Aquarius: Chapter 1
My name is Nereus, and I am drowning.
I do not know, nor desire to know, who may read this, nor how you came upon it. I do not write intending to be read, only intending to have, when my intentions are carried out, written. What you have before you, unknown audience, is my final testimony before I end my own life: until I, and I cannot say this without a tone of mockery, return to the ocean from whence I came. But, reader, you know not whose truncated memoirs have come into you possession.
People call me "Reus"; I have no last name. I live on an island: The Island. It has a name, Mythagos, but no one calls it that: there's no point in being specific, the Island is the entirety of our world. Beyond it is only water: holy, bountiful, endless, all-encompassing…constricting. The residents of the Island are about twelve hundred in number; I have never cared to count. I do not include myself among them: I arrived here at young age, as is evident by my appearance, and, as I hope you may have noted, my attitude. The average inhabitant of Mythagos has black hair, dark-tanned skin, usually with blue eyes, and sharply-defined features; every part of me is a bit different, lighter.
I have no memory of my time before arriving on the Island. My 'parents' tell me that they found me on the beach near their home, and, having no children, adopted me as their own. Since then, my mother and father have done their best, I am sure, to absorb me into their society, their religion, and culture. Like any other child, I have been going- no – was going - to the school-caves and the caverns for worship, since about the age of seven. I've never been normal, I realize that, but what's to be expected?
I address this to you, unknown reader, but I write for myself, I believe, so that I may understand in my own mind why I am doing this.
In the world of Mythagos, I am an alien.
I was born thinking rationally, or developed the mode of thought at some point in time before memory. I recall my first day of school:
My new mother led me into the brightly-lit caverns that composed the school of the Island. A tunnel and a curve in, we entered a wide room, full of color and noise, which I can still recall the mood of, although not the scene itself. It was unlike any other part of the Island: there were two adults there (Renati and Ashel, I learned later), who were very obviously teachers, and numerous children, appearing to about four or five. As it turns out, they were all about my age, and I was simply a few inches larger than any of them due to my foreign birth.
Everywhere these children were playing, throwing, driving, and running, they seemed forever restless, and I could not imagine that they would ever stop. They were amusing to watch as well, but I felt no desire to participate. Too, they all seemed very familiar with each other: I had spent my past few years mostly around the home of my foster parents, although I had seen many of these other children at one time or another, I knew none of them well- as well as children of that age do. Feeling to desire to join in the madness, I sat down with some simple wooden blocks and began to build. Another child, whose name I never learned, joined me for awhile, and then left. It seemed that all children know one another well on the sole basis of being peers.
I have felt like an elitist, conceited, and have disliked, in general, that group of children, ever since my first day at the school-caverns. While they played and frolicked, making messes and exhausting themselves, I recall, very clearly, constructing a similar cave out of blocks, and I recall wondering why none of the other children decided to do anything permanent. Seeing their time wasted made me frustrated with the group as a whole.
A boy, older and larger than me destroyed my cave with his boot, wordlessly, and returned to his games. I did not understand why.
That same week I was taken to my first religious congregation. Very little happened. A ritual was first conducted, with the whole group kneeling, and then every person filed by two ornate altars in the front of the room, thanking first the Ocean, and then the Island, for each benefit they had received that week. I gave thanks for my fruit and my fish, and moved on.
Seven years later, I nothing had changed.
One morning, I woke up. I was fourteen years old at the time. Nothing changed from the usual ritual of my life: I had fruit from the jungle for breakfast, I washed myself and got dressed, all before my parents awoke, I went down to the beach. It was not even light yet, outside, the sun was just barely beginning to peak over the horizon on the far side of the horizon from me. There, on the black rocks around a crevice of about 5 feet, filled with water, I fished. I dropped my line into the deep pool between the rocks and waited, lying down, staring up at the heavens, for an hour as the sun came up.
Stars. Each day I saw new ones, I thought, each day I connected the lines in different ways. I would select a few of the brighter stars, connect them, and use the hundreds of smaller ones in between them to create, in my mind, a picture: A person, doing something, a fish, a bird, plants, fruit, trees, buildings. That particular morning I had awoken earlier than usual, and so there was less sunlight to conceal the stars, I could make out every detail of the sky in all its brilliance.
