After perfectly executing his plan for the manifestation and consumption of dark energy particulates, his sturdy yet still—comatose—body was placed in a sterile hospital tomb where it was all but forgotten. For nearly fifteen years prior, he had been engineering the details of his plan. He caught his first accidental glimpse of the possibility while reading through the fictionalized footnotes to an obscure Borges story, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.” Once he decoded the labyrinthine text, he recognized that there existed a realm of being in which the simultaneity of events in practice could be perfectly signified in the frail body of a blind librarian. He, from that moment, forsook all sincere human interaction in the myopic quest for the attainment of his mission.
Through college and his doctoral studies, while researching type 2A supernovae, he concurrently looked out into the universe and back in time. He witnessed the birth of the Milky Way and the earth. He witnessed the creation of the skies and seas; the moon and Man. He witnessed the pharmakon-infused execution of Socrates and the moment when Borges was physically pared himself, inspiring the essay “Borges y Yo” which generations of Argentine, French, and American scholars interpreted as a stylistic literary fore into the symbolic.
From opposite ends of their own looking glasses, he saw eye to eye with Galileo, whose own lightly magnified gaze looked only slightly back through the fourth dimension. Through Galileo's hazy pupil, he saw truth and beauty and the answer to the questions he only at that moment knew to ask. From that moment until the moment in which he partook of the brain-expanding serum, he existed in a ruse to hide his knowledge from the rest of the world. He inhabited space, but did not live in it.
As he studied astrophysics, he witnessed history and science and the history of science and knew that they were all one. He consorted with contemporaries who furthered his understanding and helped hone his plan: Jesus, Euclid, Jefferson, Descartes, Einstein, Leonardo. History and science were, he discovered, housed in what another collaborator, Kant, had tried to describe as the “sublime.”
Watching Socrates’s suicide first hand, he discovered that the hemlock concoction was designed to induce a deep sleep into which dark energy particulates could be poured. The Socratic, enlightened slumber, however, brought about such deep satisfaction that the great and methodical teacher chose consciously never to awaken.
Based upon Socrates's ingredient list, he developed a potion that would swell the brain so that it would—sponge-like—absorb dark energy into its synaptic tissue. The final ingredient, Conium chaerophylloides, could not be acquired in the United States. For that, he had to go abroad, to southern Africa. So, to Africa he went with the Peace Corps, ostensibly to build a schoolhouse for starving orphans. Within days of his arrival, he had consumed the drink and was shipped home on what doctors assumed was the verge of death; he had achieved Coma.
Then he arrived; the academic understanding with which I had interacted in the precipice was made real. No longer, in his presence, was I a freak. He made me whole. He brought the light nearer to me. Though it was still beyond my grasp, it was closer; I was freed, at once, to glow in its omnipresent proximity.
He had no friends to visit him as he lay in his quiet coma. His mother came only once a week, and then more out of obligation than love or responsibility. She spent time doting on the two normal children she had at home. The specific ordinariness that accompanied the high-school senior and his younger sister were welcome distractions from what should have been a faith-shattering experience with the oddly golden child.
He gave me more words. With more words, I became more like him: less of a monster.
He gave me every word he had and I used them to animate.
His sister was too young to be repelled by the obnoxious perfection of the brother that she now knew only as the invalid in the hospital. She was never jealous of or hateful toward him. She was never emasculated by his prowess nor diminished by his diatribes. She—and she never really expressed it—silently worshipped him. She was artsy: a writer and a potter. As she got older, she began to snoop around his stuff which his parents had quickly—just weeks after he didn’t waken from the coma—boxed. They turned his bedroom into a den. The boxes, filled with notebooks, sat in a corner of the three-car garage attracting mold and rats. They had long since donated his clothes.
Never, he told me, had he felt so alive as when he was in my presence. I could not empathize, for I knew this thing called "life" as nothing more than a passing state upon which I could fix my gaze. How could I, never having been born, be the giver of life?
He gave me permission. Without knowing that he had no right to grant it, I accepted it.
His sister, inquisitive and restless, often passed her time thumbing through the boxes. Most of his writings were impenetrable to her. Eventually, she found a work that he had never published nor ever shared with anyone. She was certain of this because the binder cover was marked “CONFIDENTIAL, DO NOT EVER PUBLISH.” The cover opened onto a coded manuscript. She quickly recognized that it was written a la D’ Vinci, in mirror code. She fished a mirror from the drawer next to the washing machine and deciphered the work in short order—reading words, but not piecing them together into the intelligible whole they represented. She thought she understood why the golden prophet wanted it hidden forever.
Unlike any of the passing souls I had encountered before, he touched me.
