Chronicles from the future: The Northam-Jaeger Relationship & Confessions
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August 20 th
This morning they removed my bandages. When a gentleman came to see me, not for the first time, whom I now know as Ilector Jaeger, my face lit up! He gave me a firm handshake and with obvious joy he praised and congratulated the older physician. I didn’t know that eighteen years ago, Jaeger had been Andrew Northam’s teacher. From what they explained to me, this now famous and widely celebrated spiritual man, this “eminent thinker”, whose work has now been widely read and whose lectures at the Reigen * are attended by thousands, back then was still unknown to the public. He contributed towards young Northam’s education for four years, wholeheartedly offering him the care and affection of a spiritual father.
Then they became caught up in life’s responsibilities and they each went their separate ways.
When the superior Ilectors discovered who had stood by Northam’s side as a teacher and a guardian in his early years, they called upon him and asked him if he could dedicate some time to him again in the afternoons. And it was very moving to see the now middle-aged thinker coming alone, without the escort of the Unjie*, and devoting his precious time to convey the same childhood learning to the same person —now a twenty-eight-year-old man —who, physically at least, resembled his spiritual son of two decades ago. What’s more, as they informed me, he had unexpectedly been resurrected—but as a completely different man, disturbed and half deranged—after his fifteen-minute trip to the land of the dead. I remember how delighted Jaeger was when Professor Molsen told him that the freezing process had been done hastily but just in time. His brain hadn’t suffered the slightest impairment.
August 21 st
Today, for the first time, Jaeger was accompanied by Stefan, Andrew’s closest friend and three years his senior. He is an earnest young man; I truly took a liking to him.
Jaeger let him observe the lesson for a while. Then I showed him my first writings. I had already started to write and I continued writing in his presence. I thought he’d be impressed by the fact that I had recovered my writing skills even from the first days, but Jaeger had already informed him about my past research on Ibsen, about which I had talked to him as well.
“This is not Andrew’s handwriting,” was the only thing Stefan said.
Apart from the superior Ilectors, only four other people knew about Northam’s unique case: the two physicians, Ilector Jaeger and Stefan. I pleaded with Jaeger to keep it a secret and to not let me become an object of curiosity in the eyes of the whole world. He promised, but he also added something that I didn’t understand: “The Valley of the Roses will have the last word; it’s up to them to decide how long this will be kept a secret from the rest of the world.”
As for Stefan, he will start coming regularly in a few days; he has got a lot to teach me about Northam and his life. He says that I need to know all that before I expose myself to this new world. The words that Jaeger said, shortly before Stefan’s departure, come to mind: “In any case, Andrew Northam’s family and friends will seek him out. Since the news of his recovery has become known, what’s going to stop him from going back to his normal life?”
When we were left alone, I asked Jaeger to tell me what the Ilectors had been saying about all this and I told him what happened that night when the young physician saw me crying at the thought of my mother. “Try to put yourself in my shoes for a moment because, trust me, in such a bizarre and grotesque situation it’s worth considering both sides. Your course of life flows normally and unobstructed, at the same pace as always. For you, Northam is the one who’s changed. For you, this is a case of “personality shift” of a man who was revived after fifteen minutes of clinical death. A very rare parapsychological phenomenon associated with language switching. Your friend is a man who once was one of yours and now speaks a dead language. But I haven’t changed at all. What I see is a piece of the future. Taking that into consideration, how can I not think that I’ve lost my mind? That I’ve gone mad?”
I was sobbing uncontrollably. I was utterly at sea because I could not believe that in there might be the slightest rift in the solid axes of time and space that I knew. The rift had to be somewhere inside me. I had to be the paranoid one!
“Only you can tell me the truth. If it’s been two thousand years, like the young physician told me, then I’m going mad. You can’t imagine how fresh, how recent the memory of going to sleep is in my mind; it feels like yesterday. I could hear my mother’s breathing; she was sleeping in the next room. I can almost see the basin of water next to my bed and the fringed towel with the blue-green embroidery on it. It’s like she is in front of me right now.”
I stared at him in agony, but Jaeger made no attempt to avoid my gaze. He could understand most of my German. “I don’t think,” he said holding his gaze steady, “that hiding even the tiniest vestige of truth from you will help still your heart but, trust us, we know much more than you do. We don’t live in the times of Descartes and Kant anymore. Many things have changed. But not everything can be measured solely on the basis of the intellect and constricts of the mere human brain. Are you absolutely sure, for example, that at the time you went to sleep, as you say, Andrew Northam did not yet exist? And are you absolutely sure that, right at this moment, your mother has ceased to exist?”
His incredible response struck me less than it would have a few days ago when it would have seemed inconceivable for me to process. Now, what brought tears to my eyes was the way this great man spoke to me, in such a different manner from the physicians. And he talked to me in my own tongue…
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Copyright Achilleas Syrigos. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be republished.