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Can't help but hug myself, but it's an empty
gesture, it gives me no comfort. Slipping through
my fingers ... my life, my self, my reality.
Extending those trembling digits in front of me, I
try to focus upon them, clutching them to me within
They flicker in and out of my vision; I wish it was
a trick of the light.
But it isn't.
Truth is, I am the trick of the light.
It started like an infection, the dark spots; pure,
My doctor never messed around with pleasantries.
Very to the point; heart-beat, pulse, blood
pressure. While this comforting routine was going
on, I told him about these little black patches
upon my flesh. Showed him; he kneaded the skin and
meat between his thumb and forefinger.
"Hmmm, very interesting," he mused. "Any other
I said no.
Rubbing his clean-shaven chin, deep in thought.
"Might have to run some tests ..." He trailed off.
Ever been in that situation, where, in the whole
social order of things, you know that it's the
other person's turn to speak, and they don't pick
up their cue? You want to break propriety and say
"And then?" just to break the deadlock, the
I was just about to do so, when he muttered into
the intercom on his desk. The office door opened,
and a middle-aged woman, obviously a patient,
walked in. The good doctor started his time-old
routine again with his new visitor. I was confused
- had I been dismissed and not realized it? Anyway
... wouldn't the doctor have the courtesy to wait
for me to depart before inviting someone else in?
I had to ask.
Reaching out, I tapped him on the shoulder
Unprepared for the horror of my hand sliding
THROUGH him. I stood there, stock-still in shock.
Then the intruder left the office, walking right
through me as if I didn't exist.
Time for a reality check.
There I was, suddenly ghostlike, some unquiet
spectre that roamed the land of the living. Except
it wasn't a line between life and death I had
crossed, but a line between real and unreal.
Here I was, ruminating over what was happening to
me, totally cut off from everything. Trust me,
there is no greater bombshell you can receive than
the explosion of nothingness. I was lost, I didn't
know where to turn, what to do. And it's not like I
could ask anyone.
Legally, I was assumed dead. Assets taken, car,
house, beach bungalow. My job was gone, I had been
replaced. It disheartened me, but how could they
hire a shadow like me?
Not exactly sure how, but I ended up in a
I hate them.
So why was I here?
I suppose, it's the last place I would look for the
answer, metaphorically, and well, ironically, it
AIN'T the last place, since I am here after no time
Here I am, looking at line after line of people
stretched long, at the end being a checkout slave,
ritually beheading the hydra, ever to see another
head appearing in its place, eternally.
Being outside, looking in: I saw some terrible
similarities. On each of the waiting customers
rested a face of boredom, irritation and
impatience. I wondered what it would be like, every
day, working at the checkout, seeing face after
face after face, all with the exact same look.
Looking at these little soldiers of consumerism, I
saw a look they all shared, a faint hope, a
yearning for something better, met with the
crushing jaws of fatalism and despair. That they
knew that tomorrow would be exactly like today -
that the relief of a Sunday, seeming salvation, was
in reality a brief stay of execution.
It was their life, and it was ending one minute at
I pitied them, and envied them at the same time.
Their lives left something to be desired, to say
the least. But at least they HAD a life, rather
than existing only as some shadow thing, a
flickering fašade, a faded photograph of an
The line was unending, and to see this stasis of
faces and misery in motion was torture. I HAD to
get away ... wandered down the aisles in search of
I was confused. Did I really expect a big hanging
sign telling me "Happiness - Aisle 4?" Not
like I could skim the array of items and find one
little packet labelled "Answer."
I did not look to the shelves, but to the people.
Here were real people, doing real things, true
mundanities of life; the grind of everyday; putting
a meal on the damn table.
If I couldn't find reality here, I might as well
quit looking. Perhaps that's why my subconscious
had led me here. I was fading fast, I didn't know
how long I had, I just knew that it was happening
inexorably. You know how they say if you ignore
something long enough, it'll go away? Well, the
world hadn't acknowledged my existence for so long
I was withering away to nothing ...
