Cogito Ergo Sum (1/3)

Mark Hutchinson

He could feel them, those tremors – the uneven vibrations. The holy ones were rising all around, bursting forth from their graves with a gaudy violence. Some of them were now standing in the city streets wearing those long, white robes and crowns. From where he was seated, he could see their aloof faces which betrayed a disdain for something – perhaps this world. They seemed to be showing off but not quite fully as if they were better than boasting. His breath quickened and his grip on his chair became stronger each time one looked his way. If only I had believed what I was told. If only I hadn’t been rebellious.

The red clock on the eastern wall of his room struck 10 pm, but he didn’t notice – he couldn’t. He was now too busy staring at his trembling hands. This is scary. I’ve never felt like this before. Immediately, his hands began to shake less; they must have read his troubled mind and decided to grant it a little ease – only a little. With hands a bit more steady, he took his black, raggedy, dusty bible from out of a draw in a black, shiny night stand, turned to page 305 and read thus: “Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee. Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me…” He stopped dramatically and slammed the book shut, dust particles flittered about. I wish your hands would’ve been heavy on me! I would’ve learned! I surely would have!

As if planned, his computer started playing a song, that song, the one he listened to daily. The chorus had a part in it which goes “there’s no salvation for me now, no space among the clouds.” And that’s what he sang the loudest. Sure, he sang the entire song missing not a word of the lyrics. But all he seemed to really hear and really sing was “there’s no salvation for me now, no space among the clouds.” By the time the song ended, the trembling started again and his eyes began to flood.

He didn’t dry the tears. Instead, he left his drawing table and stumbled into bed, throwing himself on it without removing its blue and black blanket. Things are better left the way they are in times like these. He stared at the walls, but his eyes weren’t piercing as usual; they were now blinking quickly in treaty with the rest of his shaking body. The walls seemed blank as usual, unmoved by his plight as if to say, “this is your problem, yours and yours alone. We can’t help you – nothing can.” A sigh escaped from the depths of his soul, somewhere seemingly unknown to him until now. Did I go too far? Dig too deep? He sighed again and again and again. They all came from the same deep, dark, icy, unfamiliar place. Then a maddening silence, which was becoming all too familiar, rushed back in to fill the void. There’s nothing louder than this kind of silence. 

That all-consuming muteness stayed with him for the greater part of an hour or so he thought. This is more fear and loneliness than any man can bear… he was beginning to think when something mist-like in form started to invade his room. It came up from the ground, rising like smoke, and then settled in a rocking chair in the corner where his grandfather used to sit whenever he visited. He stared at the thing, his trembling intensified and sweat streamed down his face. He started backwards, slowly moving towards the other side of the room. It couldn’t be…could it? He would’ve probably run if he weren’t frozen in awe.

“Jesus Christ!” fear pushed out of him.

“Guess again,” said the mist-like phenomenon coolly.

“You’re not my grandpa! You can’t be!”

“I never said I was. Non tam cito salire ad conclusions.”

“You look so much like him!”

“Looks can be deceiving,” said the grandpa look-alike, smiling wryly.

“Deceiving how?” said the scared one.

“Well, exampli gratia, those aren’t your real hands that are trembling.”

“What the hell do you mean? Of course, they’re my hands!”

“Well, prove it by touching your face si potes.”

The scared one tried to do as he was commanded, but he couldn’t. His hands were no longer his to control. In fact, his entire body was no longer his. It had occurred to him many times before that his “reality” could be sham, but trust in his normal sense perceptions was never this tested.

“For Christ’s sake, what the hell is going on?” he screamed at the grandpa look-alike.

“Call me Confucius,” said the phenomenon playfully.

“I’m floating above my body now! Why am I floating above my body now?”

“Nah, scratch that, call me Zarathustra. He was always my favourite sage,” the phenomenon went on with the same playful indifference that only made the scared one even tenser.

“Okay Zarathustra, why am I above my body?”

Adhuc sub judice lis est.

“The case is before which judge? And what the hell is with all the Latin?”

“You tell me! Do you even remember when you started to learn that forgotten language?”

He replied in the negative, but Zarathustra could tell that he was lying because he was afraid.

So Zarathustra laughed. “You don’t have to lie to me,” he said with his usual playfulness “you can’t, really.”

