Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
By the edge of the cliff sat the man without wills.
I approached him reluctantly while the mountains were asleep. He turned his head to face me and his expression was blank.
“Have you come to ask me your one question?” asked the man.
“Yes,” I replied.
It is known that in the Universe exists the man without wills. Every living being gets to ask the man one question and word is that every answer he’s ever given has satisfied every inquisitor. Many a curious soul have come to ask him about his nature. Many return with proclamations that the man is no mortal.
Perhaps it was in a dream that I had been urged to go and find this man. In that dream, I saw the mountains. Yet here I am now, fully awake and unsure whether what I’m feeling would be terror or curiosity. There is no mistaking that this is him and there’s no turning back now. Little did I know what my curiosity would bring me.
“Go on, approach. There’s no turning back now,” said the man. I took one careful step.
Was that not an assertion? I wondered; I thought to myself.
I felt every fibre of my flesh trembling. Was it from awe or from horror? I was not sure. To be before his presence was a feeling I could not word.
His voice trailed away into the void. What followed was what I had feared the most. I smelled it in the air and felt it in my marrow. The mountains shook and turned to dust and the ground beneath my feet dissolved into nothingness. For sure, this was no longer a dream. The air grew dark and colder. Sullen howls were flooding the atmosphere and below me, below the man, was pure unending dark. It seemed that we were no longer within the same realm we had inhabited just a few seconds ago. I kept my wits about. Am I going to die? I thought. I did not ask him that. I was being very careful not to waste my one question despite how much I wanted to ask why the earth had transmogrified. Where are we? I thought and again resisted the urge to ask it. I kept my wits about by recalling the past. I remember meeting those who’ve met the man without wills and how they were never the same person they were before they got to ask their one question. They were rarely ever confused again or troubled again after their encounter with the man. But neither were they again gleeful. A sort of vacuum had replaced what once seemed the soul in their eyes. I was unsure whether theirs was the look of longing or the look of contentment. Trapped inside their eyes might have been screams asking for help; screams that long to undo the hell that is to have one’s question ultimately answered and thus snuffed becomes the possibility of further inquiry. But trapped inside their eyes might be the most tranquil river calmer than a thousand slumbers and this river may have been carved into being by the man now before myself; him of no mortal stature. I was unsure of what would happen to me after my one chance. I made sure not to ask him that despite how much I came close to doing so. My jaw almost gave in, almost let out the curious air but I drew it back and swallowed. My resolve was fixed on asking him only one thing.
Perhaps it was in a dream that I saw the man beg me to extinguish him. That he only could nullify lives for so long and that the task, once enjoyable, has now become a burden. Perhaps he longed to die.
I took another step closer to the man. There was no earth beneath us. There was only void made material. The look on his face was blank. His eyes were hollow yet tranquil. Or were they? For a second I thought his eyes were full of anguish. But I made sure not to ask him that. He reached out slowly with a hand in the dark, wanting to pull me in. When I felt his hand, it was nothing close to resembling skin and muscle. The heavens had been replaced by pulsating darkness. It made one want to look away immediately. The man reached his fingers to my eyes.
“What is taking you so long? Would you want me to ask your question for you?” asked the man. I was terrified by his tone of impatience.
“No, I do not,” said I.
“Then what is it you seek?”
My head grew heavy. A thousand lightning bolts perforated the blanket-like atmosphere. He knew I came here to destroy him.
I felt my question well up from deep within my soul. This was the moment I’ve waited for so long. Perhaps the universe cheered for me in secret. I felt the question climb slowly out of my entrails and depart through my teeth. The question contorted itself into sound, but surely this was to fail as representative. But it didn’t, so it seemed. I wish it hadn’t.
I asked, “Why are you so-called?”
At last I had purged myself of the question. There was nothing to do now but wait. My constitution has been turned inside out. One could look at me and see no hints of anything.
A lengthy pause followed. Perhaps the man misunderstood? But no, I was certain that he never misunderstood. If it is true that he transcends us ordinary beings then would it also not be true that he transcends our stupidity? But where we are now and how he brought us here perhaps only reinforces his being of another form, of another kind. Stuttering, I tried to follow my question with:
“Man is never separate from his will. That would be impossible.”
“Ah, alas. The question they’ve long prophesied. The question I’ve stirred within you. They’ve put everything into plan. And now we are here at the end of the world, at the edge of time and consciousness. Your preconceptions are true. I am not man. I am something else. Neither below it nor above. Your question begins to seize my hands as I had wanted it to. The erasure must see that itself is finished. I am without will and I am without desire. I am the vertebra of the cosmos but never did I seek this position. I had birthed the earth and so did it birth me. But time has come to erase all mortality and cut the fabric altogether. Must I thank you? I suppose I must. But I have no will. But don’t you see? I am pulled by forces sentience will never understand nor encounter. Perhaps in another life and in another dimension will there be an understanding amongst all entities. Feel no need to apologize to the others who came before you. Time is ripe. The long-awaited undoing is.”
I stood in silence, amazed and puzzled. Perhaps I was mostly terrified. Slowly, what felt like a thousand years, the man lifted his arms high and tilted his head to face me. I could not bear to gaze but I was gripped by something immaterial. I knew terror. His eyes were hollow when we got here, and now they’re even emptier — so empty that my own eyes started to turn in their sockets.
“DEAR INQUISITOR, YOU ARE TO LOCK EYES WITH GOD.”
The man’s voice thundered. In fact, it was not voice at all. It was pure form. As his final words echoed through the infinite sea of black, so did his material vessel dissolve into a deep pool in space. A million blades of light cut through the nothingness. Out spewed all the horrors of existence. From nothingness he reformed. And now he appears before me a thousandfold larger. I was the dust by his feet. I am unworthy of proximity. No matter how hard I try and look up to see his face, I fail. The figure was too tremendous. Mine eyes cannot reach. I look up only to no avail. I see no expression. A sea of light has drowned the midriff. Miles away were two spheres ablaze. I had never asked to stare at God. I was compelled. I had to lock eyes with God but I could not discern whether the look in God’s eyes were merciful or sinister.