by Andrew J. West
Fated I: Utter Terror is the first of five short stories inspired by existentialism collectively entitled, “Fated”. Each piece can be read as stand-alone or as part of the connected series. Catch the next issue of Eastlit for the second installment of the “Fated” series, Fated II: Even You.
Fated I: Utter Terror
Waking from the darkness of sleep into the darkness of my surroundings, but not the kind of groping, intangible darkness—I’m immersed in it—floating weightlessly in a pool, aware of my body as every inch is in direct contact with the viscous world around me… and I feel serene, having just awoken from a very long, deep slumber and am content to rest, rocked half-asleep by the gently rolling waves of the world’s most serene sea as though recovering from something, but, having slept so long and deeply, I’ve forgotten whatever suffering it was I sense I’d been through, and all I know is the immense peace of this special place that has been miraculously provided for me, dozing lazily in the soft folds, undulating along in graceful bliss until, at length, I become aware of another world outside of my own that gradually grows from a muted, indiscernible chatter into a cacophony of clattering noise, vibrations from a world beyond my horizon that propagate first as ripples then rising into a giant swell as a storm outside gathers, waves breaking upon the elastic medium surrounding me, creating a deafening white noise of chaotic peaks and troughs, til, at length, through the indistinct din, I’m able to detect the repetition of distinctive sound-shapes, and two silhouettes especially make enough of an impression to animate, each becoming clearly discernable with its own signature pitch, one that comes and goes, which is bass, sometimes approaching from the front and other times from the side and rear, and sometimes is near and other times further away; but the other, by far the loudest, which is treble, is always with me and always coming from above, so close I can feel it beating, and, eventually, I realise this sound comes from inside my own world with me: once I’ve made this revelation, I move around trying to find the source, but it’s nowhere to be found, yet the sound is with me, its every irresistible vibration resonates within my immediate proximity and, wherever it comes from, I begin to decipher the symbolic compositions of these sacred messages, becoming absorbed in this mystical language, a divine enunciation conjuring a sensuous lexicon of cosmic colours in my kaleidoscopic imagination as the verses reverberate within me, each vibration imprinting its impression deeper upon my consciousness and creating a single, inerasable image of boundless, unconditional love, lyrical murmurs that are compassionate sermons both blessing and protecting me, giving me a sensation—not a meaning—endowed sounds received as pristine perception, beyond the profane realm of representation, recitation that purifies me, cultivates me, enlightens me, teaches me by example the loving-kindness of immeasurable, unlimited being, imbuing me with uncountable virtues until, in the end, it subtly dawns on me that the treble sound isn’t hiding at all—it’s everywhere—surrounding me and now I realise I’m sheathed in love because the sound is love: we are one and I come to know the other sound too, but being beyond the threshold of this element, it loses much of its essence and becomes distorted during its passage across the endless ocean separating us, though I can still hear it vibrating with the same quality of love and know it belongs to the magic circle of which I am a part, despite it being faint and indistinct, and to hear it brings joy to my heart and I long to listen to it every day, even if I’m unable to feel its love as strongly as I do the other’s: its bass is a vital part of the constant stream to which I’m emotionally connected, a natural river teeming with life flowing into and filling me, sustaining and nurturing my growth until, at length, I become conscious of my individual self, of my own ballooning body, kicking and punching against the walls around me, twisting and turning for no other motivation than the sheer jubilation of feeling myself, feeling my limbs as they grow stronger, just enjoying the sensation of being, but—most of the time—I’m happy just to sleep or doze in the self-aware bliss of the surrounding ambiance, believing that everything I have come to know is everything there is, that it is all and will last happily forever, only, just as I’m becoming stronger, going from strength to strength, just as I’m beginning to appreciate my own being as separate from my surroundings, and just as I can feel myself growing so big that the space in which I’m contained is becoming cramped, I sense a sudden, inexplicable jolt—everything up to now has been warm and comforting, but this unexpected thrust, though having finished as quickly as it had started, changes the density of the solution enveloping me, increasing the pressure—then, suddenly, just as I’m hoping it had been an aberration, there’s another push stronger than the first: this second shove is far more perturbing as it foreshadows others to come, and a third quickly follows, pushing me… and in fear and confusion I react by kicking and grabbing in panic at the smooth walls of what has always been my sublime abode, the only place I’ve ever known: but I’m unable to resist the decompression of the chamber, which starts to turn my puny body over with its continued contractions, turning me upside-down onto my soft skull as gaseous bubbles inside me explode like bombs, little depth charges making my bones bend and causing intense pain until the contractions become convulsions, uncontrollable spasms tightening around my body, pressing in and strangling me as if to not only expel me from this paradise of love, but to murder me as well, locking me in its grip, paralysing me as the fluid around is flushed away with a great whoosh, sucking me along with it until my head blocks the entry between this world and the next—whatever it is that’s out there waiting, it’s far more frightening than anything I can possibly imagine—and although I can’t guess what it will be like, I am certain of one thing: away from my heavenly paradise, everything can only be far, far worse… so, despite the power of the force pressing down on me from above, and despite the bass voice outside calling me towards it, I wriggle and push back with all my might, but the strength of each thrust escalates and is impossible to resist, shunting me forward and twisting me like a wet towel being wrung, collapsing my skull as I’m siphoned forward and my elbows compact until, all at once, I’m choking on thin air, gasping and gagging on emptiness until, at last, I draw a breath and immediately let out a scream of sheer and utter terror.
Editor’s Note on Fated I: Utter Terror:
Fated I: Utter Terror is not Andrew J. West’s first work to appear in Eastlit. His previous published pieces are:
- The Mansion was published in the June 2013 issue of Eastlit,
- Art of Evil appeared in the August 2013 issue
- The Puppet Tree was published in the October 2013 issue.
- The Student featured in the December 2103 issue.
- Self Portrait appeared in Eastlit February 2014.
- Three Worlds, the online photo-poetry exhibition was in Eastlit April 2014.
- Perfect Present was in Eastlit June 2014.
- City of Clay featured in Eastlit September 2014.
- Great Goddess was published in Eastlit December 2014.
You can also read the Eastlit Andrew J West interview.