Friday, June 17, 2016



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.

Our light!

“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?”

“Seventy four.”

“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.
Time returns.

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.

For me?
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.

Coma (Sleep)


I have been incapable of moving, even a finger or an eye, for at least a year now. I feel relatively certain about this timeframe because I have been watching the crepe myrtle outside the window of the room I am in. When I came here, the crepe myrtle was bursting with pink. I have since watched it fade to brown, then disappear, then climb back into view one green sprig at a time until it is today exploding with pink again. I am grateful that my family faced me toward the window even though they have no idea whether I can actually see or not.
Likely, my position in the room has been dictated by my wife who has not missed a day by my side. I assert this “day” observation with a bit of care. As best as I have been able to distinguish days from nights—periods of light and dark—she has been present. My comprehension, perhaps better described as my “sense,” of time is not dictated by an absolute passage, but rather by relative changes in states: light or dark, recumbent or reclined, numbness or pain.
I have watched her demeanor change with the seasons as well. From unfettered hope to staunch acceptance, Spring passed to Summer. The realization that my state was probably inalterable moved with an early September rustle, interrupted only by a few moments of Indian Summer, to a halting Autumnal despair. Forcing a mask of joy upon a season of salvation, I know she silently prayed to the spirit of the anticipated newborn Christ during Advent for my shedding off of the shackles of life. And I have once again watched her, ebullient with hope—feigned for the sake of a child who is now able to comprehend who I am—and vigor, make fake preparations for my return home. Her tender words accompanied by pecks on my cheek, her sheepish finger fondling my hair, her tears, her raspy and longing soliloquies intermingling memory with nostalgia: all bear witness to a doting and dutiful wife.
I’ve been visited by more friends and family than I ever knew I had. In addition to my porcelain-faced wife and even more porcelain-faced daughter, I have also seen the faces of my loved ones change, grow a year older…or more. Parents and siblings and nieces and nephews alike—I’ve watched tired and pained faces crackle under the pressure and stress that comes from caring for me. I’ve watched young faces mature. I’ve seen beards grow on the faces of those who were but boys. I’ve seen the faces of people I know and many I do not as they have come to visit me. I have seen the seasons change by the clothes my visitors have worn: first polos, then t-shirts, then flannels, then sweatshirts and coats. The polos have returned with the crepe myrtles.
I am excited to see my child celebrate Easter again, which must be right around the corner. Last year, they dressed my daughter as a bunny. Adorable and carefree, she played in my room and spoke at me, with those few words saved for and murmured by three year olds— for hours. She didn’t want to leave, but was eventually convinced by those who were able to speak that hunting Easter eggs would be more fun than playing hide and seek with the motionless creature in the bed. I could not, in good conscience, argue otherwise though the physical inability to move my lips or force air from my diaphragm over my pharynx also prevented my argument.
The outpouring of sheer delight and unabated love that flows from my visitors is no less poignant than the unfettered hatred that drove me here in the first place. For every morsel of adoration that I receive from my family and friends, for every cheery reminiscence at my bedside, for each enchanting monologue and anecdote of football-field heroics or gymnastic feats, for the hundreds of quiet assurances that I am loved and that my family is well cared for, there remains a dark spot on my soul. My heart, before the accident, was as black as the darkest country night. Why I had allowed my fetid essence to overtake my outwardly good-humored life still eludes me, but it did. And when my melancholy—the short and practically unnoticed interlude that separated my two states—broke for evil, it did so with such ferocity that I could feel the eighth circle of Hell open within my chest.
While it took me some time to recognize that the movement of muscles that I ordered within my mind was not followed throughout by my limbs and extremities, I am certain that I am, in fact, still alive. Though living, I am not completely confined by my body. I am relatively certain that my physical eyes are closed, yet I see my surroundings. I am relatively certain that the synapses connecting my ears to my brain are short-circuited, yet I hear. I am relatively certain that my fingers and toes are gone, yet there are moments in which a pain indescribable with even the words of a thousand libraries consumes me.
I surmise that my spirit has been set askew from my corporeal existence. Slightly de-tethered, my consciousness sits infinitesimally above my body. While I’ve worked through the possibility that this de-tethering has allowed my good and pure being to escape from my Chillingsworth’s blackness, I am uncertain that it is that metaphysical. Neither is this separation purely the physical from the sprit: I feel. I have sense and thought, but no control. I cannot float above my body and look down, so I know only the positions and movements that others have forced upon me. Although I am uncertain that my heart or lungs work anymore, when I am alone with my thoughts, I hear my pained heart beat. I feel it.
My darling wife took the loss so much better than me. Something in the womanly constitution makes the pain of loss somehow as endurable as the pain of birth. For her, these pains arrived concurrently, with a perfectly still baby delivered from her womb. It never cried, nor even gasped for a first breath. The silent, vacant expression that it greeted us with was as haunting as the ghastly shade of bluish grey that tinged even his tiny toes.
I could not forgive like she could. I did not have the pain of birthing to shadow the pain of loss. I did not have the pain of loss, even, to shadow it. In only a few instances in my life had I even lost an arm-wresting match, let alone lost a loved one. I could not move on without somehow recouping some value for my loss. I had been consumed with a misplaced quest for vengeance—one with which the vigor of perfection and accomplishment had become my paradigm. At the same time, angry that I should lose anything and desperate that I could lose everything, I sought the only salve I could imagine—with the irreverence of a child pulling wings off of crickets. The legions of demons welled up and consumed me and affirmed the vengeance that my forsaken relationship with God told me was his alone. My being was not cleaved, but self-ingested.
