When I opened my eyes on the other side- the side where consciousness was hardly existent, all I could feel was wet grass pressing up against my face and stomach. Pushing myself up, I struggled to a knee. Around me was a strange teal colored collection of grass as I stood on a island within a field of darkness. It was not long before I noticed I stood underneath a great red tree, looking over the strangely colored bark which was hardly ten yards in front of me.
I rubbed my eyes in shock. I was weak. My joints hurt and ached terribly with each movement I made. I could only focus on the tree. The leaves were completely gone, and the branches reached out oddly, with only four main branches coming off of the trunk. Each was facing a completely different direction, with hundreds of smaller sticks reaching out, and even connecting with the sticks from the other branches. All of the smaller branches together looked like they formed a circular shape on top of the trunk.
Alone in the complete darkness in each direction, I was scared. No- I was horrified. With no knowledge on how I had arrived here, my heart raced faster, paining for any way out. It was as if both my body and my soul wanted to leave, or even retreat to any other location. Is this what death felt like? Was I dead? Was I ever even alive? These memories and answers were most likely out of my reach.
The wind was hot against my skin, bringing me to a sweat, as the sky glowed a gloriously bright orange overhead. The hot air picked up and pushed on the grass until it was almost sideways. The sound was now a powerful wall, pressing against me. Pushing down with all of my weight, I felt the wind pushing me back slowly. Outstandingly, the tree did not move, no matter how harsh the wind blew, the tree remained still.
From within the tree's dead branches, I saw something sitting. In the branch closest to me was a manlike figure, colored only in black. Even within the complete chaos, he sat still and motionless. He was close enough to make out the hair upon his body, that danced very gently in the unforgiving wind, as if it was undisturbed. The face was elongated, and his hands hung gently below, careless and dead.
The wind eventually picked me off of the ground and threw me back, away from the tree. As I flew into the sea of darkness, all I could see was the beast in the tree looking onward, long fingers flowing freely.
When all color disappeared from my view, and every sensation was completely numb, my adrenaline subdued. I was isolated in nothing but darkness, floating freely within the abyss. One sense signaled that it still worked, as I heard a piercing shrieking noise. When my second sense came back, sight, I was greeted with a mirror entering my vision, also floating.
From behind, I felt long fingers grab my shoulder. I spun around as a reflex, only to see the beast itself. Completely empty, bright white eyes shined into my own, with no pupil to disturb them. He looked as if a wild goat and a human were mixed, towering at what I assume was around seven feet tall. His fingers were long and armed with claws, and on his head, Goat Horns, but shockingly, I felt no fear.
No, I felt warmth. Not the type of warm that the wind gave off, but rather, the warm of a mother's care. The kind of warm I'd imagine a newborn feels when its mother holds it for the first time, or perhaps the opposite- when a mother holds her newborn after childbirth. I was at home. I was at peace.
When he spoke, his beautifully soothing, deep voice comforted me.
"Come to the mirror, your window."
Without question, I allowed him to grab my hand. His firm grind tight on my own, he walked as if he was on a flat surface. When we reached the mirror, I looked in, as I expected he wanted me too.
To my disgust, I saw no face. I saw Caucasian skin and small indents where the eyes and mouth were supposed to be, but no hair, ears, eyes, nose, or mouth was to be seen. My heart rate elevated once more. Was I looking at myself from eyes that didn't exist? How was I breathing? These questions ran through my mind like bullets, passing right through me. I suppose the only reason I didn't have a heart attack, was the elevated sense of being, that he gave off. This came to a halt when he spoke once more.
"Think of yourself. The perfect you. The version you wish to become."
I attempted to remember myself. As I thought, I saw, within the mirror, my thoughts become a reality. Black hair formed on my head, followed by long brown hair. Eyes followed, along with ears, a mouth, a nose, and even my skin color began to alter. As all parts of me changed in the reflection, I felt no different. There was no sensation on my face to occupancy my changing reflection. In fact, I raised my hand to my face and felt my nose. Whilst the hand of my reflection touched the changing nose of its face, I could very easily tell my own nose was the same.
He turned the mirror so that his reflection was shown as well in the mirror. I couldn't see any changing attributes within him.
"Do you understand? No matter how much you, or anyone else, attempt to change themselves- I always stay the same."
Amid my confusion, I felt as if I had an idea of what he meant. There was no sense of being lost anymore. Neither my body, nor my soul wanted to return. He had captured my interest, and whatever world I was supposed to be in, whatever world I was already in before my exit, it could wait.
A sudden urge took over, as my hands raised beside my temples. Thumbs touching the temples, the other fingers stretched out, mimicking the antlers of a deer. He simply looked at me, as if he knew what I was doing, and he took pride in it. I saw a smile come over him, which was anything but malevolent. In fact, he seemed happy and proud of me.
I regained control of my hands, but continued with what felt natural. Putting all three fingers in the middle of my hand down, only two remained. The thumb, still pointing inward, and the smallest finger, pointing outward. Looking at him, I said exactly what was on my mind.
His smile was large, as he put his hand on my shoulder once more.
"You now understand your mind," he asked me, grinning.
I simply nodded towards him, as I felt myself being pulled towards him- or rather, the mirror. I fell into where it appeared glass was, but fell through instead. Closing my eyes, I fell for what felt like a mile, and for what felt like an hour, before I hit the soft, familiar ground. Once more, I opened my eyes, and once more, I saw the teal grass.
The wind was calm, and there was no disturbance. Regardless of the fact this island was surrounded by the nameless, shapeless void, I heard the wonderful song of the White-throated sparrow, sounding as if an entire flock was surrounding me. The tree was motionless, and even though he caused no noise, the Goat-beast was beside me now. The tree was still without leaves, and the bark was still a thick red, but the branches now moved slightly and repeatedly, as if throbbing.
It clicked within me. I now knew what the four branches symbolized. I now knew what the smaller branches that connect from them were. I knew why I was here. I was not dead- I was asleep. Pointing to the tree's trunk, I only asked for reassurance.
"... So, that's the medulla?"
"Yes. Are you ready?"
Once again I nodded to him, and once again he sat in the tree. There was no transition from standing beside me to inside the tree, but he was very obviously there. I was filled with the pure bliss of ecstasy, as my mind went dark, and I fell to the ground.
When I woke up, I was inside my own bed. I held my own forehead in panic, and that is when I felt them. The rough, hard sensation of Goat Horns. I rushed to the bathroom, and threw my hands onto the sink. Looking at my reflection inside the mirror, my reflection was both without the horns, and smiling wide, full of glee. I was not. I felt hollow, and without reason.
"No matter how much people try to change, I always stay the same."
Written by ShawnCognitionCP