Author's Note: Not many people seek to write a story about words. The subject in itself resembles too much of philosophy to ever be worth a story for many people. However, I have done my best. Hope you enjoy!
He remembered them more as shapes and ideas than scratches on paper; they were wisps of memories, snatches of song, echoing in the back of his mind, whispering in his ear. He could never doubt their existence; they stood harder and firmer than the great rocks of the sea, more real and frail and fragile than the soul. They were everything and yet nothing, confined forever to the very frames of the human mind.
They were words, and nothing more or less. They were words that he loved more fiercely, more furiously than his own parents, than his own life. On the very tips of his fingers he could feel them tumble gently in the wind; in the deepest, quietest sanctuaries of his mind they swayed, with a maddening freedom that he enjoyed, to the last, shallowest drop. They were passion and love incarnate; they were worlds within themselves, universes upon universes, built and surviving as only they could.
Were they mysterious? Scary? Awe-inspiring, fear-inducing, jealousy-causing? He could never understand the irrational casualness which others used when dealing with words. How could they not feel the very depth of despair and fear when faced with the word 'darkness'? How could they stand so calmly before the barrage and onslaught of a hundred words meant to build towers of inspiration and hope in their hearts, or traitors in the mind? The words could hurt; he knew this. They were the most savage of weapons, and yet the most passive of beings. The sharpest of sword could not match the sheer exquisite damage of the worst words. They were gods among men, and they created, as was their right, and destroyed, as was their way. With the mere stroke of a pen, one could command that power to heights unimaginable, to lengths unthinkable; but so many chose not too, and therein he saw the greatest gift of man: ignorance. What else could he call the mountain that prevented the most war-torn being from the darkest, most hidden words, from the shadows the craved the light not for redemption, but to blacken and twist the very light into a horrific caricature of its noble self?
But some chose not to accept this gift. They hunted the words, pinned them down as if they were butterflies for some entomologists to catalogue, or wove them like silk around themselves, to dazzle and befuddle any who dared watch the magnificant progression of words, regal enough to outstand, simple enough to understand. For them, there was no end to the sheer magnificence of human simplicity and ignorance that words could so easily penetrate. They were manipulators, and he felt nothing but hatred for them, they who so easily twisted the beauty of the words to their own cruel purposes.
Misery, shame, joy, hate, love; they were the words he loved most among the others. Oh, he could touch the others well enough, and he loved them all equally, but they... they were in a class of their own, a league no other words could match. They described the very base of the primitive human mind, they alone could conjure the greatest and most detailed of images. They were the soul of the human being, and all else paled before them. They were gods of the gods, kings among kings, and he worshipped them, with strange, incomprehensible rites.
He was nine when he wrote his first story. An year later, his books were read worldwide, from Michigan to Murmansk, from the very edges of the world to the very heart. He was upheld as a hero, a person to be watched, an inspiration to his readers, a master of literature. His books were planned to be made into classics, so that the world may one day remember this great giant with so small a stature but so powerful a pen. He wrote of man in a way no other had ever seen before, in a truly revolutionary way that seared and burned the soul with a flame colder than frozen steel, of power and misuse, of darkness, despair, and a hundred afflictions of society that were, unflinchingly, laid before an entire globe. He was master of an entire band of people who adored his writings, who read his and his works alone, who informed each other eagerly of each new release. Had he so chosen, they would have killed and murdered and massacred the universe, die and return from heaven laden with gifts of all kinds, sell each and every possession, only for the bare privilege of seeing him, in the flesh, for one minute and not a second more.
He scarcely cared.
For him, the words were supreme. To him, there was nothing, no barrier, no obstacles, that could withstand the fire of his all-consuming love for the words, and their sweet, passive beauty. What love was to poets and songwriters, what freedom and justice were to freedom fighters, what peace was to Gandhi, so the words were to him. Time could not erode his passion, his love for them; they were as eternal and immortal as was he. What hope could such an entity such as time have of conquering this fearsome, aweful power that conjoined them together, like newborn twins born at once? It was foolish, he would think, and then he would descend, once more, into the maddening world of the words...
By the time he was fourteen, he was a bona fide celebrity. At school, he was treated with a form of respect bordering on awe. There was no girl who would refuse a date with him, no boy who wouldn't count himself lucky to be his friend. He was exempted English class; as his principal said, there was no need for him to learn it. He noticed the students' treatment of him, his teachers' calm deference to him, but barely acknowledged it. He had no friends.
