A Novel by Zachàr Laskewicz



"He suddenly had this awful feeling it was happening again. His mouth gasped for air as the water lapped at his face; the few seconds during which he could breath were becoming increasingly shorter.

‘I must be drowning’, he thought desperately to himself.

Though distracted, the only neural messages he could form into a coherent train were related to his immediate surroundings and his current all-encompassing desire to stop the nasty urge to gag that the water surrounding him was causing. To him it felt like there were enormous weights tied to his feet and that it was these hunks of a dense substance which were pulling him under. The act of flailing his arms around desperately was managing to provide him with a few last moments to breathe, but unfortunately it was also tiring him out quickly and he feared it wouldn’t be long before his last breath would be gasped and his head would go under. He already knew at that moment that he was entirely helpless and that there was no one to pull him to freedom.

Yet this terrible, desperate fear – this last effort to stay alive – echoed back from distant corners of his conscious mind an ominous sense of familiarity. Although it was obvious that no one could completely drown (to death) twice, he was sure that his extinction was imminent and inevitable. There seemed little other choice and no matter how hard he tried he was unable to recover a memory relating to the enaction of the set of circumstances and physical forces which had resulted in this awful predicament. All the same, it hardly seemed to matter anymore as he began to sink under the surface; a centimetre was as valuable to life as a mile if downwards was the direction of your fall.

Besides, what he thought about his predicament no longer seemed to influence the behaviour of his body as he continued to fight the terror of this slippage; these were instincts he no longer seemed to have any control over at work. At that point he didn’t think he’d ever felt such a sense of abstraction from his corporeal self which was making its own decisions, and in its desperation causing its own growing exhaustion. He didn’t like it at all.

‘What is it I’m being pulled away from’, he thought as he distantly watched his body struggle. ‘Air? Freedom? Life? Was I on a boat? Was I swimming? Where am I?’

He felt paralysed from the waist down, although his immediate concern was no longer the enormous forces at work keeping him from breathing or even the possibility of his being rescued. He knew he was drowning. Or that he had drowned.

‘This looming darkness must be death’, he thought as he gave up the ghost of a fight and let himself slip under the surface.

But then, as if pre-arranged, the panic stopped and the urge to breathe was no longer the cause of this desire to stay on the surface. The ice cold water must have numbed his limbs to the bone and it felt like he was just floating. Of course, he must be sinking – he was simply unable to make use of his senses; there must be no more transmissions through his nervous system communicating simple messages to the brain. The constancy of logic was telling him that he must still be moving quickly in a downwards motion; perhaps ever faster. His eyes, glazed over but inevitably open since he no longer had the ability to close them, were numbed into extinction and were also giving him the impression that everything was totally black; without any colour at all. An emptiness. An absence.

‘Was this what it felt like to be born blind?’, he thought.

The strong feeling of being able to recall a moment exactly like the one being lived soon slipped away because the loss over the power of his limbs and eyes was soon followed by a quick erasure of all sense of temporality as well. If knowing why that initial conception of recall had occurred yesterday, five minutes ago or during some primeval rebirthing experience many years ago had been important, it certainly no longer seemed to matter to him then because he just couldn’t tell the difference any more. The weightlessness and lack of sensitivity started giving him the impression that he no longer had a body: Was he enormous? Was he everywhere? Had he become the water in which he’d drowned? Or were these the last vague thoughts of a being dissipating into non-existence? If there was something he was aware of it filled him with a sense of doom. As it dawned upon him that the icy tendrils of the water must have rendered his inner-ear inactive because he no longer had the ability to perceive sounds, an inconvievably awful emotional detachment arose around him. It was the inevitable result of the sudden silence that fell after his ears had given way; his whole sense of corporeality had dissipated and he was faced with a far too familiar sense of an utter noiselessness; not only no ringing in his ears or the gentle sound of a normal silence, his brain seemed to have stopped communicating with his senses entirely – no thoughts buzzing, no heartbeat, no pumping of blood. Nothing; it was a genuinely awful realization that he no longer existed in any way he had been familiar with..."

- Excerpt from the Prologue of the novel 'Music for the Emperor' by Zachàr Laskewicz, 19 December 2007, Gent, BELGIUM.



May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Nightshades, Ghent (Belgium)
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Last modified:
16 May 2013