YEAR 3: THE TIMES OF INDULGENCE
''I knew that I will see you again, even if you didn't want it to be so''. Yes, I felt that I missed my soul mates in its literal meaning. We have not seen each other for a quite long period of time. We wanted to share with our emotions and expectations, but it came out that somehow our time that was spent in isolation from one another did not come out. Sorry, I meant that something restricted us to provide any information about what, how and where we spent our time. But what concerned expectations, all of us had bright assumptions and the over - enthusiastic intention to see what is going to happen afterwards.
We have been talking for several hours and already then decided that we needed rest from one another. My mates went to sleep. ''Oh, nothing changed, at least not it this realm''. Under the simultaneous snoring I went out of the dormitory and paved my way directly to the University. This stone giant stood still, as always, but again, I managed to notice minor alterations. Who did this? With what purpose? And again, when did it manage to happen? I did not have any answers to these questions. But I had exceedingly strong belief that these changes are tied with our stay here. I had worked out some presuppositions about this. I wanted to know is it connected with us, and if yes, then how it will affect us shortly? Moreover, I wondered, did we depend on these changes or it was vice versa? And I suppose that my last inquiry dealt with the result itself, i.e. if we cease to exist - study, what will happen with the University?
My meditation was interrupted by the sudden rain. Unfortunately, I did not have an umbrella with myself, so I got under the roof and enjoyed the view of purification of the barren grounds. This rain brought some recollections from previous years. I knew that a lot of time passed, but I could not be precise. Anyway, even the rain did not last for long. It stopped with a ringing, thing that I did not miss at all.
I saw new faces appearing from the mist and moving towards the University. I was confused a little since I thought that we were the only ones here. I decided to wake my mates up and check the situation with them. ''New people, new 'Tributes', new riddles.'' At this instant a tiny piece of the brick fell on the edge of my shoes.
I remembered that during my story I did not mention my subjects. It is not so essential, but still I have to include it here. When I started my 1st year at this Place, the immense bulk of knowledge fell on me. It was like somebody has broken the seal on the chamber where it was inscribed ''beware'' or ''in case of emergency''. Anyway, then it was a necessity to imitate amity and collaboration with this ''beast''. I was ready to absorb the fundamental core of studying. Unluckily for me, then it was the most privileged purpose and reason. It covered one more substantial aspect - application. Since what was the purpose of mere absorbing? As much as I can recollect I was not a bookworm or a nerd in my previous life.
Apprehension of this fact enlightened me just after my first 'Tribute'. It is a pity that we did not have any calendar or anything that would indicate the time, except the hourglass on the table in the GM’s office, where I have gone before the endorsement. Besides, I still did not know how it is possible to count time, according to the gilded and pale heap of reversed and falling dust. Up to this moment we still have not counted for how many days, weeks or years we have been here. We just existed. What else could we do in the Place like this? We will speak tête-à-tête after your death. We will be glad to listen to your suggestions and evaluate your perspective.
Back to subjects. After the 'Tribute' one more portions of subjects followed. From the first view they were not just inexplicable to us, but also unpronounceable. How one could teach subjects that he or she could not even utter?
Nevertheless, we studied. Someone studied more; some people began to study less. I suppose that I do not have to remind what was the outcome for those who studied less than others. And so it went on. The infinite assembly line with various terms, examples, and tasks, which were accompanied by shouts and spitting of our dear and priceless tutors. We were happy. Well, at least I felt myself so. Perhaps it was so because after my first unlucky experience I began to combine knowledge with its usage. J, A, A and I formed four columns of supremacy in our group. We were like leaders, who shared the pedestal time to time. But sometimes one of us managed to receive more awards than others. When we came back from our trip and returned to studying, I felt that something was not so as it used to be before. Now our process resembled to simply theoretical one. We faced a mere stream of information, nothing more. It appeared that all theoretical material could be converted into mental material, i.e. food for thoughts. I was satisfied that I retrieved benefit even from such exhausting and again one-way rushing process.
