He (Pirx) hadn't got over his surprise when he discovered that his body, his face - everything - was gone. Not what one would call a pleasant feeling; on the contrary, it was terrifying. Slowly but surely, he was dissolving into this water, whose presence was as unreal to him as his own body. Even his heart beat faded. He listened intently. Nothing. Silence engulfed him (...)
The situation went from bad to worse. The darkness in which he was submerged - which he embodied - began teeming, flickering with dimly incandescent circles swirling about on the periphery. He swiveled his eyeballs and was consoled, though it wasn't long before this feeling eluded him as well.
The sum of all these sensations - the flickering lights, the monotonous drone - was a harmless prelude, a trifle, compared to what came next. (...)
He was disintegrating not into different personalities but into a manifold terror. Of what he didn't know. He was residing neither in reality (how could he without a body to perceive it?) nor in a dream (he was too conscious of where he was, of his own responses, to be dreaming). No, it was something else, not comparable to anything he'd ever experienced, not even to an alcoholic or narcotic stupor. (...)
He felt scattered, diffused. Up, down, right, and left no longer meant anything to him. Where was the ceiling? He couldn't remember. How could he? Without a body, without eyes, he had lost all sense of direction. (...)
He tried to summon up some sense of time, kept repeating the word "time." It was like munching on a wad of paper. Time was a senseless glob. It was not he who was repeating the word, but someone else, some intruder who had wormed his way inside him. Or he inside him. And that someone was enlarging, swelling, transcending all boundaries. He was traveling through unfathomable interiors, a ballooning, preposterous, elephantine finger - not his own, not a real finger, but a fictitious one, coming out of nowhere ... sovereign, overwhelming, rigid, full of reproach and silly innuendo (...)
Poof! The finger disappeared. Pirx spun, spiraled, plummeted like a rock. Tried to scream but couldn't.
Scintillating shapes - faceless, spherical, gaping, dispersing every time he tried to confront them - advanced, bore down on him, swelled his insides ... He was a thin-walled, membranous receptacle, strained to the bursting point.
He exploded - splattered into random and disjointed fragments of night, which fluttered aimlessly in space like flakes of charred paper. Throughout this flurry of oscillating movements there was the awareness of some terrific exertion of will, some last-ditch effort to traverse the realm of murky oblivion that had once been his own body but was now reduced to an insensate, chilling nothingness - to reach out and touch someone, to catch one final glimpse of him ...
(...) The words spun around until they were emptied of their meaning. Then it started up again: the slow dismemberment, the breaking up, the crumbling apart of everything like gray, water-soaked tissue, melting like a snowcapped peak warmed by the sun. Swept up by it, he was freighted passively away.
I'm a goner, he thought in earnest, convinced that this was death (...)
During his last glimmer of consciousness he mustered the strength to groan - feeble and distant, the sound was like a radio signal from another planet. (...)
He was not in any physical discomfort. If only it had hurt! If only he could have experienced a twinge of real pain, the kind that bestows limits, presence, confirmation of self ... But it was painless, a numbing surge of nothingness. (...)
Whine? Moan? How could he? He was dead. Extinct. Defunct. Look: he was a hole, a sieve, a labyrinth of tortuous caves and passages, transparent, porous ... Oh, why hadn't they told him it would be like this? Cold and clammy streams ... they were running through him ... freely ... without obstruction ... The bastards! Why hadn't they told him?
Soon the sensation of airy transparency gave way to raw fear, and it persisted - even after the darkness, convulsed by shimmering spasms, had vanished.
The worst was yet to come, but it defied description, even clearer recollection; there was no vocabulary for it. (...)
Pirx had to undergo still more punishment. He would vanish for a while, then return to life, not singly but in multiple versions; have his brain eaten completely away, then recover long enough to be plunged into a series of abnormal states too intricate to articulate, whose leitmotif was a conscious and ineradicable terror transcending time and space. (...)
Lem Stanislaw. (1979). Tales of Pirx, the Pilot. Translated by Louis Iribarne. Avon Books, N.Y. PP.44-48.
Last updated: 2001/08/17