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August 11, 2014

My companions and I realise suddenly that we are actually in the world of the dead.

We walk towards an open-air market that has many different stalls and see a newspaper headline about a boy from Titanic telling his story of what it was like to go under. This newspaper also features letters from road-kill animals relating their experiences of the last moments of life and the first moments of death.

I go to the CD stall first. It is selling music that musicians have composed since their deaths. I am particularly excited about finding John Lennon’s and Jimi Hendrix’s new post-death albums. I also purchase Beethoven’s 11th and 12th symphonies, Haydn’s 200th Symphony and the completed version of Mozart’s Requiem. Poor Mozart never did finish it during his lifetime, but thankfully in this dead world he has had plenty of time to work on it. Unfortunately, the new part that he has created in The Clear World no longer possesses the tragic grandeur and pathos of the original work. The music is now of a joyously light-hearted kind, even possessing comical overtones to it for Mozart has realised that requiems should not be works of mourning and sorrow but rather of happiness, celebrating the blissful occasion of finally reaching the perfect existence.

Next to the CD stall is a bookstall. I browse through books that tell of the experiences of dead people, how they met their end, what their deaths felt like and what existence has been like for them since then.

Those who are concerned that death would bring an end to their personal hatreds and conflicts can be reassured that in this world they will be able to resume with renewed energy and the kind benefit of limitless time all of their old animosities and feuds.

Indeed, many wars that those in the living world think have ended with signed peace treaties are still raging in full force and with unabated ferocity and rage in this world, with slain soldiers picking up their weapons and resuming their formations.

The Hundred-Year War has now become the Six Hundred-Year War and First and Second World Wars have amalgamated into one conflict, with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler assuming joint direction of the German armed forces and the Allies being commanded by leaders from both the First and Second World Wars. Japan is in a deep conundrum, not knowing which side to take, having fought for the Allies in the First World War and for the Axis in the Second World War.

There is a whole paranormal section devoted to such esoteric, mystical subjects as Near Life Experiences (NLE) and making contact with the living world, which here has the appellation of “The Impenetrability” due to its characteristic feature of being composed of dense substance and because of its cryptic nature.

As the properties of the dead world are directly opposite to that of “The Impenetrability”, its denizens call it  “The Clear World” or “The Clearness” and refer to themselves as the clear beings.

I pick up a book that addresses the NLE phenomenon. It describes how during NLE there is the sensation of drifting through a tunnel, away from a dazzlingly bright, warmly comforting light towards darkness and of accompanying feelings of great agitation, anxiety and confusion.

Consequently people in The Clear World dread the NLE and do all they can to avoid exposing themselves to circumstances that could make them leave The Clearness and return to the world of The Impenetrability.

Indeed so great and all-pervading is the fear of the NLE in the Clear World, that it is considered to be an imperative civic duty on the part of any citizen of this world to help those beings who are undergoing or are in danger of undergoing the NLE. All citizens are required to learn to recognise the symptoms and signs of NLE, and to know the First Aid procedures for preventing a clear being from returning back to The Impenetrability.

Sometimes overenthusiastic citizens take the symptoms of NLE too literally and one sees a person, his loud protests ignored, being dragged out by his legs from a tunnel just in case that unfortunate fellow could be experiencing the NLE.  

Another book deals with the society structure and daily existence of the Clear Beings. It turns out that the epitaph “R.I.P.” that the grieving relatives affix to the tombstone could not be more misjudged and incongruous, for a person’s existence only really begins when they die and become a Clear Being. No, there is no time in The Clearness to read a book, let alone rest in peace, so rich and vibrant is life in this world.

Possessing an unlimited life span, the clear beings are free from the many life-sapping insecurities and anxieties that stem from the ever-present threat of death and that plague the people in The Impenetrability. The only fear that blights the joyous existence of the clear beings is the possibility of returning to the land of the living. Consequently, in the wars that still rage in The Clearness the objective is to make the enemy alive again.

And so we have this paradoxical situation in which the impenetrable beings are tormented by the fact that their lives have to end in death and the clear beings are tormented by the fact that they might possibly become alive again.

It is not enough for the Clear Beings to know that they have infinite life spans and vicious arguments have broken out as to whether this infinity is of Countable ( i.e. in a one-to-one correspondence with the set of natural numbers ) or Uncountable ( i.e. in a one-to-one correspondence with the set of real numbers ) kind. These arguments have led to many a nasty skirmish and looks set to escalate imminently into a major conflagration.

