The Nihilist’s Light Bulb
Nihilism is standing at the gate… [Nietzsche, 1885]
She’d long been tracing her way through temporal currents in search of unheard voices. She had the skill for it, and the intuition. For both were necessary. The first for listening, the second for hearing. Never had their conflation made any sense to her. She knew how easy it was to listen without hearing. And how impossible it was to hear without listening. The first, she knew, was like touching without feeling its reception. And the second, was transformation as another without the loss of oneself. But she’d never before until her travels, known that she not only could, but must, combine them. Once her travels began, her survival depended on it. Each time she heard, her listening grew more refined and she more sensitive to touch. So she sought more and more and had moved, as though called, more deeply than anyone before into the intricate folds of time, mapping their topography as though they were the folds of the surfaces of a limitless dress enveloping and wearing her. She became its contours as she moved though them to listen and to hear. She hadn’t, yet, conceived the possibility of replying. When she did, the consequences would resonate through future eons.
Time she discovered was a responsive medium, shifting with her movements, sometimes echoing their direction and proportional to their force; at others, resistant to them, congealing to an impenetrable density that forced her to seek other paths. And she’d encountered the opposite, places so immaterial she found herself in slow motion free fall. She’d soon discovered that it had a mnemonic capacity, would remember her movements, so she could navigate at will through any temporal direction at any rate and measure.
She had traveled back some centuries when she’d heard his voice for the first time, a heartbreaking lament as lyrical as it was philosophical:
in the aural distances between two untriangulated dogs’ barks, themselves distant on the mountainside that that night rose darkly over the bejeweled lake far below, a single, seemingly unmoving owl hooted incessantly, progressively less rapidly and more rhythmically higher on the starred sky’s score. caught and perhaps cut up in the sparse sonority, i was defenseless against the alliterative rain that pattered on my mind’s tin roof, which i decided in the wake of some slow thought to avoid nominating as brain, because the night’s aural messages were transmitted between the pulse beats of the tympanum and the cochlea’s neural transformations. the brain is as silent as an anechoic chamber, as still as the vast rarified voids between galaxies, as barkless as canis major and minor trotting behind orion in pursuit through the constellation strewn hemispheres of the south and north, of celestial prey.