Sitra Achra

The Reverse of the Tree of Life.


My stomach sits empty, distended-- only curdled milk and oily water rest therein. Enough to send the muscles into motion, to keep the mind from completely fogging. Not enough to live on-- but out here, in this vast nothing, who is really living?


There are those who still keep score of the days. They cling to their traditions, as if ritual and ceremony will keep them warm and clothed; as if it will make them appear human to their captors. It does not. The resourceful and privileged mark upon the walls in ink or crayon. The desperate seek out bits of metal and rock, and tally their time in this way. The mad have resorted to but their bloodied nail bed. I, the wise, have simply stopped the tally all together.


The snow fall has been especially heavy this year, though I am unable to discern the seasons anymore. Perhaps there has been no break from the last winter to the current, and I have simply been too cloistered to have noted this. Still, the firebreak through which the diesel belching convoys would have passed, remains covered in virgin snow, and no blackened trails run through it.


I imagine, for a time, how the first men might have seen the taiga. Like this, pristine and unbroken. Then I remember that an unused passage means an absence of supplies. I begin to measure the energy expended with every movement I make: from my breath, to the flexing of my arthritic fingers. How long do I have left on this stunted economy?


An announcement breaks the monotony of the camp life. The warden comes before us; he is a picture of health and cleanliness. His uniform is pressed, though he appears to barely fit in it anymore. He comes with a proposition:


I no longer carry the trappings of my faith, instead I wish to demonstrate it. I make myself known to the crowd, to the warden, to the world. Nicolai fears no test, and fears no vision.


carried off into


The room is warm; I count myself thankful, as every bit of heat is a treasure in this place. I weigh which option would have been better: to feel sensations in my fingertips once more, or to end the ceaseless gnawing in my stomach?

In time, my prayers are answered, perhaps. I stare down the cup and the pill for a moment, before the guards beseech me to ingest both. I consider the weight of the pill as it slides down. It is something, it is matter, it occupies space within the vast emptiness of my stomach. I am not sustained, but I am alive.

My supplications echo into the void-- lo, no answer. In that far off place, I found you. You, who is neither the creator, nor the deceiver, but simply a philosipher. An observer of phenomena for which you have no words, and no use for words.

I have learned to hate you.