June. Outside the overgrown lawn was bathed in sunlight, the cloudless azure sky filling the horizon with light, the birds singing, the world going on, basking in the heat of the sun. The lane wound on, away from the sleepy southern coastal town into the wide, leafy trees and the tinkling of the clear stream beyond the grassy verge.
The sound of a mower broke the stillness with a gentle buzz that faded against the background buzz of the summer as the afternoon wore on and the sun began to sink slowly down from the apex of its curve to the bright, welcoming horizon. Birds flew overhead and cats stretched out on hot greenhouse roofs. It was a summer afternoon outside the grounds of the house, a day just like that a year ago when the two policeman drove their car up the gravel drive to park outside the sunlit, ivy walls of the house.
Inside however it was dark. Little light penetrated the dusty windows and that that did was tired and weak, illuminating the drifting dust mites that filled the house.
The house was empty, silent, alone. Yet deep within, one room was alive, just. Three beds filled its ample space with three small tables by each head. On the beds, in the gloom lay three still figures. A watcher might have taken them for dead for their flesh was shrunken and withered. Early on an arm had stretched out occasionally to take a sip of water or a bite of food. Now though they just lay still, their arms crossed on their chests.
Two were men, thin, wasted, starved. One a woman, her beauty faded and dimmed, her skin stretched over sunken cheekbones, her loosely lidded eyes sunken in wide sockets. Yet, despite their lifeless appearance they were alive, and happy. The sleeping figures weren’t asleep, they drifted through consciousness, unfeeling, unconcerned, they didn’t care or even notice their ravaged outward appearance, all they knew was the fading of their worries, the loss of their pain. For three weeks they had laid here, starving, slowly dying, but their minds were bright, their souls burned with life.
Mark had spent hours explaining how they were to transcend, it wasn’t as simple as merely starving yourself. It was too late to go back now though, if they noticed their bodies, if they felt their pain it would be the end, if they came back to their flesh they would be too weak to survive and without hospital treatment they would die.
But their minds drifted away from the world, from their physical forms. Mark felt his flesh drift away, he remembered these feelings of rising abandonment from before and instead of letting the feelings scare him, instead of fighting which was his natural reaction, he embraced the abandonment, he went to it like a light at the end of the tunnel. He ran forward, letting his mind carry him up, he felt death surround him and the fear of his own mortality struck him but he no longer cared and passed through the fear like a soft mist.
And then he felt the looseness of his self, he remembered it and there, far away was the shining light of pure happiness. He rose towards it on a cloud of rising emotion, letting his own happiness carry him up, feeling the flesh, strange now, slipping away from what he suddenly knew to be his real self.
And looked up and saw the room properly, without his physical eyes, for the first time in a year of absence. And he felt the last connections with his lifeless flesh slip away, the muscle and bone he’d spent a year in seeming unnatural, strange.
He pulled his arm up, the warm meat still clinging to it like a distasteful glue and he pulled away, letting the happiness, the contentment fill his body, letting the warmth rise up and pulling himself out and away, free at last. And the flesh dropped from his pulling arm and he rose up, his body slipping itself free from the flesh, letting it fall back onto the bed as he sat up out of his previous form, letting his sleeper drop back as he rolled away to fall lightly to the dusty floor.
Mark rose, the happiness rising just as he remembered. He knelt on the floorboards below him, staring in wonder at his hands, plump, warm, almost glowing as if with an inner light, more alive than they had ever been before, more real than anyone else could ever be.
And as he stared in wonder and closed his eyes, his face upturned, stretching out his hands in delight and contentment he heard the sounds of movement behind him as the other two figures stirred from their rest, pulling themselves free, more laboured, harder than it had been for him, but still they had made it, all three of them, rising up from their wasted, useless flesh, free, happy.