Time is a river. That's how my father explained it to me, in a place and time so distant from my present I must keep the memories outside of me in stone tablets and written words to preserve them. But if time is a river it's not the straight-and-narrow gently-flowing stream that hopeless romantics and naïve poets imagine it to be, it's a nightmare of twisting white-water rapids and harsh undercurrents, tides that will pick you up and carry you away to drown inside hidden caves and unending labyrinths of water-carved rock.
But like time every river ends. No matter how deadly and uncontrollable the flow is eventually it will reach its end and no matter how furious the river may have been it will flow out into the gentle nothing of the ocean and no sign of its fury will remain.
I can certainly appreciate the metaphor.
I throw a stone out across the calm sea and we watch it bounce together. I risk a glance sideways and the eyes that look back at me contain nothing. Eyes that for endless decades now have looked into mine with no friendship or emotion or recognition. I've screamed and cried and beat against that cold wall of nothing and never has she elected a response except to hold my arms away lest I hurt myself in my attacks. The traces of her self have been erased by time, the slate slowly worn clean until all that remains is a single word, its synonyms written in bold block capitals across her soul: PROTECT. DEFEND. GUARD. An unbroken litany that will not share its home with something so irrelevant as a person.
I can look up into the sky and see the whorls and rainbow colours of the air, patterns that push me and my world away from the surface, other memories and experiences and souls above me that keep me away and hidden from being seen or heard. The castle looms behind me, squat and dark against the lights of the sky. I can feel its pressure on the back of my neck. Even though the castle is mine, no corner of it unknown to me , no creature within that would not slit its own throat were I to command it and free to leave at any time with no bars or gates to stop me, it feels like a cage. I am a prisoner of nothing. I've sat here before, on the sands, staring out and thinking that today will finally be the day when I won't go back. I won't go back up the chains that are coarse and icy against my feet. I'll stand and walk away from the castle and never return, to see what lies beyond my little world. To reach out and touch the sky if I can, climb up through the world and scream my presence to whatever thankless God I find there.
The lies we tell ourselves.
I stand up to begin the return journey across the massive chains that anchor my home to the earth. My feet leave twin ripples where they had been dangling in the water, and I watch for a moment as they spread across the surface of the sea. The wind picks up and a shiver crawls up from my legs across my chest, but instead of pulling the red furred cloak tighter around me I throw it off and stretch to let the cold air caress my body, naked underneath and still young and fresh as the day this sentence was forced upon me. I feel neither shame nor worry, there is no-one left in the world to gawk except my blank companion-servant. Her stare contains nothing lecherous, her ability to feel such basic things long since gone. Once it had not been the case and we had found some solace in each other; I seeking a replacement for my love and she something to take her mind away from her steady winnowing of her mind. Eventually that too was taken away from her by the weight of time and now I find no pleasure in grinding myself against an emotionless doll.
I look back at the surface of the sea, unaffected by the breeze, the ripples left in my wake long since dissipated into nothingness like everything else in this empty world. No matter how big an impact is made eventually it settles back into its default state of nothing. Once I tried to make that impact, to shake the world free of the unchanging state it had fallen into, but no matter how I raged I couldn't move it from the valley it had rolled into. In the end I wasn't strong enough, all my struggles and sacrifices for naught. All that remains for me now is an eternity of nothing, sat here in my stone prison, a dim rainbow of light beating down on the world I inhabit and in those lights the movement of other worlds.
Even the smallest stone, hurled with enough force, will make ripples that spread across the entire ocean.
But maybe it was never my stone to throw. Now all I can do is watch from below as others make their attempts, and wait for the day when maybe someone else will make the journey down to my prison and ask me what I know. How to throw the stone correctly, and end this ludicrous existence.
Do you remember?