by Ernest Wilkens
Then I came to the house where a friend of mine and his mother lived. Their home was on the second floor, above the mother’s shop. As I crossed the road, I involuntarily looked up at the second-floor window of my friend’s room. From where I stood, on the sidewalk below his window, I used to call to him to come out and play or, when we were older, to hang around.
Now I turned and walked on, around the corner of the building into the side street, where three large windows like department store windows revealed his mother’s workshop. The workshop was also considered to be the family’s living room. When my friend George did not answer from his room, I usually came here to see if he was home at all.
Now I looked in through one of the windows and saw clothing and materials piled everywhere: on chairs, tables, old sewing machines, and other pieces of furniture I couldn’t recognize under the piles. Nothing was different from the last time I had visited my friend.
My friend’s mother had worked as a seamstress. She was dismissed because of someone’s prejudice against her. The loss of her job had resulted in a neurosis: she became obsessed with making and repairing clothes, most of which were never finished.
I looked into the room, hoping to see either my friend or his mother. I was disappointed not to see anyone. Catalyzed by the disappointment, I sensed how much time had passed since I had last been here; I felt the nostalgia and decay that occurs in everything as time goes by.
I put the feeling away and concentrated on the room again. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a movement at the far side of the room where the kitchen used to be, a quick furtive movement. I recognized the actions of my friend’s mother after she had gone insane. I moved back and forth along the window, trying to see her.
When I dropped my gaze I found her: she was hiding behind a chair piled with moldy clothing, kneeling on the floor, looking at me as she used to do for most of the years I had known her son. When I made eye contact, she came out from behind the chair. Instinctively, caused by some impulse, some fear out of her past, she hid behind one or another piece of furniture whenever a stranger happened to look in. It was a game she played, but a serious game nevertheless. She came to the door and let me in.
When I entered the house, the old woman led me into a dilapidated ante-room which was also piled full of old clothing, but here the intensity was less desperate. I asked her about her son, where he was, etc. She said that he had been gone for a long time but didn’t elaborate.
As she answered my question she went to a small sewing machine or dresser. I couldn’t tell what it was beneath all the papers, materials and other assorted garbage. From the second lowest drawer she took out a large envelope addressed to my sister. The address was wrong, and the envelope had been stamped “return to sender, incorrect address.” It seemed to me, feeling the despair of the place, as if the letter had returned by itself, drawn back by an invisible string, as if it could exist only where it had been created.
I remembered my friend’s love for my sister: it had been an adolescent thing, but on occasion they went out together. Inside the envelope was a notebook, which contained a number of small poetic passages and paragraphs intended for my sister. The book was written like a journal or diary. I returned the book to the envelope and placed it under my arm, intending to take it with me when I left.
The change in the focus of our attention and the relation between myself and my friend’s mother made me even more aware of my surroundings. The envelope caused me to sense the decay in the atmosphere. I felt like an anthropologist discovering something hidden for thousands of years, something decaying and corrupt but representing an early civilization and containing the atmosphere and aura of history. I felt as if I were in a dream synthesizing an event out of my own past.
The old mother knelt down on the floor anbd rummaged through a box of papers. I became curious about her past life. I asked her where she came from, remembering that I had never asked my friend or his mother about it. She said to me, “Lisboa.”
That surprised me, because I had thought that her manner of walking, complexion and behaviour were indicative of an eastern European upbringing. As she answered, she handed me an old, faded Bible. Inside, stuck in between the last few pages, I found a number of photographs.
The pictures were of her and her family’s past, from before the war. As I looked them over, an intense feeling of antiquity and nostalgia affected me, but I felt it empathetically, as she must have felt it. It was as though I were looking through a window onto an older world, a world more like a madman’s dream than a previous reality, because, she told me, all the people in the pictures were dead.
One picture depicted a handsome young man who gazed at the camera out of dark eyes. He stood tall and strong, as if by his pride alone he could have taken on the world and won. He was the elder brother of this woman and had died in the war. There were various other pictures: domestic settings, the countryside, antique cars, and buildings in some town or city in Portugal.
The last picture aroused in me a feeling of acute revulsion, and seemed to have no connection with the other pictures, except as a macabre illustration of a madman’s dream. Then an alarming thing happened as I concentrated on the picture. At first I ignored it, enchanted as I was by the antiquated atmosphere of the decrepit house. Then I had to take notice: I suddenly found myself in transition to a scene out of the past, from the war.
