He started with a feeling, an immaterial, unquantifiable, and nebulous awareness. Without any warning, the blackness peeled back. It was a Blackness not even he was aware of, yet seemed to have loomed there forever. He awoke from a dreamless sleep to something of a material world, a place he had no memory and seemed to be of the same nothing he emerged from as well. There was a notion of familiarity in this world, but it waved along with his awareness. The vague idea that had begun to creep into him felt far off and disconnected from his mind like they were two long lost friends turned strangers, and now were nothing more than silhouettes that waved to one another across a vast distance. Space was timeless for him, and the idea of his existence was hard to contain, the sense of himself wavered between the void and clarity he slipped in and out of the black nothingness. Awareness crashed against the inside of his eyelids, thrust forward by his mind like angry winds that blew relentlessly at an old door. Moments of clarity pulled back out like water on the sands of a beach. At times he can see a face, a smile, a frown of disapproval frozen for a time, then faded, and the features slipped away with the phantom that was his consciousness. The idea formed much later that the face he saw could have been his own.
Awareness of himself climbed back into his mind and what started as a trickle had become torrent which raged through him. The surge started with a rhythmic and well-time thump in sequence, then the sensation of cool, damp air as it moved down his windpipe and into his lungs. The first breaths brought a rasp with it, and the air seemed to grate against his trachea. His lungs expanded a bit, his breathes were shallow and weak at first, but his chest rose and fell in a slow determination all the same. His lungs and chest felt tight, resistant to the sudden and new movement like he had held an endless breath that could finally be released. The first, real and conscious thought came once he’d begun to breathe with some normality. The idea was primal, and ill-formed, but could only be described as elation, a gitty feeling rose and sent a tingle through his body, that let him know he was there, and whole. Behind his joy, the terror of slipping back into nothingness loomed. The void threatened to even pull his happiness back into the blackness with him. Still the waves of awareness came and went, though each time the concept of self-realization seemed to last a little longer. The sea of his mind had begun to flow. He was free in these times, and his thoughts swelled. He wondered why he could feel, but could not move and why he could breathe but not speak, why he could hear, yet could not see?
His thoughts crashed and swirled together like a vortex and filled the void with his mind. Muscles started to twitch, spasm, and cramp with painful, yet welcomed life through his renewed frame. The discomfort and pain were even a pleasure to feel anything was a joy. When his state of awareness was available long enough, he felt as though he had just woken, the concept was still primitive and the meaning lost on a mind that that lacked the faculties to grasp his existence all at once. Nevertheless, the idea began to take root anyway. The waves of consciousness began to nurture a tree in his mind, even when the waves had retreated for a time, he could still see it, the roots had taken hold in the black nothingness of his memories, even if just barely. The tree grew fast and started as not much more than a sprouted seedling, but then only after a short time seemed to thrust into the boundless, black sky. The waves, not tiny by comparison, crashed harmlessly against the trunk as they soaked into roots. The tightness of his chest from his breathes had vanished, the muscle cramps almost entirely disappeared and left a dull ache in their place. He climbed the tree that had taken root from his mind and was now in this vast, black space. He Started from the base of the tree. By now even the smallest roots of the tree had grown to be larger than a house. He scaled the trunk that an ignorant person could have mistaken for the side of a cliff face. He hoisted himself up, step by step. At points, he paused to look at his hands and arms, the muscles burned, his skin felt thin and chaffed, yet he had no limbs he could see. He couldn’t explain the lack of his concern over his phantom limbs, but things seemed to be in order and with no memories of his past, maybe he’d always been like this, and subconsciously he had already accepted this fact. Still, he continued the ascension upwards and towards the massive canopy that appeared as if it could house a limitless metropolis. The fact that he had no limbs he could see or interact with didn’t seem like much of a concern to him as he hauled himself up the massive trunk. As he scaled the gargantuan trunk, he found a notch in the tree, an open chamber that had been hardly visible from the roots, it was so small from the ground, it was barely noticeable until he’d begun the climb. The portal was nothing more than a dark spot he assumed was an oddly cast shadow from the large canopy. On the face of the tree was a massive cavity that grew with the tree. He hoisted himself into the hollowed opening and peered the dimly lit cave after a long, arduous climb. The inside of this chamber was smooth all around, domed inside with a perfectly smooth and flat floor. He was amazed at how perfect the inside of the cavity looked Despite the rapid, gnarled growth of the tree. The center of the room had a straight wooden spire that shot up from the floor to the ceiling. He circled the impossibly hardened wooden post that stood in the middle of the tree. Each available inch of the obelisk had symbols carved all around it, seemingly small nonsensical images that meant nothing to him, though the appreciation of the intricate work was something he couldn’t deny; whomever it was that carved it.
