This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.
I ran like a man on a mission.
Because I was.
Firebombs rained from the sky.
The sky was black and endlessly empty. But blossoming from nowhere deadly flickers of flaming fire descended from the vacant sky.
Some landed to my left, some behind me, some so close I could feel the scorching heat singe my skin.
I smelled the unmistakable acrid odor of burning flesh.
I ran because I had a mission and I ran so fast, so tirelessly, that I felt disembodied, inhuman, nameless.
Because I ran.
And spires of fire rained upward from the ground. Into the sky.
As if a recycling plume of flames, the fireballs, launched from random spots on the landscape’s surface, some of my left, others in front of me, sped upwards into the sky, into the black misty void where they hung lazily like an aimless full moon, and once tired, retreated angrily back to the ground.
Some escaped just impaling me on their way up, some on their way down.
I felt heat, but I escaped and still I ran like a madman.
And then, after running for 15 days, I saw the Cave.
I knew this was my goal.
As I ran and dodged the fireballs as they ascended and descended, I fixed my sight on its mouth.
And still I escaped the firebombs.
Finally, after 16 days, I entered the dark cool entrance.
I was summoned here.
This was my goal.
Apprehensively, I entered the darkness which was still and cool and outside I heard the flailing commotion of enraged torment.
But in the cave there was silence.
Dark but light.
I could see the void.
I saw the walls but I saw nothing.
Or I saw something.
Interrupting the void with his figure.
Old, grizzled, serene, peaceful but haunted.
Huddled in the dark corner.
He watched me but I could not see his eyes.
He smelled me but I could not see his nose.
He touched me but I could not sense his fingers.
His touch prompted me to sit on the ground across from him.
A fire raged in the dark.
A fire. It raged invisibly.
It lit the somber psychic darkness but did not leave shadows on the walls.
He asked me to sit.
Tired. Winded. I welcomed the rest.
Outside, deadly fireballs flew noisily.
When I sat he seemed even more haggard and slumped.
And recessed into his cloak. His skin was drawn, and it folded and pulled back his flesh into a tightly wrapped casing of condensed life. Or lack of life. The man was lifeless but so…vibrant. His heart beat loudly like a lost drummer in the dark. His heart was as loud as the fireballs crashing outside the cave. His heart beat a mighty force.
He pointed at me inquiringly.
I knew the question.
And I was ready.
His eyes (which I could not see) seemed perturbed by my presence. Or was it my existence?
And I spoke without opening my mouth.
It was a mystery.
So much noise and thundering outside, and my voice, so silent and still but thoughts still flowed unleashed.
“Can you tell me,” I asked. “Is a man more fortunate if he experienced Joy in retrospect, or is he happier if he never experienced it?”
The man leaned his back solidly against the wall.
“Memories are fucked. They are a waste of time,” he answered mockingly.
He entreated me to dare him.
Or to issue a rebuff.
In the face of silence, he continued.
What good are they?
They sit miserably and linger in your psyche, remnants of a non-existent past.
They sooth your lonely and longing soul.
They beseech you to consider the past, to fixate on it.
Which is dead. And gone.
Do they create?
Do they create life?
Memories are the scourge of thinking man. We’d all best be served if we had no memory. Memory deals us a deadly hand.
You…you cling to your precious memories like they are gold.
You wallow in their vague pleasures.
Memories only pull you deeper into the depths of longing and futility.
Even in the best of circumstances, memories only reaffirm triumph and self-avowed mastery.
Still, they only serve to feed complacency. They merely cement one’s precarious boasts. The minor ego seeks to be ingratiated by the tendrils of the memory.
Memory is a piece of shit and not to be trusted.
The moment you, my dear sir, find yourself rehashing memories, stop. Pause.
Examine the motive for your inner jaunt.
Why must you wade in this shallow pond of murky water?
Do the the fleeting memories further your satisfaction, or merely set the closed stage by which your ego may flourish for the span of a fireball?”