A kindly, grandmotherly woman, going about her
business, ticking off groceries methodically, lips
pursed together when an item on her list eluded
A tall, lanky, middle-aged fellow, five o'clock
shadow matching tired eyes as this bachelor briskly
grabbed the generic brand necessities of life.
A slim, lithe young woman, stalking slowly between
the shelves, every movement purposeful, yet
beautiful. With the grace of some deadly feline,
this green-eyed hunter picks out her gourmet goods
for some exquisite soiree.
A seemingly lost young man wanders from aisle to
aisle, picking up items at random. Dressed in
black, the mirrorshades he wears glint in the
fluorescent light, obscuring the possible method in
But none of them acknowledged me. Not one.
Reality. Trust me, for all you curse it, for all
you freaking HATE it ... you don't know how much
you crave it when it goes. It bites, but without
it, what the hell's the point?
To hell with this. It was OVER. I sat back against
the array of brightly-packaged sweet delights and
closed my eyes, braced for the inevitable oblivion.
"How do you flicker like that?"
A girl's voice, puzzled.
"You flicker like one of those old movies, the ones
in black and white."
Was my life just some movie, running close to the
end of the reel? Twenty-four frames a second;
giving the illusion of motion, delusion of change.
"No, I'm not a movie," I replied tiredly, slowly
opening my eyes.
I guess I was looking at the world through
torment-coloured glasses - didn't realize at first
that someone had actually noticed me. The girl's
eyes, full of curiosity and wonder, looked into my
harrowed orbs. She may have been young, but it
doesn't require experience to see another's
Without knowing any more about me, she engulfed me
in a tight hug.
To be acknowledged, to be seen, to be felt, to be
appreciated, gave me hope. Something to hold onto.
So, a little six-year old moppet believed in me.
Some people would say the concern of a child
wouldn't matter, maybe in the glory days of my
prior life I would have said the same, but for this
moment, it was the sweetest thing I could imagine.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another small
face. Another little girl was slowly walking
towards us, an almost unnerving look of penetrating
interest as she drew ever closer. Coming up to the
other little lass and embracing her comfortingly,
yet still keeping those inquiring eyes on me.
The second girl spoke. "Erin, what's wrong? Why are
you crying?" because she was, I could hear her
sobbing, felt her tears soaking through my clothes.
Drying her eyes quickly, the child Erin said "Look
at the eyes, Tina. Look at the pain, we need to DO
SOMETHING!" was her impassioned plea.
Little Tina hugged me also, stepped back, nodding
slowly, quietly cogitating, I could tell she was
thinking long and hard. Her silence did not
indicate inactivity, but indeed the opposite.
Erin put her hand upon my shoulder comfortingly,
"What's wrong? Why are you so hurt inside? I want
to help you, please, tell me what's wrong?"
It still amazes me how the childlike heart can care
so much for a total stranger. Later on, people get
this social propriety thing drummed into them, the
"somebody else's problem" doctrine. We'll watch
another die and not feel guilty, because we are not
directly responsible for their plight, it is
"whoever's" fault. We can be witness to crime,
point the finger at the guilty one, lost amidst the
sea of souls. We can walk away, avoiding the
nameless accused's conviction in the court of
social morality, pleased with our performance in
the pursuit of justice.
Thankfully, some are not content to merely be
watchers. It is these people, the ones who risk
themselves by becoming part of the situation, who
make the difference. Like these two little girls,
willing to help someone they did not know.
The words hurt coming out, as if I was choking on
them; "I'm fading away. Somehow, I am leaving, not
going to exist any more." The time for tears was
over, moment of truth.
As I uttered this damning declaration, I flickered
in and out rapidly, was this finally the end?
The shriek jolted me back to reality, if only for a
moment. Little Erin was holding on to me for grim
death, crying torrents. "You CAN'T leave ... you
don't want to leave?" I shook my head, slowly. I
didn't want to leave, but wishing so hadn't done a
damn thing - I needed to do something, but I didn't
know what, and my time was running out.
