There’s nothing like a beach at night, when thoughts and the sounds of the ocean echo off each other in darkness. I’m standing on the edge of a very capricious line that divides water and sand. I stay where I am, out of the water, even though there’s something tempting, liberating about feeling rootless, feeling I can float away and wash up somewhere else. Like a bottle with a message. Save Our Souls.
The waves are rushing towards me and I realize how much everything around me right now reflects the state of my mind. Memories the moon, emotions the tide, and me an observer.
I’m here tonight to honor the memory of a friend. I’ve been standing here quite a while. I don’t know exactly how long. I threw the watch into the sea after my third whiskey.
I try to recall our last conversation. It’s hard to remember anything that happened outside The Island these days. I’ve been here for a long time now, and forgetting was, after all, part of what I was put here to accomplish. Somehow, however, the memory floats up like a small broken piece of wood from a sinking ship.
We were on the roof of our office, a ten storied building of considerable height, and our legs were dangling over its edge. The rest of the details are vague, except for two things he told me. One of them was that every time you learn something new, a version of you dies. I asked him where he thought that version of us went, and he told me they went to The Island.
The second thing he told me is why I’m here now, on The Island. While we were there, looking down on a city that looked like a black blanket covered in diamonds, he whispered to me with a voice struggling to let words loose. He told me that my anger could destroy the world.
It was about a woman, of course. There’s a girl on the other side of the world. There was a time when she wasn’t, though, and that was the version of her I was with. She lived in a small apartment that was thirty by forty feet. We’d measured it together the first time I went to see her there, starting off at opposite corners and meeting at another. That’s how it was for a while, until we walked away, back to opposite corners on a much larger scale.
So here I am, on the Island, away from the world to keep it safe. I’m on the beach, now, however, to toast not just the memory of this friend, but his arrival. I await the one that sent me away.
He washes up when the sun rises, this newer me, as I had so many years ago. I pull him away towards the shore, away from the water and towards the half buried bottle of whiskey. When he regains consciousness I have two glasses of whiskey ready. He puts exactly two cubes of ice in them, just as we used to in the old days.
We drink in silence for a while. He looks at the orange sky, and says abruptly, ‘He told me my sorrow could destroy the world’. The silence then continues, until I decide to break it. ‘Ever wonder where the versions of us go after they die?’ I ask, and he finally turns and looks at me. ‘An island not too different from this, I think,’ he answers, and we laugh. He pours us more whiskey.
We stay on the sand for now, and we will do so for a time. More of us shall come here, and just as many shall eventually leave. When we can no longer destroy the world, we will walk into the ocean and float away, and if we’re lucky, find home.
BIO: Anand Shankara is a writer and mad computer scientist in training. One day he hopes to scream ‘it’s alive!’ Doctor Frankenstein style upon creating a life form made of binary code. He has been practicing the screaming. The neighbors aren’t happy.