Unlike many of the other neatly edited and precisely worded essays and works that she had little capacity to understand, this was decidedly different. In form and content, it was unlike any other piece of his that she had ever seen.
He gave me the power to—more than merely learn—think.
Just short of human, I knew humanity. Just short of living, I knew life.
She thought that it was—by his standards—at best, mediocre. Her first reading was cloaked in an opacity that she would not easily shatter. Perhaps, she posited, he wrote it when he was very young. The work did, however, provide her a glimpse into a side of her eldest brother which bespoke his humanity: imperfect and self-conscious. As unimpressive as this work might have been in relation to his uber corpus, it was nonetheless amazing by her standards.
We wandered the corridors of the hospital together. I described what I had seen. He explained it. He bridged the gap between what I saw and what I could know.
From grazing the surface and working from the assumption that this was a “childish” piece, she developed empathy for the young mind whose words she read. The work was rife with idealism and theory. The humanity and sensitivity did not jibe with the established narrative about her brother. Not grasping the density of the Maimonides-like text before her, she promised not to betray him. Instead, expecting that her brother would never rouse, she decided to appropriate the work as her own.
He gave me permission to experience time. Together we unfroze the moment of grief which had lingered since the day I was not born. As we hovered over the moment, he observed that I was strangled by my umbilical cord at the moment I should have been born. He observed that the ashen man he identified as my father was inconsolable. As we unfroze the moment, we watched a brilliant beam of light shoot from him; we watched that bolt join the light above while the un-whole remainder of his spirit stayed with his body.
She wrapped the binder in a towel from the clothes dryer, picked off the meadow-fresh fabric-softener sheet, and ran into her room with the oddly folded package tucked under her arm. Anyone who might have seen her would have known that she carried a notebook wrapped in a towel. Fortunately, she was home alone. Brother was at the mall; parents were on a “date night;” and—of course—Golden Boy was comatose at the hospital across town.
He gave me permission to feel. I saw my hands for the first time ever. I saw his giant hands.
I saw the woman who he identified as my mother holding a limp gray body—my body—in her own hands: she held me in her hands.
Nervous, as though she had just stolen the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, she unfolded the towel and slid the folio between her mattress and box spring. She was careful to move it fully to the middle so that nobody would notice it if they were changing the sheets on her bed. She jumped onto the bed and assumed her sleep position to ensure that the contraband would not disturb her. The notebook was thin enough that she would not be bothered, she decided, and was pleased with the chosen hiding space.
He revealed what life had told him. I revealed what the lack of life had told me. Our words commingled.
We watched as his body was poked and probed. We watched as nurses washed him. We watched as the room in which I was never born finally emptied. We followed the ashen body which should have been mine to the lower floors. We followed it to the doors which led out of the hospital, but we couldn't follow it any farther. He told me that they were going to bury my unborn body; they were going to mourn the life that never was.
Several adolescent months passed and, one night as she sat alone and otherwise purposeless in her room, she recovered her treasure from its hiding spot. She hovered over the first manuscript and translated it. The blank verse and empty structure struck her as raw and guttural. How could this form have ever emanated from the pen of her rigidly and perfectly ordered brother? How could someone so shunned by the world perform a call to a hypothetical fraternity? To whom was he speaking? Who was his “we?” Further, she wondered, how could he so commingle chaos with beauty—two forces which seemed to have been anathema to his sensibility?
We hovered over his body and he explained that he was still alive. He told me how his body worked. He invited me to touch it. He permitted me to know it. It was perfect. I knew it. Neither of us knew what to do with the light. At last we touched it.
After two hours, she completed the untitled translation.Hump-backed, she hovered over the works, his and hers, and compared the two. She felt as though the gulf between them was as distant as the big bang was to this moment. She pondered that gulf for an instant and decided that it was but a matter of geographic centimeters, measured not by the tools of astrophysics, but rather by those of quantum physics.
Together, with our commingled touches, we knew that the light was beautiful: indescribably, unambiguously, chaotically perfect.
She suddenly became conscious of her thoughts and instantly unsure of their origins. A high-school junior, she had never studied physics and had never heard the phrase “quantum physics.” Instantly, her thoughts raced to a memory which was not conceivable were she not experiencing it: her conception. She watched, she felt, she lived as sperm and egg combined and an electrical halo sparked forth her life. She watched her own meiosis. She watched as her personal universe doubled, then quadrupled, then expanded and enveloped her. She was at her origin. She had unlocked the pathway to the genesis.
And then were granted words—all words—that informed our previous lack of them. No longer was anything indescribable or ambiguous. No longer was chaos a mystery.
