Remember the Seahorse
The sunset had cast its reach far across the swollen ocean, now calm after the day’s excesses, and with a final flourish dipped its brow beneath the horizon, and I too had said my farewells. The golden yellow had moved through Hare Krishna orange to crimson red, bathing everything in a final flush of warmth, before it too changed, slowly at first, but relentlessly still, to purple-blue hues that threatened to overthrow the landscape below. And I had turned away, as if I too were abandoning the scene of breathtaking beauty that I had gone out of my way to observe, and shown my back to the Sun. Now, as I began to stroll back towards the cottage that I was renting in my attempt to escape from the weight of my usual routine, I went deep in thought. The palette of colours that had washed my brain had imprinted themselves upon me and now they resonated deep, deep within me. Some might say that something spiritual held within then had touched my soul, others that they had awaken senses within my mind, others still that hidden connections inside my brain were being stirred; all that I knew was that I was lost to my surroundings, and that the processes of thought had overtaken me once more.
The Moon had claimed its own space once more in the darkening sky, basking still in reflected light like a beacon drawing me in my partial consciousness home. It had, I knew, hovered over the distant mountains for days, and yet now, on this particular evening, its presence called to me with a different voice. Everything was beautiful; the mountains and hills, the tree lined valleys, the pencil line of the river snaking its way towards the ocean, and indeed the sea itself. Tonight everything was tinged with beauty, but with a beauty that seemed in some way ethereal, somehow otherworldly and strangely harmonious – a beauty that I felt had no place here. A beauty that belonged in myth; a beauty that was in some peculiar way both melancholy and uplifting in equal and proportionate measure; a beauty that was universal.
I felt myself overcome. My body was completely consumed with the most intense, indescribable feeling of excitement and joy. Not happiness, but pure inexplicable joy – the joy that can only be found in the experience of the totally unexpected, the kind of joy that my words can not do justice to, and yet the feeling was as true and as tangible as anything else that I had ever felt. Beneath me I was aware that my knees were beginning to buckle; they wanted to bring me down, to bring me closer to the earth, to bring me closer to the force that was captivating me. I started to sink gracefully until I was first kneeling and then prone, face down on the warm grass. I could feel the earth breathing beneath me now, pulsating in a slow rhythm against me, but with me all the same: and I was a part of it. I felt myself slowly becoming engulfed by a wave of euphoria, a wave that was moving over my body like a cosmic tide; a wave over which I had no control. A subconscious part of my body was being stirred and awoken, slowly and deliberately, and in some almost unperceivable way I realised that I was becoming a part of the earth around me, conjoined and inseparable. Time had stopped, and at this moment, at this precise second, there existed nothing but myself and the pure connection that I felt with the cosmos. In this frozen time awareness began to overtake me and grow within every pore and every cell of my body. I was aware, clearly now, that I was an integral part of the universe around me, and that my being spread not just within the confines of the Earth, but much, much further. I knew that my influence stretched out to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and even then did not stop. It stretched out endlessly, beyond all natural boundaries until it had touched every part of the entire universe. More than this, though; I realised that not only was I an integral part of the universe, but I was integral to the universe, and without me it would not even exist. I knew everything that there was to know; everything that it was possible to learn, and everything that was yet to come into the world and beyond.
I was filled with an all encompassing understanding, and yet this plethora of knowledge and wisdom came as naturally to me as breathing. I did not feel in the slightest way confused or frightened or fazed, rather I felt a comfort that I had previously not known – a comfort that I had thought was only real in the worlds of fantasy. I felt somehow privileged and chosen, and my flesh tingled with what I can only describe as a spiritual glow. I was in rapture: I had been privy to something which was incredibly important, and something that was reserved for only the ‘special’ few. I had been shown a secret which was unique; a secret that contained all the power and mystery of the ethereal, all the wisdom of time itself, and I felt omnipotent.
I did not know whether my eyes were closed or open as I felt that I had become detached from the physical realm and was now existing on some more mystical or spiritual plane. My mind was absorbed by a brilliance in which there was no point of reference; a brilliance that had no beginning and no perceptible boundaries; a brilliance which emanated from within me. I had felt nothing like this before, and had no point of reference upon which to draw, and yet the contentment that I felt was overwhelming. Never before had I experienced happiness like I was feeling now. This, I felt, was my epiphany; my one connection with a force that was greater than anything that I contained within myself – a force that was greater than any other within the universe.
