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I can say without any semblance of ego that I have seen deeper into the shadows than any of my kind born upon this earth. I have pierced through the hearts of men and found the horns hidden underneath the brows of innocents. I have been kissed by demons and cursed by those who claimed to serve the Lord.
Yet, in all that I have witnessed, of all of the multitudinous horrors, including bearing witness to that awful chamber of the Castellan, nothing could have prepared me for the Aionic canal. Time, the Castellan said, was a difficult thing to manage and there are always the elements of physical law to consider. I know now that time itself occurs simultaneously to our dimension, or no, perhaps it is more accurate to say that time does not occur at all; it is immovable and mass and matter merely revolve around it. This, of course, becomes something of an issue when one decides, perhaps foolishly, that he wishes to travel to an earlier era— for matter must be dissolved to its simplest iota to be put to use elsewhere. Great minds in the fields of chemistry and physics have postulated that there is a finite amount of matter. There would be no lesser or greater amount of the stuff in 1503, my destined era, than there was in 1903, the year I departed from. Hence, the Castellan’s Aionic canal must strip me of my physicality in 1903 and find a suitable amount of atomic material in 1503 to re-establish my form.
This was not a pleasant experience if I might offer a wry understatement. Imagine that you have been pushed through a sieve with an imperceptibly small mesh or otherwise have fallen into a meat-grinder and even the most vivid of imaginations could not possibly anticipate the amount of pain one must endure to travel backward through linear time. The physical pain was one thing and perhaps easier to understand. Now apply the process to your mental state or, if you dare, your spiritual being. Of how many memories creates a person? Of how many thoughts and ideas? These are ethereal concepts, containing no substance, yet these too must become obliviated, parceled into the tiniest parts of their humane sum. One might be able to calculate the weight, volume, and atomic material a single body possesses, but the equation is less precise when it comes to the intangible modules of the human spirit. This is why the Castellan prefers a sacrifice when transmuting a body along the canal— simple maths of debit.
Perhaps it would be helpful to provide an allegory to better explain myself. In my travels to visit my mother country of Russia, I encountered a former Buddhist monk from Japan who once tried to explain to me, over a shared bowl of saké, where the concept of separate identities comes from. He asked me to consider the table and he asked me to give it a name.
“It is a table,” I told him.
He agreed. Then he asked me to consider what I would call it if he took an axe to it.
“A broken table,” I told him.
He agreed. Then he asked me to consider what to call it if he shredded the table to absolute bits.
He asked me to consider what to call it if he then shredded it further.
And then what to call it if he burned it?
“And once the smoke disperses and the ash is thrown
into the dirt?” “Air. Soil.”
“And yet you continue to call this a table,” the monk said, somewhat mockingly. “And can you make a table out of air and soil?”
“No,” I said.
“You can,” he said. “You need only to wait.”
It was not until I had separated into a million particles that I fully understood what the monk had been saying. My identity as the man, Ulysses Malevich, my body, my mind, had joined the cosmic oblivion of energy passing into states of motion and rest. Memories of my mother holding the obsidian knife to my eye, blessing me with the Siren Goddess’s vision of collapsable probability, separated into the concepts of mother, knife, eye, blessing. And then those concepts separated into vaguer ones, woman, child, stone, sight, prayer, blood… and so on. They mingled with the particles that once comprised my face, my eyes, nose, forehead, eyebrows, ears… Atoms that had comprised my circulatory system passed through synaptic charges of energy that held thoughts of duties, compulsions, the drive to eat… and what’s more, after their unbecoming, the differences between them were unrecognizable.
This, then, is the Castellan’s gift, for it soon dispatched of the particles that comprised my bodily form and absorbed it to put to use in my “modern” era. With it left all feelings of pain and misery. All else was flushed into a great sea of energy, thought, and consciousness. From there, I witnessed every possibility from every outcome. Perhaps, I misspoke. Earth barely registered as a place here. The universe, as I had once considered it, also appeared small and inconsequential to me. I was then a part of some greater formation, some eternal architecture. Flowing through it. I had not the capacity to feel joy or sublimity, nor had I even the faculties to think— again, I floated like a cloud of concepts, partially formed ideas, and then merged with every concept. There was no future, no past, no love, no hate, nothing. I was the table shattered, burned, and returned into this swirling void of the never-was, the cannot-be, the all-encompassing tide of non-reality.
And then, when I felt as if I had finally found my home, those damnable Newtonian physics once again began to seep into veracity. With it, my amorphous cloud of concept began cleaving back into itself, memories, lusts, and traumas made whole, as physical law crafted planets and stars according to their mass and volume. I became aware of globules of atoms here, snatches of particles there, elements from quasars, salts from unnamable moons, proteins filched from protozoan organisms from cratered pools of ice pocking the surface of meteors, all of it carrying the pain of entropy, establishing in my thinking that to exist within this universe, one must suffer.
I became the table reborn.