Chapter V: I Think, Therefore I Am?

Previous Chapters:

Chapter I: Reflections in a Broken Mirror

Chapter II: Unexpected Encounters and Unwanted Emotions

Chapter III: Seek and Ye Shall Find

Chapter IV: Every Why has a Wherefore

‘The Butterfly Dream’

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzŭ, dreamt that I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzŭ. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzŭ again. But I cannot tell, had I been Chuang Tzŭ dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzŭ?

~ The Book of Chuang Tzŭ

I sat across the woman called Maia Clow. I knew my hands were gripping the sides of the armchair a little too forceful. I could see that my knuckles turned white and my tendons strained as my nails tried to dig into the wood of the furniture. I was clearly tense and nervous to the core. She had given me a choice, Maia. And I felt that I was free to choose either way. But choices are something that once made cannot be unmade. I have seen people that were haunted for the rest of their lives by the choices that they picked. It was like unconsciously mixing a bitter concoction and forcing one’s self to drink it. Not an experience that I thought I would enjoy.

“I want to know,” I stated firmly. I think at that time I tried to convince myself as much as I was trying to convince Maia. ‘Curiosity is endless, restless, and useless’ they say. But curiosity at that moment was a too powerful emotion to be ignored.

She stared straight into my eyes as if trying to read the inner workings of my mind. Then slowly she looked away as if there was something heavy to consider. Her gaze betrayed that her mind was far away in a pensive manner. Although her face was serene, I could see that she was in deep thought. Then she turned back, eyes alert in concentration and said, “Nothing escapes human criticism and resentment, Jakob. You must be ready to empty your mind of existing opinions and beliefs before you can accept what I am about to tell you. Only an empty cup can be filled.”

I choose the next words carefully, “I knew what I saw. It was something that I thought didn’t exist. And since I have no explanation for it, I think I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt for now.”

“You were right in the sense that three-headed dogs do not exist,” begun Maia in a calm tone. “The beast that you saw and that my daughter killed was not something that exists in flesh and blood. At least not in the way that you think.” A sense of relief swept over me. No three-headed dogs in reality. It was so good so far. I also didn’t miss the fact that she had indirectly told me that Clare was her daughter. ‘They don’t look alike at all,’ was the first thought that entered my mind. But I nodded my head as if to signal Maia to carry on.

“The creature was a product of your mind. A creation of the sheer force of mind. A figment of your imagination. A mere illusion generated through you and by you.”

“You mean to say that I was being delusional?!” I stammered. My body leaned forward like a tree bent by the wind. I was pretty sure that I was absolutely conscious when I saw that creature. I remembered seeing its body and I the fear that I felt. I even shuddered at the notion of reliving that experience.

“That is not what I meant. The beast is real so long as you believe it is real. So long as your mind feeds the apparition with form, features, and is your case consciousness.”

I could not believe what I was hearing. My eyebrows had moved closer making my forehead crease with disturbance.

“You see, Jakob,” continued Maia in a firm but faint whisper. “You are special. You have an ability like Clare and me to materialise the objects of your thoughts. This ability gives your ideas physical appearances that you are able to channel into reality. It is a most rare gift. People like us are perhaps only one in a hundred thousand. And even that is a rough estimate. But it is a dangerous gift nonetheless, for you must master your mind before it masters you.”

“You must be kidding me! An ability to materialise thoughts?! Such things only happen in science fiction,” I said aloud in disbelief, gripping the armchair harder than before. “You can’t be telling me that my dream of a three-headed dog brought such a beast to life? That is preposterous!”

I saw a faint smile on Maia’s face just before the lights of the room started to flicker. Then I felt as though a wave of unseen current went through me from the front of my body to the back. The room had suddenly become darker. It was as though something was preventing the orange light from shining as brightly as before. Then in front of me I saw tiny dots of dust gathering just above the table that separated Maia and me. They were floating, suspended in mid-air. Then they began to take form. Slowly I could see something straight was emerging. It was rather blurry, rather transparent but becoming more opaque by the second. Then from the stick came a leaf. And then another leaf. And another. Then a flower bud came into being before full red petals emerged. It was all so ethereal, so magical. At last, right in front of me was a rose! A red rose. A flower that had emerged out of nothing! I instinctively reached out and took the rose in my fingers only to release it and wince back in pain as the flower’s thorns pierced my skin.

“Do be careful, there is no rose without a thorn,” said Maia still with a subtle smile on her face. It was obviously an advice that came rather too late. There was already a blot of red blood seeping through the skin of my index finger. When I looked up at Maia, the rose was gone! I felt my eyes darting back and forth in search for the red flower. “The pain remains, but the beauty disappears,” whispered Maia in a regretful tone, “look at your finger.” I brought my index finger back into view and gasp in awe when I found that there was no blood! The skin of my finger was still smooth and unbroken. It was as though the whole incident was a lie, an illusion. A magical mirage. But I could still feel the pain in my finger. That was not a lie. The pain was real even though the flower was not.

“How in the world did you do that?!” I was filled with a sense of wonder. I felt like a small boy being shown a toy he had never seen before, elated with curiosity and amazement. Oblivious to the sense of pain that came from my finger.

“How well do you know the philosopher Plato?” asked Maia with a sly smile.


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