Chapter 11d

To get any specific point of time you really need two points to reference. The start point and the end point. If you only have one, that single moment will go on in the opposite direction infinitely until there's no difference between your single moment and all of eternity. That's the key I had been missing.

I know the year is after 1988. I know the year is before 2013. So which is it? It's funny how the answer has been there all along, how it was given to me at face value, and still I rejected it. The answer to what year it is really is, "all of them."

The rain hasn't stopped. My home is completely submerged now and the rest of the town, Darren's bar and all of Paul's mail route, has been wiped clean. I only survive because I had the foresight to close my windows before my home was flooded as well. Paul and Darren have both come here seeking refuge. They are my only friends, I could not deny them, so now they sit on my couch talking about the weather and how many women they've taken to bed with them.

She isn't like that. She's quiet and calm and always somehow professional and courteous, even in the most mundane and casual of circumstances. She laughs along politely but is not part of the conversation. I'm not, either. I'm in my own world, considering the nature of things as the sky falls down.

That was how I was spending my night when I died the first time. The tigers came for me in the dark, or perhaps they were not tigers but only had teeth and claws reminiscent of them. They tore me apart as I screamed and begged for mercy and death. They changed me.

I awoke the next morning to a dark sky, the sun now hidden by the newly formed sea that existed outside of my home. I didn't notice anything different but it all was. Perhaps after they tore me asunder and rebuilt me from the scraps they did the same to the rest of the world. I don't think, after how thoroughly masticated I was, that they could have put all the pieces back together in the same order. That, I can only assume, is what was wrong with me. I can also only assume that the rest of the world suffered that same fate and just wasn't put back together quite right. I couldn't see the difference but I could sense it. The world had become more solid but somehow less real.

She looked at me differently after that. So did Paul and Darren. Nobody said anything or gav any indication of why but it was clear that they were seeing the same thing in me that I was almost seeing in the world around me.

Did this have something to do with the years? Perhaps. That was about when I realized the truth of how one moment could be several years. I considered at the time how long I had been there, how many times the sun had risen and set, how many beers I'd drank and how many times I made love and how many battles I'd fought. The answer to all was "a lifetime's worth."

And yet here I was, twenty-five, fit and young and capable of moving mountains, even after all of that. I'm still not sure if the realization brought me to the end or if the end showed me that realization but it doesn't really matter, does it? I mean, does it really?

I wanted to let the water in right then, to open the window and let us all drown, but I can't die anyway so what would be the point in the added suffering? If being mauled by feral beasts didn't do it I couldn't imagine the water as much more than a frustration.

The next night the beasts came again. When I awoke I continued thinking about time. Eventually the beasts came yet again. When I awoke I thought some more about life. The beasts came again and again I was ripped apart and rebuilt, like some kind of Lego self.

As they tore through my muscles and bones that last time, as my screams faded to hoarse croaks and I slowly died, I realized the impossibility of it. This world cannot be real. It seems so natural and normal but I am entitled to die and this world has robbed me of that. A world that robs a person like that cannot be real and so I knew at that moment that my world was not real.

The night after that did not see the beasts come again. I was too lost in my own thoughts to be grateful. If this place was not real and I was, which I could only assume I was based on my tendency to suffer individual thoughts and decisions, then I did not belong here.

I think now that maybe that was what they had seen in me after the first time. Maybe the change those creatures sewed back into me was that lack of belonging and maybe my friends saw it. Maybe she saw it. The faces they had were all dull and bland and somehow tormented behind the mask of apathy. Their faces said, "you cannot be real if your world is not real and so we will miss you dearly once our imaginations slow down and find that you never existed."

That's the key, I suppose. I never existed. How could I? A logical being in an illogical world? There was no room for me there. For them, however, there was no room anywhere else. I knew that night, that last night while I waited and waited for those dark forces to kill me once again, that I would have to leave. I had talked so long about moving and now I knew why. Because I had to. I would need to leave them but they can go on without me, can't they? They don't really need my guidance, do they?

I feared that I had developed an ironic sense of narcissism (ironic because of my otherwise low self-esteem) because I did not believe that. My real struggle was knowing somewhere deep down, regardless of what I told myself, that they would die.

Given the choice, I know I cannot kill them. But the alternative? If I exist here as a paradox then here clearly cannot exist. Is it better to kill my friends and lover or to simply tear their page from the book of existence?

I couldn't decide but, as luck would have it, not all choices are ours to make.