I was in a ditch. At first it seemed as if I were watching a movie; then, as it became increasingly life-like, I could see that my feet would get messy if I stayed there. I stood facing one of the dirt sides of the pit, more like a slope than a wall. Four or five emaciated and deformed soldiers lay against it. They were horribly marred and marked by round tumorous growths protruding from their bodies. Some of them had open sores and patches of peeling skin, as if they had received a dangerously bad sunburn; and some of them had limbs missing.
A rifle shot from the ground above startled me to awareness of the greater surroundings, and I watched as one after another the soldiers were shot to death. But I felt nothing, because, though they were alive, they were essentially dead, and the bullet was an emissary of the merciful.
I watched in acute horror and disgust as one by one, after they had been shot, the soldiers melted into puddles of jelly and became unrecognizable as men. In their semi-liquid state, limbs obscured, they flowed and fell down to the bottom of the pit. That was when my shoes did become messed up and stained. Yet I stood there and watched.
Then, over the lip of the pit, above my head, I saw more bodies being pushed over the edge. They fell and rolled and melted as they fell, breaking apart horribly. The soldiers who stood at the top were using shovels, sticks, or whatever they had to push these victims into the pit for a quick burial. I turned around as I noticed more victims being pushed in from behind me. One was a horse.
Not only did I feel disgusted, I paradoxically felt pity and sorrow as I watched this horse, still living, struggle to regain its feet but melting as it attempted to do so. I don’t know how the horse could have remained alive while its face, bones and muscles melted away. Somehow its brain continued eerily to function as the body disintegrated. The horse melted further but still struggled to lift its head from the dirt while only the upper part remained whole. Then a soldier jumped down beside me and stove in its skull with a pick. He had to strike three or four times before the horse stopped moving. The skull cracked like an eggshell; the brain was dry underneath. This event signalled my exit from this world.
Thinking back now, as I sit in my room writing this down, I realize that those people and the horse were victims of some maniacal nuclear war; they had been slain by excessive radiation and by disease from chemical weapons that caused mutations and permanent, devastating horrors to the body. But it was not any war that I remember, not the war from the early 70’s, the Third World War: there were no biofusion weapons in use then. Even now they are still experimental and tightly guarded secrets.
Yet I was not deluded: the reality of what I experienced was clear in my mind, and my shoes still have stains that I can’t clean off. But then what about my friend and his mother? When I slipped back from the pit of human drippings, I came here, to my room, bypassing entirely that shop full of piled clothing, old sewing machines, and the atmosphere of despair and decay.
I had never had a friend who lived in a house with department store windows, a friend with an aged neurotic mother. My friend and his mother are no more real than a dream, while the pit is the reality... And what of my room here?
What did it mean? Two opposing views of reality: a decayed domestic setting and the moral decay of war exposed in the horrors I had seen. Was the illness that my friend’s mother suffered a gestalt effect or a gestalt reflection of the atmosphere of that war? Moldy clothing versus moldy morals? Was the desperate love of the lady’s son for my sister a reflected consequence of that war?
What was real? If I could only remember in my dream what preceded my coming to my friend’s house... Perhaps there was something. Was my friend’s mother a reflection of a moral conscience, or a guide to the order and cleanliness of mankind in the world? And was her neurotic obsession a madness induced in her by the war? Was her loss of order in her life and her loss of an orderly mind a reflection of the disorder in the world?
Then something... an intuition... flashed through my mind. The lady was a seer. The thought evoked a compound truth, and I realized what was happening. How but through excessively acute despair could my supposed friend’s mother have imposed the vision on me? Perhaps she wanted me to understand and to help her bear her desperate burden: that of a possible reality.
And where was my friend? The old lady had deliberately avoided giving a complete answer to my question, and I realized that her son was dead. The evidence was in her giving me my friend’s journal, and the logical consequence: her giving me the pictures to see, all of people who were dead.
But why was I chosen to receive this message indicative of intense emotional suffering? Because, answering my own question, I had the power to prevent it, to prevent this terrible reality. I had access to the on-off switch.