Now our lives became two-faceted. We were eager to know what will happen in the end of our story and on the other hand, the whole process bored to death. ''To Death'', it is quite ironic to use such an expression here.
Oh, I forgot to mention one more metamorphosis. We - the students, were not the only one who dissolved in the air. Several of our tutors also follow the other students somewhere. Well, the place where everybody got after they vanished was not the purgatory, nor heaven and I suppose that it was barely hell. So here I must use ''somewhere''. Here is one more inconvenience, people all the time were attracted by something unknown and unexplored, and it enchanted them. Even if you are not interested in what is happening around you, in our case all this vanishing in the clear space, you will be curious anyhow. And the curiosity is a dangerous thing which is incredibly hard to confront.
''Why I cannot have two - ways ticket? Therefore, I could travel there, investigate this Place and come back. Or I could stay there with all the rest who disappeared before and now are enjoying themselves apart from us.'' My friends just stared at me, turned around, chuckled and sat back to their PCs. At least I was not ignored. Their reaction was already something for me. But I was really curious now where all these people are going. I could deal with the disappearance of students, but when some tutors followed them, I started to suspect that something is not right here. ''Maybe they are the most privileged ones?'' Any version will suit here. It was essential for me to find an argument so that I could appease my curiosity.
You know, “What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within the span of his little life by him who interests his heart in everything.” Throughout the ages there were people who knew how to live and how to observe life from the appropriate angle. From this perspective, I can state that perhaps this curiosity was the only vital power that made me strive for something else. For something higher and paramount. All our conscious life we endeavour to crawl through the thorny labyrinth that could lead us to the quintessence of our existence. Some people manage to accomplish it sooner; some people prefer to stand till the end of the journey to regard what is going to be left after they pass.
In my case, I just wanted to see the result of my being here, no matter how it was going to be achieved. Wait, what I am speaking about. Strange. Alright, let it be a lyrical retreat. And we still do not realize what the time is.
If you think that it was absolutely calm place, without any tempest, then you are wrong. We had our serpents who managed in this or that way make a crack into our Elysium.
Once I got into controversy with one of my former tutors. I was wholly convinced that I will not see this person again. Perhaps it was my advantage and at the same time it was my anchor that drowned me deep down into the depth. I knew that I was right and the advantage was on my side, moreover all my mates were present and witnessed how this injustice happened. I claimed my rights and received simply blunt, but harsh opposition. In the end, we were left one on one, just two of us in the room. Unfortunately, it did not change anything. My tutor insisted on what she stated before and I understood that there was no base to continue our futile dispute. That time I went out vanquished. My physical state did not change, but I felt that something bitter and poignant was in my mouth. It was gnawing me from the inside and expanded through all my body. Was it guilt? Obviously not. Perhaps a sense of failure? No. I knew that I was right, but then I was arguing with something inanimate. As if I was trying to explain my subjective, but the right point of view to some wall or stone, or piece of ice. I whipped with proofs, but by bad luck, I received the reflect damage that was at least twice stronger and brought more mental pain.
You just can guess what was my countenance and what words I could utter when I was told that this person decided to come back and our group is one of the luckiest that she decided to tantalize. The next period of time to my astonishment was not so bad. I came to the lectures, to every lecture I dare say, worked on it, responded and reacted to everything that was said particularly to me. I bit my lips, but smiled back. This time I endured all that was prepared by her. But I still had a feeling that she did not forget our quarrel and in the end she will reveal herself once more as she successfully did it before. I was literally stunned when she dropped some words which indicated that I received the highest mark. It is obvious that I did not believe at first, then I got used to this thought and started to analyze why now it happened exactly so. ''I doubt that so significant alterations have taken place since our last meeting''.
After some time I understood that the whole thing was about mere conformity. If you conform the society then you will be estimated as a loyal person, but not some rebellious creature, who wants to establish his or her own rules. In spite of this fact, I wanted in this or that way claim my rights and see how some people will adopt and conform to them.
