©An Ocean in the Eye by Daniella Knez
Introduction to a Novel
-Parts of the book-
Before awakening there is a moment that cannot be classified as full alertness nor can be called a dream. The experience of consciousness while idly interfering with the mind and dispeling the imaginary concoctions of the mind is almost cathartic in a small fraction of a second. That time parable can last so long that one can lose all track of the very short time period that has actually passed. It seemed to me that I always felt protected, calm, weightless, almost like a fetus floating in amniotic fluid, without thoughts, fears, existential threats, without feeling the passing of time. What a fantastic delusion of the drowsy mind; my subconscious acting in a supplementing and protecting way against the contents of consciousness. However, this absolute peace of the soul and body was disturbed by the impulses of reality. I remembered myself and the traumatic event and tried to open my eyes. The brilliance spilling through the huge window awakened me. I wasn’t in my room. The whiteness of the surrounding walls blinded my pupils because it is was dispersing the sun’s rays in a wonderful way, transforming them into imposing mirrors of reflecting light.
I could make out the figure of an unknown woman in her late thirties. She looked at me with a warm, simple-hearted smile. Then she approached me curiously, dressed in a drifty, decent dress, spreading charming circles of lightweight fabric with every movement and coloring the air with the scent of her skin. I noticed the freckles on her pale face, dotted with tiny blue capillaries under the eyes, red, curly hair, whose abundance was hardly tamed, and a small but very muscular body with a discreet butterfly tattoo on the side of her neck, just visible under her tied hair. Outlined, proportional eyebrows raised in incredibly symmetrical arches above her hollowed green eyes. It is a most striking green I've ever seen in the eyes of ordinary mortals, a green which was contending the pupils it belongs to and encompassed those who looked at her. Dark circles under her eyes softened the sparkling shimmer of the harmonious sclera that threatened to swallow the words and thoughts of those who would look into them long enough. This beautiful woman was certainly one of those rare people whose very soul and her depths can be glimpsed behind their eyes.
„Chiara, you will be fine“, she suddenly broke the silence with a steady voice, from which emanated an unobtrusive authority imbued with tenderness and understanding.
"Am I in a hospital?" I asked and at the same time realized that there were no obvious indicators of that institution around me. I was breathing normally, wasn’t on infusion, wasn’t lying in a hospital bed, nor did my body have visible injuries caused by the fall. The room in which I found myself with this mystical woman was filled with light and freshness of spring days. The air filled my chest with energy and a barely noticeable hint of the smell of pine forest and sea. Hospital rooms don’t smell like that. I could clearly remember, the last time I found myself in one of them, the tickling in my nostrils caused by the harsh disinfectant, a fresh, just peeled orange in the hands of an exhausted old woman and the unpleasant musty odor the air-conditioner injected into the room together with the circulating air ‒ the mixed aroma of a basement kitchen and canteen.
„No, you are not in a hospital now. If you want this conversation to make any sense, don’t be tied to a time and place. I will explain everything to you. “ She smiled at me and shot me a look filled with compassion and love. Her gentleness made me shake of the attitude I wanted to have toward her, the one I generally have toward strangers. Full of distrust, I spoke to her without answering her smile and not showing the benevolence that was rising in me.
„Who are you? Am I in. .. a rehabilitation center? You ... must know that I tried to take my life? If you are one of the psychiatrists who are trying to help me, I would like to be left alone. “ I warily looked around the bright room. My emotions were mixed, confused, undefined in terms of sensitivity of sadness or happiness, as ubiquitous as the clear past but by no means a current state of mind. It seemed as if I still wasn’t fully awake. It made me doubt that I was influenced by strong psychogenic substances, which consequently made my senses hypersensitive and drowsy at the same time.
„It's okay to feel that way“, she said composedly, took a step toward me and held out her hand. She gently put her warm fingers on my bony shoulder, her soft, meaty fingertips just brushing against my skin before she gently rested her palm.
„I didn’t tell you how I feel. You probably are a shrink ... They always say that sentence ‒ it's okay to feel that way. With all due respect to you and your profession, you really don’t know how I feel.“
„I would like to know“, she insisted.
„Oh, why is it so bright in here? What is this room? Will you tell me where I am?“ I covered my eyes with my hands, refusing to get used to the endless shimmering white beams that were deftly, like an intruder, finding their way to every part of my pupils and protruding directly to my mind filled with darkness.