‘And this took place when, exactly?’
I was sat a small room off a central corridor which seemed to run endlessly away from the waiting room from which I had just come. The room was one of many which lined the corridor like sentinels, each one expecting to be supplied with a secret code or password to enable entry. Each bore its own personal number and most also displayed small brass-like plaques displaying names, titles and lists of letters giving clues as to personal qualifications. The room that I was now in belonged to Mr. V. Mobeersingh, Consultant Neurologist; his name being trailed by a string of letters which gave me little idea of exactly how he was in a position to help me, but, hey, you have to place your trust in some place.
This was far from my first visit to the illustrious Mr. Mobeersingh, and I couldn’t help but feel a little vexed by his question; after all it was one that I had answered on occasions too numerous to remember. Despite this, however, my well learned conventions of politeness still elicited a response:
‘Twelve months last June, the 27th. It was a Thursday.’
‘Ahm; yes, so I see.’
Mr. Mobeersingh did not raise his gaze from the open file which sat in front of him on the desk. He hummed quietly to himself as he studied what was written on the sheets before him.
Slightly behind him and about two metres to his right sat a woman. She was, I judged, fairly young, early thirties perhaps, and by her position clearly under his wing if not his spell. She was sat on a chair which looked less comfortable than the one in which I was sitting, but if anything this appeared to focus her attentions more greatly. Her legs were crossed right over left, and I noticed that she was continually swinging it forward and back, forward and back, as if she were expecting some revelation to fall from the consultants lips: if only I were to be so lucky. As I watched her leg move towards and then away from me I studied her tights. It was impossible to say whether they were black, purple or brown, and I wondered if she had spent as much time and effort on her appearance as she did hanging on to Mr. Mobeersingh’s words. On her lap she held a clipboard, on to which was fastened a sheet on paper, presumably holding an outline of my case. Every now and then she would look at these notes and add something too them, either words from her mentor, of inclinations towards her own diagnosis: or perhaps she merely doodled, waiting for the next case to come along. From our relative positions it was impossible to tell.
At last Mr. Mobeersingh looked up, paused just long enough to create the desired effect, and spoke:
‘And what do we have you on at the moment?’
‘Topiramate,’ I replied.
‘Topiramate,’ he confirmed, again returning to his notes for confirmation as if he were half expecting me to have got the answer to the question wrong.
‘And how are you finding it? More effective than your previous medication, erm, valporate, wasn’t it?’
‘Well, no actually.’ I wanted to add the word ‘obviously’ to my answer; after all it was I who had come to him, rather the he summonsing me.
‘So tell me then,’ the doctor continued in his familiar faux voice, ‘How have your symptoms progressed?’
His use of connectives as sentence openers was beginning to grate with me, as was his continual reference to my experiences as ‘symptoms’ of my ‘condition’. Clearly years of medical training had replaced any willingness to accept anything which could not have its basis in solid scientific facts, but again I reminded myself that it was I who had come to him for help.
I glanced briefly at the young woman in the corner, hoping that she was prepared to be open to the recount of my experiences, before looking Mr. Mobeersingh in the eye. I began.
Despite the variety of medications that I had been exposed to, the episodes continued, gaining momentum in frequency at first, and then, gradually, in severity. There would be moments, seemingly ordinary moments, when I would be standing or sitting at home and I would be overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu. At first I thought nothing of this, after all my life, like everybody else’s consisted mainly of the routine, and yes, perhaps these feelings were repeated memories of tasks that I had carried out on previous occasions. As these episodes became more frequent I became convinced that it was the ordinariness of my life that was the cause them, and that the only way to escape them was to change the way in which I lived. When was not working I began to try to alter the pattern of my leisure time, but no matter how many ways I tried to approach things, or indeed how many new experiences I tried to have, the feelings remained: I was trapped in a world in which I had experienced everything before.
And then things began to grow in seriousness. I had never, since that initial episode, experienced anything else of a similar severity. I had hoped, secretly, that at some time I would be able to return to that state, that condition in which I had felt so at one with the universe, so connected to a higher state of consciousness. My hopes had been fruitless.