If we could draw the analogy between students and their system and compare it to nature, I suppose that our organism impersonates a lizard. I want to state beforehand that it is not going to be a fiction with various experiments. It is a subjective matter and a question of one's imagination and the ability to reproduce one's thoughts.
Think about lizards. It is not a secret that they are able to recover themselves. Exempli gratia - if you cut the lizard's tail off it will grow up again after some time. And if you are still with me then you have already understood with what particular students' quality I compared the lizard's ability to recover parts of the body. I am speaking about patience and volition. Perhaps these are exclusively my thoughts or somebody will say that it is a daily thing - to be patient and keep on striving for your goal. Or maybe you want to say that it is our immanent feature? Do not calm and deceive yourselves.
I am a student. I became a student once more after my death and I doubt that I earned it. From my standpoint, I am the poorest, deceived and banished one. And my resentment has an enormous range that embraces all poor creatures - the students. Obviously that we can create our utopia around, but let us be not too optimistic. My personal experience demonstrates that it can be better than it is now, but it will not happen to you. Do not lower your hands, cheer up, at least you are alive.
Throughout all students’ life we want to be the best, but we are limited and restricted; we are eager to proclaim our existence, but because of this or that factor we are forbidden to do so. We know what we are capable of, but we are stopped. But do not fall in desolation, we are lizards, we know how to adapt.
Student's patience is something special and very substantial. It is like a seal. Being a student is a verge between nonchalant childhood and bound and serious life. We are not sovereigns and we are not buffoons; our volition is our equilibrium. It cannot be measured or valued until we have to let it go. I will not go into details even despite my status of dead people. Now I do not have to hurry or rush anywhere, I can enjoy myself. But it does not deprive me of studying. So now I am flying to the University to face new obstacles, thus I can recover my patience. Even such afterlife can bring pleasure. Dead does not mean vanished and I have a tale to tell. If not only this ticking time, that is still unknown, but is already slipping away...
For the description of the following scene I will need one sentence - A&A are speaking about their possible future in the moment of slight melancholy. The beauty of this dialogue is that it does not matter who speaks first since A is A and, fortunately these people shared almost common opinions and preferences.
So, here we are, do you feel it?
Frankly speaking not exactly. That is all bizarre. I do not really feel like something very prominent is going to take place in my (person stopped speaking, as if he/she swallowed last sounds).
In your what? Come on, stop speaking in riddles again. Do you really have to make your 'performances' as enigmas all the time?
-No, I suppose this time it is a mere truth.
Explain. (The countenance of full understanding and fractional hesitation)
I wanted to say 'life', but you know it yourself that we are Here and in This place we can only guess what would happen with us afterwards. What were your desires? (Nice and light smile).
Were not you that person who encouraged me all this time? I cannot believe that we are changing roles. I have to jot it down somewhere. Hey, come on. What is wrong? (Perhaps some shape of sympathy, even).
-Listen, I can afford myself being you sometimes. (Friendly grin)
Being me? Oh, I will definitely hit you with something heavy. (Slight laughter)
So, what you are going to do after?
-If we would have this 'after'. If so, I will try to realize myself by all means. And I really hope that I will, because otherwise I will just dive into life, that is all. (Falling tone)
I see that I have to stand in charge again. We are great, you are great, so move all the pessimistic snots away and brave new world. I am with you.
Look, that is what I was waiting. Nice. So, you were speaking about...
My eyes were like puzzle pieces and it was hard to match those pieces together and behold one integral image. That is how it is possible to describe the last coming out the powers of my soul before my last 'Tribute' and la sautenance. I knew that as a dead person I had to feel less, but somehow these two procedures rejuvenated my body and almost brought me to life I dare say, at least in the sense that I felt everything. Well, if it is possible to envelop mental and physical pain and place a stamp 'everything' on it then yes, my feelings attained their top.