Hence my vision. Somehow I had passed through a kind of space/time/reality warp between two alternate worlds. They had to be real worlds, though one might be less probable than the other; that much was manifest in the stains on my shoes. And I had the journal of my friend.
A certain bizarre coincidence was also evident: I did indeed have a sister who was about the right age to have played with my friend and then to have been his girlfriend. Further, my sister was described accurately in the journal. I did not understand this coincidence, only the fact of the stains and the journal in my possession. How had I suddenly passed over to these alternate realities? Other than my having the power to prevent the atrocity, why had it occurred to me? And again, who gave me the message?
As I pondered the nature of seers, I concluded that all seers are psychic. Like prophets and priests they adhere to a principle higher than themselves; to an extent they are tools or intermediaries of a higher order. But the acute and excessive despair of my friend’s mother seemed entirely out of proportion to the possibility of even such an atrocious war. What was behind it? This war did more than cause rips in the higher order... something tickled at my mind... The spirit was mortal.
The biofusion bomb. Not only could it wipe out that alternate world entirely, it might affect all worlds. It could devastate all existence, that of matter and the spirit alike. This bomb went not only to the core of material being but further, frighteningly further: it killed both the nervous system and the mind as well, and consequently the spirit of man and God.
We now know quite well that the nervous system profoundly affects the mind, but there was more: the bomb could mutate and kill everything, down to matter itself. And as the spirit is to matter as mind is to the body, matter in mutation, even as it died, could corrupt and finally annihilate the spirit. There it was.
Then I saw the compound in which I worked. I walked slowly and steadily towards the gate. I showed my pass to the security officer who sat at a window in the shed beside the gate. The guard inspected my I.D. and waved me on. I walked across the lot to the manufacturing building, where the bomb was being built.
Before entering the building I stopped and thought about what I intended to do. Conflicting morals confused me. We needed a bomb to defend ourselves against foreigners seeking not only to defeat us in war but to overcome us by sheer civilian numbers. That much was obvious. But the realization that the bomb could do so much damage in this world alone pushed me on.
The bomb was so powerful that I could not consciously comprehend it. I had to force myself to think about it. My impulse to destroy it confirmed my resolution and moved me forward.
I entered the building hesitantly. Then... silence. I walked on in the semi-gloom towards my destination: a control panel. No thought crossed my mind. I stopped beside the panel and reflected momentarily. In haste because of the breach of my silence, the paradox of necessity was established and dissolved; I moved my hand and flicked the switch to “off.”
Sitting in my room I wrote: “switch to off” and returned to full awareness. A greater picture emerged in my mind: stopping the bomb here, in the probability where I existed, was not enough: we were in fact not Probability 1 but a lesser one.
How did I know that? I remembered... But I realized also that I had had to begin here, because I was here and might never come back. I realized also that now I had to return to Probability 1, which was in fact the same probability or reality where my friend’s mother lived and where her family had died.
I had to move quickly, because that Probability was being extinguished and would consequently take with it all others by the sheer nature of its uniqueness: it was real. My friend’s mother’s despair had led to lethargy, and the hopelessness she felt was due to the death of her entire family. It had caused her to wait despondently until her life and the life of her reality were in mortal danger. She had waited so long that she could not save it. But I had. And now it was done.
Sitting in my room I wrote: “it was done” and returned to reality. An ethereal and alien calm descended upon me. For a brief moment I thought I saw a spirit in the air: it emitted a tranquility of relief and expressed empathy. There is a place, a higher place, where distance is only within our minds and bodies. In that place was the connection that caused me to flick the switch, that motivated my moving between realities to stop the bomb everywhere, even if the bomb were only a thought in someone’s mind.
That higher place is separate, distinct, distant, and infinitely higher than our probability. Why was I to be the hero? Because, as I already said, I remembered: I was a wayward son who chose to be a human alone. And I remembered that I chose to keep a lesser probability at a distance, balanced against the heights. I also chose to shut down my memory and live in ignorance.
But he knew where I was, as someone who existed before, and he knew I was to be here. He found me where he knew I was — in an earlier time. Only now do I realize this, and my world has been changed by the knowledge that it could be completely destroyed and that the destruction would be infinitely manifold. I thought again, and decided to return to Him.
Now? I sit and write: “return to Him.” And I think and know: I am the
Copyright © 2006 by Ernest Wilkens