He pulled his eyes apart. It was a weird feeling, opening his eyes. It felt like a vaguely long time since he had done this. Time was still hard to grasp so he stuck to keeping his eyes open and learning to see again. As his eyes were learning to focus, he realized there was more of him. Hands. Legs. Torso. There was a sudden rush of existence and feeling into his entire body as he acknowledged each part that constituted him. By now he had realized he was inside some sort of body chamber. He lifted his hands up against the ceiling of his tiny body-sized home. It wasn’t a coffin. He was alive. That was one thing he was absolutely sure of.
He pushed with all his latent might to swing the ceiling up. His body chamber swung open. The bright light blinded him for a few seconds before he could gather himself and raise himself into a sitting position. He tried to collect his thoughts and understand where he was. It was hard to think of when was the last time he had done that – think.
A lab. Some sort of cryogenic lab? He wondered. He didnt remember getting here or ever seeing the place. But it was real. His initial joy of being able to see lines and shapes were soon getting replaced with the more rewarding task of identifying objects. There was a low hanging light above him. So bright and beautiful. Funnel shaped with a tinge of yellow. He felt comforted in his knowledge of the world. But he was quickly bored just looking at what was around him. He wanted to touch.
He managed to lift himself up and stand next to the bed he was laying on. But walking seemed like a herculean task. He needed to move his leg and knee in a certain way to place the foot ahead of him and balance on both feet. He kept trying to think harder about how his knee should bend in order to walk. Thinking wasn’t helping. Walking just seemed that much harder. He bent his knee awkwardly and crashed onto the table in front of him. At least falling was easy. But then came that wonderful feeling – Pain.
So this was what pain felt like. Before this instant he couldn’t have remembered what pain was. How would someone describe it to him? A perceptual feeling incited by certain nerves to a stimuli? But now he knew what pain felt like. It was nice to be alive, he thought. It was nice to feel pain.
He quickly got up again grabbing onto the table in front of him, and started moving his limbs around without thinking. He had decided to let his limbs learn what walking was and not interfere with his mind. His legs wobbled randomly, but he was able to walk upright soon enough. He must have known how to walk in the past, whatever that was. But he had so much to explore right here in the present. He walked around the room touching and brushing his hands and legs on everything. Thankfully no one was there in the room to see him, he thought slightly embarrassed at his curiosity. He noticed a window on the other end of the lab and he decided to look out. He was not sure what he would find on the outside. Every thing seemed to have an outside – more to explore. From inside the body chamber he wanted to be in the lab, from inside the lab, he wanted to look out the window. But he was satisfied opening each layer of knowledge like a Russian Matryoshka doll. He stumbled to the window and looked outside. Overwhelming.
Buildings, streetlights, cars, shops, benches. There was so much to take in. He was excited about remembering the names of all these objects. It was scary to think of waking up to a world where he wouldn’t recognize the names and uses of objects. But this was good. Familiarity was calming. He decided he was done exploring from this tiny lab room and he started running down a flight of stairs to get out into the open. He was running. Knowledge had been quick to grasp him. He was soon outside in the open air. Amidst tall buildings. A giant city. Yes thats what this was called a city. But where were the people?
This was the first time he had thought about others. Where was everybody? The lab room had been empty and he hadn’t realize the absence of people while running out of the building. No receptionist, no security. No one out in the open.
But since everything was new to him, he decided to investigate. He looked at the cars parked on the curb. There weren’t any moving cars on the streets, just the ones sitting stationary waiting for their humans. He walked into a grocery store on the opposite side of the road. The store had not been open for a while. Maybe years. There was grass growing on the floors through the cracks of the tiled grocery store. Tiles that had cracked on their own. It didn’t seem like there had been any disaster. Just the absence of humans. Humans seem to be integral to the functioning of the human world. Now the cash registers and cars just sat there purposeless, shapes of metals.
He walked out onto the street again and decided that he will not think about other humans. He was here. He was alive. He wanted to satisfy his curiosity. But what could he explore now. With no other humans, he couldn’t ask the date or which country he was in. Come to think of it he hadn’t uttered a word up until this moment. He opened his mouth and attempted to whisper a sound. Oooo. That sounded like an animal. Aaaa, he shouted louder. No one was there to hear him. Was he dreaming? No. He wouldn’t let a dream take away his joy of being alive. He was here and he had his playground in front of him. A land waiting to be explored by him – the only adventurer.
