Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
When you are met with the sort of anxiety which, ultimately, is there to make you consider the possibility that your own memory is a lie, it is only natural to face difficulty in recalling even things that happened a short time ago. If I was open to undertaking so thorough an examination of this then I am confident that I would identify a good few reasons for the acute nervousness I feel; even so, it should go without saying that I am not inclined to accept my emotion as fully justified: it undoubtedly rests on some sinister delusion.
I am a policeman. Being the first to answer to the call of my higher-ranking officer, I had to come to this location in order to investigate the demise – an apparent suicide – of the youth who used to live here. This much I certainly did. With the help of the apartment’s owner, I went in and had a look at the ominous and gloomy space, over which loomed a thousand printed pages from the shelves of a small bookcase. I then had a look at the air-shaft, that parallelogram chasm which had just devoured a human being… Some momentary agitation ensued because the owner appeared again outside the apartment so as to notify me that people had reached the bottom of the air-shaft from an opening on the first floor and were about to carry the body away. His statement was immediately verified as I looked again at the now empty air-shaft; from that distance – I could not help but notice – the blood on the floor could barely be distinguished from the multitude of shadows cast by window-lights of so many floors. After that I returned to the room with the bookcase, having first contacted my superior officer who asked me to wait for him there.
If I decided to read one of the countless pages it was only because time seemed to barely pass at all, but one look was enough for me to realize they constituted the journal of the dead man. Indeed. my idea to pry at anything of the kind was quite aberrant, given that I was never meant to read those pages, and I do believe that I was reacting to the fact that my rank in the force categorically forbid me from having even a passing look at such documents – and what made this urge to see them all the harder to resist was my awareness of the imminent arrival of my superior officer – after which it would obviously be impossible for me to do anything of the kind.
Having randomly chosen one of the pages, I started reading some of the dead person’s thoughts. According to what was written he firmly believed – I had to suppose that his reasons for believing such a thing were already presented in detail in other pages – that upon falling into the air-shaft he would instantly transition to a new and happier life from the one he’d leave behind. My curiosity was piqued by a phrase where he argued that just as he came into this life by passing through a corridor, he would now enter the next one through another, vertical corridor; and thus I continued reading his notes. On another page, he reflected that he wasn’t sure of what specifically would happen after his death. He did envision a transition. However, it had been impossible to ascertain the exact elements of his future existence.
That page came to a close with his hypothesis which rested on the sense that the actual development would possibly be very difficult to guess owning to reasons pertaining to the strangeness of the event itself and therefore pontificating might not lead to any conclusions. Perhaps then – this was the specific hypothesis – what was to take place would be something by all means unheard of: for example, it remained a distinct possibility that one second after the end of his agony as he lay fallen on the concrete floor of the air-shaft, he would once again be back to his apartment, and maybe he’d then be looking at the empty air-shaft much in the same way he would have done one instant prior to his fall.
He alleged that for this supposition some kind of a basis might be provided, adding that he had, after all, in the past been involved – on and off; which was to be expected given that the supposition itself being of so uncanny a nature that it couldn’t allow for persistence – with a minor ceremony through which he had perhaps managed to predetermine just how he was to pass from this life to the next.
If the ceremony had the power he seemed to attribute to it, it seemed that he was to inhabit the body of someone else, namely of the first person to arrive at the apartment following his demise, with the transition being instantaneous and completely painless. In such a turn of events he might even have forgotten who he had been before, because his transformation to the other person would be total; nevertheless the new man inevitably was to be animated by his old conscience, despite the fact that this realization could take a while to occur to him and would only be reached by steps.
After that, I read more of the pages. But nowhere else was any other elaboration about the ceremony to be found and instead I only came across passing references to it. I did notice a sentence where the dead man expressed his wonder about the type of person whose body he was to possess, and the – eminently reasonable, in context – thought of his that it would most likely be either the elderly owner of the apartment or some member of the police forces called upon to investigate his act of suicide did not alarm me in the slightest – despite its potential to acquire a particular meaning, that is one which would involve me in this affair… – and I instead chose to welcome it with a smile.
This was to change, however, because upon trying to choose a third page to read I immediately saw there the word “policeman” written a number of times. At that point, I indeed felt a little sick.
So I avoided reading more of the journal. My senior officer still had not arrived. I remained there, alone, with those pages piled in front of me, yet by now my impression of them was that they weren’t so much a deceased stack but more something akin to a well-kept secret; indeed one which might almost concern me personally.
Soon after that, I discovered that my memory was diminishing, and – as I noted at the start – I did attribute this effect to having been deeply influenced and disturbed by what I had read. Is it not paradoxical that I, a sensible man, a man almost not at all given to flights of fancy – particularly when it comes to this type of situation – am now fretting on account of just reading some text?
Even so, I have resolved to hide – quickly, before the chief inspector gets here – these pages which I wrote down while waiting for his arrival and having used the pen and paper of the dead man to do so, and hide them inside that pile of the thousands of pages he wrote, as if my own also had been part of his journal. And I wish to act in this way because I keep some hope that if I make such a concession to my superstitious line of thinking I may be allowed to avoid any other agonies of the kind which seem to have ambushed me in this place!
Apart from all that, though, I should note that despite the existence in this room of a mirror next to the bookcase and a little to the back, leaning onto the edge of a heavy nightstand, I didn’t dare all this time to look at my reflection. And not just out of fear of what I might possibly observe there, but for another, far more ominous reason: because it seems to me that I have even forgotten how my visage is supposed to look! And now indeed my urge to read more of these pages can never be abated!
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