My life then embraced my bed, reading hall, kitchen, corridor, sink, shower and PC. And since book lovers never go to bed alone, I decided not to be an exception this time. The only thing what I knew when I woke up is that I slept a little, a small period of time, a miserably tiny time interval. But most probably exactly this was the matter why I my legs carried me to and through all previously mentioned destinations.
There was one thing that consoled me - I was not the only one who deliberately chose such tortures. How could not I mention my dear (and it is not a sarcasm) mates, who also exiled themselves and like the hermits moved into the libraries or could be found in front of the PC. Our work was accompanied by the infinite snapping and typing. Oh, the indefeasible part of our work included a nervous breakdown and minds about what to do, so that to do nothing. We shared with our emotions, we were joking to get rid of stress and to cheer up ourselves, but anyway, I suppose we all saw a lack of the primary spark that was in use before. Now we were like hollow, but intellectual dummies, whose eyes were as pale and lifeless as the grains of sand, as the sun and the University itself. We totally conformed to the entourage around us. But! We did not become transparent and it amazed me. Well, it amused me when I had time to think it over and it was a rarity. I was doing it because I was told that it was a compulsory task. Moreover, what could a person do when he or she is in the situation like this? Indolence was not my priority. Before that I preferred action, movement and constant aspiration. Now when I am what or who I am, I preserved all these qualities and that is splendid. Coming closer to the end, I noticed that all what I have done is what I wanted. It came out that nobody persuaded me or bade me to do so. I was doing it mechanically and it means that I got into the process intentionally. Then I caught myself on the idea that it was exactly that I have been waiting for all this time. I was working to attain next stair, to step higher not only mentally, but entirely. I sensed that it was going to be my last effort towards pleasant switch.
Now all years of my being here reduced in several minutes of my performance in front of my mates who looked incredibly squeezed out and into curious faces of my tutors. I was the last to come with a stand. And at the very point when I stepped onto it, I felt shudder all over my body, my limbs started trembling and I knew that if I speak now I would utter a mere stream of air. I had several seconds to prepare myself. It was so weird. I mean that, why one has to worry if he or she saw all these face throughout all your studying periods and now, when you are looking at them, like they are the deciders of your future. Definitely, if such matter would exist in your current universe.
The only thing that I knew is that I winked less than I had to, I swallowed less saliva because of the unconscious stress, but I did not sound abrupt. After I finished my presentation I listened to several questions from two lecturers. Luckily, I managed to answer them, but with a slight hue of incredulity in my voice. After that I listened to one more person, who described my work and listed my characteristics. I was amazed. No, that is not suitable word. I was astonished. I did not include this person in my story, not because he or she does not deserve to be here. Oh, he/she really deserves, but with this act I manifest that I am patient enough not to reveal a person about whom I am speaking. It was a pity that I could not immortalize these words, but I endeavoured to absorb each sound that came out. That time this person stepped on the pedestal and was on its top. When everything finished, we were told to wait for a while. Door shut, I heard the clink of the key and all sublime and solemn shades disappeared behind the corner. When I crossed the edge between the rooms where we were before and showed up in the corridor I felt an incredible feeling of relief. As if I have breathed in pure oxygen after several years of being a hermit. I inquired my mates and I was so glad that our thoughts on last coincided at that particular moment.
I heard a squeaking sound of shoes and clink of the heels, the sound of the twisting key and faced the same lovely shadows. We went into the room again, sat back, froze our breath and penetrated our tutors' eyes. I suppose that tension of that moment pervaded whole University, since I could hear nothing but blinking. We received our marks, no one vanished, and everybody looked so blissful and serene. It started raining and again, I did not have an umbrella with myself. My sleeves were ready to accept raindrops. I marched out and went back to my dormitory. I counted each step because I knew that I will not place my feet on these stairs, I will not see these faces and I will not encounter this tranquil giant anymore.
