My origin, I know not. I am a legion of shadows, each without discernible form, devoid of origin's locus in which to stabilize my collective memory. Images come to me at random, shreds of who I am and what I once was... from those nebulous, unknowable corners of time. My indeterminate past lies alongside the ghostly gales of my current existence. I am but a temporary being, akin more to some half remembered dream. One portion of me floats like mad jetsam across the distant periphery of the atmosphere. Instantaneously, another portion scours a far distant and unrecognizable corner in some parallel bubble of the multiverse. I exist in infinite reflections, each piece unable to see definitively beyond its own fragmentary design.
I am also here... silent among a cold congregation, consumed by the queer tilt of the landscape that threatens to slide its contents atop me. I feel certain that the vibrations of a single errant syllable from my lips would significantly alter this fragile composition. I know this... but there is little more I know... beyond these temporary disruptions from my numerous other trajectories. I remain here, fixed and wordless, surveying this quiet performance in front of me.
I am the witness. This is my story.
A tranquil design, which the many congregates call existence, carries within its numerous folds uncountable virulent explosions, an endless series of metamorphoses inscribed upon a parchment of mathematics. Every stray scribble shapes the world. Every line has meaning, whether it is read or remains undeciphered.
The witness stands among them. She is quite small, a lithe and ghostly humanoid, bereft of surface features, an incomplete suggestion of existence. Her skin is tinged light blue while the others are uniformly a translucent grey. In addition, they are all exceptionally much taller than she, their appendages quite elongated, including their fingers and toes. Dressed in simple white robes, the shapes of the congregates become somewhat lost in the brilliancy of the dawn.
In various locations throughout this labyrinthine network of marble staircases, they begin to hum. Each voice is distinct. One by one they are added to the orchestral mix until, collectively, an amalgamated tune reaches its crescendo.
This song is, presently, unrecognizable to the witness... though it feels intimately familiar to her. At its apex, the tune thrusts itself violently upon her memory's silent boundaries, seeking entrance to those hidden worlds beyond. Ultimately, it hasn't the strength necessary. The boundaries momentarily bend... but refuse to yield. Memories of her origin remain veiled to the witness. However, during this brief moment of bending, the boundaries lose a substantial degree of their opacity and the contours of their ghostly contents are temporarily visible, fragments of the numerous lives the witness has felt but never truly experienced.
She now looks around her. Threaded along this hillside lie garden splashes of color, pockets ripe with flower beds... purple and gold and blue. The floral petals all seem to pulse with the rise and fall of the humming congregation. Inspired by her momentary illumination, the witness attempts again to visualize her journey here. As times before, the few images she manages to extract vanish quickly from her memory. She is left absent of a single, palpable thread.
What is this point of her inclusion as a spectator, she wonders. What value could possibly exist from a personal transcription of this strange ritual on an alien world? Desperately she gathers up the details displayed around her, attempting to connect the stray and seemingly insignificant pieces. Luminescent fronds along the perimeter writhe about as if teased by wind... yet the witness feels no presence of such atmosphere against her skin. In fact, the entire landscape feels... self-contained, as if encased in glass, though there is no definitive indication of such. Frustrated at failing to recognize any significant pattern, the witness exhales deeply, her eyes frantically continuing to comb the landscape.
Again the translucent obelisk appears, spinning momentarily above the congregates before vanishing and becoming unrecognizable among the colors of swirling clouds.
On this hillside, at a point where numerous staircases converge, sits a silver fountain awash with a deeply saturated blue liquid. The spurting and spilling motions of its contents appear significantly slowed, as if ruled by some unknown electromagnetic force. Immediately behind the fountain rests a dome-like habitat, a squat construction seemingly composed of stone. The eyes of every congregate are focused upon it, as if in expectation of some forthcoming event. Their humming changes pitch. A faintly discernible twinkling of lights now reveal themselves in the surrounding atmosphere, like a sea of luminescent insects. Awoken, they temporarily slide about, a haunting addition to this phantasmagorical story being played upon the topography.
I watch the swirling swarms, pondering the purpose of their design within the grand, unifying schema of this entire performance. Each strand of existence here seems, at times, to be visually attached to one another... on thin, gossamer strings. I can sometimes see these phantom filaments, materializing momentarily in front of me, compelling me to reach out, to seize them, to unravel the meaning behind this great invisible web surrounding me. Somehow, I sense its pattern to be a profound reflection of my own, that I would discover within it, my own origin.
The velvet-like curtains, located across the entrance of the dome structure, now flutter apart. From the exposed opening emerges a humanoid figure, quite unlike its surrounding congregation. It appears severely malformed, features so extremely bloated and sagging that it is somewhat difficult to properly recognize their total outline. The creature appears to be naked, skin riddled with numerous warty exclamations. Immediately upon exiting the dome, it is greeted by a single congregate from each side of the doorway. Each extends a single, elongated arm. The bloated creature attempts to wrap its thicker appendages around them but cannot seem to lift its arms properly, in order to do so. The two congregates quickly respond, snaking their arms under its meaty limbs.
Together, they aid in guiding the creature forward, around the fountain, towards the far edge of the platform. There, the creature gazes upon the gathering congregation whom stand below and around it. It moves its head slowly from side to side and begins to speak, though it has no recognizable orifice. A cacophony of emotions seem, instead, to emerge from the tiny dots of its eyes.
The little pupils of this malformed orator appear, to me, like empty chasms, their depths unknown. I feel an urge to leap upon the staircase, to reach this creature and wrap my phantom arms like feverishly thirsty snakes around its bloated trunk. I want to howl into those fathomless pits of its eyes. I sense, upon so doing, there would be an echo of my voice that would dance inside those pits and that this constant reiteration of syllables would feel more authentic than this unaltered voice that currently resides in my head.
