Snakes became jaguars became cats were her cat, Antranak.
Antranak spoke to her and his words were glass.
She passed through them and they through her.
was everything was her
world, her planet, her life made of glass: a soap bubble, girdled with rings. Iridescent shapes moved in it, Animal faces; snakes. Chinese dragons. People; her brothers and father. The mothers and sons she had killed.
At the limit of her vision, she was visited by an Egyptian goddess. Or
Perhaps she was the Egyptian goddess, visiting others inhabiting the same vision realm, the glass dream a sand painting, blowing in otherworldly winds, evolving from this place to that time, transmuting reality, butterfly iridescence, soap bubble history.
Back and back and back.
A world before this.
A world of light. Archetypes and wonders.
Not temples and impossible rays and alien technology but something at once simpler and more eloquent: a world of compassion. Of respect. Of acceptance. A world with no barriers, no divisions. A world that knew itself and embraced itself. A world, like music, that resonated as one. Where even dissonance was part of the whole, and loved. A world following which all others would be as forgetful children, fretful and ignorant, constantly seeking but never discovering, because to discover, one must remember, and for such sons and daughters as these remembering is only fear.
Erimem beheld Atlantea and knew awe.
Beside her, the Observer also beheld Atlantea; the incandescent doom falling upon it from the cold, black sky.
The singular moment of passing of this civilisation will far outlast the millennia of its existence.
Erimem felt sickness rise through her, sad and truthful, and full of snakes.
“But... this place, everything in it... is so beautiful. How can you just... watch? How can you observe and not want to help?”
“The most profound beauty can only ever be ephemeral. Were beauty, true and perfect beauty, beauty in its purest form, to stand forever; to behold it for even for even the most fleeting instant would destroy the observer utterly.”
Erimem, who had not cried for more than a decade, felt tears on her cheeks. “You have perceived a great truth but you do not understand it.”
“My purpose is not to understand; simply to observe and report. There are others whose purpose is to experience that which I document.”
“And what of understanding? Are there those whose purpose is to comprehend what others experience and you observe?”
“Comprehension implies action. Action defeats observation.”
“Objective reality is beauty in its purest form. But what of change?”
“Change is pollution.”
“Yet the change from life to death represents ultimate beauty.”
“You misunderstand. The observation without interference of moments of passing is the only perceivable representation of beauty in its purest form. This is true for everything that exists.”
“But you could change.”
“Were I to change I would be destroying an aspect of perfect beauty. The destruction of any aspect of perfect beauty destroys the entirety of perfect beauty. Without perfect beauty to define us, my people would have no purpose, and therefore no existence.”
“Then you are changeless. Your people are changeless.”
“Yes. We are the perfect antithesis of perfect beauty, and can only exist because we are defined by it.”
“There are those who define perfect beauty as the continuance of life.”
“Their understanding of perfect beauty is flawed.”
“Then why not save them? It is within your power.”
“To save them would destroy perfect beauty.”
“But to observe perfect beauty is to be destroyed by it.”
“So you are contributing to the destruction of your own people.”
“This, too, is perfect beauty.”
When the comet that annihilated a global civilisation and initiated the geological era known more than twelve thousand years later as The Younger Dryas slammed into the Laurentide Ice Sheet it was a wall of fire travelling at nearly half the speed of sound.
The impact, large enough to kickstart a new ice age, spread nanodiamonds over an area of millions of square miles. Smaller, but no less lethal fragments of the comet impacted globally, adding to the nuclear winter. Thousands of animal species and nearly all the North American megafauna were rendered extinct. The meltwater raised sea levels by more than three hundred feet. And ten million square miles of coastline around the world were engulfed by a flood so terrifying it became enshrined in global mythology, traumatising its pitiful survivors for thousands of generations to follow.
Erimem observed the cataclysm unfold over time, watched it echo down the long millennia of human history, and struggled to understand the thought, cold and nascent as any virgin snowfall, which now filled her head: until this precise moment she had thought herself a woman out of time, cut off forever from the world of her birth, a stranger in a strange land.
She had thought she was alone – but she was wrong.
She was not alone. She was merely the child of a civilisation which itself was the offspring of the perfection which had come before. A world forever changed by nothing more than cosmic chance, a trivial scrap of debris left over from the construction of the greatest temple of all: the solar system, of which her world and its entire history comprised but a single block.
If she was a stranger it was in no more strange a land than any other to which her own civilisation had been a parent.
This was her world, and she was part of it, and it part of her.
The Observer watched, but did not smile; was himself, but was not complete.
