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The Defect[]


Always more of a bodily demand than a desire of the brain or heart. All too many times have I dreamed of sleeping the rest of my existence away here. An eternal peace from the corroding waves and the incessant thinking. Dancing to the beat of my circadian rhythm, however, is the only option that has ever presented itself. I imagined that it was a cruel summer’s morning, with an onslaught of heat tearing its way through the building, fighting mercilessly until it is forced to retreat from the threat of the night. Of course, I never do get to feel the reprieve of daylight. The soft sprinkle of sunlight cascading across my skin, jumping from my forearm to my head and neck and leaving its sweet nectar is something that I have only ever been able to dream of. Morning is when I awake, and night is when I become weary; the only two constants that I have ever been able to rely on. As always, after a brief pause to orient myself from a slumber that seemed more akin to inter-dimensional travel than rest, I climbed to my feet and inspected my surroundings, surveying every minute detail for any level of change. Every morning, I pray that something will be different, that anything will be different, but always to no avail. It has long dawned on me that my prayers are unheard, but it has become more of a ritual rather than a plea for help, serving as a way to comfort myself in the face of the known unknown that I find myself in. As I began to trudge around, spending what seemed like hours mentally willing my legs to move, I finally managed to break out into a mere shuffle. I took a look at the same four walls that entombed me day after day. They always greeted me with the same intrinsic pattern etched into them, almost like a code begging me to be deciphered. It seemed like more of a taunting than a begging though, mocking my amnesia and daring me to delve into the murky depths of my memory. Looking out further into the corridor brought my eyes to meet the same ashen door, deriding me with its endless possibilities and tricking me into thinking that one day there may be a way out. Always the same corridor leading to the same doorway past the same four walls overlooking the same sea. I pounded on it for a few minutes, hoping to hear a cry out from the void, but was met only with the echoes of disappointment reverberating in my ear drums and telling me to-


Of course, I gave up almost immediately. Like a compulsion demanding to be fulfilled, I caved. What was driving me to listen to what seemed like auditory hallucinations brought about by my isolation in this cage, I could not muster a guess. I decided not to think about it, for I would be left with nothing but thinking shortly anyway. I allowed myself to go into autopilot and let my legs take me to my final destination: the screen door at the end of my abode overlooking the waves. With each step that I descended, the more awake I felt. The fresh ocean air wafting on the waves and projecting its fleeting fragrance into my nostrils drew me into something of a trance; just the smell alone seemed to fill me with life and a purpose for the day ahead. As I finally arrived at the screen door, which was always jammed open, acting almost as a gateway between worlds that was unsealable by any mortal force, the crashing of the waves brought me to a standstill. If not for an omniscient force driving me forward, I would have crumbled to my knees at the immense pressure of the sight before me. I stood firm and faced off against the dreary sky, which always seemed to look more pallid than blue, before casting my gaze downwards into the waves that laid before me.

Every morning, before I am taken by the waves, I tried to start with the things that I knew, the things that I was absolutely sure of, about myself, as well as this place. My hope was that my memory could be jolted somehow, and that I could add something to my list. I knew that the ashen door was impenetrable, that is a certainty. I knew that the weather never changed here; there’s no day or night cycle either. I knew that I could still feel emotion and I seemed human enough. I knew that I didn't have normal bodily functions, though. I had no desire to eat or to satiate my thirst yet sleep still befell me when I had exerted too much mental energy. My list had not changed for as long as I could remember, except for one thing. The waves. I knew about the waves. I knew what the waves had in store for me.