The next scene could be easily related to scarcity, at least because it was not so often and usual, when J&A spoke about high and serious matters. The scene consists of: curtains, room No. 10, two people, fading light and one broken bulb, i.e. it is blinking time to time. It is the time after all 'Tributes'. Their last moments in one dorm and in one room.
So, what will happen with us?
Do not ask me as if I know something. I am on the same level with you and, I suppose with all who got here.
Oh, you are in a stall. I have to remember this memorial moment.
Do not haste to celebrate it, perhaps you will forget everything what we came through as it was before we got here. Anyway, what do you want to be?
I am not sure if knowledge what I obtained here is what I wanted, but I do not remember what I wanted to be, so, most probably it is better than nothing. I want to save lives. Maybe to prevent such cases that lead us here.
You want to be a surgeon?
Did I say that I want to kill somebody? (Laughing) No, I suppose I want to be a firefighter or a military person.
Yes, it would suit you, you are quite brutal. (Chuckling)
Never knows best. You said it.
Yeah... (Languid looks aside)
Never mind, we did it! Is not it sufficient?
Not for me. It is not sufficient yet. I suppose it is even more than was necessary, but I am glad that you are still here. There was a time when I worried about you.
Cut it down! It is me; therefore I will always find the way out. We did it!
Yeah, who could imagine. I do not know where I am going, but I am on my way.
As always, you have a plan even now, when we are to be absorbed by agnosticism.
When I was going to my dorm I felt that with each step that I made our distance to the University grew bigger. It became gradually transparent in my vision. Nevertheless, it did not disappear completely. My dorm - an empty and dusty corridor with cracked tile, rare, but vivid odor of mold in the shower's corners and a place where all souls from that floor met each other - the kitchen. Faces - my roommates, my friends, my course and my tutors. They were hilarious, weird, strict, grotesque, unpredictable, furious, kind, compassionate, relentless, but just, supportive and a little bit arrogant. My route - several meters that had their place in my afterlife's routine. Familiar turns and walls. Never changing sidewalks and asphalt. Mornings - so early and chilly. So lonely and isolated from all the rest, yet so exquisite since I could see how this world woke up when all the rest were sleeping. Time - so underestimated, so fragile and unprecedented. A mystery, a puzzle, a tiny grain of sand in the labyrinth that is overcrowded with knowledge. I did not have sufficiently of time to grasp it. Perhaps especially because of it, I did not manage to trace its rushing pace. Ringing - so familiar, but always surprising. It was my daily defibrillator. Occasionally it interfered with my thoughts. Maybe it was what I needed to change my preferences in questions. Stairs - infinite ladder that greeted me in the lobby and accompanied till the top. University - silent and solemn giant, my alma-mater, my vault for minds, my shelter. It changed together with us, but never betrayed our expectations. Sun - so pale and amazingly feeble. All these years in the University - so mixed, so swift and so dear. My afterlife - so unexpected and so adorable.
It happens again and again. We are warned about the fluency of time, but we put off our cognition of it. Here it did not matter. Where could we hurry? You understand what was around you and how it all passed before your eyes, but you still cannot grasp the concept. How it happened so, that you have let through the moment when somebody snapped with the fingers and switched your time... I was thinking that in the end it was not a punishment for us. Maybe we were given second chance to recover ourselves. And if it was so why then some people neglected it? Each of us was put on the crossroad with a road sign; each of us had a choice. Nobody forced us to make exactly this decision. And why nobody inquired what will happen if we would have chosen another destination?
We got here on purpose; we were these grains of sand in the hourglass. It is not a wonder why there was no flux of time in that place; we were its index. Our capacity formed this dimension; our intention maintained University's walls and our transparency depended exclusively on our volition. Those who gave up their chance of rehabilitation. Studying is fundamental, mind it.
My counting was over; I faced my dorm's doors. I turned around and finally beheld the whole picture that crawled out of the dim. With an inexplicable sense of relief I dissolved in the dorm's couloir. I was full of grace. It happened. I caught my ticking, I knew the time.