I plotted with such quiet intensity that even my wife—my perfect and lovely wife—was hardly aware of what I had in store for the Doctor whose profligate actions allowed my son to die. For months after the inebriated Doctor allowed my son to be strangled by his own umbilical cord within my wife’s throbbing womb, I scraped the bottom limits of human sadness. When at last I made love to her again, it was a mocking charade. I could only imagine that I was inflicting pain upon that Doctor: a weird combination of asyncopated carnality that surely affected new pains upon what should have been the tenderest moments with my divine beau. I plunged a dagger deep into his heart, then deeper, then deeper until his vapid haughtiness—that subhuman object of my pungent disdain—was at last stilled and his fingers grey. She wept. I robbed her of the only joy I had left to give her, and we never had a chance to try again. Consumed as I was with my fiendish plot, I could not imagine ecstasy but for the utter destruction of my unwitting nemesis.
“There was nothing we could do,” he slouched in my direction, the swill of expensive merlot still staining his lips and burning my nostrils. “It was just too tangled.”
“I’m so sorry,” he slurred.
“’IT’ was my son.” I shouted with the rage of a thousand warriors.
“’IT’ was going to bear my name. ‘IT’ was going to be an Olympic Gold Medalist. ‘IT’ was going to be President, and cure cancer, and be by my bedside when I pass on to Heaven. ‘IT’ was my son.” Perhaps less eloquent and more broken by sobs and grotesque guffaws than I idealize the invective, the sentiments were there. My son had been stolen from me by a careless and unrepentant man during what should have been an easily remedied birthing anomaly.
When the Doctor left the room, my wife and I cried together. Then the nurses left us completely alone. In each others’ arms, time stood still. Even then, I could feel the ability to forgive draining out of me, as though an elixir spilt through my tears. Though I never knew for certain, I imagined the Doctor returning to his dinner with his wife and his children and his bottle of expensive wine. As I reimagined and rewrote the conclusion of the night—through the increasingly myopic lenses of rage—the Doctor’s post-delivery actions became more sinister. Each time I re-lived the moment, his eyes gleamed with more redness and his back more grotesquely hunched. Ultimately, I settled upon a constructed narrative that returned him to a raucous bacchanalia surrounded by the corpses of countless others’ nascent sons and reveling in the despair of their fathers.
When, at last, I completed planning my revenge, I set the date and time. I was insistent that it would be unrelentingly violent. For all the tenderness of the still corpse in my flaccid arms, there would be writhing, dismembering pain to balance it. The Doctor would pay with his body in a way that would shake the universe around him.
The system, too, had failed. The hospital closed every door of accountability available to us. Unsanctioned, the Doctor continued to practice. The institution was as culpable as the individual within it and equally deserving of my ire. My swath of revenge would be exacted with a plow, not a scalpel.
Building a bomb was not difficult. I learned what I needed to know on the Internet. Apparently, the myths about the FBI monitoring searches for terrorist-related inquiries were fear-mongered hype. Nobody ever showed at my door and, from what I could discern, I was never followed or investigated. Slowly acquiring the components gave me special pleasure. Besides making my activities undetectable, each isolated purchase ripped off the ever-darkening scab on my re-exposed soul. When, at last, the contraption was complete, I only needed to place it.
I made an appointment for recurring patella pain. This was my excuse to wander the hospital and search for the ideal location. I wore the most unassuming tan outfit I could piece together and searched the halls for empty rooms. Nobody questioned my exploring. I walked with purpose. I found the Doctor’s office, then found a nearby closet. For all the cleanliness and sterility that a hospital outwardly displays, this closet was the most disgusting space I had ever seen. Clearly, it was used as a repository for outdated instruments, cleaning supplies—an irony that, were my heart not hardened, would have otherwise struck me as hilarious—and old, dirty scrubs. Where rat feces may have completed the cliché of dirtiness, a layer of dust, dander, and sweat congealed to form a gelatinous residue.
My bomb was designed for maximum destruction. It needed to be compact enough to fit into an innocuous backpack but strong enough to blast through interior walls and spread at least sixty feet in each direction. Based upon how I placed it, the maximum blast would concuss vertically or horizontally. I found a closet within two doors of my target’s office. If he was anywhere within a thirty-foot radius, he would be destroyed. There would be nothing left of him. Within sixty feet, he would be killed, though there might be enough of him to work on until his wounds were declared mortal. Though I couldn’t be certain of this outcome, several floors could be destroyed. In a perfect execution, the strength of the blast would weaken the structural integrity of the building, facilitating the carnage of a collapse. There were no innocent bystanders. Collateral damages were to be an exclamation point upon the viciousness of the execution. The institution would pay for the sins of the Doctor. He and his memory would be stained with the sacrificial blood of those who would dare trust him—with even so much as proximity.
After identifying the location for placement, only a detonator remained. I decided on a redundant fuse device. Should the radio-activated detonator fail, a timer would finish the job. The latter, of course, would be destructive but not targeted. The former would ensure the obliteration of the failed healer. My desire for destruction and carnage had, by this point, overtaken my quest for vengeance. Neither of these scenarios was preferred. In fact, I placed the secondary fuse on a random timer that could go off anytime, completely devoid of target, yielding only carnage. I was rather pleased with my ability to construct this secondary fuse. It was date and time sensitive. The only constraint I placed upon the timer was that it would detonate within twelve months of activation. My pride was black. My still-born son’s clenched blue fingers but a fuzzy and almost forgotten backdrop for my planning.
I am doubtful that the bomb has yet exploded. The blackness that once defined my soul has, in this year of corporeal paralysis, softened to a mushy grey. All I can do is enjoy the doting moments from my family and friends while pushing out—save for swirling moments of contemplative doom like this one—the concussive inevitability that looms on the horizon of human misery that I have set in motion. If, but for a twinkling, I could hurl my living corpse upon the ticking mortar, I would. Instead, I know that when the blast finally comes, it will silence more hearts than my own, and will never ever reunite me with the child whose still-born embrace will eternally elude me.



