Above and Below


A calm voice whispers in my head, a voice that sends shivers down my spine. Yet the very same voice seems to carry in it the warmth of solace, of familiarity. It's my voice. I obey.

I look up. For a dizzying moment, I lose myself, the infinitude of the night sky almost devouring me. The stars seem to swim before me, twinkling and shimmering and glittering. Why can't they be still, I wonder, as I struggle to clear my vision. I squint to see if that works, to no avail. Damn me. I blink and blink and blink, and the celestial pinpricks of light seem to be taunting me in a bizarre frame-by-frame sequence.

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I close my eyes, my head swimming. But the moving image persists. Even the darkness doesn't seem to help. Am I going insane?

I close my eyes as forcefully as I can until I yell out in pain. Blinding pain, they say. Blinding is what I want. Vision seems to be a curse right now. But what even is vision, if what I see isn't in the present, if impressions of the past persist in my head…branding themselves, almost? I retch. I fight back the urge to puke. Why is this happening to me? Why can't I move?

I struggle to move my limbs, but my feet are numb. My hands are still, restricted by something. I yell, tears streaming down my face, desperation overpowering pain. I try to move my neck, but I feel no movement. Everything is numb. Am I dead?

I open my eyes again. The world is still spinning; the sky that once awed me with its pretty vastness still shines and pulsates like some thing, teeming with a life of its own.


The voice, my voice, rings through my head, its tone soothing and reassuring. Although numb, I somehow feel myself relax. Maybe everything will be alright and this is just some freakish nightmare?

I feel an insuppressible urge to look down. I succumb to it, after all, it was my voice that advised me. Anywhere but up. Anything but the hellish visions above. What could be worse?

I scream for my life.

I fall.

I fall through what initially seems like nothingness. I take refuge in the lack of anything to see, my heart racing with the sweet aftertaste of relief. I am falling, fast, but through what, to what? I slowly feel the tendrils of fear creep through me, and my heartbeat quickens again.

I can't even flail my arms about to gain a misguided sense of balance or control. I am locked into this position, and the only thing I can see is down, the only way to go is down. Down. Deep into a void so vast it could very well be everything, anything, something, nothing or all of those at once.

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A loud splash. Cold dampness that I suddenly feel. But my arms are still tied, paralysed into submission. A frigid fist seems to claw over my heart as realisation sets in.

The water is cold, terribly cold, burning like fire and biting like nothing else can. It wraps itself around me, around my face and into my mouth. I gasp, desperate for air as the razor-sharp icy water enters my lungs. I can't even try and swim. I can't.

I can't. Defeat embraces me, its promise of certainty tempting.

I CAN'T, I CAN'T... my thoughts are deafening.

"I can't...no, I can't, please stop. Please stop. No."

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I open my eyes to blinding whiteness, in stark contrast to the black terror I just witnessed. I hear a familiar voice whisper something in my ear.

"Ah, darling, you're awake. Good," my mom says, as she moves her hand, asking a stranger with a tablet to walk closer to me. My hands still seem to be tied, and I seem to be resting on a bed of sorts, its mattress oddly comforting. "Her progress?"

"Worryingly slow, I’m afraid. This run yielded nothing different, the subject still hasn’t had the Epiphany...I reckon with the results so far it will require at least a few hundred trials before even a semblance of realisation sets in. I hope you don’t mind the fact that I’ve taken the liberty to initiate the next simulation as well..."

What simulation? What epiphany? What...

The male voice starts to fade, the harsh white light above me gets dimmer and dimmer and I plunge deeper and deeper and deeper...


A calm voice whispers in my head.




meh-king my way through life.

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Ashwin Shekhar

Ashwin Shekhar

meh-king my way through life.

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