The fact that this issue, by its very nature, is forever undecidable, can never be answered and has absolutely no bearing on their lives does not diminish nor temper the viciousness of this conflict, nay, it does indeed make it that much more acrimonious for both parties know that neither of them could ever be proven right and this drives them even more crazy with hatred for one another.

But if that state of affairs is not bad enough, this conflict has now expanded to include within it parties who point out that there is in fact an infinity which is larger than the uncountable infinity, namely an infinity that is in one-to-one correspondence with the set of all sets of real numbers and consequently they have taken up the position that their life span is of that magnitude. Nor does it end there for in this world pure mathematics and physics are intimately intertwined with the religious and political worlds and so, given that it has been proven that there are in fact infinite number of different infinities, each larger than the previous one, so there is now a set of adherents championing the cause of every level of infinity with each of these groups being in deeply bitter and eternal animosity with all the other groups.

Every member of The Clearness is now forced to choose which of the Infinity Parties they belong to and each party goes a long way to promoting and lobbying the advancement of their cause. You often these groups pestering new and bewildered arrivals in The Clearness with their leaflets, pamphlets and various other materials.

All this rivalry has naturally led to a kind of an arms race with a new group forming almost hourly, their intention being to go one better than the rest of the groups and to claim that the life span is actually one level of infinity higher than what all the other groups are claiming. It is as if they are saying: ” OK, this is what your bid is, well we will raise you one level of infinity.” Naturally, given that there are infinite kinds of infinities, this is an arms race without an end.

Some very deep thinkers in The Clear World have realised that the conflict between the Countables and the Uncountables can be seen to ultimately reduce to the question of whether time is of a discrete or continuous nature.

For if time is a discrete quantity then no span of time, however great, can ever be of uncountably infinite magnitude and similarly, if time is a continuous quantity then any span of time contains within it uncountably many number of moments and therefore The Uncountables win out automatically for they can then claim that their existence has already spanned an uncountably infinite number of instants.

And so you see the natural philosophers of both factions engaging in vigorous debates about the real nature of time and performing all sorts of tests and experiments to determine its underlying nature.

There are no lengths to which the adherents of both causes will not go to in order to support their beliefs. For example in order to accommodate their view that time fundamentally consists of discrete, indivisible units, the commandment that captures intimately the philosophy of The Countables has had to change from “seize the day” to “seize the hour” to “seize the second” due to more and more sophisticated horological instruments being developed and ever more shorter time intervals being measured. At the present moment this tenet takes the form of ” seize the 10 to the power of negative 12 of a second”.

The Uncountables meanwhile believe that time is forever divisible into ever smaller intervals and their approach therefore is, paradoxically enough, not to get into the infinitesimal subdivisions of time issue but to rather treat time as one whole unity. Given that time is forever divisible, The Uncountables think that it is of no avail to make the most of any finite time interval as there will always be a span smaller than that and consequently the best and only thing to do is to literally do nothing.

And so while The Countables are busy rushing around, becoming more and more harried as shorter time-spans are measured and they are forced to make the most of each milli-milli-milli-… second, The Uncountables, to show their contempt for The Countables’ beliefs and to demonstrate their own philosophy, assume the reclined position and remain so for indefinite periods of time.

And so you see everywhere the holy men of The Uncountable Movement lying prostrate literally in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, oblivious to the movement of the crowds around them. In fact this lying around doing nothing has become a very sacred ritual, the highest and purest expression of their philosophy and great reverence and adoration is shown to those Uncountable Brothers who have stayed in the prostrate position the longest for this truly shows how devoted they are to their belief that time is of continuous nature.

As with all human communities The Clear World has its hierarchy. One often sees a particular citizen surrounded by hysterical groups, which vary in size from just one or two to hundreds and thousands, showering flowers on that citizen and begging to be set any task so that they can experience the ecstasy of fulfilling the desire of their idols.

A particularly curious sight is of certain beings that have no devotional groups accompanying them and yet they still throw flowers on themselves as they make their way along the street.

I was mystified as to how these particular citizens gained such fame, devotion and fanatical following, why they were always followed by the same unchanging group of devotees and why some groups were quite small while others consisted of hundreds upon hundreds of followers.

At first, I was of the opinion that these beings made an exceptional contribution to the welfare and happiness of humanity back in The Impenetrability and that their devotees consisted of all those people whose lives were saved or improved by their work. My reasoning, however, was woefully off target.

Given that the overriding and most powerful factor that animates the existence of the clear beings is their fear and hatred of the Impenetrability, the citizens who are the object of such fanatical celebration are those that back in The Impenetrability were called murderers and their devotional group consists of all their victims.