What was the world he lived in, lost in its beauty, entranced by its mystique? There was no answer; to him, it was impossible to describe. How, after all, could he put into words the glory and passion of the fierce waves that struck the land? The slope and gait of the giant, the lithe nimbleness of the laughing fairy, the power of the hungering wolves? How can you convey the full length and breadth of the human imagination, the great depths of insanity, the monstrous, inhuman coldness of cooled revenge, the blazing glory of the last flickering notes of human memory playing out before your very eyes? How can you tell the world what it means, truly, to be God?
He lived in no other world than the ones his parents inhabited, he dreamed in no other language than the one they did, as a witty reviewer once commented on one of his innumerable masterpieces (he forgot them as soon as they were written; he would lose himself to the throes and embraces of another story that wound itself around his mind, mere instants after completion); the only difference was that he dreamed more. He felt more. He knew more. And he wrote more. At the very height of his fame and popularity, he was held to be the next messiah by the more religious, the prophet to lead them from the doom of mankind, into the next world. But they were wrong, he whispered in his more real moments, when he returned to reality from a mad, wild ride through the fields of the world of the words, the only other world was the one you created in your mind...
There was music in his mind like nothing else could recreate; it was an unimaginable symphony, too soft, too seductive, too fierce and proud and noble to ever yield to the clumsy clay fingers of man, to the mere metal of the instruments. The words sang to him, and theirs was a melody too wild, too free to ever be dreamed of by the sane. They transformed him, made him feel alive, more solid, less like the vacuous, vaporous ghost he became in his more lucid moments, when reality overpowered his senses. He hated the real world; it lacked the excitement, the majestic nobility of the written world. It was convenient, and little else; it gave him form, shape, substance, but to his soul and his inflamed, feverish mind, it was just a cage...
Chalk. It was what he remembered of the day. The smell of chalk, the taste, the feel of the substance was imprinted on his mind of that day; he would remember it each time he thought of the day his world was turned upside down.
'How many of you know this?', a voice asked. He recognised it dimly, stirring from his dream state, his vague fugue breaking as he emerged from the brilliant pleasure of the written world; it was a teachers' voice, the soft, firm, assertive tone, the scholarly note. Glasses; he could hear their slight presence, their small, insignificant effect on the breath of the nose. His eyes asserted themselves; he saw a male form, good-looking, brown shirt with sleeves, black eyes, black hair, fair skin, looking expectantly at his class. Behind him a green blackboard hung firm on a wall; a single chalk piece sat upright in the teachers' hand.
His hand was not among the mass that rose in response to the teachers' question.
"Daniel? Don't you know the Pythagoras' theorem?" There was surprise in the voice.
For the first time, he felt the words shiver in his head. He could not understand; why did they fear these few other words? Still, he shook his head, mutely.
"Well", the teacher began, "it's really quite simple..."
And he was off, describing the triangle, its sides, the hypotenuse, the base, the cone, the sphere, the cylinder; in what seemed little more than mere instants, it was over. The brief journey to the heart of geometry was over, and he was left alone, no longer full of the brilliant, electric feeling that had flowed through him, had coursed through his frame as he wandered the edges of the great, monumental edifice he had only just discovered: mathematics.
From that moment on, he forgot the words. They were left alone, living half-forgotten. He was kind to them - he had loved them for more than a decade of his life - but he was no longer as swayed by their beauty as he had once. They were lies, after all, with the ability to decieve and confuse, while mathematics - and he gloried at its mention, the way he once had at the fire of the written world - was the truth. How could it not be, when it described the world at his edges, the world he had once neglected for the grace and power of the written world? How could he have ignored for so long the vibrance and sheer exquisiteness of the world, that spoke in the most fundamental, the most arcane of languages: numbers?
He ceased to write, never forgetting his duty but convinced it could wait, as he worked on problems he devised, as he constructed geometry, carefully, precisely, as he proved theorems of the most complex nature. The old brilliance that had once displayed itself so fantastically in his writing now restricted itself, concentrating on the vivid, fresh way of the numbers. He built and brought down, he took and gave back, he dealt with numbers of all kinds, astounded at their simplicity, marvelling at their cunning. They lacked the life, the joie de vive the words possessed, but they had power, far more than the words did. The words were all about display; they took refuge in visibility and form, and they gave up their meaning for a place in the reader's head. Numbers lacked that love for show, but they had substance, far more than he could have dreamed of; they would never give up their meaning - their soul- for the pleasure of a reader.
