The Other World: Door 1 – An unmasked mystery
January 20, 2020
Ahead is a stretch of land; a road reaching to infinity. It is a hazy path leading to an obscure future, and my feet tread slowly, trembling, and with a purpose. My journey is one of discovery, trying to acquire the hidden treasure that everyone in the desert is scouring for. The gravitational pull of this object is powerful, and although I am unaware of what this treasure entails, my curiosity is piqued. What is this exotic item that has everyone in the desert restless for its acquisition?
I must be very lucky because I feel myself getting closer everyday. Yet, in this timeless dimension, I can still detect the prolongation of time through the alteration of the seasons: in one instance the scorching heat of the sun signaled summer, and in the next instance, I felt the brutal chill of the winter season pierce my skin. These climatic changes were seamless. To me, this is what T.S Eliot meant by “the still point of the turning world;” a state of stagnant movement, where changes merge into one. We are trapped in a state of constancy, unaware of the passing of the time.
Despite my efforts, I am no closer to solving this mystery than any of my rivals. But my persistence is rigid. Although my treasure is far out of reach, I have accumulated the scattered pieces that have fallen on the ground.
And what is this treasure you ask? What is this wondrous gem that has aroused the fervor of competition? It is not a physical object that we are all seeking. Rather, it is something that exists on another plane, in an abstract dimension. It is the notion of understanding the human psyche; the ability to come to a more profound knowledge of the different dimensions to an individual’s makeup. It is the various branches, extensions, and threads that constitute who we are as people.
The relationships that I developed with the characters of the books I have read enabled me to get closer to this treasure every day.These characters have exposed me to the complexities of the human psyche. The gem of Jekyll and Hyde allowed me to come to a more profound understanding of the inner demons that we harbor; how we are multifaceted beings, and the sense of inconstancy that we occupy; we are by no means consistent humans; we have highs and lows that determine whether it is Jekyll or Hyde that is the current occupant of our state of mind.
During my metaphorical journey, the straight road bends at a curve, and divides into a series of intricate paths, all leading to different places, and different mysteries. These paths lead to the various fictional worlds that I had encountered in the past; now I am revisiting and reacquainting myself with them. This journey of recollection will guide me to a path of knowledge. I will get to know my friends, the characters of these books, on a more personal level.
Door 1 – Part 2: An extended ending to Wuthering Heights
My forward journey led me to Wuthering Heights; a colossal mansion that is haunted by the contingencies of “what could have been” (T.S Eliot). It was stationed at the very top of the hills, in a vast expanse of nothingness like the open sea that stretched to a destination which is beyond what the human eye can see. There was no society to stimulate the mind so that the inhabitants of the house were stuck in an unwavering state of lethargy. The house was subsumed in the swirling fog of the night air, which settled like the weight of a chandelier burdening the ceiling with its lavish expanse of ornaments. All flora was subjected to violent erosion and decay, unable to withstand the violence of a wind so ferocious and threatening.
Stationed within the agonies and despair of the gale, a figure clad in black, blended with the shadows of the night. He sat despairing and grieving next to a grave, a lock of hair squeezed tightly in his hands by the power of his fists. Engraved on the stone was the name of Catherine.
In a paroxysm of despair, Heathcliff’s exclamations of suffering were powerful enough to rouse the peaceful sleep in the graveyard. The agony in the tone of the wretched was enough to stimulate a sense of pity in the most unfeeling creature.
Crouching on the ground, he said, “I know now that I have been cursed for life. Always the outcast. A degraded being at your mercy. But where are you Catherine? Why did you leave? I have no one to love me on this miserable earth. No one but the ghost of “what could have been.” No one but the ghost of Catherine, which has dissolved to a mere figment of my imagination. What are you now but a mere apparition; a fading image of an unattainable past?”
The words thus uttered, he had extinguished the last residing breath within him. He died softly next to Catherine’s grave, his heart frozen still by the power of the blizzard. He was transported to a different realm; a reality that is all detachment from the distress of life on earth.
In this other dimension, Heathcliff’s rage had finally subsided. He was no longer battling the demons of the earth; those were the monsters that disguised themselves in human form, bent on making his living life a misery. Now they exist no longer. Heathcliff need not be characterized as the foreigner, the outcast, the servant, and the lesser being. He discovered in death that there was a latent goodness residing within himself. This part was untouched by the atrocities of the earth, but rather buried deep within the layers of rage that had accumulated in the past years.
United with his love at last, away from the impediments of the cruel earth, he was finally able to settle down and nestle in the comforting knowledge of an eternity of a peaceful detachment, and tranquil sleep.
Door 3: Unearthing Castle Dracula
I left them sitting silently, locked in each other’s embrace, content with the closeness after being separated for so long. This was the final image I had of Catherine and Heathcliff before I departed Wuthering Heights.
In the open expanse of the moors, with the wind softly rippling with sweet melodies and the trees humming in tune, an apparition in the form of a trapdoor appeared in the ground. I knew that this was my next calling. Without hesitation, I opened the door to my next adventure.
I was a silent resident in Castle Dracula, observing events as they unfolded. I was not the average resident however; I had access to the most discreet corners of the castle, which facilitated my journey to uncovering the truth about Dracula. I wanted to know the human under the exterior of the monster.
Sunk within the invisibility of the castle walls, a figure clad in black, I blended in with the darkness of the castle. I watched him stay up late one night, waiting for sunrise. There was no denying the hope that glistened in his dark eyes; it radiated with childlike anticipation. Hoping and expecting something that is far out of reach. I saw him slowly creep towards the light. His pale skin would have blended well with the sunlight, but he immediately refracted from contact with the light, hissing as the brightness scorched his skin. This is the price he had to pay for eternity. An unending spiral of agony and distress.
