Awareness is an odd thing. One is tempted at all times to draw a fine, bright line between the time when there was no awareness, and the time where there was. Unfortunately, awareness is seldom so neatly defined. Even in the most extreme cases, there is a disconnect between when reality reveals itself and the mind recognizes and accepts that reality. Think of the crash victim who recalls the violence of an accident as something he witnessed rather than experienced, or the cuckold spouse who has all the evidence of unfaithfulness before him, yet cannot comprehend the betrayal.

By my loose reckoning it required nearly half a millennia to understand what I was and even longer to fully accept it. The evidence was there almost from the very beginning, but I was too addled, too primitive in my thoughts and emotions to comprehend my uniqueness.

Consider the following:

I came in to consciousness naked, swathed in furs, uncomprehending as an old woman bathed a wound in my scalp. She spoke to me in gibberish. All of this is very simple, very primitive- I had no language, no internal dialogue with which to make sense of what I was experiencing. The memories are jumbled, almost abstract- impressions of occurrence rather than narrative recollections. I remember Gtochk, the sour odor of thin brew on his breath, rolling me to my back, dumb and uncomprehending as he opened my thighs and taught me the first lesson that would guide me in my relationships with men for nearly three thousand years. I must have learned that lesson well for he named me his Precious Flower and kept me by his side for many winters despite my fruitless womb.

Gtochk’s people told tales. From them I learned that I was taken in a chance encounter with a wandering band, but the details were sparse, or else my recollection is poor. When famine threatened I was sold to another clan where my existence was more wretched as there was no one man to protect me, but I was desirable so I could survive by playing on the lusts of the younger men.

That which made me acceptable to men made me despised amongst women, but I was a hard worker as well and able to ingratiate myself to some small degree, deflecting the worst of the animosity by taking the most arduous and unpleasant tasks without complaint. It was always a selling point when I traded hands for my childlessness could not be concealed: no one willingly parted with healthy and desirable woman unless she was barren. I was sold as whore and beast of burden many times over and it never occurred to me to resent it. It was the way of life for me.

The first hint came the day an odd traveler guested in the roundhouse of my master, a man small and swarthy with a lilting cant to his voice. I was sent to entertain his bed for he had found favor with our chief and shaman, no small feat at a time when strangers were habitually slain. In the dwindling light of fading firelight, in the idle talk after pleasures taken he asked my age and I could not tell him for I could barely count beyond my fingers and toes. He taught me the basic skill of counting (incidentally doubling my value in years to come) and I totaled the winters I could remember, then lied and told him thirty-three because one hundred and thirty-three seemed a ridiculous number. Even then I understood instinctively that honesty would not serve me well in that regard. To be unusual was ill advised.

A second clue. For the first time I was turned out in to the cold of winter- food was short, I was a luxury, and there were no buyers. I knew enough of the basic skills of survival to find shelter and fire, and I did not starve though there was little of nourishment to be found. I slept through much of that time, rousing only when fortune brought some prey close enough for my sling to fell. When spring arrived I knew better than to seek out those who had abandoned me to the wilderness. I struck out on my own and passed ten winters in solitude- the first of many such interludes over the centuries. By then I was counting myself at nearly three hundred and I wailed to the sky, pleading to know why. What had I done to deserve such misery?

A hunting party gathered me in, a fair bit of prey for their entertainment. I could have eluded them. Perhaps I could have killed them as I had become quite skilled with my small bow. But I hungered for the company of people, even for the brutal lust of men, and in the end they were not so brutal, being amenable to my charms. I entered again in to the dangerous game.

I knew I was older than anyone I had knowledge of. There were myths and tales of ancient ones, but they offered nothing to me. Those of legend had power, what had I but a comely form and a strong back? Every new clan, every new cult, and every new god I preyed to, sacrificed to, pleaded with. I sought deliverance, and end to this pointless existence. Yet it never occurred to me to deliberately attempt to put an end to my life by my own hand. It was just as well.

