Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Death Note of an Immortal

The day I met Francisco Paolini I was too terrified by his fearful appearance, his extraordinarily large frame, and his head- which was of a lion, to realize that I had known him and in a sense met him before. Perhaps everyone has a demon, a monstrosity they believe to be lurking under their beds, hiding behind their stairways and following them in the shadows when they are alone in strange alleys. I can only speak for myself but I think that these imaginary phantoms are unique to each person’s psyche. The man that haunted my dreams, daydreams and fears was Francisco Paolini, his 8 feet tall lion headed body, his ferocious looking claws, his impeccable tweed blazer and linen shirt, his black leather shoes, his roar like baritone.

I asked him, after the initial turbulence of our encounter subsided, whether he knew about this curious connection he had with me. He laughed and explained in his typical fantastic tone that it was because the choices he made in his life brought his destiny infinitesimally close to mine many times and it was at these times that I would dream about him and fear him. But now, after many a close passing, our destinies have finally entangled. I found this explanation of his quite hard to believe and I told him that. He assured me then that it was normal for me to find it hard, the space of choices and destinies could only be visualized by 5-dimensional beings like him and I will be able to comprehend his explanation better when I acquire the ability, to exist in 5-dimensions, from him.

It was just the beginning. The one week between our first meeting and his suicide Paolini told me a great many things that I had trouble believing. He told me how his ability works, how it made him superior to other men, how it made him rich, and how, if I wish so, he can transfer these powers to me before he died. I didn’t refuse his offer and in retrospect it was not a bad choice after all. It is one of the few choices I do not regret. But what he did not tell me, or perhaps he did when his baritone subsided into brooding silences, was how his powers were also a burden. A burden that drove him to his death as it is driving me to mine now.   
Perhaps I should explain a bit more about the unique and terrible nature of my abilities. A man is a 4-dimensional being. He can move freely in space barring a few practical constraints. As for time, his abilities are limited. He can move only in one direction at an almost fixed rate. Even his life is constrained temporally, after moving a certain distance in time he dies. I am no different from a normal man when it comes to travelling in space, the ability has no observable bearing on my speed or stamina. If anything the opulence it has brought has made me sluggish. In the dimension of time I have much more freedom than other men. My abilities let me see a day or so into the future and past, which is more than enough to make a killing in the stock market. There are no restrictions to these visions but seeing beyond a day is beyond my mental stamina. A more remarkable and not wholly obvious facet of my ability is that there is no limitation to how long I may live.  Paolini never told me about this. I guess then it would have made me suspicious. The ability makes time a lot like the directions of space; just like how a man doesn’t die because he has travelled a certain distance, death does not seek me just because so much time has elapsed for me. My 124 year old body, which looks just the same as it did on the day Paolini killed himself is the proof of this extraordinary feature.

The fifth dimension, which no man can sense is the dimension of destiny. It is the hidden memory of the universe that archives the endless possibilities it could have taken but did not. In the dimension of destiny there are an infinite number of bifurcations that give rise infinite number of universes, each hinging of the single choice that gave birth to it. I see this complex web clearly, just like how I see the books on my desk or the words I just wrote. But there are certain restrictions. I can see only the countless possibilities curbed by choices of the past. The many universes that may arise from my future decisions are hidden from me. But even with this minor inconvenience the ability is still very potent. For instance, I have carefully examined the choice I made to accept these abilities from Paolini and the way the universe behaved at this point. From my observations I can see now that I would have died poor in a few years had I rejected him. So great was the bearing of that decision (I know this now), that had I made the wrong choice nothing I did after that would have corrected my fate to a better path.

I asked Paolini if he knew anyone else who had these powers. He told me that he got his abilities from a Minotaur named Umberto. Who gave them to Umberto? He didn’t know. At that time I did not find my rather short lineage worrying, but 30 years later I began to understand that my body was no longer aging, that I was immortal. Then the question of my immortal ancestors began to torment me. Why did Paolini, Umberto, and whoever it was before them, all of them immortals, chose to end their lives and pass on their ability? I became obsessed with the history of my kind. I set out to find answers using the considerable resources I had at my disposal to explore libraries, dig up ancient archives and descent into the dark under belly of many cities around the world which held promises of rare crumbling manuscripts. I couldn’t find anything concrete. Any mention of my kind in antiquity was sparse and obscure, smudged out by the mundane torrent of normal human history. Unaware to me, the answer I was searching for was slowly building inside of me. I understood this gestation only of late and things make a lot of sense now.

Perhaps (I have no evidence of this) eons ago, there might have been many of us. Immortals who could see clearly the intricate labyrinths their every choice tore in the fabric of cosmos. Entire civilizations, cities of men and women who at every instance saw in their minds how better their lives would have been had they chosen differently in the past. Time couldn’t kill them, but another powerful force would have brought about their extinction, as it is trying to kill me now. The force of regret.

As I get older, the space where the possibilities of my life reside become more and more complex. And every time I look back on this chaotic web, I see some instance I could have chosen better. Men use their ignorance to hide from regret, I have no such luxury, I know with certainty what could have been. In my youth these choices were few and my destiny itself was more sensitive to corrections. As I get older these points get numerous, they have accumulated so much over the years that there is nothing I can do to change the path of destiny significantly. My fate is fixed, my destiny stagnant, any decision I make now can only perturb it slightly and such perturbations are not sufficient to amount to any meaningful change. In the language of the theory of non-linear dynamics, my destiny has become insensitive to initial conditions. The stagnation does not hurt me, what hurts is that I can see in my mind what I could have done differently to avoid this trap. Those decisions, to marry my third wife, to invest in weapons technology, to try cocaine on that cold, rainy night, they haunt me, the ghosts of many lives I could have lived had I acted differently haunt me.

I am sure this is how Paolini, Umberto and others before them died. The ever increasing web of regrets devoured them, the millions of apparent paradises they had unsuspectingly relinquished drove them mad. I feel, like how Paolini would have felt on his last days, the need to pass on these abilities to someone else. It is now a small, nagging feeling inside my head, perhaps an evolutionary trick to ensure that our ability (We are not a species, I got it checked) does not die out. I will not do to another man what Paolini did to me. Nobody deserves to be trapped in the arachnid house of promises and regrets. I must end my life before that feeling inside my head gets the better of me, before my evolutionary drive overpowers my good judgment.


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