The word pierces every conduit of my skull.
MOTHER mother mother mother mother
I see her
I know her
She sees me
She knows me
I know I know eye no eye no eye no eye no eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye I knowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
And then it ends, the vision ends, and the creature is gone. I don’t know which god to thank. This place seems so far from god. I feel empty. My body leans against a statue by the road as if commanded by unseen forces. The crowd passes me by; me and my giant egg lost in this land of flesh and debauchery.
The sky curls and wretches bright red sheets of rain upon the land.
I press onward, up the mountain path.
As I come upon the summit, the chaos of the road becomes tamed. The path begins to plateau into something resembling organization; what I perceive as merchants and various vendors maintain stands at the base of a sheer wall. Each stand is marked by signs written in a language I cannot comprehend. The goods they peddle, like the words they speak, are also unfathomable. Organlike prosthetics, squirming appendages, glistening meat hangs on hooks but seems to emit different sequences of sounds. The vibrations touch my chest as I saunter past, xylophonic in effect as if my passing created some stimulus, or the mere disturbance caused by my presence beckoned the hanging creatures to cry out.
Looking up, my stomach turns and quivers. Above me, as high as I can see, the peak of the mountain rises in folding paths of light and shadow, brown and red and white and black and gray until the sky overtakes the formation with its seething red clouds like a blanket of fresh, pulsing blood. All across the face of this scene are scattered thousands of moving bodies, their backs to me but unmistakable, as one moving in service to a cause. They are building a monument in stone, set upon the base of the highest peak of the mountain. Swatches of platforms and ladders cover the scene. A patchwork array of slavery, driven by screams and the cracking of whips.
The center of this abomination is occupied by a vague body, doll-like but certainly humanoid, and largely incomplete. The legs and arms are but nubs of stone wrapped in ropes and tethered to the outside rock face. Above the monument, a face has already been carved in the stone. It bulges out and over the new character, which looks to be seated on an inset throne. The entire scene moves and squirms with the bodies of uncountable chained slaves.
A hand drops on my shoulder. My heart dissolves.
I turn to see one of the merchants, a dwarfish creature with the head of a goat and skin like a serpent eyeing the egg on my back. It gestures up at the egg and speaks to me. I cannot hear its words over the roar of the construction and the noisy market.
I shake my head.
The creature speaks again. This time, it makes an ellipse in the air with a finger, tracing the vague outline of an egg before me.
Again, I shake my head.
No, I want to tell it. Go away. The egg is not for sale.
The creature speaks a third time, but this time seems to understand. It makes a disappointed gesture and stutters off into madness beyond my gaze.
What have I come here for?
What brought me here?
All my memories now stir inside the egg. I feel it drawing them out of me like wisps of smoking from a stirring pot. Every step siphons another part of me, another piece of the puzzle. Now that I’m nearly at the terminus of the path, the egg must surely have all but my physical body tucked away inside it.
Will I be born again, when the egg opens? Surely, that must be its purpose. For I am but a hermit, carrying my shell, my home, my progenitor, from one life to the next.
Will it take my soul before it is over? Or will that stay behind, as a cenotaph erected upon my final footfall, immortalizing the struggle of a being dislodged from its proper reality?
And where is that—my proper reality—exactly?
My every thought now concerns the egg. Its safety, its cleanliness. How does one maintain scrutiny in this place?
The path seems to end here; there is no further way up the mountain. From here there is only the monument, which is still being erected and which I am obliged in all good sense not to disturb. The sight of the drivers with their whips, their smiles, is all but maddening. I turn and look back the way I came.
Only there is no way back.
Where there should be a path is now only a sheer rock wall descending into blackness. A dead drop into a bottomless abyss.
The word is the only explanation I am afforded. Still, I hear it in whispers; every puddle of darkness echoes it, the word that is not a word, but more than a word. The word that is law and logic and quite possibly even life.
I turn again and gaze upon the statue being erected into the side of the rock face. It looks nothing like the image burned into my mind at the sound of the non-word.
Not yet, anyway.
I wonder how long they’ve been building it?
How long until it’s finished?
What happens, then?
I shrug the pack off my shoulders and gently sling the egg around, careful not to tilt it. The thing seems to have grown since last I saw it. Still, it doesn’t weigh much more now than when I first began carrying it.
And when was that?
Have I always had it?
Yes, I think so.
After all, where would I have come from, if not from this egg?
It makes sense.
The egg is part of me, and all of me, and all of what I am to be. It is both before and after. Alpha and Omega. It is everything. It is Past and Future. I am now.
When I cease to be, It will be. There will be a new me, a new now. That will be then.
And some eons from now, when the infinite chain of me regresses beyond comprehensibility; when my mark upon existence is diminished beyond distinction; when light and dark and sound and color cease to give definition to my bones, the egg will cease.
And I will cease entirely.