A mixture of hieroglyphs, single, unrecognizable words out of context and petroglyphs had been laid out as they spiraled up every available centimeter of the hardwood pole. He walked around the pole, examined the symbols, and when he reached out to touch them, he could feel the hard, cool grooves carved into the wood. He traced each curve and dimple in the timber with his invisible digits that moved with a gentle decision over the intricate carvings in hopes that the sensation would be a more familiar one but to no avail. The awareness that he was able to feel things he’d touched in this space did at least satiate some of his desire, but ultimately posed more questions than it answered. As the waves receded and his mind slipped back into obscure darkness, the last thing he remembered was the look of the wood, polished, varnished and clean, as if someone had maintained the core of this tree the whole time, even before it took root in the empty cavern of his mind. The tree had only just grown, yet with its phenomenal size seemed to try to tell a story, one that’s tied to the very being of the tree itself. The waves dispersed and with it came the calm, blank void that slipped over his mind like a veil. When awareness returned with tides, he found himself back at the bottom of the tree. Once again, he scaled the awesome wooden creature, and once again climbed into the massive opening he’d found. It was much easier this time, the nebulous aches and pains had left his frame without any impression that lasted. This time shadows of people surrounded the base of the wooden spire. Unnatural voices and tones bound around the inside of the hollowed dome and echoed through him. The voices warbled in and out of pitch, the sounds combined in one moment then dispursed the very next. He focused, trying to hear what they were saying, but the concentration seemed to have made everything even harder to understand. If he tried to focus on the spritely figures, they faded. He sat down in the structure inside the tree; he watched and listened to the specters as they moved around him. When a silhouette got close, he could feel a slight breeze as they passed by him and in one case, a shadow with a long trail behind it a blanket of fog that moved close enough for him to touch. He reached out with his invisible hand and felt the soft silken fabric of clothing as it moved beyond his reach. His heart jumped at the unexpected sensation of the cloth against him. The shock caused him to lose concentration, and the waves of his ever-expanding mind had begun to recede once again. A moment later, he slipped back behind the veil.
In an instant, his awareness rushed back to him like a tsunami of sudden existence. He looked around him and realized there was no need to climb the tree once. Much to his immediate surprise, he found himself in the hallowed chamber of the tree, crouched next to the carved pole. The emblazoned wooden mast that rose to the ceiling and disappeared into the rest of the tree pulsated with light, the various glyphs and images were a rainbow of vibrant colors that faded in and out. Colors shifted with each strobe that gently dimmed them brightened as the light moved up through the core of the tree. Gusts of chilled winds ripped in through the massive hole in the face of the tree and the realization that he felt the wind on his skin finally became apparent to him. At first, the fresh and cool breeze felt nice. He had a sudden cascade of goosebumps across his invisible flesh that made the hairs on his arms and legs stand at attention in response as the air blew over his exposed flesh. Soon though, that same breeze had begun to cut into him. The chill was as precise as it was ice-filled. The wind burrowed deep into his skin, dug under his muscles and bit into bones. He ran toward the portal in the tree as the wind’s off-pitch howl wavered with menacing inconsistence shifts in this tone and bitch as the intensity waned and bolstered itself. He moved his hand forward, in a futile effort to block the wind as it cut into his face and eyes, but it just blew through his phantom appendage as if it weren’t there at all. Tears ran down his cheeks in warm little dots that streaked down his face and left a frigid path where the wind kissed the liquid trails that evaporated an instant later, carried off by the chill bluster. The wind had become so intense as he approached the opening, he had to fight his way through the wall of air as it tried to push him back into the chamber. He struggled to the hole in the dome and was finally able to poke his head out from the great rift in the tree and peered down the long trunk. He poked his head out from the giant port and used his free arm to brace himself at the edge. The calm waves of water that had previously rushed over the roots like a gentle brush made of water were now a torrent that raged over the base of the tree that covered the roots in an agitated, white foam, a flood of water slammed against the trunk with a fury that just seemed to become more savage as he watched.