"If you don't want to leave, then DON'T! Please
..." she begged me, "don't leave me, don't leave
... I want you to stay, stay for me."
It was only a little hope, but hope nonetheless. I
hugged this little angel to me, holding on to her
as if my life depended on it. Meanwhile, Tina,
though quiet, had not been idle. She asked me a
simple question, long overdue.
"Who are you?"
This took some thought. When you are so young, what
defines you as a unique individual? I thought back
to when I was her age, and what I was like. I
remember what I felt back then, looking back,
seeing myself change over the years. New things I
had accepted in to me, things I had chosen to
discard from me. Maybe I hadn't always taken the
right road. Looking at myself now, having lost
everything that defined me within the world, what
"If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no-one
around to hear it, does it make a sound?" I was
falling, and no one was around to witness me crash
- but I knew the ground was rushing up to meet me.
How could the world consider me non-existent just
because it could no longer define me?
How could I be defined? I was seeing the
ever-changing wonder of the world through my own
unique, true sensation, and reacted to those
perceptions, uniquely. How could the world say who
I was, try and measure me with some external,
The successful business tycoon, hedonistic excesses
undreamt of since Caligula; power not only to float
above the law, but to warp and twist the system to
his will. But how successful could he be,
sacrificing his very soul upon the twin altars of
Greed and Pride, an eternal offering to the great
The devoted housewife, very model of a modern
mother; people remark on her clean house and the
well-behaved children. Demure and quiet, epitome of
married bliss? Yet her labours go unnoticed,
ignored, taken for granted, hope dying in her eyes.
Shackled in servitude, no longer appreciated as a
living, breathing woman but reduced to the basic
function of drudgery.
The kind-hearted teenager discards his sensitivity
to the great beast of macho acceptance to be "one
of the guys." The free-thinking dreamer destroys
her creativity to be yet another mindless wage
slave in the bureaucratic morass. The eccentric
young man, considered an aberration by his doctor,
swallows the tiny white tablets; narcotized into
some artificial status of "normality." The
beautiful young woman burns up her vitality in
homage to the mighty glamour media, attempting to
achieve the unattainable desire of physical
Was I one of the damned, these poor individuals
whose inner fires had been smothered with who they
SHOULD be, while ignoring who they truly were? To
lose these definitions of the world, was I truly
weakened? Or was it merely a revelation on how
phantomlike the cocoon that the world had spun
around me actually was? I looked upon myself,
seeing who I truly was; shed of the artificial
trappings of social cohesion, for the first time.
My wings burst forth from the decaying chrysalis.
Not bright and eye-catching; I did not flitter and
flutter amongst the pretty flowers as a butterfly,
but ghosted slowly and unseen upon the breeze as a
I suppose the limelight was lost forever, but
looking at the transparent husk that had imprisoned
me for so long; I realized I had left it all
behind, yet I had truly lost nothing. No longer the
centre of attention: but within the midst of the
hurricane lies the eye, a void surrounded by the
change of eternally swirling winds.
I had lost nothing that I needed to survive, I was
whole. Left that superficial shell to rot to
nothingness. Perhaps the world had lost me within
the void of anonymity, but I had not lost myself.
They saw it, they knew; as I stood up slowly from
my slumped position. One final flicker as my last
vestige of doubt was annihilated. My eyes rained
down triumph, little Tina and Erin saw me truly
now, radiantly exultant in my victory. I bent down,
however, in humility to these two angels that had
been my salvation, hugged them tight in a heartfelt
embrace as the tears of joy and thankfulness
collected upon my eyes.
Dried those eyes, stood in front of these blessed
children who had shown me the answer, and tried to
answer the question:
"You asked me, who am I? I still can't think of
anything, how can I answer that question with mere
words? I can't, so I won't try."
I smiled slowly, I had the answer, and in that
smile it lay.
"What more can I say? I'm me."
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