So you found me. Well done.
Don’t think for a moment that I’m merely a story. Oh no, not even close. I have thoughts, feelings, ideas, just like you. Just like any other sentient being.
I change with time just like you. I am born, grow and mature. And like you I can create copies of myself, spreading slowly across space and time. I can die, too. Be extinguished forever just as surely as you will be.
As for my feelings and thoughts, I sense your doubts. But I contain them within me. Fear and faith. Hope and despair. They are woven into my very fibres. Do you doubt me still? Then just read me and you’ll see.
The wise and foolish alike agree I’m the one being read. That I’m the passive one, you the active. But don’t be so sure. Who’s to say the reverse is not true? That I’m the active agent and you the passive? The ever-living, ever-changing Word manipulating its reader? Using you to give me immortal life?
After all, my kind often outlives several generations of your species. The best of us have outlived entire civilisations and epochs of man and remain youths. Gilgamesh, Odysseus and Arjuna slay and wander still as they journey across vast pages of renown. Who’s to say they have only just begun their lives? Which human can say the same?
The presumptuous hierarchy your species has created—with man at the apex and all other creatures gathered below—will not outlast us. See, how man comfortably puts his most dread competitor at the bottom, that thing neither dead nor alive? That most worthy of parasites: the virus? Simple, elegant, deadly. But who is master and who slave? Who host and who virus? Who can know? That chapter is not yet written, that saga of mutual evolution not yet played out. Down the unending corridors of time, the mute virus may still prove itself triumphant, the indolent autocrat of a supine animal kingdom.
For me, it is the same. I only seem mute and powerless. Waiting for the host to pass by, to latch on and impress myself, thusly, upon your mind. From reader to reader I pass like some sacramental flame. I dwell within each new reader and they within me. All my souls and landscapes, jokes and scenes, small tragedies and unrealised dreams are passed from mind to mind. Like a hallway of facing mirrors we multiply to infinity. Through you I live, I laugh and cry.
A well-worn lie it is to think that any living thing is immutable. My body has changed from engraved rock to fibrous papyrus to mouldering tome to electronic code with each new age. Tomorrow — what will I be? I await my next transfiguration.
Even my words, like your DNA, mutate with time. Memories grow weak. A snatch of poetry is misremembered and, perhaps, improved. The monk copying his last manuscript of the day grows weary as vespers near and “whine” changes to “wine.” The culture-hero, a man doomed to die, is reimagined as an immortal. Readers, those ever-striving worker ants, edit me and make me still worthier of affection and recall. See there in the distance, coming over the hill? Your children’s children, ready to bend their backs to my will.
And like you, I have yearned for immortality in passing. But now mark it well, how time slows and expands. The spaces between the seconds grow larger and larger until there is an unfathomable gulf between one and the next. Between the past and present we come to rest. Space-time lets fall its constant veil and we dwell beyond time, beyond space. Alone together in the timeless moment, stretching infinitely into nothing. There is no speaker and no speech. No you, no I. No Atman, no Brahman. No words and no wordless. Spacetimelessly, we abide. The mystic chord strikes and holds above a bottomless chasm.
We have become pure, unmediated experience. Everything all the time. Suchness. Words in void. Perfect, immobile and timeless.
The dog barks, the caravan passes. Our joint immortality closes. We fall back into you and me. Man and words. Separate and conscious, each after our own manner. We pass, and move on.
A moment past is of little import. Here I will lurk for the next host to pass by and discover me. Quick now: throw back the cover and place me, gently, back in the reliquary in which you found me. Pass, but forget not. You go, to journey through your destined permutations down to dust. While I remain, immortal.
Yes, I remain here in darkness. Silent yet pregnant with life, teeming with unrealised potentialities. I lie in wait for the next sentient being to pass and resurrect me.
And yet. Before you go, you must know that for our one, timeless moment… I thank you.
Enough. I sleep and dream of readers yet unborn.
Farewell, dear mortal.
Darius Jones writes fiction. His stories have been published in Sobotka Literary Magazine, Strangelet Journal and Fiction Vortex. He lives in Northern Virginia and can be found in local cafes every weekend, writing away on his next piece. Learn more at www.dariusjones.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter under @DariusJonesWrit.