The changes echoed down the long moments of passing that followed.
A baby in a crib. A child in a car. A father in a plane. A mother in a spacecraft. A village, wiped out by ignorance and plague; a town destroyed by stupidity and vulcanism; a city eradicated by laziness and nuclear accident; a country annihilated by financial greed and corporate egotism. Murder. Suicide. Genocide. Extinction.
They watched them all, together.
We are the same age, the Observer mused at length. Yet you are old while I am still young. You are dying, ancient of days; I have barely begun to live.
She knew he was right. “Moments of passing are common to all, the young and the old.”
But I am so young, the old man said. Death has been my employment for less than a single lifetime.
The irony of this was not lost on her.
“This much we have in common.”
You are an extraordinary woman. Tell me your name, and why you have come to me. Tell me before you are lost. Your moment of passing will live for eternity.
She considered. What answer had this vision realm gifted her, after all? The same as it gifted every visitor: knowledge; experience; the barest understanding of self.
“My people desired that their names ring through the halls of eternity. They built great monuments, glorious art and profound heavens to that end. History turned their great deeds and art and heavens to dust. My people were wrong. I will not tell you my name.”
Where were the snakes? The Egyptian goddess? The tellers of truth?
“I have lived in a world so different from the place I was born that it approaches the difference between zero and one. I have spent a lifetime trying to understand that change, to fit myself into it, to make myself part of it.” She hesitated a moment. Civilisations died. “My mistake was to assume I needed to.”
The difference between one and zero is what defines perfect beauty. You understand this. We are the same.
“The difference between one and zero is very different from the difference between zero and one. We are not the same.”
Now it was his turn to hesitate. Planets were lost.
You came here to kill me.
“There are many ways to kill a man. You do not have to take a life, to end it.”
She was the snakes, the goddess, the truth.
“Everything that exists changes. Perhaps you are not here to observe my moment of passing. Perhaps I am here to observe yours.”
She watched the Observer through the death of worlds, through planetary collision and supernovae and back holes and quasars. When finally he spoke his wisdom had already begun to fade, driven aside by the only constant the universe would ever know.
You are perfect beauty and I cannot stand before you. You have destroyed me utterly.
The last galaxy fell without a scream across the event horizon of a black hole.
I was not here to observe your moment of passing. I was never here to observe your moment of passing.
The last black holes swallowed each other until only one remained, starving forever in an empty universe.
You were only ever here to observe mine.
The Observer changed, but there was no-one left to see.
And so they parted, and this too had happened before, though neither could know it. They would meet again, in his future and her past, though of course there would be no recognition, so profoundly had each been altered by this, their first and last moments of passing.
On her return there were flowers, scented water, a bath; trees and sky; the soft breath of voices, lifted in melody.
There was space and time to think, to reflect on her experience, as utterly alien as anything in this century and yet as familiar to her as anything left behind in her own.
An experience leading inevitably to a single destination: the life she called home.
“Ease down, Pocomoto. My brain totally missed the with-it train this morning.” Andy's voice, brought thousands of miles to her by world-girdling satellites, was as sharp and clear on the smartphone as if they were in the same room. In many respects, Erimem now saw, they actually were. “Now let me get this straight. You want me to fly to Brazil, drink Ayahuasca, be violently sick for a week while undergoing vision quests to help you reconnect with the afterlife? E, hun, are you out of your mind? Look, I'm all for smoking a bit of pot, and I love you like my mother's home-baked rock-cakes, but this... this is nuts on the order of – hang on – shut up I'm on the – no Matt, you can't fly to Brazil and drink Ayahuasca! Jesus, you don't even know what Ayahuasca is. Now by all that's mighty finish your homework before I–”
Erimem sighed and ended the call. Life, it seemed, was something she must continue to explore alone, at least for the time being. With this understanding in mind, she switched off her smartphone and threw it as far as she could into the trees. She had a feeling she wouldn't be needing it again for some while.
With a sigh she slid back down into the bath.
The flowers smelled quite lovely.
And the songs of the healers rose through the rainforest to the sky, moments of passing, soon to return.
“Matter and spirit. As above, so below. Science teaches us to believe that the material world is the primary and only reality. But] [Viewed through the lens of Ayahuasca, another world becomes visible, perhaps many of them. And because these worlds interpenetrate our own, effects in this world may have causes in the other worlds.] [The material world, if cut off from the spirit world, becomes meaningless and empty.”
Supernatural: Ancient Meetings with
the teachers of Humanity, Century, 2005
Planet Earth, 2016
Download as a pdf