I was never born. I was nearly born, but never took a breath outside of my mother's womb. When I emerged from her, reaching beyond the tunnel-ended light, I careened toward a light that blazed with the luminescence of a quadrillion white dwarf stars and continued to fall until my eyes opened and I hovered over what I now know was unmitigated grief. Though I was not equipped at that time with the tools to process the tragedy I was witnessing, I have since learned to understand this single, solitary moment of what should have been my life. Ever since the day I was not born, I have been here, left with just one experience upon which to base an eternity of rumination.

Always the know-it-all, his precociousness was not new to a single person who was familiar with him. Of course, it didn’t take long for perfect strangers to arrive at the same conclusion. From correcting his fourth-grade teacher’s grammar, to questioning the validity of the scientific method as inefficient and restrictive to innovation in seventh grade, to reducing the complete works of Hemingway to a first-person one-act monologue as a physics major in his junior year at university, he was incorrigibly obnoxious.

I cannot leave. I cannot live. I cannot escape the never-ending presence of one moment in time. I am without a sturdy tense.

Sports, economics, and midTwentieth-Century abstract expressionism all coalesced into magnificently eloquent diatribes that would both fascinate and infuriate his interlocutors. Nobody could argue because his words were packed more densely than a Britannica and, besides, he was always right. He wasn’t “always right,” in that disparaging, “he would never admit he was wrong,” way. He was, actually, always right. People could check his facts and challenge his computations—and they did—but he was never, ever, wrong. He could convince communists that free markets were more efficient and Yankees fans that Babe Ruth was better with the Red Sox.

As that first and only moment froze below me, I floated from the room and encountered many others—others who also lacked life. Staring down the corridor, I saw other creatures like me as they passed further up, embracing then joining the bright light: making it brighter and brighter still. Each time I approached the ever-brightening light, it moved away. As I sped toward it, its retreat was equally emphatic.

Worse than that, he was a total stud. He turned the old cliché, “Every girl wants to be with him and every guy wants to be him,” on its tired ear. Indeed, every guy and girl wanted to be with him. It had nothing to do with being gay or straight; it was an attraction to what Kant would have described as the sublime: innately, indescribably, and unassailably beautiful. He was a specimen of Davidic perfection. From the sandy blonde and wavy full collection of locks upon his head to his massive sized-thirteen feet, every part of his body was flawless. Not too thin to be a pitcher, not too wide to be a quarterback, not too short to be a forward, not too dense to be a swimmer, and between academic bowl titles, he was a four-season athlete in a three-season division. Despite his athletic success, the wisdom of coaches eluded him and the camaraderie of teammates was ephemeral. Teams could neither win without him nor celebrate with him.