The balance of the night, hours of sleepless study, she read and re-read it. She fell into an abyss, indeed into the very chaos about which she read. Alas, poor girl, she entered that chaos as a conspirator—part of the euphemistic “we”—before sliding along the least-squares line into the mean. When finally she emerged on the other side, approximating Beauty, she had come to own it, if only but for a moment. She could not discern whether that moment was a second or a lifetime.
Just as he had allowed me time, I was now empowered to help him stop it. We were joined in a new moment in which he and I were no longer separate: I was no longer unborn and he was no longer undead. We were birth and death together: we were life across time. We touched the light and were made one with it. Then we retreated together.
Sojourner, her understanding brought her to tangency with beauty, to a single point where “I” and “we” converged: first and second derivatives. She was struck. She was enlightened. Awakened from the clay and dust of the universe, she had inherited her brother’s rib and hungered for the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
Her hunger was not metaphorical; it was manifest in an unabatedly physical way. She could feel it welling from the pit of her stomach as though it were from the ninth circle of Hell. A vast emptiness encircled by an event horizon exploded from within her womb and washed over her in waves of insatiable yearning.
His thoughts were mine. We were consciousness commingled. His experiences were mine. We pulled away from the light toward a black hole. We receded into the warmth of an undulant, pulsing, living womb. We fled, hand in hand, into the darkness.
Her body tensed and convulsed. She dropped her pen, the manuscripts—both the original and its translation—and the mirror onto the ground. Now alone on her four-poster bed, all other accoutrement (save her pillows) littering the perimeter on the floor, her fits became more violent. Tiny twitches that started at the tips of her toes and fingers flowed into torrential electrical rivers up her extremities and converged into her torso with such ferocity that anybody watching would have expected an explosion.
For the first time, I emoted. I wanted. I yearned for life. I longed to be born.
For a moment, her heart could not keep up with the seizure. Briefly, her heart stopped and with it the seizure.
For the first time, he emoted. He wanted. He yearned for life. He longed to awaken.
When her parents returned home, they checked in on her. Surprised that she was even home, they commented to each other on the peaceful repose that she maintained, even as she slept fully clothed upon her bed. They decided against rousing her, but merely shut off the lights. Her mother, lit by the hallway light through the doorway, gently tugged off her shoes and set them neatly on the ground beside the schoolwork they assumed she had been working on. Quietly, they pulled the door shut as they wandered further down the hall to the den.
Then he left me. Immediately, I missed him. I hurt. My soul craved his touch, his words—his presence.
He had taught me much. He had given me permission to approximate life, though I could never truly know it. Together, we had touched the light and returned. I was still unborn. He was free to wake, without me.
I sped to the still-empty unfrozen room where I was yet unborn, yearning for the ignorance with which I first viewed the scene: a soulless camera.
Across town, in a quietly white and untenably sterile room, repose was stirred. Like gently sliding down a stainless steel pole and landing in the bosom of a serene pool of life, the eyes of the precocious sleeper flittered open. As they adjusted to the soft light of the room, fingers stretched and clenched in rhythm with deep breaths. More like waking from a yoga position than a fourteen-month coma, movement was both fluid and exact.
Powerless, I tried to freeze the moment; I attempted to reclaim instance. Yet, I knew too much. I had words. I had time. I had knowledge. I had emotion. I had loss.
I had nothing.
A nurse, expecting that the ringing from his room indicated a malfunctioning monitor, took her time before sticking her head through his door. She experienced eurhythmy herself when she saw the still, perfect, shirtless body of a young man sitting up and looking her way.
Looking down, I saw his living form and was lustful of its corporeal perfection.
“Hello,” he managed to speak as though trying to comfort her.
The nurse fainted. This set off a flurry of activity—footsteps and yelling—in the hallway, all of which froze as one nurse after another was struck dumb and motionless beholding the resurrection.
Methodically, he removed all of the life-sustaining and monitoring tethers from his body. “I need a shower.”
Please, come back.
One of the nurses entered the room and turned on the lights. Another could be heard running down the hallway while a third attended to the nurse who had passed out.
“You’re going to need to remain still for me,” a nurse requested as she approached him, fiddling with the disconnected cords and constructing a strategy for reconnecting them to him.
We have stood at the second derivative of chaos.
We looked behind us and saw ether through which floated flashes of incandescent genius.
“I’ve been still long enough,” he responded. Already commanding the attention of the room and verging on annoying, he listed a series of demands: “I need a shower, I need my clothes, I need a computer with wi/fi, I would love a Mountain Dew, and I need somebody to call me a cab.” His demeanor indicated both cool concentration and warm distraction.