The murderers of young impenetrable beings are held in an especially high regard for having given a child a way to partake in the glory of the existence in the Clear World.

A uniquely intimate and extremely loving relationship exists between the killer and his every victim. The victim is forever in debt and devoted for all eternity to his killer for having had the courage and wisdom to overcome the ridiculously misguided taboo against murder that exists in The Impenetrability and enabling the victim to escape the dreary clutches of the living world.
As suicide victims are their own murderers, they throw flowers on themselves as they walk, making certain that others know that they too possessed the bravery and intelligence to escape the living world.   

Young clear beings, in particular, love their killers with the intensity that never even existed between them and their parents back in The Impenetrable World. Sometimes their unflagging devotion and endless expressions of gratitude wears out even the most patient of killers.

There are also books speculating about the possibility that people exist in the world of Impenetrability before they are actually clear, a world wildly different from The Clearness.

According to these books, in The Impenetrability all people come into existence at the same age and form, namely at the age of zero in the form of a tiny, helpless being. The inhabitants of The Impenetrability are apparently all composed of solid, crudely wrought material that deteriorates over time. Their bodies, this book claims, are incapable of such simple actions as penetrating physical objects, making themselves invisible to sight and overcoming the tyrannies of gravity and time to move freely in all the four dimensions.

The purported existence of The Impenetrability is a hotly disputed subject in The Clear World and is the cause of an ancient and deep rift in its population, contributing directly to major conflicts and catastrophes throughout its history.

For The Believers the existence of Impenetrability is a fundamental and crucial plank in the foundation of their world-view and is of inestimable significance to their spiritual and emotional wellbeing. The Believers are of the firm opinion that human beings undergo a period of growth and development in The Impenetrability that prepares them for their real existence in The Clear World. Our characters and our destinies in The Clearness, according to their sacred tomes, are shaped and determined by our experiences and our lives in The Impenetrability.

The Unbelievers reject any claim of person’s existence prior to The Clearness. They cling strongly to the view that it is beyond the scope of human knowledge and reason to comprehend what occurs prior to a person coming into being in The Clear World and therefore all such discussions are just empty words. According to their creed, the clear beings come to exist in The Clear World already possessing, ready-made, all of their attributes, abilities and imperfections and that the destiny of a clear being is of his making only.

A favourite way of passing the time for The Unbelievers is to mock mercilessly, to the point of tears, The Believers for their blind, unquestioning faith in some imaginary world, asking them to point to where they think this world is situated.

Partly as a way of countering these attacks upon what they hold most dear, a sizeable proportion of the Believers has formed a splinter movement that goes by the name of The Believing Believers.

For this schismatic group the act of believing has become more important than the issue of what it is that they actually believe in, namely the existence of The Impenetrability. In effect, belief has disassociated itself from what it was based upon in the first place, and it is this pure mental state of faith, in and of itself, that has now become an object of veneration and a source of spiritual and emotional nourishment.

Indeed a vast majority of The Believing Believers no longer remember what it is that they believe in, only knowing that it is their faith that distinguishes them from The Unbelievers and gives them the identity and the security that they so cherish.

Recently, there have been unmistakable signs of rising levels of tension and antagonism between The Believers and The Believing Believers, with The Believing Believers accusing The Believers of undermining the whole movement. The Believing Believers are of the opinion that by obstinately holding on to the belief in some conjectural world of The Impenetrability, The Believers infect their sublimely pure faith with an imperfect and uncertain element as well as making themselves vulnerable to the attacks from the Unbelievers.

Those who have studied the past events of this world and are now studying the present state of affairs are predicting that in the future eras, there will be cataclysmic conflicts the likes of which this place has never seen.

These conflicts will no longer be between The Unbelievers and The Believers, but rather between The Believers and The Believing Believers, given how vociferous and zealous The Believing Believers are in proclaiming that their faith should not be sullied with any alien ingredients and how ignorant they are of where their faith came from in the first place.

Another splinter group that has garnered wide recognition is the Clear-Again Believers. This movement puts great stress on the significance of the Near Life Experience that I have mentioned previously. The rising popularity of this movement is a clear indication of the extent to which the phenomenon of NLE has impressed itself upon the Collective Consciousness of the populace of this world.

A key feature of the Clear-Again movement is the initiation rite that is centred upon the re-enactment of NLE, of experiencing the dread that it provokes and the feelings of relief and ecstasy that arise in one after escaping its clutches and becoming clear again. Hence the name of this group, which, incidentally, in our old parlance would be known as the dead-again movement.