The first time that I can remember that my ‘condition’ turned was on one morning in January. The weather was cold, damp and miserable, and I was waiting to catch a bus to take me home. People around me were huddled into themselves wishing that they were anywhere but where they were at they were now; low conversations nothing but complaints about their lot in life. I didn’t force myself to join in. The bus was full – as usual – and so I climbed up the stairs to get a seat. Before I had reached the top step, however, I felt my stomach choke, filling itself with burning bile. Hurriedly I sat in the first seat that I could find. I closed my eyes. My body had become wracked with a feeling of pain that I had not before experienced. This was not physical pain but a pain that seemed to be coming from all around me. I wanted to cry, to weep like a child that had lost its parents, and somehow understood that something terrible was about to happen to them. I felt consumed by an anguish that was flooding into me at such a rate that I felt that it would rip me apart, and sweep me away as if I had never existed. I had no control over the pain that was taking over my body, but at the same time I felt that I had to contain it: it was as if I were being entrusted with a fear that was too great for any single being to bear, and yet that, it would seem, was what was being asked of me. Then came the blackness.
The last event, the one which brought me back to the hospital, followed many others, each of a growing severity, each adding to a cumulative effect.
I had gone to a café to meet some friends. As was usual I had left home giving myself plenty of time; I had no idea if or when I may succumb to another attack. I arrived early and decided to get myself a cup of coffee whilst I waited. The café was warm, its subdued tones adding to the cosseting ambience, and I made my way slowly upstairs. As I reached the top step however, I suddenly became aware of an intense feeling of ‘jamais-vu’ – with one foot step I had moved into a parallel universe, one in which everything looked vaguely familiar, but one in which something was terribly wrong. Once again I felt myself fill with the pain, fear and dread that I had felt before. Starting in the pit of my stomach I felt the churning pain begin to flood every inch of my body. I was aware that my eyes were closed, and that I was somehow trying to will the pain away, even though I knew that this was impossible. Time had lost itself and I realised that I was trapped in moment which would have to fully play itself out before I could be released. Gradually I became aware of a strange realisation which was overtaking my body: the pain had become part of me and now a greater, more potent force was taking hold. I could feel the earth pulsating beneath my feet, pounding ceaselessly with a beat that rocked my entire body. On and on and on the pulse continued, and as it did I became aware of figures in the dimness the surrounded me. There was no light, no blinding brilliance to illuminate the scene that was beginning to unfold. I saw shapes, shapes that gradually began to take on other forms, shapes that were somehow, and yet not quite, human; shapes that were featureless yet drenched in emotion. Their limbs were stretched pulling against themselves, some outwards like a crucified figure others forward, imploringly. I could not open my eyes against the scene as it unfolded before me; this was something that I was meant to see, an experience that I was being forced to accept – an experience that was a part of me. Behind my eyes I could see the figures stretch on further and further back, until the figures drifted back into unrecognisable shapes which merged together before vanishing beyond all perceptible sight. And all that I could feel was the pain and anguish as it left every soul, every spirit and poured itself into me. I was overcome with an intense feeling of agony and pure misery, and it felt more real than anything that I had ever felt before, except for ion one occasion. I was being drawn back, sucked into the universe in which I was an integral part – the universe in which I was the integral part. I could see myself now from outside of my body. It was as if for a while I was being lifted out of myself in order to appreciate the magnitude of what I was. I was there, the centre of all of the pain and agony and despair that the universe was feeling, and as I pulled away from myself and shot upwards, I realised that all of this was not only universal, but the universe. This, I knew, was the nature of the true secret that I had been privy to: now, within me, was truth. I knew that this was the revelation that had been chosen for me as surely as I knew that it existed because of me. I was integral to the universe, without me its pain would cease, and yet without me so too would its whole structure.
Mr. Mobeersingh looked up once more from his notes. He pushed two slips of paper across his desk towards me, one green and one white. To his right the woman had stopped rocking her leg, but continued writing feverishly.
‘And if you could begin on this course immediately,’ he said, ‘we’ll see you back in three weeks for a further scan. Just hand this to my secretary on the way out, please.’
His tone was deadpan. He had not understood any of the significance of my words: their weight upon me, though, had become blindingly oppressive.