A big jar on the sidewalk suddenly caught his eye. This was the biggest jar he had ever seen. This was also the only jar he had ever seen, but he seemed to have forgotten that he had no memory. He went and picked the jar up. It was lighter than he had thought. It was as big as his upper body. He decided that this jar was going to be his jar. He owned it. He immediately became happy ad started thinking about all the things he would now do with his jar. He would fill it with water. No, he would fill it with food. No. He would collect everything. He decided that in order to make sense of what was happening to him, he would pick up anything and everything that interested him and then sit down to understand the world around him. What would that accomplish? Accomplishing still seemed like an alien concept to him. All he knew was that there were fascinating things around him he wanted to touch, see, hear and play with. He was going to collect.
What would he collect? He started walking bent over with his big jar. While walking down the road he picked up a few different stones and threw them into the jar. Down they went to the bottom of the jar clanking against the walls. The jar started making a sound as he walked with it now. The sound of the jar’s contents were a constant company to his footsteps. He was happy with each step. Clank clank. That was the sound of his collection following him.
He started finding even more interesting things as he walked across the empty town. There were objects laying here and there waiting to be collected. He picked up a comb, a hair pin, a brooch, a bag of polythene. His jar was starting to look good. It was colorful and noisy. He then picked up a piece of paper. No it was a photograph. Of people! Looking at it he remembered that this was what was missing. This was what people looked like. This particular photograph was of a family. How did it happen to be lying here on the edge of the highway? It must have belonged to someone. Just as this jar now belonged to him. Did this photograph belong to him now? He curiously searched for any other markings on the photograph. No. There weren’t any names or dates. Oh well. Maybe he would meet the owners or think about them later while looking at his jar. He tossed it inside the jar. It joined the rest of the trinkets, the collection.
He had been walking for a really long time without getting tired. The curiosity and this new mission had kept him occupied and engaged. He had also reached the outskirts of the city next to a mountain. But the mountain wasn’t as interesting to him anymore. He had been walking bent over, looking for trinkets for his jar. He decided to climb up the mountain in search his search for more.
This was when he found another interesting item. He picked it up before identifying it. He wasn’t afraid of what he would pick up. Everything was waiting to be picked up by him.
This was a mirror.
He held it up and looked at himself. He was the collector. He felt good about it. His jar looked just as handsome in the mirror as it did in front of him.
But this was when he noticed something shocking. His jar rolled on its side as he jumped up in surprise.
There was another man behind him. Bent over. With a jar of his own. He immediately turned around to look at the man he saw reflected in the mirror. There was no one there. But in the mirror, the other man, just walked away in the opposite direction with his jar. Quiet a handsome jar at that too. It wasnt him, the other man was dressed differently. The contents of the other jar were also different. He shouted out trying to grab his attention but the other man just walked away – collecting. Scared and curious our collector looked again in the mirror. This time pointing it in different directions. There were people everywhere.
So many people were all around him, only in the mirror. Each person had a jar of their own and was unaware of the others. Who were all these people? Why couldn’t he see them outside the mirror. Men, women, children.
The collector felt afraid. He had thought meeting other people would make him feel happy. But now it seemed strange. Where were these people? Why couldn’t they hear him? He left his jar rolling on the side and started running around on the street with the mirror. He tried running with his arms outstretched hoping to touch someone, hoping to knock someone’s jar out of their hands. But there was no one. In the mirror everyone seemed to be in their own world, just calmly collecting. The visions of the people in the mirror and his screams became louder and were ringing hard inside the collectors head as he frantically ran in circles. In his frustration of not being able to touch anyone he threw the mirror up in the air and watched it fall down on the ground and
He was by himself. There were no people. Not anymore. His shoulders drooped as he struggled to understand the situation. He looked at his jar – his handsome jar – his collection. And then looked up at the blackness.
A nice cozy cottage with its walls decked head to toe in shelves. Someone with a keen eyesight could look out from the window of the cottage and see that the collector was busy collecting a few blocks away. With his jar. Bent over.
The shelves were packed with jars just like that one. Jars were all over the floor and all over the walls, under the table and over the table. But these jars were not like the first jar. These jars were not as colorful, not as noisy, not as handsome.
Each jar was packed to the brim with just one thing.
Small, Large, Broken, Whole, with handles, without handles, round, square, framed –