“I swear I don’t!” insisted the scared one, giving consistency precedence over truth.

Zarathustra only laughed.

While he laughed, a scene from the scared one’s memory started to play out in the room. It was when he started learning Latin online 4 years ago. He was sitting in front of his computer reading phrases off a list of Latin Phrases on Wikipedia. He could see his lips forming them and calling out their meanings. Ab extra (from without), ab imo pectore (from the bottom of the heart), ab incunabulis (from the grave)…

“Okay, you’ve proven your point,” said the scared one.

“If you think I have, Luke, then I have,” said the still playful Zarathustra.

“How do you know my name?” said Luke, still afraid.

“I know everything you do.”

“What are you? A demon?”

Adhuc sub judice lis est.

Luke sighed. Zarathustra continued laughing sympathetically, in the same way a father would at his child’s charming but unreasonable fear of the dark.

And then the scene from Luke’s memory evaporated slowly and smoothly.

“Please tell me what’s happening to me,” said Luke. He was a little less tense now but his shoulders were still sunken more than usual.

But Zarathustra said not a word, still wearing only that placid smile.

While Luke gazed at Zarathustra from mid-air, a greyish-blue, cloudy, spiralling mechanism resembling the top of a tornado materialized and Luke was pulled towards it; everything else in the room remained motionless. Zarathustra watched and laughed as usual. Luke caught a glimpse of the laughing phenomenon’s face; it was younger than his grandpa’s. This can’t be real! He was still noting Zarathustra’s look when darkness seemed to wrap itself around him as if it were about to devour him – and it did. His gaping mouth closed when he realized that the darkness relented rather quickly and he was spat out somewhere – the first sign he saw read “Savannah.”

There was a child playing where he was transported to, a boy of about age 8. He was playing in a field of dandelions with butterflies encircling. A light gale was blowing, cool and calming. And all around was soft with afternoon sunshine. Luke started towards the boy, looking around agitatedly. As he drew closer, he saw that the boy wasn’t alone. There was a woman sitting under a palm tree some 60 or 70 m off supervising the child’s play.

“Mom?” Luke sort of whispered.

She saw him and bade him to come to her. Oh God! He went although he hesitated a little. She was sitting all lady-like with her long, black and white polka-dot skirt wrapped around her ankles. The lines on her face were gone; she looked much younger than the last time he saw her, which was about 2 years ago. And she wore a constant smile. This smiling woman has the body of my mom but she’s not my mother, her countenance is much too…

“Do you know why you’re here?” she asked softly when he was close enough.

“No,” he replied somewhat angrily.

“Do you want to know?”

“Yes, I’m dying to!”

“That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.”

“You people are impossible! All these riddles, all these games, I hate them! I’m confused and I want answers!”

“Well, it’s chaos that gives birth to dancing stars, and to find your answers, you must learn to draw water from your own well.”

He recognized what she had said about stars and wells as quotes from a book called Thus Spake Zarathustra. My mother would never read this. Who is this?

“Who are you?” he asked in a subdued tone.

“Just something from the shadows,” said the smiling lady.

“Which shadows?”

“The shadows of your forest, I suppose.”


“You heard me.”

She still wore that frozen smile when he didn’t respond. He noticed but only stroked his chin with his thumb and index finger and gazed at the sky as if he expected something to fall from it anytime soon. The woman didn’t seem to care. They must have stayed five minutes like this when a rose fell from her hair. It hit the ground softly. It was a pink one, and he was sure it was important. So, he picked it up and was about to put it back from whence it came when she stopped him with a motion of the hand, a stern but calm movement.

“What should I do with it?” Luke asked.

“Keep it. It won’t be around much longer anyways.” She said with the usual equanimity.

“What do you mean?”

“Look and see.”

He looked and the rose which had grasped so firmly was gone.

“I expected that something weird would happen.”

“You’re learning!”

“I guess. Will it stop, though?”

“It should. I just hope you learn something from it.”

“What can I learn if one moment I’m out of body and the next in it? How am I supposed to understand anything? I keep seeing dead family members and keep being transported around.”

He closed his eyes, scowled, took three deep breaths, clenched his fist and was about to tell her not to give him anymore answers which he’d have to figure out but his eye’s opened just in time to notice that she was gone. He turned towards the child and he wasn’t there either. Typical.

Part 2

Part 3


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