My constellations never stayed the same. One day I had formed a crab out of a cluster of stars, the next day I saw the same crab, at first, then ignored it and formed something else elsewhere. Gradually that cluster would move out the center of my field of vision.
On that morning I decided, why should I not make something larger than a single object? I saw one a small cluster of stars, with below them – an outline of person, perhaps? A line of bright stars – a rod across his shoulders, from the rod hung two pails of water, each one dripping a bit; he was walking over rough ground.
Something yanked on my rod; I masterfully whipped it up and put a slimy, small blue-green fish into my bucket. My gaze returned to the sky.
The ground began to take shape beneath my vision of a man: rough and rocky. Off to his right I saw a waterfall, almost as if it flowed right there in the sky. Off to his left, far off, the stars formed a building, two buildings, a village. Behind him: the thick foliage of the jungle. Above him: a starry sky.
This was the water-bearer, born in the heavens. Another yank pulled on my fishing line, I whipped it up: there was nothing on the hook, but my bait was gone. I sat in silence for a minute.
The sun concealed the details of the constellation, then the basic shapes themselves, as it rose: too rapidly. The water-bearer faded out of vision. Tomorrow there would be something else.
When my parents awoke, I had cooked my fish and was beginning to eat it. Not long after, I set out for the school-caverns.
My class of thirty or so children had remained approximately the same since that first distant year of school, except for a couple who passed away before then. I believed that I had fallen in love with one girl, named Elcia. Or, at least, I thought about her constantly. But ever-present in my mind was the memory of myself, a few months earlier, telling myself that while she was fascinating, if I continued to think about her I would find myself unable to go long without thinking about her. And exactly that happened.
Our class had settled down for the beginning of the school-day. I believe we were to learn about geometry on that day. Having nothing better to do while waiting for Ashel, some people talked, I personally drew designs on my electronic pad. Why? I suppose I just felt like it – no – I ca not lie to myself. Elcia sat at her desk behind me and to the right, and I distinctly remember orientating myself so that she could see what I was doing. I recall hoping for her to ask what I was drawing, even though it was just random nonsense scribbles, and they were not even drawn very well. No, I just wanted her to say something to me. Looking back, it almost seems dishonest, like I was deceiving myself of my own intentions.
Class began: as usual, everything made sense and was easy. Some of the other boys played around and talked, I personally commented occasionally to my neighbors, sometimes humorous, sometimes not. An assignment was given to us, for practice, which I finished quickly.
In all my years of school, I had never had the trouble that many of the other students had ever had with the topics covered in class. Things just… made sense…to me. People realized that, and I felt a bit alienated, as well as elitist, by the fact that I always finished everything first, and rarely forgot anything. People came to me for help, sometimes, and, again, I am not going to lie: (there's no use for lying to myself in a document such as this) I enjoyed – secretly – being trusted for assistance.
As usual, very little happened that day. The teachers' expectations were low; we were given thirty minutes for the assignment, and, as usual, few people spent more than ten minutes, and few people completed it. The rest of the time was spent talking. Forward and to my right were a group of boys sitting on the desks, talking and laughing. I joined them, having nothing better to do.
Ten minutes later I sat back down in my seat, having said nothing more than greetings since joining them. While I got along fine with them, I could never, it seemed, find anything to say in a larger group of people. I started scribbling, frustrated, again. Elcia looked over at what I was drawing, asked what it was.
"Just… random scribbles, I guess." I had not known what I was going to say until I said. She went back to whatever she was doing, nodding.
At the end of the day, I went home, saying goodbye to no one around me – as usual. I recall that it felt awkward at the time, for some reason I suspected that people did not want me to say anything suggestive of a connection with them. That makes no sense, I know, it's hard to understand why I did what I did. At the end of the day I was only frustrated, feeling like I had not had any real conversation or made anyone laugh all day. That was not completely true, but for the most part, I only spoke sparsely in school, and whenever I started talking to people…
I felt like I was annoying them. I did not want to make them think that I liked them at all, out of something like a fear of being considered annoying: I can imagine what it would feel like to have someone who you really did not like constantly talking to you, and I was afraid to give that impression. I realize, now, that what I was trying to avoid probably led to precisely that; the other students probably did not like me for not being willing to talk to them, and were likely confused as to why I did not seem to like them. I can identify all this, now, but it is still difficult to avoid the suspicion – which, while usually without base, probably is valid sometimes. I've been analyzing myself, and regretting many such decisions, afterwards, but still I cannot seem to do any differently.
