Monday, September 03, 2012

Construct this man carefully

We're going to have some fun today.

Trap a man in an unholy pit. In the deepest, darkest recess you can conceive. Let the pit be the very belly of the earth. Cavernous, with no start and no end. Make certain that when the pit is sealed, there is no way out, and no way in. Nor light enter, nor breath escape.

Construct this pit carefully. Here is what you need to do:

Turn up the temperature, until it hits a dry boil. Three days in, when most creatures in that hole have died, fashion a tiny, shallow puddle of water in the very innards of this pit. Allow a drip to fall on to that puddle, a drop every hour. Let the sound of this drip echo through the cavern. Remember, one drop every hour. When it is the sound of water, trust me, it will hit every animate eardrum. Every creature alive will daredevil maps of the cavern in their heads. They will bore toeholds and finger-ledges using muscle, and skin, to reach the water. Five days in, turn the drip into a slip of a stream. Steady and gurgling. The man might have given up trying to find perches to climb to, but this should start him up again.

Make it so that there is no way to reach that puddle.

Now, construct this man carefully:

Fill the man with fire. For this to work, the fire needs be red. Not the golden glow of hope. Also not the amber shade of courage - much too meek - courage allows a man to wait it out on the top floor of a burning building, in the hope that a fireman or some watergod will come. It will not make him the demon he needs to be to escape this hell.

So, no. Make that fire red. It should burn him if he can't put it out. It should torch his blood and glass his eyes from the inside if he does not scramble fast enough.

One does not start this kind of fire with kindling and air. At best, that sort of fire burns blue at the edges with a cabin-warm shimmer at the centre. No, instead, start with fury. Add hate or add love - I'll leave that to you and the sort of morning you've had today. Don't just season though. Flood his core with it. It will be adding spirit to the fury. Let the mixture explode in his heart. Again and again. Valves should burst and veins should throb. If his body cannot carve a toehold in the rock to reach the next ledge, he should strip his foot of skin, flesh, muscle and ligament to expose bone, and again begin the battle against rock.

Make his bones brittle.

I hope you enjoy the fight.

Finish it with mercy. That's what we do.

I expect that after a while, he will lie there,  broken. Send in the black dust I'd left by the stove. You could unseal the pit, by a hair's width and slip in the dust. His breathing will be heavy (for he will be broken only in body), sucking in large amounts of air, and expelling it before it can reach his lungs, but the dust only needs to enter his windpipe. The moment it does, it will seep through his pores and reach his bloodstream. This dust will put out the fire and end his fight.


See, my project should've ended there. You were there. You heard the instructions. Light fire, watch him fight, put him out with the dust.

But it didn't work out that way.

I descended into the pit and watched him as he inhaled the dust. He broke out into a violent cough instantly, stretching his arms to the rocks to pull himself up... but it wouldn't help. It was too late for him. He stopped after a minute. His body turned still. I thought he'd turned to stone. His skin, black, now turned leaden. I expected he would keel over. Instead, his stiffened legs folded..elegantly..and he sat back down, tucking the bloody, bony foot under him. His eyes, just now bloody, suddenly shot open. I looked directly into them. They were two balls of ash floating in a white-hot liquid. For a moment, I thought he could see me.

At that instant, I became conscious of how cold it had suddenly become in the cave. I looked back at the man. He was glowing red hot. As though he'd drawn into himself all the heat of the cave. What new divinity was this? I heard a rumbling underneath me, and suddenly a slab of rock split open where I stood. From it gushed upwards a flaming jet of gold. I looked around, and out burst another fissure, and another. Sprays of lava shot up, some reaching miles high, upto the very seal of the pit.

As I turned my eyes upwards, I saw that the man was now ablaze. A red plume of fire. There was no distress, no agony. Just a calmness. His burning body shuddered for a moment before shooting into the void above, splitting open my pit-seal. The molten rock under me turned into a massive geyser as it followed him out. For days it flowed out the sides of the pit, and I watched in amazement as it razed fields and animals. What a sight, what an incredible notion that I could do this - create a mountain out of a cave and fire a man into the stars.

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