The beautiful caterpillar emerges a hideous rank butterfly.
Entries from the hidden journals of the Shining One.
They say that when a person dies, their entire life flashes before their eyes. For me, it is very nearly the opposite. When I die, there is nothing but encroaching darkness and silence. There is a brilliant flash of light as I awaken again to the events of many thousand years, embedded in some hidden mysterious alcove in my brain, flashing before me.
I see all of the lives I have lived, all of the times I have died. It all comes upon me like a great and powerful wave that surges through my being. Suddenly I am no longer just the person whom I was. I am still the same man, but also something different. It is not like living inside another body, but rather like a door opens, having always been closed. Compelled by an irresistible force to look inside, I am unable to look away. Wish as I might, I cannot erase or suppress the memories once I have peered beyond this veil. Something new, yet very old lives within me from that point forward, not just a part of me, rather still me. I am the same man but I am changed, awakened, illuminated. The beautiful caterpillar emerges a hideous rank butterfly.
It happened to me again on a bright morning in a small village in Eastern Anatolia. I was with a crowd of angry villagers, their voices chattering excitedly in a shallow field behind a house. I could hear a woman sobbing in the road. Circling her I saw several other women of the village, offering their comfort and consolation and wiping away her tears with their brightly colored kerchiefs. While in the narrow ditch before me lies a man, covered in blood with a pitchfork sticking out of his chest.
All at once I realize I am looking at myself. Or what was once myself, but is now just another stranger I hardly knew. It was very disorienting at first as I had never experienced seeing my previous incarnate vessel upon my sudden reawakening. I found myself nearly overwhelmed and had to step back from the crowd for a moment to better orient myself.
Looking at my hands was comforting and helped me steady my thoughts which were like a stream rushing through me. There was little time to collect myself, however, as a few men from the small angry mob turned to me and directed me to fetch a cart to haul away the body with. This cart was inside a small shed behind the church toward the center of the village. Nodding in agreement I walked down the single narrow stone street running through the middle of the village.
Arriving at the church I found a bulky iron lock affixed to a rusted hatch across the shed door. Instinctively I reached into the pocket my robe and retrieved a rusted iron key and inserted it into the lock. I twisted the key, giving it a familiar little wiggle imprinted into muscle memory and the hasp clicked open. Pulling the door open I stood inside among the various tools of an undertaker. A large cart with a flat wooden bottom and two aged pine planks on either side rested in the dark.
When I returned to the field where the body was lying, two men yanked out the pitchfork with a squelching sound. They hoisted the body up by its arms and legs and dropped it onto the worn platform of the cart.
I turned and wheeled the body back to the church until told what to do with it. This was the body of an invader who snuck into the village and brutally killed someone. In their house under cover of the night. It was not to be interred with a blessing from the priest. Bodies like these are attached to a wooden stake and burned in the square where the people of the village could gather. They would bring all manner of spoiled foods and manure to fling angrily at the body as it was catching flame. It was important to the villagers to vent some of their anger. Chasing the intruder to hell, hurling insults and pelting it with manure the whole way.
That night at the burning, I saw her again. She was in the crowd clutching a handkerchief and sobbing. A few women wearing dark scarves lingered near her offered their comfort and whispered prayers. I stood far to the back, where I had a good view of her. Angry villagers were shouting and hurling objects at the body upon the stake as the flames beneath it grew higher, eventually consuming it with a crackle like meat turning on a spit.
While it was certainly disorienting to watch the burning of the body my own consciousness had just inhabited mere hours ago, I could not take my eyes off the crying woman for whom I still felt a deep and inaccessible love. A great sadness consumed me as I gazed transfixed at the scene. It was not him upon the stake who had committed the crime. Cutting the sheep herder’s throat like an animal while he slept. It was me. Instead, it is I who should be crudely nailed to that stake and burned in disgrace, not the poor son of a blacksmith from a peaceful Turkish market town many days travel from here.
I wept for him, and I wept for my beloved Nazil. The young man I was now who would not have much of a life ahead of him, the hideous immortal beast I embody had awakened within him. I wept for myself, that I could not end this life no matter how many bodies I dispatched. What a cruel and perverted sense of justice the universe must have!
The body had burned enough to slide off the stake, collapsing in a smoldering heap upon the burning coals beneath it. After all of the villagers had gone home to their beds and the shouting had subsided, I snuck away again into the fields around the village. I wandered around through the night picking an enormous arrangement of wildflowers by the light of the pale moon. I left the bouquet on the stoop of my love’s house, with a simple note that read “May the light always shine upon you from the heavens and bless you with the many kisses of God’s angels. Know that love conquers all and that his love for you was an eternal flame which even death is unable to quench.”
As the sun rose in the east, I was upon my horse and riding. The white-capped peaks of the Pambak mountains shrinking in the distance behind me. The countryside was constantly under siege from barbarians and swelling armies dotting the roads and hills. Yet somehow no trouble befell me on my journey. I was able to reach the sanctuary of my cave once again undisturbed.
Hidden Journals of the Shining One
- entry dated 18 July 1427