I know I am a divided spirit... though I am unable to recall a single trajectory with any considerable detail. I have only a feeling and yet I am certain I am more than this flickering image of me. I sense my many lives during such flickering moments. I hear them, their sounds, distant auditory elements than vanish as quickly as they arrive. Whenever this occurs, I attempt to snatch the sounds from the air, to seize their fleeting images. There is always, however, nothing substantial upon which to cling and I am continually left empty-handed, standing alone among this alien congregation.
Looking up towards the creature, its eye dots slowly scanning the surrounding congregation, I am engulfed, mesmerized and terrified over what is to come. The bloated figure continues to communicate its oration, a sea of emotions I feel but cannot name.
Now a third figure steps from those encircling the orator. It carries a long crimson robe draped over its forearm and a silver chalice in one hand. Upon reaching the orator, the figure unfolds the robe, placing it upon the creature's monstrous shoulders. Then, with its chalice, it retrieves a portion of the fountain's blue contents and holds it above the orator's head. The creature stands motionless as the liquid is poured upon it. Dozens of tiny blue rivulets form as the liquid creates its numerous paths along the contours of the creature's bulbous face and chest.
The humming of the congregation resumes, quickly reaching new and epic heights. The witness listens intently, unsure whether their song is truly one of praise or of scorn. She might describe it as beautiful in melody... but it is also quite savage, tinged by some sinister element. The overall musical composition feels... lost, trapped inside this self-contained ecosystem, frantically fluttering about like the glowing, temporary insects. These sounds, clinical and detached, scatter across the swirling colors of sky, seemingly remaining close but forever distant.
With considerable effort, the bloated orator now awkwardly raises a single forearm. Its nearby companions aid in bracing its arm. A prodigious fan of blubber rolls out from beneath the crimson folds of its robe. Momentarily swaying, its face wet, this creature gazes a moment longer upon the congregation, then bows its head. Seemingly losing balance, it topples suddenly over the rim of the platform, headfirst, colliding against the marble steps and unleashing a vibrant splash of green. The thin red garment falls instantly from its body as the creature rolls downward along the center staircase, its pasty appendages flailing at all sides. Similar to the fountain's liquid, the orator moves in a slowed motion as it descends. The onlookers remain fixed, humming still. The witness gasps.
I count several pairs of arms and legs, now emerging from its torso, as if suddenly awoken from within, grasping desperately for purchase in some vain attempt to halt its decline. I cannot look away and yet the horror of the flailing creature strikes me like a brutal instrument, slicing through my interior. I watch as it flails, its body torn and beaten by unforgiving steps of stone, erupting into a myriad of different colors.
Nearing the lower platform, scant yards from the witness, a split rips through the thick bulk at the creature's side, oozing more of its bright green mucous. One final roll and the split stretches extensively, running the entire length of its body, from the barrel of one leg to the thick blubbery folds of its neck. A sickly stench permeates the immediate surroundings, compelling the witness to turn and yet she feels incapable of such an act. Gagging, she watches as the body slowly rolls another foot along the lower platform before opening up like a pile of wet clothes. From inside the blubbery folds, an emaciated body now appears, an exceptionally thin skeletal form, clothed in purplish muscle, laced in a network of nerves which all glow an eerie green. The emaciated internal begins to shuffle forward, pulling itself free from its opened cocoon, skin glistening wet with internal goo. It crawls slowly to the feet of the witness and once there, stops and stares up into her face.
Its eyes fall upon me, true eyes that I, until this very instant, could not see, eyes which had previously rested at the bottom of those two dark impenetrable pits. I gaze now upon the prisoner who has slept for untold centuries behind that veil of disorganized flesh. Its eyes cut at me. Clumsily my emotions begin to spill out, festering bits I have long held secret inside me for numerous lifetimes. I see them as they drop, flooding the platform, exposing themselves to the world around me.
I see the eyes clearly, recognize their story as my own, that turbulent mix of ecstasy and terror that sits within them. They are the eyes of a newborn, lost for a moment amid its origin, fixed upon the line of its journey flickering momentarily in front of it. They are eyes filled with a sense of both futility and magnificence, a look that defines us all throughout our lives, the knowing that we are but temporary fragments in an eternal mechanism, a fragile and imperfect dance, glorious and incomplete.
I now see the nature of who I am. I am both a prisoner and a god. My life prior was but a shackled moment, similar to that of this creature when housed behind its mountain of flesh. I am a witness to my own becoming. Now this alien frontier begins to flicker throughout my body, reawakening me, giving me new form. I outstretch my arms amid the process. The others see me for the first time.
The creature at my feet lowers its head to rest. The congregates surround me. I hold my hands out to them. I now recognize their humming tune as my own. I begin the song anew, much deeper, much closer, much more aligned with this place, my home. My song opens up the sky. The gossamer strings begin to vibrate accordingly. The colors swirl. The insects swarm. The obelisk spins again. I look out at my siblings and I speak to them for the very first time.
“The skin knows. The skin speaks. The skin unites."
We all live inside dreams shaped by memories we have yet to experience... ones which are not entirely our own. I see this now. We shape these pieces throughout our lives. We shape them into us, into different forms of ourselves throughout the cosmos. These forms are quite intangible... but the memory of our journey remains. It is integrated into the mainframe, deep inside its cells. We are all absorbed and transformed again by collective input. We share our stories, these infinite replications. We continuously experience the beauty and uncertainty of life... death... and rebirth.