Chronicles from the Future: The truth about his sickness - March and April 1923
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March 20 th 1923
Here we go again. The slight breathlessness and the small but gradual rise of fever every night have returned with the same hostile intentions, with the same malevolent persistence; hints of small and sneaky cracks inside me. The end is near. I have to deal with it now. The need to get all these things out of my system becomes more imperative by the second. At an age when other people feel young and plan ahead, I will die, having a mercilessly intolerable moral burden inside me.
Everyone in my hometown knows that the doctors were wrong to believe that the disease that tortured me for 14 days back in 1917 wouldn’t come back to torture me again. It came back once more and not for a couple of weeks like before but for approximately twelve months. They remember rushing me to Zurich in mid-May 1921 and me looking like a dead man. Everybody there knows it. What they don’t know, however, is that the first time I recovered I didn’t remember anything from the time of my sickness - for me it was as if I had lost touch with myself and the world just for a second, not for two weeks. On the contrary, the second time I opened my eyes, I was filled with fresh, crystal clear memories of a real 360-day life; so recent and so vivid in my mind!
You can give whichever explanation fits you better – medical, scientific or whichever else - and I will accept them all. Just do not tell me it was a dream or a product of my imagination because you will have never been more wrong! There are things that the human mind doesn’t know or understand. Only if someone had put themselves in my shoes could they ever feel my absolute certainty. God be my witness; and I say God because he and he alone can see in the depths of my soul. And he knows how much I respect and cherish his name.
Listen to me, the truth cannot be covered. The signs are innumerable; first and foremost the passing of the time. When one has lived a certain reality for a certain amount of time, when they have seen and touched all these tangible things and their embossed details, it’s very hard to assert that it was all a dream and not an actual part of their real life. The same goes for my experience. It’s now been months since I re-found myself and the logical thing would be for these “memories” to have blurred or faded away. Well, I assure you that, never, throughout this period, have I doubted my firm conviction that all these things that happened to me were incidents of actual live experience and that I spent 360 days of real life in the distant future!
March 21 st 1923
I’m not feeling better. I think I’ve gotten worse from the surprising temperature drop over the past few days. This cough – which in the beginning I thought would pass - doesn’t seem to be leaving me alone. I didn’t like the look on the doctor’s face yesterday. But what else is there to tell me? If I am to die, let it be. After what I’ve experienced, what else remains for me to see? For as much life as I’ve got left, that will be my prayer and that will my soul await.
I remembered the myth of the white-haired hermit: back when he was young, his loved one took him out of the monastery after many years, and made him spend some time with her. Before she left, she put her emerald ring on the middle finger of his right hand. The hermit, woke up again in this life, among the shrubs where he had laid down on, believing he had seen a dream and that everything he remembered - the golden lampposts, the thick carpets he was walking on, her sweet kiss – was part of that dream. But after looking at his hand he shuddered; the ring was there. The other hermits confirmed it afterwards.
I’m sitting here, staring at my empty hands and I wonder, why can’t reality, no matter how distant in time, leave behind the slightest tangible sign, when a dream once could? But these things only happen in myths and legends. If, however, I could choose what tangible sign I’d like to find on me, last May, surrounded by the physicians of Zurich, it would be neither her emerald ring, nor her picture, nor any other of her precious little presents. You can make all the assumptions you want about me, but what I’d really wish to find would be my original manuscripts. (Note: this is a reference to the diary in the future, the one he tried to remember and write anew). That’s what’s been constantly messing with my mind. What happened to that diary? It took me a great amount of time - almost a year - and many sleepless nights to finish it. With true joy and genuine passion I put down on paper every single detail of what I had experienced during each day in the future . The memory of Andrew Northam, whose body I lived in, and of my manuscripts -“The Diary”- that I left behind, provokes a burning pain in my heart.
No, no! I must at all costs dismiss these disturbing thoughts from my mind - the belief that nothing is really irreversible in this universe and that we have no right to measure everything in the finite capabilities of our human mind. And after all, what do I have to worry about? One day, in a couple of thousand years’ time, Andrew Northam is going to write these pages himself!
My judgment is still clear enough to point out to me that these mistaken ideas are pushing me towards idleness and submission to my fate, my doom growing closer by the second. But I won’t fall into the trap. My heart might have been sick and challenged and pained but, thank God, my brain is still strong and working properly. You, my Lord, chose a humble, unimportant man, a man that went and is still going through a severe illness, to show him a small bit of your eternal secrets. It’s you who decides what needs to be done on every occasion; I know it, I believe it. So please, give me the strength to finish what I started and relieve my burdened heart. Let the paper become my confessor and my savior!
Tuesday, April 24th
A while ago, my landlady, this amazing woman, knocked on my door to see if I needed anything and make sure everything was all right. Well, you won’t believe it, but I felt this sudden urge to take her in my arms and deliver her the great news - that I most certainly can do it! Because once again, I was given the chance to verify how excellent my memory skills are. After all the hardships and the suffering, it’s still here! I managed to put down on paper, word by word, complete stanzas of poems that I had never read or heard in my life, before Silvia recited them to me, that unforgettable night under the stars.
So what can possibly keep me from re-writing my lost pages, my memories from the future? I can definitely do it now! Any doubt I might have from here on, will merely be an unsound hesitation that I will have to fight against.
I don´t mind this cough tearing my insides apart or this fever burning this obnoxious carcass of a body. All these are not sufficient to put a shadow over the excitement that the prospect of completing my work gives me! The time might be limited but this will be my “future” from now on; and it will be the joyful re-writing of the manuscripts which were once ready but left behind… The same fate that doomed me gave me, now, in the end, this unique chance and I’m convinced that I can remember it all, page by page, if not word by word.
I stayed up late tonight and enjoyed my new “happiness”. I’m ecstatic! Nothing will be lost; from now on my short life won’t be empty anymore. I’ve got a new reason to live it!
My case has nothing to do with inspiration and creation. I was never blessed with such gifts - and you can’t lose what you never had. My case is that of a traveler who never spoke about his adventures and who finally decided to break his silence.
I have no friends, my mother is dead. I’m completely alone in the world. So, whoever you are - you who somehow, one day, will end up with my manuscripts, be my friend and understand me. Do not laugh and do not mock me. I’ve been tried and tested a lot in life. Everything you read, I’ve seen with my own eyes - I’ve lived it, I’ve touched it, I believe and I worship it all!
I’m not going back to my home country. I made my decision. I don’t need any obligatory, superficial relationships with the neighbors. I just want to tell my story in the most precise way possible; and I want to tell it till the end! (From here onwards, Paul Dienach re-writes the diary that he kept in the future, trying to remember as accurately as possible whatever he had written in that diary)
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Copyright Achilleas Syrigos. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be republished.