was wrong for this place but he was adjusting quickly. Time, to anyone outside of this place, was linear; a line drawn in the sand with a beginning and an end.
Time here, in this other, was a circle.
There was a passage of time, in the strictest sense of the word, but it had no beginning or end, it was eternal and your consciousness existed at all points in that circle—you simply chose to be aware of any point at a time in that ring, like honing in on a single voice in a crowded room. In other ways it was almost like when you focused on a memory, except you weren’t restricted to remembering past events, you could also remember future ones, or current happenings. As that realisation came to him he knew he had been here before—many, many, many times.
Eric reached around in his consciousness and felt doors within him, a dozen, suddenly hundreds, no thousands of doors—all bolted shut and sealed to him. His inability to access them caused him to flare into white-hot rage!
There were answers here! Answers he must have to fully understand himself, answers to questions so vast he didn’t even yet understand how to ask them. Why were these closed to him?
And while Eric had uttered no sound he felt a sudden ripple in the ocean around him. He had inadvertently thrown something hard and heavy into the living mental waters around him, an errant child dropping a mental-boulder into the gentle calm, disturbing the natural order of the waves and rippling out further and further well beyond even his ability to sense in this place which is when he understood… he was not hearing the roar of the ocean as he knew it, this was not the gentle bobbing of accepting warm waters…
The roar was the sound of an incalculable number of voices all wordlessly speaking simultaneously—
An ocean of mouths.
The din of them suddenly pressed in on him from every side and he felt for a significant portion of them, their anger, their rage and his fear. The ocean now felt cloying, crushing, invasive, and suddenly dangerous.
He was not meant to be here, the ocean did not want his awareness here, did not want to share their secrets with his mind and as he felt their anger, the ring of time of which he knew he could and should be eternally aware of, suddenly sparked red hot in his consciousness. The ocean had been here for eternity and much of it was tired of waiting, tired of the eternal nothingness, tired of the other voices, tired of no beginning and end. They yearned to tear open those doors in their own consciousness, yearned for answers, yearned for—
For beginnings and endings.
They railed at those doors within themselves, seeking a way back to pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, love and hate. They yearned for corporeal existence, for a way to reach out to lovers, to family, to friends, even to enemies, to ANYTHING other than the bobbing, never ending oblivion of existence without form.
The ocean of mouths screamed! Howled its frustration and fury… How he could possibly not have been aware of this before? He could not understand, could not fathom, but he now knew, some parts of the ocean had always screamed.
Panic threatened to overwhelm him and his sanity. He had to get out! He would drown in their rage if he didn’t! He would lose his sense of self, would lose—
It all came with that one word in the sound of his sister’s voice, almost lost in the never-ending wailing of the ocean of mouths.
The thing that was Eric sped towards the light. He was the wind. He was the space between heartbeats that was the never-ending question, ‘Would the next beat be life or would there be silence and death?’
He didn’t understand how Mary was here, but he knew, there was only one person in his existence that he had ever been able to depend on, one person who loved him, one person who would protect him from the ocean and it was she.
The darkness disappeared before him replaced with a light so brilliant, so blinding so all-encompassing that Mary was a sun—
A sun the colour of blood in an ocean of night.
A sun that screamed.
The ocean of mouths crashed against the light, a brilliance born from agony, but could not possess it, could not cross the divide between its existence and hers. The mouths railed against the barriers of her mind, mountain-sized waves of living nothingness, the horror of millions of minds—tearing, rending, raping at her consciousness.
Which is when Eric understood…
Mary wasn’t screaming for her to come save him.
She was screaming for him to save her…