The Holder of Abnegation

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution of halfway house you can get yourself to. This should not be your first Object; the trial is unpleasant and without reward. Tell the attendant “I seek the Holder of Abnegation.” The attendant will examine you keenly, a wry smirk distorting his mouth. He will lead you up the stairs to an ill-lit ward. You will hear the repetitive dull speech of the inmates; the hall lights will flicker and you will smell sour sweat. The attendant will place you in a cell with a plank bed and steel toilet. Here you will languish. You must suffer silently and deeply. Days will pass and useless moments will weigh upon you. Your muscles will atrophy; your mind will circle ceaselessly like a caged tiger. No one will visit. No one will bring you meals, but not even hunger will interrupt the drag of changeless time. The light on the ceiling stays on and even. Shadows are still. Your cell is silent.

You will endure this for an immeasurable stretch of time. If you rage and scream for the attendant he will come with red teeth and a dull blade, shuffling in his boiler-coat with a gait quite unfamiliar to humans. You do not want this to happen. Endure silently. You must sincerely neglect any hope of release. Some long time after you have resigned yourself to a hideous eternity you will begin to experience a strange joy. Behind your eyes a light will open. Warmth and bliss will spill into your mind, and you will realize that the cell’s existence was fragile and thin. You will step out of it as you once would have stepped out of the shower. You will see sunlight again, and the fact that you can run and laugh and talk will thrill you.

You will be in a foreign city. The architecture is strange but pleasing; the people favor cozy, dark dwellings with heavy red tile roofs. Ceiling fans are everywhere inside, and the people of the city spend hours in amiable silence at cafes and bars. They are olive-skinned and delicately beautiful. When you are tired you will sometimes, out of the corner of your eye, see something unusual about their jaws, a distension that suggests the insectile. But you will rarely be tired; you will work there at a café, brewing fragrant coffee. There you will meet a lover; she has two children from a previous marriage, and she lives in an apartment filled with shells that she has collected. The children show a peculiar mix of solemnity and humor; after a few weeks you no longer worry about whether you will bond with them.

Days will blend together. The owner of the café sends you with his son in a truck to buy coffee beans. You spend the night in another city, near the port. The son gets drunk and the next morning you see he has a black eye. It takes all day to get the coffee; at the port the customs agent drawls and waves your papers around until the owner’s son gives him a bribe. By the time you get back to the apartment it is after midnight. The kitchen light is on and the front door stands open. Standing at your kitchen table is the Epopt; his robe is heavy wool and long ago he cut away his own lips. He will hold his hand palm up and indicate the room in which your lover and her children sleep. The Epopt will pose a question to you: “What must you renounce to stop them?” You may answer “everything” or “nothing.” If you tell him “nothing” he will depart, and you will never learn his mysteries. You will live your life in the foreign city; when you die you will understand the consequences of your choice.

If you tell him “everything” the Epopt will pursue his purpose with your lover’s sleeping children and then with her. You will stand mutely in the kitchen, but the Epopt’s skill is such that you will hear precisely what is happening. He will return encarmine to sit at the table with you. The test has not finished. Freely, and without rage or sorrow, you must open yourself to him. He will take something else from you. It could be something as inconsequential as an old photograph, or it could be your sight, or your health. He will then indicate the door into the living room. Shells stand atop the lintel and you remember your lover replacing one that had fallen but not broken. Past the door is your old cell from the asylum, the plank bed exactly as you left it.

You must return to the cell with a joyful heart. The Epopt will decide how long you must stay there. You will remember a trip to the aquarium with your lover and her children. After a while you will sleep, though the cell is innocent of night, and you will awake in a brick-strewn lot near the insane asylum. The foreign city is gone; you are home.

Your memories of happiness are Object 302 of 538. They will never comfort you.

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Last modified on 2013-01-03 18:57:10Average Rating: 1 / 5 (1 votes)Viewed 9090 times

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