„I will, Chiara. I'll tell you where you are, but now isn’t the time for that.“ She smiled and gestured for me to stand up and follow her.
We walked down the long corridor. As I looked ahead, it seemed to me that I somehow know this place. It wasn’t congruent with the room we just emerged. Albeit my perception, dimmed with confusion, currently wasn’t sharp, I could have sworn that the room from which I just came out belongs to an entirely different object, if not another place and time. There was nothing spectacular here except the high walls built of carved white stone and a narrow passage towards the end of the building that led to a large door behind which I could glimpse daylight. Just before the exit, I glanced on the floor under my feet. My attention was drawn by a pleasant feeling on the soles of my feet. I was walking barefoot on the same stone from which the walls and ceiling were made. But I didn’t have time to react and ask one more question in a row, with which I wanted to rationally explain what is happening to me. We were already at the exit. Although I expected to see what I left behind outside, a hungry and brutal civilization, an urban crowd grabbing to their destinations through the streets of the big city, repeating the ritual of living through the daily activities that fulfill their petty human lives, a shocking scene greeted me at the other side of the large door. We were at the top of a medieval citadel encircled by the dark blue sea, the far horizon gradually curving in a slight semicircle at the very end. A strong gust of wind tossed my hair in my face and slowed me down while walking out of the fortification. Walking speechless after this unusual woman, I edged around this beautiful stone building until we reached the point where the trail descends and runs outside the fortress. I held myself against a tree on the edge of the track, scared by the height and a sudden dizziness. After a ten minute walk through the rocks and various crags of the immense beauty that stretched all around us, we stepped on the slope of a pine copse. Each tree was characterized by a particular exquisite posture. There was something inexplicably touching in this palette of the colors of nature that were alternating with the movement of the sun to the west. From the dark green birthplace of pristine conifers, I saw a beautiful vista of the blue cove. I thought we will never stop walking, but she stopped in front of a big, fallen bark. Overgrown with weeds and covered with moss, it looked like a good place to rest. She turned to me and offered me a seat. I complied, while accumulating incoherent questions in my mind, ensnared by the failure of my brain to separate the rational from the imaginary and with simple logic identify the reasons and circumstances of my presence at this place. As much as I tried to find a acceptable explanation, the answer eluded me and everything was opaque. She sat down next to me and sighed deeply.
„Look around. Nature reduces the restless of the soul.“
I lifted my eyes and embraced the landscape that spread all around me. She was right. The tableau was wonderful. It was serene and the air was filled with the breathing of the forest and rhythmic breaking of waves on the shore.
„I’ve been thinking a lot while we walked. I thought the most logical explanation for all this is that the water, after I fell into the river, unconscious, carried me a few hundred kilometers to the estuary, where you found me and put me in that room to recover... but now... I'm not sure what to believe. Where are we? Who are you?“, I spoke up, deep inside afraid of the answer, should it have nothing similar to my assumption.
She looked at me and smiled.
„You like the place I brought you to? As a child you loved the sea and found deep joy in it.“
„It's very nice. How do you know what I loved as a child? Do you know that I almost died? Now I'm sitting here with you on the slope of this dense forest and endless blue that soothes my pupils. Unbelievable! I am almost happy that I didn’t... you know... when I tried to kill myself... I nevertheless didn’t...“, I couldn’t enunciate my thoughts about the possible tragic outcome of my jump.
„No. You didn’t die“, she finished instead of me and added: „Death does not exist. At least not in the way most people imagine her. If you take away the meaning that we give her, she can no longer be the entity we think she is.“
„I don’t understand. Something nonetheless happened when I jumped from the bridge into the river... I do not feel the same. I'm really confused. How can you know that death doesn’t exist?“, I repeated inquisitively.
„The human race has no proof of death“, she confidently expressed a fact that defied common sense.
„That claim is absurd! Of course there is evidence of death!“
„You mean, the medical evidence that the body no longer meets its purpose?“
„It can be phrased like that, yes.“ I nodded.
„Before you were born, long before your body was conceived, you didn’t exist. The absence of existence is the absence of life. The absence of life, a clear indication of death. By that logic, you were already dead. Even if you die, it will not be the first time, and you could get used to resurrection, re-birth“, she said, nodding and gazing at the open sea.
„I can’t get used to that thought. It is too metaphysical.“…