The Swirling Eddies of Eigengrau

By: Joey Wu

You are trapped.

One day you awoke: a homunculus, immersed in a deep chasm of dark. You wander the confines in solitude, following the faint and ever-so-often beep that resonates through your lonely chamber.

Memories flash before your eyes, occasionally—-trepidation consuming you as your foot slams against the obsolete switch, a task rendered ineffectual by weeks of carelessness and irresponsibility; helplessness as the truck comes closer and closer and you brace for impact; the glimmering streams of red and blue that accompanied the blaring sirens. Brief interludes dot the remaining gaps of your memory: you were a hotshot banker of sorts, a father to two, a devout follower of religion, an advocate of temperance. But as you wander, the corners of your existence begin to fade, becoming hazy and distant as if eroded by the perpetual waves of darkness.

You wonder when he will come again. He with the curled horns, gnarled hands, and cruelly patient eyes. He had appeared, once or twice, but rather than ceasing the throb of empty longing, his presence seemed to amplify it, leaving you to drown in debilitation and hopelessness.

One day, as you wander through the vast terrain, you catch the glimpse of light. Racing towards it, you see two windows slanted with the oblique rays of fluorescent light, and for a brief second, you dare to hope and dream.

Through the marbled and glossy curvature of the convex windows, you peer through the near-opaque lids for a shot of outside: the letters ICU lighted on the walls, a woman and two children weeping with hands clutched in desperate prayer, the neon-green streak racing along a black monitor. For a second, the filmy lid covering the windows is peeled away and you see a man in a white coat staring down at you but seeing nothing. He shines a brilliant light and you’re blinded, sprawling on the ground as you cower in a most unsightly and uncouth way. But as you hear snippets of conversation—-unresponsive...terminal brain damage….vegetative state...dorsal anterior cingulate compromised...recovery unlikely—-you lose the remaining shreds of dignity and pound against your enclosure, bellowing “I’m here! Please, let me out!” As you holler at the top of your lungs and reach towards the kids, no corporeal functions are assumed, and you feel as insignificant as a gnat trying to control a great machine. Your family walks away, leaving you miserable and more alone than ever. You crumble to your knees and the swirling eddies of eigengrau quickly envelop you.

Through their departure comes his arrival. You don’t notice him appear, but you are aware of it nonetheless: the flick of a forked tail, the majestic trishul clutched in his palm, the faint crimson aura that envelops him. Once again, he offers a gnarled hand to you, and for a moment, you hesitate. A brilliant flood of luminescence streams through your consciousness, but you do not falter before it, and its warmth and purity rejuvenate you. You see the inklings of a man before a great gilded cross, his hand extended as if awaiting your tribulations for his favor. When the image fades, you are aglow with determination, and once again turn away from his proud, patient eyes. When you turn around once more, he has vanished---the only hint of his presence is a snaking streak of scarlet against the shadows.

An eternity of wandering passes. Time is difficult to gauge in the dark, and the windows which had given rise to such hope laid desolate and defunct. You walk on and on, and your mind dulls, prefacing the willful ignorance of the entrenched. The glow of faith that had resonated so deeply within you faded to a dull ember, and your memories seep out of your mind like the falling of sand through a flaccid palm. The vigor of survival has been replaced with the ineptitude of ennui, and yet you are made to walk with no purpose, no destination, and no aspiration. As the beeping ceases to terminate, you descend into apathy and chaos.

When the windows open once again, fluorescent light assails you, but you stare back unflinchingly. You gaze on in passive indifference as if enslaved by the impotence of repeating meaningless steps. When the man in the lab coat says, “it’s been a week”  and the woman foolishly cries, “a week? I wouldn’t give up for years!”, you regress to the unforgivably depraved state of inability. You shamble on like a wasted derelict, and as the windows are shuttered close again, you do not even turn to watch the woman depart. For a moment, you worry about financial situations and of emotional will, but the moment soon passes. You no longer remember her, as if she were a fragment of another life, one where she was not the torturer condemning you to an eternity of unrest and imprisonment.

He appears, and for the first time, you look him straight in the eye as he extends his hand. Gleaming in the reflection of his eyes, you see yourself, weighed with a pallid and emaciated countenance, chained to the bellows of a giant never to again be awoken.  He then does something so utterly incongruous with your recollection that you falter as you hear the low baritone of his voice: “The greatest evil is indecisiveness,” he states simply. “A motionless pinwheel, the lack of movement, the lethargy that accompanies years of apathetic movement.” His confident eyes find yours and he extends his hand patiently as if expecting, sooner or later, that you’d shatter. “There comes a point, where torture, punishment, even eternal damnation offer more solace than the painful negligence of mind, body, and spirit in the unbreachable void of oblivion.”

You ponder for a moment, but his words hold no malice or ill-intent, and though they are harsh, they ring straight and true. A part of you envisions a holy marble castle sitting atop the clouds, but as you reach towards it, you see your body withered away by eons of neglect and insignificance; your mind is absent and though your soul is cleansed in purity, you feel no capacity of humanity and no passion for life. To wander in the shadows until released by your corporeal captors would diminish your essence, slowly and painfully, until you were but a mere fragment of existence. And you see the path offered before you---so mercilessly unconventional to your upbringing, so dastardly malevolent in cruel honesty, so contradictory to the tenets you uphold. But you can’t. You know what is right, but you cannot bear the burden of sacrificing your rationality. So you sacrifice it quickly and on your own terms, enslaving yourself to the eternal state of pushing a boulder up a hill rather than the perpetual hope and dejection as you wander endlessly through the darkness. Decisiveness, even in the temporal structuring of confinement, gives you the brief but necessary will to reject all reason, all emotion, and all hope for the gleaming castle among the clouds. You choose, not to dawdle in indeterminism, but to choose your tragic fate. Your dreams you are willing to die for, but not willing to live.

And so you take his hand. The shadows around you turn even darker as eigengrau is purged of its dots of light, the seemingly insufficient specks that had rendered it an indecisive agathokakological form. It’s whole now, and the essence of purity is a calming draught to your shaky breaths.

As you descend into freedom, you hear the droning, continuous beep, the rush of scrambling footsteps, and a wail of despair. But they mean nothing to you anymore. And part of you aches for the woman, and for a moment you almost remember her through arcane means--her cinnamon brown hair, bubbly laugh, and the dainty way she twirled the ring between her slender fingers; but you shield yourself, and willingly succumb to the blissful ignorance of nonidentity as the fleeting remembrance evaporates.

As you step onto the ferry and glide over the agonous misery of wretched forgotten souls, step onto the jagged, glassy obsidian dearth that dessicates life, and feel the imperial wrath of cold purgatorius fire, you do not feel fear. You do not yearn for the cross or the light or the silhouette of the waiting man. Your soul withers away into onyx dust at his hands, and that’s ok. Because, for the first time in much too long, you feel relief.

Inside of you, you see the inklings of yourself, thrashing and expectorating as the darkness swallows the struggling body. The last semblance of hope is crumpling and drowning, and it extends a weary arm at you, its master.

You step on hope’s pleading head, and the weight of your foot submerges it into the murky gloom of death. In a moment, it ceases to struggle and sinks into the forlorn abyss.

You turn away, slowly at first, and embrace the calloused clutches of darkness.