There are hundreds of events that I wish I could go back and redo, without making such…mistake. I cannot, though, that is impossible.
How did I cope with it? I told myself that it did not matter – someday I would be able to live in peace, without regretting every decision that got me where I was. Sure, things would go badly – I had numerous "acquaintances" who I could sit with, but few "friends" and no close ones – but in the end I could just brush everything off.
This attitude caused me to be extremely self-conscious about everything – everything I said, I would regret, I would try to fix my unbroken appearance, try to conform to other people.
This idea of nihilism turned out to be a very dangerous thing to think about.
Insert life-changing experience here
I did not go to worship with the rest of the community the next day. I spent the morning out on the beach – kicking sand up in frustration, furious with myself. I became dizzy in the sun, and vomited in the ocean. Damnit! I broke my fishing pole over my knee and threw it in the water.
I decided to change myself. I decided that I was at a disadvantage due to my appearance: I was very thin at this time, almost bony, with little muscle to show for. I had always told myself that appearance did not matter, but I never actually thought that – I always tried to fix it. I started running, I did not know what I was running from. I ran for twenty minutes along the beach before collapsing in sweat, and tears, from dehydration and exhaustion. I drifted to sleep and woke up, forced myself to walk back home, and went laid down.
Insert final reason for suicide here – losing faith in himself, unable to see value in relationships with people, etc… /sigh
I had had enough. When morning came, I left my house earlier, with my writing pad, and walked on the beach for hours, thinking, as the sun came up today. I came to a bit of a black rock outcropping, twenty feet over the water, and flung the pad into the water. I sat down, legs dangling off the edge.
In plain mockery of the people of Mythagos, claiming they had been born from the ocean, I threw myself into the water, planning to swim as deep as I could and then swallow the ocean water until lost consciousness.
My body pierced the ice-cold surface of the water, my vision began to swim. Desperately, I pushed aside water and plunged lower. A rock face extended underneath the water, straight down, until it was blurred and unidentifiable. I saw a small outcropping – I'll crawl under that so I ca not come back up up, I thought. My ears were being pummeled by the weight of the water, but I did not care by that point. It became harder and harder to make it down, but I grabbed out onto the outcropping and pulled myself under it.
There was a tunnel into the rock face.
Curiosity aroused, I entered it – it turned upwards. No reason not to follow it – I was almost low on air, though, even with the capacity of one who has been swimming and gathering in the ocean all his life. Almost all… his life.
Above me was darkness. Suddenly I punctured the surface – far further down than it ought to be. I was surprised, I found a hollowed area in the rocks, completely unlit. Arms flailing, I could not find a ceiling over me.
I grabbed onto part of the wall and lifted myself up. In the darkness, I pulled myself onto an outcropping – bare ground. It was not even wet. The cave I had entered extended under the island, at least a little bit. My suicide temporarily forgotten, I slowly crawled into the open space, feeling around for drops or walls.
My hand struck something softer than rock. It was small, square… a box, about a finger's length each way. Fumbling in the darkness, I examined it as best I could. There was a flap on the top, it was made of cardboard. I opened it.
I struggled to light one, rubbing the tip four times on the box before producing a flame.
In the dim light, I saw – my writing pad. Startled, I grabbed it and turned it on. The bright light from the screen illuminated a cavern about ten feet each way, high enough to stand in. The walls appeared to have been eroded by water, which was now absent: they were smooth, with horizontal lines of various shades of gray visible on them.
How on earth did my writing pad get in this cave? That's impossible.
And so I started writing this: I am drowning as I write, but I am fully alive. When this is complete, I will continue dying.
These words are the last I will ever write.