There was a firmness about his appearance, a lack of flexibility, like everything was set in stone, unable to progress beyond the rigid lines that circled his aged face. When Jonathan Harker arrived at the castle, an unhealthy grin circled Dracula’s face. I could tell that Jonathan noticed something eerie about the Count’s manner, but perhaps he dismissed it for paranoia. It was clear as glass from my perspective. This tall, gaunt, aged man inspired a macabre ambience. He plagued those around him with trepidation and agitation. With his raised eyebrows, the Count was deep in contemplation, calculating how he was to go about feasting on Jonathan’s flesh. Jonathan shuddered as the Count made his way towards him. Something was amiss. The Count moved in an unnatural manner. With his long, black cloak, his gliding movements suggested that he was elevated off the ground.
This is the price that the Count had to pay for eternity. To have all shrink in fear merely by his presence. I proceeded to think. What did the Count find so fascinating about a long-lived life? Never dying. Always the one to bear the loss of a loved one. Did he even have any “loved ones” anymore? Had he ever? My fascination was spiked. I proceeded to follow his every move, determined to uncover the great mystery of Count Dracula.
I came to a possible conclusion.
Freedom. Liberty. Emancipation.
This unrestrained access to life – “life” is not defined in the conventional sense here – giving way to a fluidity that can only be accessed by the promise of eternity. Overcoming the boundaries of the fragile human constitution. The limitation of being susceptible to illness and death is no longer a fear. There is only the open vastness of a world undiscovered, of knowledge to be acquired, and the restless pursuit of vigor. Chasing life at its optimal point.
As I continued to shadow the Count, I made some additional discoveries. Death is a thought-provoking subject to contemplate; sometimes out of fear, other times out of genuine fascination. With Dracula, I was able to learn what it truly means to breach the natural workings of the universe, and somehow conquer death, the great force that has kept mankind constrained all their life. There is no denying the sense of powerfulness that accompanies such an accomplishment. Dracula’s fiendish inclinations cannot be discredited, but it is also important to recognize how humans have engaged in their own fair share of heinous deeds. Humans are not perfect either; they carry their own demons with them as well, they just hide these monsters better.
This observation led me to a more profound detection. The unseen reflection in the mirror is a stark illustration of the un-reality that I have found myself in. Is he even real? Or did I somehow expunge this creature out of my darkest imagination. Have I breached the bounds of sanity?
Door 4: Undecided
Once again, I found myself in the great big labyrinthine hall, surrounded by various routes and possible destinations. From where I was standing, the possible pathways resembled branches extending from a tree. Absentmindedly, I proceeded to one of the doors on my left, but I froze midway in the task. Perhaps it would be wiser to choose another door. The one on the right? This internal debate lasted for about 15 minutes, my mind unable to tolerate the prospect of making the wrong choice. I finally solved my indecision by closing my eyes and going inside the first door I touched.
The lights dimmed to blackness, and I was suddenly being plunged into an abyss. It was like I was going down a spiral staircase, round and round until my mind collapsed and my thoughts evaporated into nothingness. When this endless process of falling was concluded, I landed on the ground, miraculously unhurt. I then felt the ground shaking under my feet and the walls closing in, trapping me in a claustrophobic position. The ground cracked and expanded, bleeding into another surface layer. All of a sudden, everything was upside down.
Perhaps these strange occurrences are best described by envisioning a plot of sand. In the colossal open space of the beach, the wind gently sways the grains of sand one way and then another, so that the shapes on the ground are in a constant state of reconfiguration. This constant state of changeability resembles my unstable mind. Like a rubber band, ideas are being stretched thin in my head to the point of incomprehension so that nothing makes sense anymore. This subjugation has left me in an asphyxiated state, unable to breathe.
The menial task of decision making is becoming too much for me to be able to bear. It weighs heavily on my mind like a sinking ship; the only way to go is down and I cannot resist any longer. I am the sea, and these ideas are pressing heavily on my head, burdening me with constant decision making. There must be some way to alleviate myself from this excruciating pain that dwells in my mind.
Perhaps it’s best to separate this duality by physically separating one mind from another. I appealed to this notion by evoking the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:
Although Dr. Jekyll assumed a broad, strait-laced figure, Mr. Hyde shrunk in comparison, assuming the figure of a small, shrivel man whose appearance suggested something of a deformity. The stooping figure was a clear demonstration of all that is wanting. Yet, it was quite difficult to pinpoint exactly what Mr. Hyde’s faults were. It was something about the air that he radiated to those around him. When he smiled, he stirred up a sense of discomfort so that everyone was left to agitate in fear. There was something about this creature that was unnatural and uncanny, enough to inspire a fiendish aspect to his demeanor. Whilst Dr. Jekyll bathed in the decorum of upper-class English society, Mr. Hyde dwelled in the darkness, making a home amongst the vilest of creatures.
As Dr. Jekyll frequented the deadly potion, Mr. Hyde began to overpower his thoughts, taking over his rationale and poisoning all the good that remained. Dr. Jekyll’s justification for his experiment is that it gave him peace of mind. He had to find a way to separate the duality that resided within him. When he swallowed the potion, and dressed himself in Mr. Hyde’s demeanor, he was able to find an outlet for his debased inner desires, and isn’t that something that people look for, a sense of consistency? To ease one’s mind from the battering thoughts? To alleviate oneself from the burden of indecision? The only explanation is to envision a split in personality, left and right separated in different directions. You either follow one route or another. Yet, I find myself looking for a middle ground. I decide to take the imagined route.