His Dark Materials

Written by Jia Zhang


The sunlight burns through his eyelids, reaching some place deep inside of him. His mind tingles at the thought of morning, but his body does not move—he is born from the soil, part of the earth. His body is melted inside of the charcoal, ashen flesh of the rough ground. Beneath his finger tips he can feel the grains of rocks and stone. He holds a small pebble between the tips of his finger, and runs his thumb over the hard fragment. It is a small bone of Earth—a small piece of something utterly dead. There is no life in it. He places it back onto the ground; it's the only motion his body makes, because, he thinks, he is like Her, dead as well.

He doesn't want to wake, but the light reaches into him, and draws him up from beneath the darkness of his mind.

He lifts his hand and covers his eyes; he slowly opens them, his irises meeting the bright pink and red of his hand. The sun shines through the flesh. It is morning, he is aware. It has been a long time since morning, and he has forgotten if the concept even exists at all—it is just a rotation, he thinks, of planets orbiting in a circular motion, traveling at incredible, secret speeds around a bright orb of fire. Everything is subject to gravity's command: it is the enigmatic god of mathematics.

He pushes himself up from the ground with his free hand; his body scraps against the coarse skin beneath him. He sits up straight, his eyes still hidden from the light—his clothes feel awkward and alive, as if he were inside the embrace of a synthetic cocoon. He blinks, and slowly parts his hand away from his eyes; the ground is cold against him, but he only fears the sun.

The brightness burns him—he wills night to fall. His vision begins to focus, and he sees nothing before him. He inhales a deep breath of air; it is of a liquid coolness, tender and soft inside of him. He is comforted. He sits, contemplating the emptiness that meets his vision. For it is all an barren womb of nothingness, a vast ocean of charred earth and soil, much like the boned-shell of an ageless reptile. He sees only a wide passage of blue, no cloud of white in site. A large star blazes in the sky, and that is all. He is in between Gaea and Uranus, and it is only the prologue of their courtship.

He is unsure of the where of everything. He ponders if he is in a strange continuum, entrenched in the vacuum of his wake.

For he dreams—he dreams of a world with things. He dreams, and he dreamt, and he is awake, and he has forgotten the contents of Morpheus' gift. He does not remember: he thinks he may remember of what happened. So he stands, his feet bare against the tepid soil, this impregnable womb that is a living grave. And he stands, and wills his legs to move, and into this wild abyss he begins his journey.

He thinks he has walked a thousand miles across a thousand continents, seeing of neither sea nor shore. The hourglass stands still, and he is in eternity. He has an ad infinitum of question, none of which he remembers. He is beset only by his ponders, which are quick and faint, and drifts away easily with the wind. He is trying to remember the dream.

He marches onward, a steadfast soldier with tin arms and legs. He feels little of atrophy and the ire of his bones. He is master of flesh and blood, an obedient servant to this wandering he calls Time. He gives it a name, and therefore it is so.

The bright star flourishes in the loveliness of the luminous blue. He looks up, and shields the violence of the light from his eyes with his hand. The majesty of that star beams down upon him, and a memory from the dream crashes against him. He envisions a girl with fantastic Sapphire eyes made of gemstones and hair of a dark, passionate red. He suddenly recalls the sound of her laughter, the image of her smile—it is a linger essence, and he can evoke many details (the lingering scent of her dress, the feel of her fingertips as she grazed her hand against his, and the echo of her voice as it reverberated through him), but she is still clouded in a fog.

He knows naught of lighthouses.

He continues onward, for that is all he knows right now—it is a pulsating, singular notion that eats at his eyes and ears and nose and lips and tongue.

And he can do nothing more than walk against this fragile surface.

He knows nothing of his destination.

He finds himself a victim of mystery.

The music of the wind travels around him—it is a soft, humming melodic song that he isn't sure he remembers, whether it is just the magic of his imagination, or the recollection of something real. He thinks that long ago, his mother used to sing him a tune, a lullaby of words and whispers. An icon of red, gray and blue flashes before him; he glimpses two bird fly before his eyes, one of ash and one of azure, but realizes quickly it is only a piece of his memories. It is a pair of birds, he thinks, with ruby eyes and they are beautiful, he believes, and he moves on.

He suddenly realizes he is afraid to let himself think, to remember of what it is he knows naught. He is unsure if this is the beginning of the story or the ending—his plot is missing in volumes. He stops, and clutches his hands into fists, and shuts his eyes from the world.

What is it that he is supposed to know, he cries to himself in muteness.

He can't remember the dream—he will not let himself, he realizes.

Terror is a spider in his heart, crawling deep into his stomach and making a home out of silk.

He crashes onto the earth, his knees pressing firmly into the ground. He bleeds out his rage, and screams into the fringe of nothingness of this wild abyss. He stood on the brink, and without so much as care, determined in his way, he opens his eyes to the blinding star in the sky. And he looked awhile, pondering of his long voyage, of his dream—the light burns his irises, and tears trail down his cheek. The glow of the star cuts through him, far down into the glorious dark caverns within him, and realization floods his senses.

Shinji remembers—of beginnings and ends, of middles, and the metaphors of his mother's songs and the allegory of his father's stories. He remembers of girls and boys, the red of his eyes, the paleness of her skin, splendors of laughter, and the lingers and legacy of those who had loved him.

He abruptly understands.

He is the world and all this is his dark materials, to dream and make of more worlds.

He is God.

—for Shinji is God, for his dreams give birth to beginnings and ends, and he himself is the creator of his own precious Eden.

He smiles, and lays back down against the ground. He gazes one last time at the magnificent sun, and closes his eyes once more. He meets the darkness, and welcomes the hand of this old friend.

He begins to sleep.

He begins to dream.

He begins to make the world.


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