To make the NLE re-enactment as close as possible to the real thing, very narrow, dead-end tunnels are constructed, with bright, shiny lights being put up at their entry points.

The Going In part of the rite is conducted in absolute silence and consists of crawling through the tunnel and never looking back. The director of the ceremony decides when they have gone far enough, and proven their courage of staring The Impenetrability in the face.

In the Coming Out part of the ceremony, the director commands a member to pull the crawler out by his legs and this is accompanied by shouts of great jubilation coming from the participants surrounding the tunnel. The new member has officially become clear again and now can bear the title of a Clear-Again Believer.

This simulated acting-out of the near-life experience is considered by some rather reckless members of the movement to be but a mere shadow of the real deal. They flaunt their bravura and daring by deliberately subjecting themselves to situations that they know will bring them close to the edge of life.
These foolhardy clear beings then take great pride in describing in detail their exploits, of how they feel their bodies acquiring a solid and unwieldy form, of sensing some intractable, unyielding power emanating from the ground and cancelling out their free movement capabilities, and of the astonishingly intense feelings of impending doom.  

I tire of reading all this esoteric stuff and continue my promenade through the market.
There are flower stalls selling wilted flowers, fruit stalls selling dried up, rotten fruit but otherwise everything is exactly the same as in the living world.

All of a sudden, an astonishing insight strikes me. I clearly see a way to resolve the endless conflicts between the factions and make this world one again. It now becomes my duty and my mission to spread my revolutionary, world-changing solution to the whole population of The Clearness.

I gather around me my first group of disciples and impart to them my Two Worlds Are One Gospel:

” Given that there are no differences between the dead world and the living world, except in the names that we designate them by, how can we prove that this is not the real living world after all? Given that we cannot even remember any differences between this world and the real world, how can we then tell that the real world even existed in the first place?”

I employ a mathematical argument to embed my solution in a firm, scientific soil.

“Suppose there exist two worlds, the real world and the dead world. Designate the real world by X and the dead world by -X. But on the other hand the 2 worlds are identical and therefore it must be that: X = -X. Solving this equation we find that X = 0, and if X is zero then so is -X.

So we get this absurd result that neither world exists. It then follows that our initial assumptions were incorrect and that there can only be one world. We can call it either the living world or the dead world. It is just a name and it makes no difference in the end.”


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  1. Your ending is quite awesome. I say, “Wow.”

  2. maadmaax permalink

    So many great concepts in that piece, Boris. I started to respond to the idea of Mozart and requiems, then realized nearly every following paragraph had something just as interesting.

    Oh, the horrors of having to live again.

    Your “infinite number of different infinities” will confound and confuse philosophers, mathematicians, and clerics for… well, an infinity of different infinities!

    Here’s why you’re the writer and I’m not. In the discussion of time I would have had time, somehow, bend on itself becoming both finite and infinite.

    The ending was great. Hmm, if X=0 and -X=0 then there must be no X anywhere and there can be no world in any plane.

    I sincerely hope you’re introducing this as the start of a novel because I’d love to see it developed further. I also thank you for posting this in response to the challenge.

    • thank you for reading it maadmaax and for your feedback on it.

      I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about Mozart and requiems, as well as any further thoughts that you might have on this story.

      I do indeed have a book’s worth of additional ideas for this story, but I need to organise them into a presentable form.

  3. Terrific! First-class writing. Reminds me of Borges.

    • thank you Doug. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.

      I actually am a fan of Borges, so I am curious which of his stories in particular my story reminded you of.

  4. maadmaax permalink


    The Mozart and requiems (along with the other composers) is simply a thought I had about Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series in which the dead were still producing their works after their deaths. Where Lumley focuses on the living, you’re more focused on the dead.

    You’ve created a different world and you have to be true to it. Petty, I know, but in one place you have citizens being showered with flowers and then, much later, you mention that flower stalls are selling wilted flowers and fruit stalls selling dried up, rotten fruit. So what is being showered on the citizens?

    Then there’s the problem with trying to cram too much into a short story. You have so many different groups or factions and you have to explain each of them. Then you introduce the splinter groups (Clear-Again Believers and The Believing Believers) and the reader is going to get lost.

    I would use the first nine paragraphs as a prologue and then start the first chapter explaining and describing the NLE. Then a chapter talking about The Clear World. Then start comparing and contrasting the two with descriptions of the various offshoots in following chapters.

    You’re right about organization being a big headache in the writing world — even though you didn’t word it that way.

    This story has a lot of potential and I’d really like to see you develop it.


    • thank you for your detailed feedback Len, I appreciate it and will take on board your suggestions!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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