There were so many fundamental differences between the numbers and the words. The words believed completely in democracy; they were all equal, all the same; they were nothing more than a bunch of letters stuck any which way, after all, and it made no difference to them. But the numbers... they knew their place. There was a racial hierarchy about them that was oddly satisfying. 1 could never be greater than 2. 4 was always a lesser being when viewed from the eyes of 5. They were sensible, ordered, calm. There was an oldness about them, an ancient feel that surpassed human intuition and sense. They were the true gods, the true masters; all else was just a shadow, a blot on the face of truth, and he detested manipulators...
The world wondered at his disappearance, at his cessation of writing. But, like all things, it went on; he was remembered, but no longer as passionately as some had once done. He was still held in the eyes of the public as great, but it was diluted, robbed of its original power to captivate, to inspire, to envision. He was an old, forgotten celebrity, and he did not long for fame...
He worked on the truth, each night, every night, till dawn itself seemed to be his dusk, and dusk his only dawn. There were only numbers, and he loved them most of all...
The days passed. The years wore on. They earth continued its singular motion along its elliptical path, forever bathing in the light of a collection of hundred of thousands of billions of slowly fusing particles. He aged, like all things. The immortality that had once seemed so tangible in the presence of the words had waned, and he was left no longer a child, no longer an awkward teenager, but a fully grown adult. He was thirty-two years old now, unemployed, living on the vast pile of money he had amassed as a child. He loved the numbers, but he was coming to an end. He oculd feel it in his bones. Mathematics was nearing its final form, its full description. There was nothing new to dream of when it came to numbers. Geometry, algebra, calculus, trigonometry, probability; each was over, fully described. There was nothing to work with, mnothing to invent and fantasize of, to subject to operations he developed. What would happen after it was all over?
The question disoriented him, confused him like nothing else ever had. The old confidence that had once resided so closely to his heart had left, and in a world he had outgrown, he was left nervous, insecure, uncomfortable. The question stabbed him, thrust into his heart like a deep wedge, and he was sure that no heart could feel this pain, could bleed so much...
Dimly, half-forgotten, the vaguest memory surfaced of the words. He had grown to merely accept them, to treat them with an indifference he would have never condoned in his earlier years, but now, heart open, mind fearful, he wondered if he could ever take them back in again. For a moment, the passion he had once had flared through him, and he was alive, once more, in the written world, and he marvelled again at the beauty and power of the images...
As quickly as the memory came, it dwindled, vanishing in a haze of details, of images and sounds and memories that had been lost for more than two decades. He was left, with a conviction that the words would be his again. Had he not been their most faithful exponent? Their most loving artist? He was theirs, and they would accept him, and he would live on...
He wrote, with a pen and a wandering scrap of paper: "Will you forgive me?"
He knew they would answer. They always did. There were books, old, dusty, forgotten in the wake of the numbers, on his shelf. He took one now, gently pushing away the dust that had gathered, smiling gently all the while. He loved them again. This time he would not forget.
He closed his eyes and flipped open the book.
The first word he opened would always be the word he would need.
"We.Do. Not. Forget. We. Do. Not. Forgive."
It was despair, he later knew. Despair was the emotion he had felt on their reply. But he had not been able to recognise it; he was lost in its' maze, wandering, alone, forgotten, blinded in the desert, aware that he was dying, an inch at a time, unable to see the light, knowing that the darkness was all alive and there was not a soul, not a thing, anywhere, that would even care... He felt only the ice of the summer shine, only the burning heat of the desert. He had lost his ability to feel; he was alone, now, forever, truly, truly alone, and he fell...
"Daniel Ford, writer of over twenty-five books on human society and a leader of a vast and popular fan base, was discovered dead in his apartment on Friday. While police believe it is suicide, there appear to be no marks on the body nor any sign of poisonous drugs in his system nor any evidence as to his death. He will be loved and remembered for generations to come, by virtue of his writing. He leaves no descendants."
- The New York Times