My peering soon turned into a fixed stare, like my eyes became magnetised to the waves. My peripheral vison began to muddy as I drifted outside the physical plane and prepared myself for yet another day. The waves began to ripple and contort, before eventually swirling into a sort of maelstrom that wasn’t quite corporeal. As the spiralling continued, I began to see another person, almost as if I was watching them through a tv screen. I started to ponder what kind of life I would see. What lessons would I learn, what entertainment would I be given? Every day I saw one new life almost in its entirety. The joyous moments, the heart wrenching failures. Sometimes I even found it…fun. Watching each person’s endeavours and trying to imagine how I would do it differently. Maybe I wouldn’t pursue that goal, maybe I’d put my time into this hobby instead. It seemed almost neurotic to take the sum of one’s life and to review it as if it were a movie, but this place never gave me another option. Even if I wanted to resist the pull of the maw, to try and live my days out in silent isolation, I don’t think it would let me. With everything around me so foreign, so vast and rich with possibilities that I was unable to achieve, I began to find comfort in the cycles of their lives. Their routines, all so similar: sleep and eat and work and play and love and then die. With the first few lives that I ever watched, I would imagine that they were my neighbours. The sweet elderly couple living on the floor below me, always baking something so exotic that I could almost smell it if I tried hard enough. The ruddy, squat man living in his childhood flat at the back of the building with his equally ruddy dog. The pretty blonde woman living two doors down from me with two loud children who would squeal with laughter into the early hours of the morning. Just doors apart; lives existing that directly impacted mine. My fate moved by each action, however small. Then, I watched those two loud children, who were now quiet adults, say goodbye to their mother. I mourned, I wept, I searched for some great cosmic power to undo the timeline, to give them even one more hour with their blessed mother. Even the empty gesture of flowers was beyond my reach. It only took a few viewings before I realised that there was no use in getting attached. I could do nothing more than to take what was imparted onto me, take it into my very being, and hope that I could allow their memories to live on through myself. By now, they were just frames in a long movie – quick flashes of colour, kindling to fire and ash in a moment, the dying embers searing themselves onto my retinas. People living and dying indiscriminately. Short specks of nothing in a world that would forget them soon enough. I could not hide my envy, watching as they arrived in strong waves and departed in soft sea foam – coming and going whenever they chose. Their lives, their love for one another; what was once a strange question to me had now become a fading curiosity. Had I ever had that? Had I ever been held – ever been called “child”? So many times I had been tempted to rock on the edge of my perch and fall headfirst into the waves below me. I wondered if I would land into their world, able to touch their warm faces and hear their stories, or if I would just float atop the water until whatever force put me here decided to put me back to keep the order, to keep the schedule.

Whether I was put here as some sort of cruel lesson, a lifetime of watching others to atone for my sinister deeds, or if there was some other deep purpose, it was all the same to me now. Punishment or purpose, I was driven only by the waves. They guided my every action, my every thought and feeling and drove me to keep existing. If I questioned this purpose that I had been given, to watch the lives of every person, then what would I have left? I found it better to act than to agonise and I believe that the waves did too. It became very apparent to me that I was not viewing a person, but a child. This immediately grabbed my attention as all the lives I had viewed so far had not started until they were almost adults. I watched as the child entered the world and took its very first, albeit hurried, breaths. My brain was beginning to salivate at all the moments that lay ahead of me. A life all the way from birth? There was so much that I could see and learn from this. Not mere moments after I had this thought, the vision had already ended. Amidst my bewilderment, the maw seemed to spit a torrent at me, causing me to recoil backwards through the screen door and fall to the floor in shelter. I wondered if this was maybe a game, a test to see my reaction if my daily routine was cut short. I questioned if this really was a punishment and if this was the ultimate proof. As I thought a little longer, though, my mind began to sink deep into an abyss as I came to a much darker conclusion. Neonatal death. Based on what I knew about the lives I had seen so far, it added up almost perfectly. I grimaced as my mind tried desperately to process what it had just seen, my thoughts seemingly buffering in order to cope with the mental overload that had been placed upon it, before spiralling rapidly. Unable to deal with what I had just experienced, I retreated away from the waves as quickly as I could, stumbling multiple times as I attempted find my footing and escape back through the screen door, back to my own world. Still unable to access my thoughts, I collapsed to the floor in exhaustion, the mental strain proving to be too much for my body to handle. In previous viewings, I had been tired, especially with some of the longer lives, yet this one life had sapped the energy of twenty. As I laid curled up into a ball, I thought about the parents. I thought about their solemn faces, drowning in a sea of thought before being overcome with a waterfall of pain. I thought about them, and then I thought about the mother being watched by her two boys as she passed away. I thought about her life trickling away right before their eyes, and then the child’s evaporating before their parents ever caught sight of them. Before I could even begin to sob, to regurgitate the emotions that had been stuffed inside of me, that same familiar voice imparted me with a singular, soft-spoken word:


When I finally came to, I must’ve already been dragged out to the waves again, because I found myself already in the middle of another viewing. Perhaps I slept too long and instead of spending time rousing me the waves decided to bring me here first so as to not waste any precious time. All my viewings felt surreal and unexplainable, as if I was staring into an infinite unknown, yet this time felt different. I was looking down, hovering above four seemingly identical walls, and I was staring at a man sleeping. A ghastly haze was permeating throughout the place, impeding my vision and disabling me from seeing beyond the confines of the room. The body looked cold, almost as if it were shivering. The man looked weak and frail and the fact that he was curled up into a ball made me doubt that he could survive even another night. The man’s body began to twitch suddenly, before writhing in visible pain, twisting and contorting while my eyes were still glued to him. It was a pathetic sight. I tried to feel sympathy for him but couldn’t even muster that. I felt disgusted. His body didn't even try to put up a fight agaisnt its demise, to cling on to every precious second that it could. His body continued to convulse for a few minutes further before finally freezing, making it seem as if time had stopped in that very instant, before everything snapped to a solid blackness. I was confused as to why I was only seeing the very last moments of this man’s life but guessed that it was another lesson being taught to me and to contrast with the last life that I saw. A brief life with so much untapped potential, so many questions unanswered, alongside a life seemingly wasted, drowning in self-pity. It made me angry. Why should this man get so many years, yet that child didn't even get a chance. Before I could think any further, the blackness had faded and I found myself overlooking the same sleeping body once more, still unable to break my gaze as the man started to twitch and convulse again before the vision had faded to black for a second time. By this point, I was utterly dumbfounded. I had no possible explanation for being shown this man’s life a second time, but as I watched the same events replay several more times, I began to grasp the situation that I had found myself in. The horrible realisation began to dawn on me as I started to pay more attention to the four identical walls that the man was stuck in. I noticed the ashen door towering over him, I saw the patterns etched into the ceiling above mocking him, mocking me. It was me. That frail, weak man. That disgusting, waste of a life. I was seeing myself. I was stuck in a time loop of watching myself succumb to the darkness. It struck me that I must’ve been in some kind of nightmare, but why? In all my time in this place, I had never dreamed yet now I found myself in this hellscape, a premonition of myself. Is this actually how I’ll die? Even though my mind had become aware that it was inside a dream, I was unable to jolt myself awake, cursed only to watch myself as I completed the loop time and time again.


Waking up was a mercy that I was not afforded for at least a few hundred loops, and I almost cried when I heard those familiar words will my mind back to reality. By the time I rose to my feet, I could feel the weight of the smog inside my head, slowing me down and delaying all of my actions. No matter how much I told myself to forget, to remember that it was just a dream, the authenticity that I felt while within the chamber of my mind made it next to impossible to pretend that it didn’t happen. What I saw that night was something that shook me deeply. That image of me. That same image. That infinite image of a familiar individual, me, but not quite. Everything here felt orderly, and even though the nightmare was chaotic, it was a controlled chaos, meticulous in its heinousness. It had to serve a purpose and it left my mind with an infinite number of questions. I wanted nothing more than to remain horizontal and to ponder my mental ordeal, but I was brought to my feet. I felt the shadow of the day looming over me, and as I made my way closer and closer to that haunting screen door, I grew…angry? I had no memory of myself, and the image that I was met with left me furious. The only thing that had driven me to keep going was the lives that I was viewing. It made me feel as though I were special somehow. I felt as though I were above those that I was watching, like I was given this cosmic task for a reason. In reality, though, the quivering husk that was right before me was just like any other that I had seen in my viewings. Anyone could do what I had been doing. I wasn't even needed. The waves could have picked my neighbour just as easily as me or someone down the street from me and the result would not have changed. Why was I here? What was the point? By this point, it was like dragging a child kicking and screaming to a birthday party that they were dreading. Why would I continue to look at these lives if it was all pointless anyway? As I thought more and more about it, I wondered what I would actually see when I finally got around to viewing my own life. If my life was the last one on the list, would I see myself inside these four walls, day after day, doing nothing but watching other people live their lives while I waste away here? Or would I see a life far away from here, a different world where I could do good and have an impact on the world around me, until being cruelly plucked away to reside here? The thought of watching myself watch others, day after day, the thought made me queasy, seasick. All this time I comforted myself with this role. I believed that I was immune to the tribulations of those that I watched, but I am doomed to become just another vision, just another viewing. I had finally been brought to the precipice between worlds, between this world, and my world. I sat myself down on my perch and steeled myself. I decided that this cycle would be broken. I would do the bidding of the waves no longer. I stood up firmly, and tip-toed along the edge, doing my best to slow my breathing. I turned to look over my shoulder, to give one final look to my abode, one final goodbye. I closed my eyes and I let go of my emotions. I felt myself become weightless, before beginning to drift, and finally coming to a crash.


In my last moments, before succumbing to the weight of the waves and surrendering my opportunity at escape, I thought about my home. I wondered if there were some before me. I thought about if someone would take my place, if I had condemned another to my fate; my cowardice serving only to inflict suffering on another. I do not believe that I was a coward, though. I know that I was strong, to last for as long as I had, for however long that may have been. I weathered every storm. I swam through the sea of myself and refused to be taken until the very end. It is my own strength that had carried me so far and it is through my own strength that I chose to relieve myself. Not every wave is the same, some stretch tall and crash down with the power of the gods, some stretch wide and carve themselves into the rocks, immovable as they seem. In the end, the waves will never cease, for they are eternal.

I let the waves take me, as they will take us all, eventually.

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