The Eyes of Astra

She had the galaxy in her eyes. A myriad of life-sustaining planets nestled in the safety of her all-seeing orbs devoid any trickery of light or illusion of a magical moment. I watched her tiptoe through the woods. She paused every so often to tilt her head to the skies. It made no difference that the towering trees created a ceiling of shade across the stark blue abyss; she could see everything beyond our horizons and through any barrier.

I greatly desired to view the entirety of existence as she did. My limited imagination promised stunning views of worlds ancient and intricate. The structures stood strong despite being weathered and sun-bleached. I envisioned advancement of other planets to the best of my conception. Perhaps the cities had populations of metal-clad inhabitants milling in and out of glass and mercury towers tall enough to pierce the atmosphere. I wondered if they were similar to us.

Envy welled within me as I watched her reach her arms toward the heavens, enveloping everything she saw in her warm embrace. She would comprehend eternity. She might differentiate resolutions to the most compelling and unanswerable of questions, or provide cures for fatal diseases. With her knowledge, she had the power to save humanity, but she spoke not a word and betrayed not a single secret. The limited cognition of the human mind couldn’t bear the visions she endured.

She lifted the skirts of her billowing white dress and trekked further into the gloom of the forest. I felt compelled to follow though a nagging voice in my mind warned me to retreat. Each tree she pressed a hand upon, I touched in pantomime as though it linked me to her. I touched only tree bark; rough, grating, and cold. No prospects existed with my intentions, though now that I understand, I wish I turned back.

A small pond soon appeared in a clearing. The water settled still as glass even though a gentle breeze blew a lullaby through the leaves. She bent to view her reflection in the water, but as I grew closer, I noticed that her eyes were closed tight. With a wave of her hand, she beckoned me to her side. My jaw dropped at the unanticipated invitation. So careful trailing her through the forest, I was convinced my presence remained a secret, but she sensed I was there from the beginning. I stopped at her side but she stood quiet without extending a greeting.

My voice was held prisoner by my wonderment. I struggled to give it life but my first words still came out gritty and fractured. “Why do you close your eyes when you look into the water?” I asked her.

As in response, she lifted her head once more to the sky and opened her eyes. Ages passed before she answered. She had a youthful tone, which was a stark contrast to the lines marring the smooth surface of her forehead. “What answer do you seek most?” she questioned.

Every idea and controversy I had spinning around in my head during our walk left me in an instant. No longer did I want to learn about the worlds beyond our universe. I perceived what was important to me at the moment. Things I couldn’t view or touch belonged in the distance. They somehow became less relevant when faced with the possibility of true answers. Questions tumbled in my mind, leaving as instantly as they arrived. Ultimately, the one debate that has plagued man since time began settled on my tongue. If thoughts had a flavour, I realized this one tasted acrid, like something you probably shouldn’t ingest.

“Why are we here?” I finally asked.

A smile spread across her face though her gaze lingered on the sky. “Here? At this pond? In this forest? On this planet?” she questioned. “I can answer them all, but I don’t have the patience for such frivolity. State your meaning clearly.” Her demand was straightforward, but she delivered it amicably.

“I mean, why do we exist?”

“We exist because we must,” she replied. “We exist because we always have. You are not the product of your birth, nor are you this fragile body. Tethered to this world, you may be for the moment, but this body will die and you will return home.”

“Where is home?”

She pointed at the sky. My attention focused on the tips of her slender fingers and I found it unusual that she had no fingernails. It was just one of those things you notice, then quickly push to the back of your mind as unimportant.

“What do you see out there?” I asked as I followed the direction she indicated. I noticed nothing more than puffs of cloud rolling in.

“It is not for you to know at this time.”

“So, I will eventually know?”

“You have always known. You just can’t remember right now.”

“Why not?”

“Your earthly body is delicate. To know all is to become consumed by it.”

“What about your earthly body?” I challenged her. “How can you be here and still know everything? How are you not consumed by it?”

She dropped her chin and flashed a wide grin, staring ahead into nothing. Her teeth were straight-edged, except for the pointed canines that gave her a menacing demeanour. “Where am I, then?” she asked me.

I must have misunderstood her question, for she laughed when I gave her my pretentious reply that she was on Earth.

“Where am I, truly?” she countered.

I sheepishly had to admit that I couldn’t offer a response. If I was here on Earth and she was standing next to me, then rationale dictated she was also on Earth.

“This is a matter of reason, not logic,” she replied.

“What’s the difference,” I asked?

She shook her head and simply responded with “The root of your misinterpretation lies within.”

She then held out her hand and gestured for me to take it. As my flesh connected with hers, I realized that she didn’t actually have flesh. What caressed my palm was icy, vibrational, electric. I had an overwhelming sensation of my feet lifting off the ground. Then it struck me. I was in the presence of something wholly rational but chaotic at the same time. I was both terrified and euphoric.

“What are you?” I cried out.

“What are we all?” was her enigmatic reply.

“Energy,” I whispered, without knowing why or how I came to that conclusion. The word escaped from my lips without thought or conscious decision.

“Now you know,” she smiled sweetly and took her hand away. Heaviness overtook my body and left me wanting more.

“We are not the same, you and I,” I said. “I am flesh and blood.”

“Your body is flesh and blood. You are not your body. Someday you will know.”

“I want to know now!” I flared.

“You asked me why I close my eyes when I look into the pond,” she deflected. “I do this because I rather avoid seeing what I’m not. This vision of a woman who stands beside you is not real. I communicate with you through this form because, without it, you wouldn’t realize I’m here. Often, I wish to be alive as you are. A time long ago, I was. So many turns of man have occurred since then. I wish to go back to when I knew nothing.”

“Why do you want to give up your experience?” I stared at her incredulously.

“You don’t know yet, but you will.”

“I’m getting fed up with the cryptic answers,” I frowned, “why can’t you just tell me?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Don’t tell me what I want.”

“If you insist, I will show you,” she sighed heavily. Her chin dropped to her chest in defeat and she closed her eyes.

“I insist,” I answered, feeling piqued and confident that I could use my newfound knowledge for the benefit of mankind.

She turned toward me and our eyes connected. My chocolate irises met her cluster of universes and I locked on to her thoughts. Through time and space I slipped. I screamed in terror until I discovered that I was flying, not falling. I recall that I encountered wondrous sights though they no longer sit in my memory. The darker side of the universe systematically pushed them out of my recollection.

Such horrors and monstrosities I experienced in the places beyond the stars. So much suffering, destruction, despair, and death and I was helpless to do anything. I knew all. I saw all. Yet, I was powerless. She lived with this misery constantly.

I can’t say how long I spent out there in the void. When I returned to my body, I found myself old and decrepit — many years aged in what seemed like only a few moments. Even the trees had grown taller. She had not aged a day, but her eyes were black pools of nothingness. The universes that once swirled in their depths were gone and tears of sorrow flowed freely.

I never resumed my life as it was. Everyone I loved long passed while I was floating in the stars. My years are spent. The terrible knowing remains with me. I’m acquainted with what awaits me when I leave this world, and I’m not foolish enough to pretend that I’m not afraid. As I steel my nerve and prepare for physical death, the biggest regret I have is that I didn’t know enough to turn back.

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