A doctor walked in, followed by another doctor, and another. Within minutes, there were no fewer than six doctors and four nurses in the rapidly shrinking hospital room. Two groups huddled, one by the window and the other by the door. One at a time, they would leave the huddle to address the patient and report on stats. Different voices called out and to the patient, interacting with and describing him:
“Do you know what today is?”
“Ninety seven point seven”
“How do you feel?”
“Describe the pressure when I do this.”
“One forty over sixty two.”
“What is the last thing you remember?”
“What is the square root of sixty four?”
“Can you feel this?”
“Is your vision blurred?”
“Here’s some water, drink this.”
“What is the capital of South Carolina?”
“Can you grab my hand?”
Please, grab my hand!
Finally, a pad and pencil were provided, “Write down all of your thoughts, however silly they might seem.”
We looked before us and we saw an infinitely untenable synapse,
a Styx, whose gondolier waved from some undefined center of pre-chaotic bliss.
We wondered where we were, and discovered that we were not even there yet.
The flock of doctors quacked about the unprecedented and historical occasion which they were witnessing. “We cannot afford to miss a single data point;” one carved out the obvious.
One of the attendants excused himself and made the call from the hallway, “You’re son…you should come quickly.”
At first fretting that it was the favorite son who had not yet come home from his night with friends, the increasingly frantic mother recaptured her senses, “What? He’s awake?!”
The quizzing, testing, and probing continued for ninety minutes.
Finally the room cleared and one of the nurses came in with a sponge and wiped him down, removing the few days worth of grime that had accumulated since his last bath. He grudgingly accepted this excuse of a shower. He had a particular endorphin-infused scent that had been missing during his slumber. He glistened. He glowed.
The light shone from him. I moved in his direction but, the faster I flew, the farther away he became. As I sped toward him, his retreat became equally emphatic. I reached out my hand but was rebuffed by a force I couldn't see. And then I couldn't see at all. The only power I ever truly had, observation, had abandoned me.
Finally, he pushed his right foot toward the cold floor, in deliberate revolt against the bather. As if under a spell, the nurse threw down her tools and gently grabbed his hand. With the other hand, she supported him at the elbow as he strongly forced himself in the direction of gravity, then immediately defied it as he stood tall and peacefully and menacingly at the same time.
He is beautiful. I am blind again. I am voiceless again. I am alone with my thought: lightless chaos. Cursed words!
Fourteen months of stillness yielded no atrophy. His body was as sturdy and perfect as the day he fell asleep. In his full nakedness, he commanded awe. Other attendants entered the room and, jaws agape, stood in silent subservience. He nodded his head in their directions, acknowledging each in their due.
His parents walked in and his mother, in an action which she had stopped a full four years before his accident, ran up and hugged him. He was clearly surprised by this outpouring of emotion from a woman who had not looked him in the eyes since he was a college freshman. She sobbed without control and fell to her knees. She wrapped her arms around his legs and washed his feet with her constantly streaming tears.
“Wake her up!” she cried. “Please, I know you can. Wake her up. Wake her up!” Then, turning on him, “You freak!”
In a shudder's snap, I felt a new presence. Time returned.
He looked behind her and saw his father, holding a limp body in his arms. As if carrying her to a sacrificial pyre, he held her loosely horizontal. His father held his sister in his arms, scooped sturdily beneath the knees and below the shoulder blades. The fifteen-year-old girl’s head fell back and her hair hung straight down toward the floor. Her mouth was opened slightly and she breathed with the casual abandon that should sustain any adolescent. Her eyelids sat loosely over her eyes and he could see a sliver of white through her thin eyelashes.
“She won’t wake up,” said his father, a sliding bubble of salty water traced down his cheek and rested on the corner of his mouth. “We just can’t wake her up.”
I am awakened.
Save the naked patient—awakened as he was from his self-induced slumber—a stunning stillness overcame the room. The maturation of his critical method made real, the oscillation between distraction and concentration made singular and ephemeral Beauty in the face of chaos made tangible, the awakened creature flexed his chest as though to make room for a swelling heart: a blossoming soul.
Tenderly, he walked over to the sleeping girl. The eyes of four doctors, three nurses, a distraught mother, and a heartbroken cub of a father followed him with the intensity of the Hubble staring into space.
She is beautiful.
I stand at the first derivative of chaos, and her name is Beauty.
“You may have witnessed Beauty, dear sister, but I have endured and mastered Chaos.” His empty eyes sparkled for a moment before he kissed her forehead and left the room.
I will teach her.
I do not know which of us has written this page.
Come with me.
Take my hand.
She never awoke.
I will teach you. Follow me.