He turned to look around the room and saw the silhouetted figures in the tree would appear then vanish with each strobe of the intricate carvings. They were all frozen in place when the light was bright enough to see them against the shadowed background of the inner dome. All the shadows stood as still as statues with each flicker of the luminous pole, all except for one. In between the drastic shift in the brightness of light, he spotted one of the sprites as it moved toward him. This shadow froze too, but, with each burst of light, it moved closer to him. The shadow covered vast distances within the chamber in the blink of an eye. It only took a few seconds before the figure was practically on top of him. Now that they were close, he could tell it was the shadow of a woman, was it the same woman he’d touched not that long ago, was it her silken dress he felt? He could almost make out the features in her face, the sunken eyes, delicate bridge of the nose and the smell of lilac in the air, even as the gusts whipped around the tree he could smell it; a new yet altogether familiar scent that his half-conscious mind would not let him place, nor would he have the time to set it where it belonged.
The figure moved to face him and through the wind and sound of the waves as they crashed below, everything fell silent for a just a passing second. He heard a hushed whisper; a sound that should have been too quiet hear, yet there it was, almost as if it bypassed his ears and were projected directly into his mind. “Do not fear the swells it is you who is the tide.” The sunken, empty sockets of the shadow’s face peered into his eyes, a face he’d not seen yet the woman seemed to see him as clear as day, then the shadowed stepped forward. He felt two firm palms on his chest; these were no hands from a specter. The scent of lilac overwhelmed him; then, just like that, a fierce shove sent him out the hole within the tree. He toppled downward towards the waves below. End-over-end he spiraled down towards the torrent of water that battered the roots of the great tree below. His guts flipped and twisted along with his invisible frame, and we tumbled through the empty sky. As his body pitched forward, he was sure that at any moment he was going to smash hard into one of the exposed roots surrounded by a deluge of water, yet he didn’t seem to fall all that fast. The initial terror passed like a breath of air that escaped, and a few moments later, he stretched out his arms and legs and produced enough drag to stop him from at least tumbling end-over-end. The wind tore at his periphery as he fell, he could feel the bite of the air between his fingers and on his nose like frigid teeth from a jagged ice-filled mouth. The air roared across his ears at a deafening speed. His eyes felt as if they would freeze solid and even though he squinted his lids down to nothing but a paper-thin, blurred view. There was so much distance still left to cover before he reached the water below that it felt as though like he was suspended in space. Despite the fact he knew he was moving ant at an incredible speed downward, the thought he might never reach the bottom flashed through his mind. An eternity of a fall in perpetuity was not something that appealed to him.
He plunged ever downward and found himself thinking of the impossible tree, the shadows, the glyph laden pillar and of course shade woman during his descent. She seemed to have known him, and not only that, it felt like he knew her. Her scent, voice, and even her touch felt familiar somehow, yet he was unable to place her. His memories were lost, and all he could recollect was this odd space that defied everything, whatever this “everything” actually was. She was a piece in a puzzle that belonged, but somehow the shaded woman did not fit anywhere within his puzzle. An unexpected crash broke his concentration as he hurled towards the white caps below, and he saw one of the immense roots of the tree heave upward hundreds or even a thousand feet into the dark air. Water poured down the giant root with such volume that waterfalls appeared as the mass of water rushed back downward. He couldn’t help but question for just a moment if the flood of water would ever end.
While he was still so far away from the surface of the deep blue water, the upturned root was now much closer to him. He craned his neck back against the wind and peered behind towards the tree. He saw that the impressive tree had begun to tilt away from him; from this distance, he could see leaves and branches crack loose and fall from the tree. As the angle of the tree changed, he could see the hole and the faint, yet unmistakable waves of light from the inner spire that flickered in rapid concession from the hollowed mouth of the tree. No longer was it rhythmic and gentle like before, but strobed with violent bright bursts that varied from moment-to-moment. A deep red replaced the serene hues that now burst out of the inner chamber and spasmed like a heart amid an attack. He strained to see the shadows, to see if any of them were moving to see if anything escaped the hollowed tree, he hoped the woman who pushed him free was able to get away; an odd thought considering he assumed he would fall to his death or whatever happened to pass for that here. Just then he felt a massive and sudden impact to his chest and as if there were tons of weight loaded on his chest and back in an instant. His speed slowed to a near halt in a single second, then rolled off the side of the hardened, jagged object. He felt himself slip and realized his eyelids had locked shut since the moment of impact. His faculties came back to him immediately, and he realized he’d slammed headlong into the massive, exposed tree root that the waves heaved from the base of the tree. While he fell away from the root, he was able to fully appreciate the sheer size of a single anchor for the great tree. The gnarled wooden tower that was meant to keep the tree grounded was so massive it alone could have been an incredible tree. The pain from his impact faded away before he’d even slipped off the massive root, but it had jarred him nevertheless, he patted around his invisible frame as he fell to check and see if any injury or pain lingered beyond the moment of impact. He had to check himself to be sure it wasn’t just the shock, and that his body hadn’t actually burst into pieces from the force. He was indeed still together, or as whole as a shaded body could be. He shook his head back and forth to reorient himself with his enforced direction of travel downward and realized that now he was so close to the water he could feel the mists from the waves as cascaded back and forth against the tree. The force was enough to carry the water high into the air and form a thin, clouded layer that was suspended just above the base of the tree. The clouds felt fresh and moist against his skin; an unexpected moment of stillness and peace that seemed to muffle the roar of air and thunderous crash of the waves.