I wandered down corridors over the bustle of doctors and nurses, over waiting rooms and chapels, and watched the living pray for those who would inevitably race by into the light. I watched the desperate, the bereaved, the hopeless,the relieved. Without voice and without form, I could only muster the power of observation. I was but a receptor of the boundless lives of others, caught up with them in silent powerlessness.

There was nothing he couldn’t do, except make friends. Most of the time, even his parents didn’t want to be around him. In fact, the only reason that anybody endured him was to have sex with him, which he ungrudgingly did with anybody who paid him any attention. Thus it seemed, to the eternal confusion of his parents, that, because of the constant stream of new people in and out of his bedroom, he was the most popular kid in school. Truly, he was well known; one might say “famous.” If he was popular, it was that sad kind of “I know who he is and I can’t stand to be in his presence” brand of popular. He neither noticed nor cared about his infamy. His parents were thankful that he had (what they figured were many) friends; it excused their callous coldness toward him.

I learned that there were places, over certain beds in certain rooms, where souls like mine would linger before being absorbed into the light. I learned to communicate with these passers-by, those who would acknowledge me and who were not frightened by me. As they lingered on the edge of death, I lingered differently. Having never lived, I was not dead. Having never died, I was a wholly frightening being to most who I encountered. I was a monster.
Incessantly impertinent and ridiculously proper, he was driven by a force that nobody could identify. Perhaps, some theorized, he was an alien placed on Earth to collect information about its inhabitants; his creators made him too perfect to be an effective spy. Others drew parallels to Jesus, who was himself a know-it-all, often speaking in riddles and annoying monologues; perhaps he was the new Son of God. Still others postulated that he was part of a government conspiracy, cloned from the remnants of the world’s smartest—yet most socially inept—figures: Einstein, Hitler, Jefferson.Once exposed to him, people just wanted to forget him so that they could feel better about themselves. In rooms of greats, ides of jealousy always fell upon him.

I met a spirit lingering over an old man's body. The spirit spoke to me with a tenderness that was new, one that acknowledged that I was but a breath away from past humanity. He spoke and I listened. For the first time since the day I wasn't born, I was treated with humanity.

Nobody ever told him “No.” The best anybody could muster was feigned apathy or indignant acquiescence. When, after graduating with his PhD in Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics from MIT—he delivered a brilliant dissertation on Dark Energy that outshone previous research by decades— he decided to join the Peace Corps, nobody gave it a second thought.

Before he joined the light, he taught me to speak. He gave me words. Through his acknowledgment, he gave me form. With words and form, he gave me thought. With words and thought, I learned. My observation became knowledge.

I was but a camera.

Those who spared him a second thought could never fathom what drove him. A hint to his drive might have been discerned by a careful reading of his dissertation introduction, had anybody bothered to study it. Jumping over the literary flourish and directly into scientific facts, many missed that he presented a critical method—a replacement for science itself—which indicated he had touched the origins of the universe. The ends and the means of science were too precise, he argued. The corralling of facts and figures to bring order out of chaos was not to understand the universe. Rather, science had brought humanity to the brink of impertinence, threatening to leave the power of the soul, expressed in Kantian constructions of beauty, denuded. The statistics and postulates in the body of his paper were but a joke: three hundred pages of what not to   do.

Only one member of his committee even commented on the Introduction, and that with the red words writ large upon the final page: “self indulgent.”

When the old man left, I sought another then another then another: emerging from the bodies of women and children, some of whom seemed far too young to be passing by. All of these "souls," as I came to understand they were, passed by in the same moment in which I was frozen. They spoke of time as though it were something that passed, but I could only measure the passage of souls through my emerging consciousness and toward the ever-increasing and increasingly elusive light.

I resided in the corridors of an immitigable and haunting presence, creating and consuming snapshots of the same scene from countless perspectives.

“Go,” was the admonition from his family.
“Go,” was the scream from his academic peers.
“Go,” was the collective sigh of the civilized world.

Perhaps, they thought, he could be of some good to people who could not understand what he was saying and thus could overlook his ridiculous genius. Perhaps some work in the mundane would teach him humility: build a school; dig a trench; exist in the basics of humanity.

From these passers-by, I learned in fleeting lessons about life and death. I learned that some were ready to fill the light; I learned that some were not. I learned the words to describe these things. I learned to understand, though I could not feel. I learned that, because I had no soul, I would not feel. I gained the voice to ease the transition for those who had no choice in the matter.

Within a week of arriving in North Central Africa, he contracted malaria. Within two weeks, he was back in the United States, in a hospital room fighting for his life. His perfect constitution was as ill-suited as America’s in that part of the world. The malaria so weakened his immune system that a secondary viral infection, something like a meningitis attacked his brain. In order to quell the swelling, doctors induced a medical coma from which they later could not resurrect him.
He was human, after all.