The final clue, the one that crystallized my understanding, came after many decades of dwelling with people. Another terrible winter after a terrible harvest. The man who called me his own led me out in to the wild in the company of one of the elder women and I thought I was to be turned out again. I had seen this coming of course, so I had a good idea of where I would go, but something was wrong. He was tense, far more upset than I would have expected and the woman, Katka, radiated a certain malevolent pleasure that I at first attributed to my departure- she despised me, and she was a vicious, vindictive sort.

“Far enough,” she said, and I looked to my man, then gasped as Katka’s wiry arms seized my own, drawing them up and back behind me, “This is the end of the trail for you!” she laughed in my ear.

“I don’t understand!” I cried, but then I saw the blade. I looked in to his eyes; saw his unhappiness, his determination as he reached for me, pulling open my cloak and my tunic to expose my chest. I smiled at him. “It’s better this way,” I whispered, “strike true.”

I could feel Katka’s disappointment. She had so wanted to hear me beg for my life. I trembled in fear and excitement, an intensely sexual thrill coursing through my body as I lifted my head, arching my spine to offer a clearer target. I could feel the conflict rising in him, but Katka broke the spell.

“Do you expect me to hold her forever? Do it!”

“Makta!” he cried, and his fist lunged forward, plunging the blade in to my chest, the edge perpendicular to my breastbone, entering inside the curve of my left breast, seeking and finding my heart in an expert stroke. It did not even hurt; rather it drove the breath from me, my chest collapsing inward from the force of the blow. Breath would not come and my knees buckled as Katka released me, letting me drop to my knees as he stepped back, drawing the knife from my chest. Vision wavered as I saw crimson stained snow, then I could support myself no longer, falling forward in to the cold and darkness, a throbbing, pulsating roar of sound filling my ears as their voices receded. I embraced the darkness, welcomed it, invited it to envelope and consume me, erase me, make an end to this, to everything…

Cold and pain and aching pressure in my chest dragged me from the embrace of the nothingness I craved. My body shook and I could feel the thin stream of air torturously drawn in to my lungs, slowly filling me with breath, then a wracking, agonizing coughing exhalation; thick, vile goo spitting from my throat, fouling my mouth, forcing me to full awareness. Hands sought purchase, trembling arms lifted me and another breath entered me, much easier now that the clotted blood and mucus had been expelled, then made its exodus in a scream of rage and anguish. I probed at my chest with numb fingers- the wound was barely perceptible.

Cold, and starving, and betrayed I tried to stand, but slipped and fell back, landing across a frozen hump in the snow. Rolling over I struggled to my knees, feeling fur under my bare hands. Uncomprehending I swept aside the snow to reveal… Katka? She was on her back, but her head was twisted, her neck quite emphatically broken, shock frozen on her face. In my state I was unable to appreciate the irony of it all. I began tearing at her clothing, stripping the furs from her frozen body, wrapping myself in a desperate attempt to shelter myself from the biting cold. And through it all the gnawing ache in my belly grew stronger, more insistent, a scent touching my nostrils through the dry, frosty air: tantalizing, intoxicating. Raw meat.

“I don’t think so!” I shrieked in to the coming darkness. Not that cannibalism was new to me: it happened, on occasion. But Katka, and uncooked? No.

Forcing myself to my feet I sought my bearings and set out west… but stopped after only three steps. I could not think, could not force my feet to move, my body trembling violently as the hunger became like fire within me, warming me even as it sapped my strength further. I felt under my garments for the knife I had secreted there what felt like an age ago. I drew it out and turned- Katka’s body lay stretched out in the snow.

