I emerged into the light, flat and small, a dark green body with my life-hole almost closed. I lay on the dark metal for a moment or two, wondering. Then I was moved into a large plastic enclosure, hurled into contact with a dozen or so similar to me, but in different colours – blue, red, yellow and white…and even a few green like me. It was strange and new. Life was fresh and new – even though I felt constrained and unfinished, I couldn’t understand why. After a while, we were all moved out of the light into a dark container which subsequently became so dark that I could see none of my fellows, though I could hear some of them moving and could not avoid touching my closest neighbours. A curious sensation – touching. I realise that flat as I am, I cannot move of my own volition, only when some external force moves me or whatever contains me. So touching is involuntary…a neutral sensation. When so many of us are alike….and feel exactly alike in the pitch blackness….contact is curiously antiseptic. And though it seems we can think, we are evidently unable to communicate with each other. Indeed, how I would communicate is not apparent to me. After a while – which felt as long as I could remember – we were moved again. Still in complete darkness, we tumbled over each other, some – like me – pressed against the side of the plastic enclosure. Then whirled away into a pile of us, almost entangled, but slipping away from each other at the next sudden movement. I could not say it was enjoyable, but I became accustomed to it. Was this all there was to being? So far, things had happened to me suddenly and unexpectedly. But as I didn’t know what to expect, perhaps unexpectedly is the wrong word….perhaps randomly or inexplicably? Was there an explanation for what had been happening to me? For my creation…or, at least, my awakening into consciousness? Would I ever know what it was? Perhaps these things happening to me were explicable? But left unexplained, they appeared random and inexplicable. The movements became less sudden and jerky, but smoother, as though we were moving along in a straight manner. Occasionally we tumbled up or down or moved more decorously to the side, one way or another. In the darkness and through a length of time which seemed longer than anything that had preceded it, it became confusing. It even felt as though we were rising gently and then descending, but without falling into each other. It even seemed that our little world was getting warmer. Was that because of the constant contact between us? Or something outside this darkness which I couldn’t even guess at? It seemed to me that the heat made me relax a little. Was it an illusion – or did I feel I had extended myself slightly? In the utter darkness, I couldn’t tell, of course. How could I see myself and my companions in the light, but not in the darkness? Perhaps darkness was just the loss of my ability to see what was around me? It was all very strange. So many questions. Would I discover any answers? I reckoned probably not. My awareness had suddenly come. I didn’t know where from. Were those moments of brightness real – or an illusion? Was my world – whatever that was – this darkness, with constant movement of different types and frequent, random contact with my companions? Or was there something else? How long might my consciousness last? Was I conscious at some time before I awakened, and had forgotten? Or was that the first time I had woken? Was any of this real? Was it just a dream? Was I the dreamer? Or was I the dream of something else I couldn’t possibly comprehend? Perhaps it was better not to travel along that way. It seemed to me to lead to no answers, merely confusion and unease. It was surely better to assume that what I was perceiving was real and that I was experiencing it, whatever I was, whatever it was. Similarly, trying to understand what consciousness was, compared to not being conscious, struck me as a way to nowhere. But, a way to nowhere might be where I was travelling. It seemed this most recent form of movement had been going on for most of my life…or, at any rate, my conscious life. Would it continue indefinitely? Might I, in this presently conscious state, continue indefinitely?
A challenging thought, I realised. As long as I remained in this state of consciousness, I had no reason to doubt that it might not continue indefinitely. But if it stopped, I wouldn’t know anyway. I suspected that as my consciousness appeared out of nowhere, the chances were that it would end in a similar fashion. But equally, I had no evidence to suggest that such things occurred with any degree of symmetry. It might be over-simplistic to assume that what has a beginning must have an end. Could you have a beginning without an end? Or more strangely, could you have an end without a beginning? This speculation made the continuation of the darkness, with its slowly changing movement alternating with suddenly being hurled around, less monotonous. Indeed, it seemed to make the time pass more rapidly. A strange notion that. If you don’t notice time passing, it appears to go faster. Why should that be? But, I realised that if I concentrated on the movement which affected me and the time it was taking, time seemed to pass more slowly. But did it actually pass more slowly or rapidly depending on my state of mind? Or was that merely my impression of it? Another puzzling question to which I could find no basis for a satisfactory conclusion. Another thing passed across my mind. Why was this happening to me? Why was I here at all? Was my existence intended to have some purpose? If so, who or what had decided what this purpose might be? Would I ever know what that purpose was? Was it doing what I was currently doing…or more accurately what was being done to me, as I seemed to have no control over it? Or was there something ahead of me I had yet to experience? Was I supposed to do something myself? If so, would I know what it was? And how might I accomplish it? Even in this moving darkness my world and my existence felt a lot more complex than I might have imagined. Then something changed. We were flung sharply three or four times, then there was a high, grating, screeching noise and the movement stopped. Everywhere seemed silent. It was only at that point I realised that the movement had been accompanied by a constant noise, which had suddenly ceased. We continued immobile in the darkness and in silence for a while. It was a shorter time that the movement. Was this where we would remain, how we would remain? It all seemed rather pointless. But perhaps there was a purpose I was unable to comprehend. At any rate, it was a different state of being and generally more pleasant, as my companions and I were not being hurled against each other. On the other hand, it seemed to me it was getting warmer. Were absence of movement, silence and getting warmer linked somehow? At present, that seemed likely, but there might be other explanations I told myself. After a while, I heard loud harsh noises and we were suddenly raised upwards, falling all over each other as our plastic envelope hurtled towards the side of whatever contained us in the dark. Various movements and rumbling and creaking noises followed. We continued to be hurled from one place to another in a way that was almost uncomfortable. But after some time – shorter than most other changed states I had experienced – we were immobile again. It remained pitch black, but though I expected further movement to take place, nothing happened. We rested in the positions where all the movement had left us. I was pressed against the wall of our plastic container, slightly on one side, but mostly flat. Not moving was certainly more comfortable than being tossed around, I concluded. But whether this was to be a permanent state, how could I tell? So far my existence had consisted of periods of one thing and then another. I wouldn’t know whether one was permanent or not until some change occurred. Otherwise, I might believe that I had reached a permanent state, only for that to be subsequently disproved. At any rate, we remained in this state for a long time. Longer than any other stretch of time I could recall. Occasionally I heard noises of various sorts beyond the darkness of our enclosure, but naturally I had no conception of what they might relate to. But they did remind me that there was something beyond the darkness of our container.
I've written all my life. I took early retirement from a career in the UK Civil Service (Commissioner & Board Member of HM Customs & Excise) in 2006, to complete "Through Fire" which I started in 1976. I have written follow-up novels to it, but also a long series of detective stories, mostly set in Customs & Excise. I also write poems and occasional short stories. I live just outside London, have been married for 50 years to Vanessa & have 2 daughters & 2 grandsons.