“immortality.” said master, with a sneer. his gesture toward the jar was that reserved for dismissing a shadow dwimmer, or expressing spine-deep loathing for a rival. i assumed he feared it.
“a very unusual spell,” says the book. really zygyg? all the other space-bending and mind-smoking is commonplace? so you’re to blame for all the concern about mechanistic magic.
it’s true however that I can think of few other recipes that allow the caster to damn himself directly, without the cooperation of an outside power. even the lords of the planes have no dominion here.
“the life force can sense and attack any creature within”—what, thirty yards or so?—”but what the creature is, is not determinable.” oh yes mighty Z. and why is that? why because you can’t fucking see, apprentice.
“the life force.” that means me, or what’s left of me. and indeed i can’t see.
it’s not even dark. i can’t even remember what seeing is like. only that it’s gone., and left a bigger space than I’d have guessed. to remember seeing, you don’t need eyeballs, necessarily. but you need a brain. you need a lobe of visualization.
i lack those items. also any lobes of audio condensation, olfactory renderment, or pressuratory refinement. i likewise have none of the lesser lobula and skerritries.
no glands nor juices.
“a large gem or crystal.” a monoclinic crystal, in fact, an isinglass, a symmetrical mica formation of clear and glitering hexagons, well-protected by a lantern-like contraption. the lantern looks deceptively mundane, but a stone fort would crush faster.
little chance it will be destroyed, and “the life force” “snuffed out.” not in any stretch of time susceptible to human thought and memory, at least.
the jar is all but empty. i’m more like a film left on the inside of an alembic after the admixture boils away.
the classics teach that the body is the husk of the soul.
the classics know nothing.
this is the mind. it is the husk, the dry shell, sterile and dead. the body, the living core, is the fruit, the inner core which this thin skeletal carapace was made to protect. the self divides not into body, mind, and soul. the soul is the body and the body is the soul. the mind is trivial.
my memories make no sense now. it takes an extraordinary span of concentration to extract any information from the bright blurs of what my lost brain once saw, the jagged shapes of what I once heard, the hissing of what the body touched.
words remain. I no longer recall what they sounded like, nor the forms of letters. but in those years of absorbing words, they became part of me, pure discreta of thought. and pure thought is all i have now. all i am. thoughts, made mostly of words.
i no longer sleep. did that once sound good to an overworked apprentice: an untiring mind? sleep, a waste of time? what a luxury, to be lost. I can’t recall, I no longer contain, what it felt like, but I remember what it’s for.
it stops thought.
cold as I am I recognize the absolute good of that.
minds still clinging, parasitic, to their lush host bodies, when thought cannot be borne, sometimes break. madness interrupts thought, when bodily needs and worldly distractions fail.
it turns out that even madness is the body’s doing, a way of caring for the mind with the same natural flow-around that stops a man eating when he is full, or directs bile away from a roiling liver. when thinking becomes unbalanced, lobular excesses heat the ducts in that part of the brain, that juicy mass, and the increased flow pressures the release of countervailing humors or, if need be, a complete flush of the vesicles, cooling the active lobe perforce. the wheel of thought breaks.
I cannot break. without a body, my thoughts are perfect, and perfectly obvious. the truth can never be denied or avoided, obscured or even put off, because I am the truth, made of it, it is me. even “thinking” is too active to describe me. i can’t think. a brain can think. i simply am thought, all the ideas and knowledge that remain, frozen in unmoving relation.
no vision or other senses, and no movement.
i can react, but to so little. i react, or would, when a living creature approaches. the thrills of thought along their nerves, the spinning and thrust of their minds, impinge on me as a breeze shakes a spider’s web. and like a spider I prey on what moves.
but nothing has moved in so long.
i reacted when my body left. the rhythm of its nerves, in my absence, ebbed and swelled so slowly, and so familiarly. i could have chosen it from a hundred bodies without an instant’s hesitation.
but then it stopped. did it die? did it move beyond the range of my pathetic single sense? how, if i felt no living thing come to take it away?
nothing moves. no heat. there is a pulse however, of sorts.
the heart of the crystal vibrates.
by this I measure time. so many beats of the crystal, so many cycles of shapeless words repeating the thoughts that make me up.
three times now the pulse has changed. three times a different pulse moved through it, interfering, drawing jangling new spikes and quavers from the crystal, in whose unseen vertices, internal faces, edges, and confining planes I dwell.
my sense of direction, out to thirty yards, is absolute. the wave comes from one direction, passes through the crystal, peaks, fades, is gone away that way. the direction was the same twice, slightly different once. the period varied. I already made, I already am, the calculations of possible formulae that might explain the gap, prove the pattern.
once the harsh amplitudes disturbed my thought so deeply that I forgot who I am. I’d give anything to know when, if it might come again.
other than the temporary change of such vibratory interference, I hope only for something to react to. a “living creature.” a body.
I vaguely recall the lusts that drove me into this jar. i thought to have all the use of my own body, flawed though i considered its ways, and add more bodies to it, doubling, trebling, multiplying the paltry niche to which flesh meant to keep me. domination, deception, dominion.
I believed my mind strong enough to overcome any who strayed in here, tempted, taunted, or marched by force. I feared only slightly that, should the “creature regain control of its mind, the magic-user is trapped until he can take over the mind for control or escape.” trapped in the body of my victim, that is.
but little more than he. we both, fragile ghosts, would ride the bountiful mount and bathe in its beneficent flows and changes. which of us had the will, means nothing. the body is no trap.
only the jar.