After all, what difference did it make? He had left us to be food for beasts. I sank down beside the body- once the decision was made I wasted no time. The knife bit in to the frozen meat of the thigh, cutting, tearing at the tough flesh until a strip came free. The first mouthful was the hardest. The meat was grainy and tough, and so cold it was tasteless, at least at first. After that it did not matter what it tasted like: I fed like a starved animal…

I had a small cave in mind- easy to seal off from the wind, if not terribly roomy, and far enough from the village to avoid being detected. I dragged Katka’s carcass behind me, my mind fixed solely upon my destination and reaching it before dark. The sky cleared offering bright moonlight to make the last leg of the trek possible, but the temperature plummeted as well. The cave was south facing, really just a depression in the hillside, but I had spied it years before and any time I had a chance I had done my best to prepare it against need: there was wood and flint and soon there was a fire.

Katka’s frozen, colorless eyes regarded me from the edge of the circle of firelight.

“You don’t know how lucky you are, old woman. And how did you wind up dead, anyhow? Did you put him up to killing me? You always hated me, so I guess that’s probably what happened. I’ll bet you just laughed a little too loud, and now there you are, and here I am. You know, if I could give you back your life and take your place out there, I’d do it. But since I can’t… if it’s any consolation, you taste terrible.”

The fire snapped and muttered at me, only just blunting the bitterness of the winter night. I was alone in a way I had never truly allowed myself to understand before. When he produced that knife I was so certain that finally, finally this would end. Instead here I was, with only flames and the dead for company.

7 Responses to “Awareness”

  1. MD,

    Your time with the tribe of Gtochk…didn’t you ask anyone about your beginnings? Was it not important, or was it too late by the time you figured out what you are? The point is moot, because those people are long dead and buried. Being that your earliest memories are of an old woman trying to clean a head wound that was inflicted upon you leads me to believe that your age will be undetermined forever, unless somehow your origins are discovered. There is little chance of that. I can’t imagine the pain that you must endure. For me, it would be the not knowing from where I came from. You remember 3500 years, but I would bet that your age is probably a multiple of that time. I don’t mean to inflict mental pain on you, so please don’t think that is my intention. I think that like me, so many others that read your blog are fascinated with your situation. You have to expect some pretty tough questions and observations. No doubt you have asked these things of yourself over the centuries. I really don’t have too many questions, because you have covered most of my questions in your previous blogs. The last few entries between you, Yeti, and Loren were quite interesting. I really don’t know what to say to either of those comments. Like the Yeti, I have read some of Sitchin’s books. All of human history is incomplete, as is your story. I will continue to read your “ramblings” and comment from time to time. Keep posting.


  2. It was not as simple as asking, Joe. I entered in to that situation tabula rasa, devoid of any understanding of language, people, myself, existence. I was in a very confused state for the majority of my time with them, which was less than twenty years by my best recollection. When I could ask, and I certainly did, the answers were lacking detail. The other men who had been part of the party that gathered me in were dead. Also, please understand that I am deliberate in leaving out details others might latch on to in an attempt to trace my past. If I wished such detailed examination I would endow a team of historians, archeologists and sociologists to handle the task. I have the resources at hand, should that be my desire.

    You are correct, by the way. The question of my origin repeatedly returns to the center of my attentions to this very day. I am beginning to believe that is why I began this site- to seek out alternate ideas in a forum most conducive to wild speculation and some form of semi-free association. I dislike some of the notions put forward, but I am certainly in no position to reject anything out of hand.

    I shall continue writing until it offers me no further reward.

  3. Perhaps the impulse that led you to writing is not to reward yourself, but others, or another.

    I find it remarkable how quickly you found your online voice.

    I know my reward from blogging. It makes me think. Your situation made me go back and read. I’ve spent two weeks now reading the Epic of Gilgamesh before I sleep, hoping to understand what always just seemed as terrible translations of bad writing.

    I just hope I find my answers before my time runs out. You have been noncommittal about your purpose. Perhaps it is the shortened life that leads to purpose. Perhaps knowing how little time one has makes one push early for something we place value on.

    And yet, you have and presumably have no problem “ending” those who are but animals.

