Julio X. Palomino
The January Editor's Pick Writer is Julio X. Palomino
Please feel free to email Julio at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ROOTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
At first the stinging sensation on my neck felt like nothing, and then as time passed, it became unbearable. It became a tick. My head would twitch in spastic motions that was still somewhat normal, but the number of times my neck twerked in that skewed way became an absurdity. By no means was I panicking, because I knew my hypochondria was as natural as my twitchy mannerisms. I wondered about my strange persona, and I vowed to take a step to follow my instincts whenever possible; to disregard them would mean the suspension of my own critical thinking…at least that’s what I believed. The shadows around me would thicken when my eyes would shrink. Then they’d grow in a strange disarray of flamboyancy, otherwise irreversible given the set of circumstances.
I remember my time at Cambridge University, where I made my first friend Edward Worthington, who was a student. Because of my situation, I became somewhat of a nuisance to the Science committee. The professors regarded me as a freak of nature, only acceptable due to their self-righteousness. They regarded my aroma as a relative of skunk, or perhaps rotting fungi.
I took no offense, for I knew more about who they were than they did. Those silly white-coats and silly spectacles did not aid them in their vocation. According to my friend, Edward, I was a mystery for them, and they simply couldn’t understand the beauty of what’s called “different.” For the time that I was planted at Cambridge University, I was thrilled to have him as my companion whenever he was in-between classes.
I often sat in silence and remorse. I wanted Edward to be by my side forever, but I knew that was impossible. He was a strapping young lad and I could never pressure my loneliness upon him. He had other wild, young things to do; however, what I couldn’t accept was a complete abandonment, for I could never experience such a degrading insult again. I wept. I longed for someone or something to accompany me in my depressing immortality. See, for I alone was witness to my own decay.
One glorious afternoon, Edward came upon me from the courtyard that gave way to the entrance of the beautiful University. He wore a green jacket with a strange emblem on the breast-pocket. He wore a hat that covered his ears; they were lined with fur like that the strange beasts that roamed around me.
With a finger pushing up at the bridge of his nose, he readjusted his spectacles. “Hey there, Pete. How are you doing today?”
I smiled despite myself. I was nervous and perspiring. I wanted him to like me so badly that it made me feel desperate.
In a lovely British accent, Edward said, “I came to tell you that I will be moving just a few miles from here! That way we can see each other more often.”
I smiled again with excitement, yet I still couldn’t utter any words.
“I also have a little something for your, well, condition.” He looked up to me then, eyebrows narrowed with hope and his magnificent blue eyes glimmering like never before. “I want to tell you something that may… frighten you a bit. But I need you to really try this time, okay?”
Edward sighed and glanced behind his shoulder, afraid of being overheard or seen. He whispered, “I need you to try writing something, anything at all. Just a couple of words. I brought this video camera. Could you try in the next couple of hours? I don’t know how long the battery will last, but…I’ll place it over here on top of these bushes, okay?”
Then I remembered. Like all the times before, Edward wanted me to write on a piece of paper so that he could prove something. What it was?
Edward pulled out the big goofy-looking gadget from his duffel bag. I didn’t know why, in this age of cell phone camera, he still used the video camera. He walked quickly to the sticker-bushes, placed the gadget on an edge, and camouflaged it with a blanket.
Save me? I thought fearfully.
“Pete, what I am trying to tell you is that I don’t think they will let me continue my research here, and that means I wouldn’t have the supplies I need to make…your food.”
Whenever I reached for the strange box Edward pressured me to open, my skinny arms would crackle. For hours it seemed that I just simply couldn’t do it.
I looked at the gadget underneath the blanket, and it seemed to motivate me. This time I could not fail; I knew I didn’t have much time. I stretched as far as I could, and finally, the thicket tightened over the strange golden emblem in an embrace. The lid sprang open, revealing the items Edward said would save me.
For a while my poor extremities rummaged through the contents. I winced with pain at the crackling of my weak limbs. I took hold of a thick gray pen; a piece of construction paper lay inside as well, and so I pulled with all my strength the box towards me. I was careful to not rip the paper. I successfully brought the pen to paper.
Shakily, I looked and saw that the red dot was still blinking, and so I managed to successfully scribble three words: I am here.
I was so shocked at what I had seen. It was like the first time seeing literature. Edward was right! I couldn’t wait for his return.
Stunned at seeing the opened box, Edward dropped the bottles on the grass and cupped a hand over his mouth. His eyes had widened. “I can’t believe my eyes! Pete…you are alive!”
Of course I am alive.
Edward rushed to retrieve the gadget and for a while, he simply stood there, almost drooling over the thing. “I just can’t believe it!”
Well, I’m glad you’re happy. I am feeling strange over here, chap.
Edward stared down at the gadget for several minutes, and when he was done he looked up at me. His expression was different. It was hard to read. It wasn’t like all the other beautiful ones I had witnessed when he had made himself known to me. It was an expression of pure serenity, unmotivated by anything other than understanding. He stepped over carefully and said, “Peter, I hope you can hear me.”
“You were once a great biologist…you were a professor of mine. Dedicated yourself in the studies of biochemistry as well. You have just proven that there is life after death in one way or another. It could be that there are many ways and solutions for immortality! Before the accident at Oxford University, you were loved and respected by many. I just…couldn’t bring myself to tell the truth of your new existence. I think I should just show you.”
He pulled a small window out of the side of the gadget and revealed to me what had happened. Somehow, the record of my perseverance had been saved, ready-to-view whenever possible. A rush of emotions threatened to overtake me. A sadness surged throughout my body. But I held back those feelings, because I couldn’t keep my eyes off the strange window.
What I saw was a strange tree. The branches curving in strange circles about—suspended in the air and connected by vines sprouting from the sides of a strange dark trunk. The tree somehow lurched forward slowly, one of its branches reaching for the strange oblong box on the grass below it, near the bottom. A filigree of great big maple leaves cascaded, floating down through the air, and to my surprise, the tree had managed to open and extract the pen it needed in order to prove its own existence.
The horror of it all caused a strange burningsensation at the root of my spine. Though I couldn’t call it that anymore, it was something else entirely now. Perhaps, it was just my roots, sinking into the ground in search of nutrients. But I could never survive, no, not without Edward, and he was the reason for my existence.
“Yes, Peter, I saved your life. I was the one who planted you here. Please, I hope you are not upset. I’ve grown mad at the idea of losing you, and I have gone to such extremes to preserve our friendship.”
I wept. My leaves were falling around me. The sky was a dull gray, seeming to correlate with the terror of my happening.
“Please don’t be angry with me or with yourself. I want you to try and stay calm.” Edward was talking soothingly, because he could see that I was moving not with the course of wind, but with extreme emotion that remained unexplainable, even to me. “I used something called a Bio-Urn, and within it, were your ashes along with a compound that I extracted from sponges and other, potentially immortal lifeforms. You were the one to tell me that we share so much in common with sponges that I never knew the answers were there all along! I could go all day explaining to you the beauty of their genetic makeup, but I know that for right now…you don’t care. I planted you for the sake of science, and I know you would have been proud.
“I wonder how you see, and I have a theory that perhaps could answer that question. Perhaps, you see out of all your leaves and so in many ways, they are all miniature gateways to your consciousness! I guess we will have to see about that, won’t we? Thank you, Professor. I hope you’re as excited as I am. We might have just invented a way to cheat death!”
Julio X. Palomino was born in Miami, Florida, from Cuban and Guatemalan parents. At age eight he moved to Washington, where he began writing by the age of twelve. He graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English.