Before he knew it, he burst from the layer of mist and could see the base of the tree trunk. Water eroded the tree trunk, and all the bark was stripped free by the waves that continually barreled into the tree that floated aimlessly atop of the waves in dark brown splotches. Only the bare wood remained and was being punished mercilessly by the crests of water that continued to crash. The red-hued wood had cracked and swelled from the sea that raged around it. Fissures formed within the great tree’s body, water worked its way in and pushed it apart from itself in massive, barbed chunks that splintered off in long, irregular pikes that fell to the waters below. The tree continued to splinter and crack with each wall of water that pummeled the trunk. A massive wave loomed up as if it reached from the water that threatened to pull him into the midnight blue with it as the wave crashed.
The tsunami was so close to him he squinted and held his breath with the full expectation that this would be the wave that smashed him into the tree until the waters receded and dragged his corpse back into frozen depths. As he approached the apex of the tide, however, it subsided with a sharp loss of momentum and hammered into the tree. The massive tree lurched back in response with abrupt, violent movement that tore more of the great tree’s roots free from the darkness that it had secured itself. The water had done its work, and by now was nothing but a question of weight and time. The waves that followed were nowhere near the size of the previous ones, but the damage rout by the sea was more than enough. The great tree continued to tip further backward. Even though the great tree would fall on its own, the waves continued, each burst from the sea below helped the process along as sure as the tree’s own size. It was not long before the tree too was in free fall. The impossible tree brought itself down under its sheer mass. Another massive wave rose out of the blackness and carried with it a white-crested face, a water-born demon maw with its mouth spread wide and hungry. The gigantic, finned beast from the depths of all the vast oceans of the world rose from the blackened waters. There was no way to avoid this monstrous swell now. He tried to in sucked in one last deep breath but pulled in nothing but water. The wave had hit him before he could prepare himself. The cold, tasteless liquid ran through his mouth, down his throat and filled his lungs with a chill that could only come with death. He panicked to expel the liquid as his lungs convulsed in spastic contractions in the senseless effort to get oxygen. He found nothing but more frigid water instead to fill the void in his lungs, instead. He sunk deeper, lost in the burst of water that engulfed him. The wave pulled him down into blackness as deep as a starless night sky. For a moment, he thought he might have gone blind, but glanced upward towards the surface, and he could see the faint white-caps from the waves above that continued to bound over the tree as it collapsed. He’d not even thought about what to do if he emerged on the surface of the torrent that would be certain to pummel him against the tree until the water had pulverized whatever every bit of him. No matter how hard he struggled to swim to the waves that crashed above, though, he sank like his flesh was iron. He dropped further and further into the chilled inky deep despite his attempts to swim upward. His lungs spasmed hard again and ejected the water that filled them only to sucked down more, colder water as a replacement. Immersed in the sea and filled with it, the fire that fueled the fight in him slipped away, extinguished by the cold that crept in. Despite being filled with a terror borne from the will to survive, the frigid water had immobilized him. His arms and legs went numb with a vague tingle and refused to respond to his commands. He thought for a moment, his mind would slip into the nothingness where it came, but he remained. The pitch-black liquid stole his eyesight, and the cold burned and slashed at his eyes as he sunk. Left with what he figured was going to be the last thoughts he’d ever have, he couldn’t help but be amazed at how cold it was, how the ice burrowed through from all around him, it would not yield to any form of heat or desire. The cold was absolute, and it encompassed all of him as he floated deeper still. The frigid black was a force of suppression meant to steal him away.
As he slipped into what must surely have been brain death, an unexpected sensation had begun to flow through him. This feeling linked him to his body and refused to allow his consciousness to slip back into the black, wet void from where it had broken free. A glow started at his feet then crept up through his legs, into his torso and finally into his neck and head. Warmth had begun to crawl back into his form, that radiated deep like the sun on a frost-covered seed in spring. It must be spastic neurons that fired in the throughs of death. What else could it be?