    Have you become more fixed in your beliefs through the millennia, or are you still pleasantly surprised when you see the best of human kindness?

  4. I doubt I can adequately express how mortals appear to me. I despise that term, but in this case it is the only mode via which I can precisely define my meaning. Loren understands this best. I see a man on the street. I note his regard of me, how long his gaze lingers, the angle of his head, the dilation of his pupils, the blush upon his cheeks, the tempo of his breath, the gait of his step, the scent of his sweat, the motions of his jaw, the tension in his crotch, the quiver of his fingers, his closeness to those about him… these are but the barest taste of the totality of my regard. Can you not comprehend this? I can separate the Beasts from the Humans, and I only act in very, very rare cases.

    I wager there are many you count as friends, my precious Yeti, whom I would scatter as living chaff on the winds of evolution. Of those, perhaps I might, should my own path permit, choose to attempt to save or to excise.

    Do not attribute to me altruistic motives. I kill when I can those who deserve death. Many pass me by on a daily basis that should never draw another breath, but are spared due to my love of ease and pleasure. I am a harsh arbiter, and I do not suffer fools gladly. Fortunately for fools these days I value my own comfort and security. Killing Clayton taught me this.

    As to the beauty of humanity… that is what gives me hope. Were it not for the promise I see in those who would spend their precious lives and those of their sons and daughters to shatter the chains of repression binding others I would have long ago descended into the misanthropy Loren embraces so openly.

    Perhaps my existence is simply a tool to open Loren’s eyes?

    Who am I to say? By my own account I am a whore, murderess, and opportunist, little more than a somewhat cleverer animal than thee. Remember that should you seek to place my regard above others.

  5. Ha. You don’t scare me. You’re just a big cuddly teddy bear, waiting for the right man to love. Ha!

    Oh. that was fun.

    I might take you up on gamble, except then I’d have to admit who I considered more beast than man.

    There is the thought that much of the genetic material in the world has little purpose but that of breeding.

    Which is why it seems such a shame to waste purpose when one has it.

    Regard? Interesting to watch your speech patterns change like that.

    I’ve always wondered about warnings. They aren’t meant for the person they’re given to. Someone who is going to pay attention doesn’t need one. You say you have no altruisitic motives, and yet you value loyalty with your friends, few as they may be.

    So is the humanity the act, or did you strike Clayton down out of a need to kill? A need to do something, to be something…

    If you were truly above the fray, you would not care. The question now is whether you believe you kill to improve the species, or out of bitterness at your fate.

  6. Let me take the obvious example of Clayton, since he is the only one I have described in any detail. Clayton was an on-going irritant, but that was not enough. Clayton treated women in general like property. He treated black women like less than property. He reveled in the failure of others. He despised industry that did not directly benefit him and in his ongoing search to increase his wealth and influence he actively sought the destruction of the fortunes of others. He was not a “robber baron” and never would have been a man of any great influence for he was too much the slave of his impulses over which he had very little control. He tried to rape me. He died at my hand.

    What motivated me? I had made a decision that I would kill him if I could, but even on that fateful day had he simply mounted his horse and ridden off he would have lived. He could not do that and I killed him for it. The notion to make the attempt was taken in haste. The final execution was a set of deliberate actions that offered him the chance to escape.

    The idea that I take action in order to compensate for my own fate is interesting and has occurred to me before. The odd part is that my actions are so few and far between, lacking any real pattern other than clear opportunity to act. In Clayton’s case I was coming off a time of somewhat manic behavior and I suspect that influenced my decision to some degree. Being hanged affected me profoundly- it was some eighty years before I fully understood it.

    As for love, I avoid it if at all possible. The personal consequences are too dire.

    I realize that this answers nothing. My apologies.

  7. The above comments were first posted 09/01/2003, 09/01/2003, 09/01/2003, 09/01/2003, 09/03/2003, and 09/09/2003, respectively, prior to being posted here again today.