My eyes open, but have to squint immediately. I’m not blinded. It’s just… what I see is strangely distorted. Blurred. That’s the word. It’s all blurry, especially to the left and right. If I focus my gaze straight on, it’s better, though it still looks as if I’m peering through a smear on a window.
There’s something even more weird. Get this: I can easily move my eyes, but not my head. Why can’t I turn my head? Or nod, for that matter? I can’t control any of those muscles. In fact, it doesn’t feel as if there are any more muscles down there, anywhere south of the throat, that is.
Ok, let’s establish this systematically. I can confirm that I can make swallowing motions. I can move my tongue up and down, wiggle my nose, and even my ears. (Always been proud I could do that, when I was a child, I mean…) Frowning feels like it has always felt. So far, so good.
But then, I cannot turn my head left or right, or even tilt it to either side. Which muscle would do that? (Damned if I know, but I guess one of the neck muscles, right?) I don’t feel anything from the neck downwards. Nothing.
Trouble is, I can’t look down to see what’s the matter, too. No matter how far I try to roll my eyes to catch a glance, it’s just a blur, and then everything (I mean, all that’s left, my facial muscles, I suppose) gets strained.
Speaking… that’s an idea!
Something’s coming back to me. Silly me. There is such a thing as using my voice, isn’t there? Human beings are social beings, and there is always someone near to whom we can speak, ask for assistance. So maybe I should just try that and call out, see if someone can hear and help me.
Stupid me, I could have thought of that, right? I mean, strange things are going on, and all I think of doing is some silly private exploration. I might have just asked.
I try to call out. I focus all my willpower onto my voice… no sound comes out, though. Not even a croak or whisper sound. That’s frustrating.
If the social solution doesn’t work, perhaps the spiritual approach will get me somewhere. Let’s see if I can meditate myself — well, if not out of this, then at least into some calmer state. The universe is supposed to be a thousand times wiser than the ego, correct? So perhaps answers will come once I’ve just calmed and relaxed myself, allowed them in, so to speak. Remove those blockages, limiting beliefs, …
Fine, then, meditation — how was that supposed to work, again? Scan your body, observe sensations. But I’ve already tried that, and found that I can’t feel a thing. What else? Become aware of the breath. All right.
The disturbing thing is that there seems to be no breath, either. No warm or cool stream of air flowing through the nostrils, as far as I can make out. And, I’ve never really noticed this before, but to control your breath, you don’t really do anything with your nose or your mouth: you expand your belly or your chest. And that’s bad news, of course, for if there are still any muscles down there, I can neither feel nor activate them. Nothing. And consequently, no breath to become aware of, either. But how can this even be?
If this is supposed to make me nervous, get my heartbeat up — that’s also not happening. No heartbeat. At least not in a way I can be aware of.
So there’s not much to meditate over, isn’t there? No sensations, no life functions at all, really. Except, there is a nagging feeling somewhere, not really a sensation, more a sort of suppressed but not-quite-fully-submerged memory that wants out, wants to tell me something. But I can’t quite grasp it, and now that I listen attentively, it suddenly dies down.
Well, the only good news seems to be that my senses still work. I am able to see, actually, even though my field of vision is mostly blurred. And indeed, something seems to stir out there, in the periphery. Vague movement. Klacking sounds, too. (More relief then — hearing’s fine as well, it seems.)
If it were possible, I’d sigh a sigh of relief. As it is, that’s a mere grateful thought. But either way, someone’s coming near. Thank goodness, then, at last there will be some help.
“Damn! Who’s left the closet wide open again?”
Someone must have entered the room, and they have seen the open closet. (Again, there is this nagging feeling, like the persistent memory of a half-forgotten dream, pushing upwards, trying to come back into awareness. Something, something, … I almost remember. Something to do with the closet.)
Every moment now, they should enter my visual field. Yes, I know I can’t talk, not even really move anything except my face muscles. But surely I’ll be able to make eye contact? Perhaps blink a little to make them understand that I’m here, that I need some assistance.
Steps are audibly getting closer. Now…
A sudden thudding noise, and I feel a bit of vibration. Then it gets dark. Just a second later, I hear a key turn in its lock.
And now suddenly, with a kind of mental flash, it all comes back. That was me, there in front of the closet, just a little while ago. I had been annoyed with the disorderly look of things, and then I’d seen that curious bulbous bottle. Nosy as I am, of course I had to touch and grab. When I took it from the shelf, I had the strange feeling of something stirring inside, and there was a little rumbling noise, too. So I pulled the cork.
Out came a puff of dark smoke that formed a dense cloud which hang just in front of my face. And I’ll be damned, that cloud had eyes and lips, and started talking in a nasty, hissing voice:
“You have freed me from the bottle.“
Great. Classic. Some kind of trapped cloud demon.
”So for punishment, you will now perform three tasks for me. After that, … ahem, possibly after that I’ll let you go.”
What? I don’t know about you, but I remember that deal was usually structured a little different. And so I told him. That was a mistake.
“So you think it’s you who makes the rules, huh?”
The cloud was darkening considerably, and its dirty gray color turned into something reddish-violent. Seems it had been a bad idea to come forward with my opinion. But it was too late.
“You know nothing! I’ve been in that damned bottle four-hundred years, and this is all I get! An insubordinate smart-ass.”
I tried to stutter an explanation, an apology; frankly, I tried to find a way to say anything, really. Anything to help calm this down. But no luck, the cloud got more excited, and insisted it would teach me some kind of lesson. And so I made another attempt at appeasement.
“Look”, I said soothingly. “I know it must have been hard to be trapped in that bottle…”
That was the ultimate error, I’m sure, for it now screamed at the top of its voice.
“Nothing! You know nothing! … wuhaaarrh …” — which last was not really a word, but an ugly scream which it let out at me suddenly and quite frighteningly. Instantly, everything went dark and silent.
And now that I recall it all, I’m afraid I realize quite clearly what that means… I think I’ll have about four-hundred years of a learning experience ahead of me. There’s no doubt that after that, I will understand quite well what it must have been like.